Today was a full day at church. We had a baptism today (the eighth this year!), along with Holy Communion, and of course this sermon. Then we were invited to the meal that the family shared after the service. Good times and fellowship were had by all.
Everybody needs rest, but hardly anybody looks for it in the right places — in the Word and the Sacraments. That’s the nub of this sermon, or the reason for Jesus’ invitation — because we need it! As I mentioned from the pulpit, I’m not against vacations per se — after all, our Lord Himself took breaks to rest and recharge — but when it becomes a habit to drop out of your faith for the summer, that’s a problem. Just because the preacher’s in church every Sunday doesn’t mean he’s immune from this, either — duties may preclude getting away, but still that longing or frustration to just lay down the yoke and take off for a while can be there in the heart. (Let the reader understand.)
Vv. 28-30 are sometimes used as a reading at Compline. They’re very fitting there, as the last time of prayer of the day, right before going to bed. The Psalm for Vespers this evening was Psalm 2, with this prayer:
Break in sunder, O Lord, we beseech Thee, the chains of our sins; that taking up us Thy light yoke and easy burden, we may serve Thee, with fear and reverence, all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. (BPB, p.139-40)
Fitting, no? And the reading for Vespers was Romans 6:3-11, which talks about the true meaning of Holy Baptism — being buried into Christ’s death, rising with His resurrection which saves us, walking in newness of life every day. And I got to lend my hands and voice to the Lord as He did that for His child today! What an awesome life I have.
I’ve noticed that the more Scripture I read and study and pray, the more those kinds of intersections come up — where something I read just recently ties in with the problems of a person I’m talking with, or allows me to teach more fully on a certain point. The Lord is good as He works through His Word.
May you know the joy of the Lord Jesus’ light yoke and His easy burden, and may He bless you with rest both physical and spiritual, refreshing you this night. Peace be with you. Amen.
“At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (matt 11.25-30 niv84)
Where is your favorite place to go on vacation? Whether it’s to a place on a lake, or a state park, or a far-away place where nobody can bother you, sometimes it’s good to get away and go on vacation. We all need a rest at times. We all need to be able to take a break and get away from it all. Sometimes that rest isn’t all that much of a rest, though. Getting there or getting home can be a hassle. There can be problems during the trip – lost luggage, illness, bad weather. Not infrequently you hear people say, “I’m exhausted from my trip. I need a vacation from my vacation!” It’s hard to truly rest up. In our gospel for today, Jesus speaks to everyone who’s tired – and that’s pretty much everybody. This isn’t tiredness that can be cured with a nap or a vacation. This is tiredness of the soul – the kind you can’t take care of on your own. Today Jesus teaches us about Real Rest Revealed.
Just before these verses Jesus had been speaking pretty harshly to some of the cities where He’d done miracles. These cities had refused to believe in Him, even after He had walked in their streets, taught in front of them, and done miracles among them. He tells Bethsaida, Korazin, and Capernaum that it would be more bearable in the day of judgment for Sodom than for them. That’s definitely a statement that makes you pause for a moment. Their hardness of heart was so bad that Sodom would have it easier in the day of judgment than they would.
Yet even after confronting hardness of heart and blind unbelief that severe, Jesus still says, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” Jesus doesn’t stay upset that people don’t believe in Him or reject Him. He doesn’t let Himself get bothered that so many refuse to believe in Him. He doesn’t get hung up on the masses of people who don’t follow Him. Instead, He gives thanks that anybody believes. He praises the Father, in front of everyone, that He has revealed His saving truth to someone, and those few people have believed. If He stood among us here today as He did on that day in Galilee, Jesus wouldn’t frown at empty pews; He wouldn’t shake His head at all those who aren’t in God’s house on Sunday morning. He would look at all of us who are assembled here, and He would smile. He’d raise His hands and praise the Father that we love His Word enough to make a point of being in His house when it’s heard and preached.
True faith in God is so rare and so precious that it’s worth celebrating wherever it’s found, even if it doesn’t produce the numbers we think it should. None of us would believe if the Father had not revealed His Word to us. What do we have that we haven’t been given? Nothing. God has given us everything when it comes to being part of the Christian church. God had to give us everything, and Jesus tells us why: “You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” The harder you look for God on your own, the less you find Him. The more you try to figure out God, the less you understand of Him. You may think you’ve found Him, and that He is easily understandable and someone you’re comfortable with, but if you go looking for God apart from God’s Word, you’ll only find a god cut to your own measure. If you search for God relying on your own resources, you’ll only end up in a dead end.
Big deal, you might think. I already know God. I already believe. That doesn’t have anything to do with me, does it? It still does, because having God’s Word and taking it lightly is more of a danger for us than not having it at all. An attitude that says, “Oh yeah, I know that, I studied that once; I know what God’s Word says, I can always come back to it later” is deadly dangerous. This time of year is especially bad for neglect of God’s Word. People want to get away, go to the lake or on vacation, and many times God’s Word takes a backseat. It becomes just one more item on a menu full of things to do, many of which might be more immediately appealing. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying it’s wrong or sinful to take a vacation or to take a break. There’s a difference between going on vacation for a week or two, and checking out of your faith for the summer. Examine your own heart and the choices you make, and ask yourself: am I sidelining God’s Word in favor of having fun or relaxing?
It’s easy to fall into a pattern like that, and the results can be disastrous. If God smashed His own city, Jerusalem, in 70 AD because they had His Word and neglected it, do you think He’ll let you off the hook? Just before these verses Jesus spoke out against Bethsaida. Do you know what Bethsaida is today? It’s a pile of rocks that used to be a village. It was leveled by an earthquake in the second century AD. That’s what happens to those who take God’s Word lightly.
In order to avoid that, we need to become like little children. When Jesus talks about the wise and learned and little children, we need to understand what He means. The wise and learned are those who rely on their reason, their logic, or their own emotions above what God says. They go with what makes sense or what feels right, instead of what God says. They want to have some capability to judge or decide as they see fit in spiritual matters, and God doesn’t allow that. Similarly, Jesus doesn’t mean actual infants here. He’s not saying that only babies know about God. It’s those who are conscious that they have nothing before God, they are nothing, and they rely totally on Him. Someone can be the kind of little child Jesus is talking about here at any age in life. Many times Scripture speaks this way, talking about children for those who have a childlike trust in God’s Word – the kind of attitude that says, “God says this, so it must be true.”
Why does it matter if we come to God like little children or not? Jesus says, “All things have been committed to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” God has always hidden Himself and only revealed Himself in carefully chosen ways. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things and through whom He made the universe.” If God doesn’t reveal Himself to you in some way, you don’t find Him. God by His very nature has hidden Himself so well that we can’t see Him or sense Him on our own. You get to know God only in the ways He has appointed, and those ways are through nature and the conscience, in a limited way, and through God’s Word more fully and completely. If you don’t know Jesus, you don’t know the true God. Let me say that again: If you don’t believe in Jesus as your Savior from sin and your Lord, you do not have the true God. There not many paths that all lead to the same God. Either you worship the God of the Bible, who is revealed through Jesus Christ, or you’re worshipping someone or something else. Then you’ll never have what He promises in verses 28-30.
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Do you know why we get tired out? We rely on themselves. We try to work off our sins on our own. We try to quiet the little voice of our conscience inside us that keeps talking to us, no matter what we do. We try to move so fast, have so much fun, work so hard, that we outrun the end – but we can’t. We know death is coming but we don’t want to think about it.
Ironically, that tendency to treat God’s Word as just one thing among many we could do is what leads to us being so worn out and tired all the time. God’s Word refreshes us. It gives life to the soul. It picks you up when you’re down and guides you when you’re wondering what to do. Yet so many disregard His Word, and they’re constantly battling to stay on an even keel.
Why don’t we listen to what our Lord says? He has rest. He promises it to you, and He will give it to you. He will refresh your soul like no one else can. He will lift off the burdens that you’ve been desperate to lay down, but you don’t know where or how. He promises that you will be able to let go of everything that weighs you down and holds you back, and just…rest. Rest yourself in His love, rest yourself in His Word, trusting that all of His promises will come true. And how do we find His rest? When we take His yoke upon us. It sounds like a sick joke – get free of our burdens by trading them for another burden. Who wants to do that? But Jesus’ burden is different. It’s a burden of everything done – nothing left for you to do except believe that it was all for you. He was born for you. He sweated and worked for you. He bled and died for you. He rose for you. Everything God asks of you, He supplies. He doesn’t just help you carry your burdens – He removes them completely and takes them on Himself. He lays a yoke on your shoulders that He Himself helps you carry. He has done everything for you, and now all He asks of you is to carry the burden He has given you, which isn’t a burden at all: to live as His child in a world that tries to tear you down. He promises to be with you and to give you all the rest you need – and that’s better than any vacation. Amen.