Rest for the Weary
Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell
Based on Matthew 11:25-30
The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland
+ + +
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19b).
The opening words of our text begin with Jesus praising God the Father for hiding "these things" from the wise and learned, and revealing them to little children. God’s Word concerning how man is saved and put right with God, the preaching of the Gospel and the kingdom of God, such teachings cannot be grasped with reason. It doesn’t reach the human heart that way. The more educated and the more sharpened the reasoning ability of people, like that of the Pharisees and those who took offense at Jesus, the less they understand and even believe. "Christian teaching doesn’t appeal to reason," says Luther. "That’s why our reason complains about it: "I don't want to take my salvation out of my own hands and throw away all my good works in order to achieve eternal life. I don't want to place my hands and set my feet on someone outside of myself, someone who was so silly and foolish as to let himself be crucified. How am I supposed to believe that Jesus is my Savior?” Reason cannot grasp this. We must take every thought captive so that it's obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)."
It is in the nature that we are born with, human reason refuses to led by God, but instead it wants to all the leading and believing. But without God and His grace and mercy, human reason is an absolute enemy to God and is irritated by the message and preaching of Jesus, it is offended because of Him that one should be saved apart from our works and doing, and solely because of merits of Christ and His gracious will. The emphasis from our Gospel lesson is how Jesus publicly celebrates God’s goodness; He is acknowledging it before all the world with His words of praise to God the Father. Moreover, Jesus is very emphatic here, He is speaking with authority and with such "amen-like conviction": "Yes, indeed THIS IS the way God is and how He saves! It is all by grace!” This text is nothing but pure gospel! "God's children don't have to pass an IQ test. God's good pleasure (not our good IQ or any other factor) is the cause and source of our salvation. So don’t be discouraged by the lack of believers. Drive out the discouraging thoughts. Join Jesus in praising the Father that any believe—yes, even yourself."
Our text now brings us to one of the most known, much-loved and quoted verses in the Bible: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (verse 28). "Being spurned by the Jews, Jesus now offers rest and service to all who are conscious of their need. To these He will GIVE rest (peace with God, Rom. 5:1, the rest of salvation), and in His service they shall continually FIND rest (the peace of God, Phil. 4:7)."
Where can we find this peace with God and rest for our souls? ALL of these things are revealed through Jesus. Jesus holds the exclusive rights to reveal and distribute the truth about the one true God. If you want to know what God thinks and what He things of you, if you want to know how God will and what HIS will is for you, if you want to what He says, what He plans, what does He feel, what He does and what He promises, then you must go to Jesus. The Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed says it perfectly: "I believe that I cannot by own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith, even as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith." Rest for weary souls, and the very call and ability to come to God, these are found only in Christ through the preaching of His holy Gospel. "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Here the invitation to come is given, but with this grace-fill invitation, there is also the power to come. Oh, this powerful Gospel of Christ, it is not something that we internalize and assimilate according to way of thinking and living; rather, this powerful Gospel of our Lord, "Come unto me," the Word of God assimilates us and makes us godly and give us rest and peace. We do not use this Gospel nor any of God’s Word to make something of ourselves; instead, it makes and remakes us in the likeness of Christ, who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).
Verses. 28–30 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." With these verses we find and know where the Son's "choice” (v. 27) and the Father's "good pleasure" (v. 26) are revealed! God's will is that ALL the weary and burdened come into fellowship with the Father through the Son. He wants all people, for "all have sinned" (Ro 3:23) and "everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (Jn 8:34).
Of course, only the heart that recognizes its burden and longs for relief will find Jesus’ invitation truly inviting. Dear friends, what is the condition of your hear? Are you burdened and heavy-laden, are you a bruised reed with a faith that can be described as nothing more than smoking flax? (Mt 12:20). Or is your heart lukewarm with self-satisfaction (Rev 3:15f)? In other words, do you love other things more than God, whether that be father or mother, son or daughter more than Christ? (Matthew 10:37). Or is your heart filled more with a love of the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15). Or do you hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6) but find within you a civil war going, the good that you want to do, you fail to do, but do that which you hate. The gospel call of our Lord is only for the heart that recognizes its agonizing burden and longs for relief, relief that is found and given in Jesus' invitation, "Come unto me." What is the condition of your heart, dear friend?
I implore you to think carefully and to consider what Jesus' invitation promises. "No one but God himself can make and fulfill this claim! "Come to me. I myself will give you rest for your soul. Accept my Word and unending relief is yours. I personally guarantee peace with God." Does Jesus have the credentials to back up this claim? Later, led as the Lamb of God to the slaughter, he proved he has a gentle and humble heart sympathetic to the plight of the weary and burdened. Rising from the dead verifies that he is the Lord God who has earned the right to give peace and rest to his people. He removes your sin and restores your fellowship with God. Yes, Jesus has the credentials. He is the Son of God."
"Some Christians have a weak faith and are shy, troubled, and heartily terrified because of the great number of their sins. They think that in their great impurity they are not worthy of this precious treasure and Christ's benefits. They feel their weakness of faith and lament it, and from their hearts desire that they may serve God with stronger, more joyful faith and pure obedience. These are the truly worthy guests for whom this highly venerable Sacrament has been especially instituted and appointed. For Christ says: "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick (Matthew 9:12) . [God’s] power is made mighty in the weak [2 Corinthians 12:9]. As for the one who is weak in faith, [God welcomes you!] "Whoever believes in [the Son of God, be it with a strong or with a weak faith,] may have eternal life" [John 3:15]. "[W]orthiness does not depend upon great or small weakness or strength of faith, but upon the merit of Christ"! (BOC, FSD, VII, 68-71.)
Jesus invites all who are "struggling under the burden of the Law and their sin to come to Him for rest (28), to find rest and peace for their muddled lives under the beneficent discipline of His easy yoke, to take up the burden which is light because He has borne it before them and for them (29–30). In the midst of contradiction Jesus reveals Himself as "God of God … for us men and our salvation came down from heaven … incarnate by the Holy Ghost … made man.""
I close with these very words of Luther, but let these words warm your heart and comfort your soul: ""Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will help you." In this way you may view your sins in safety without tormenting your conscience. Here sins are never sins, for here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ. He takes your death upon himself and strangles it so that it may not harm you, if you believe that he does it for you and see your death in him and not in yourself. Likewise, he also takes your sins upon himself and overcomes them with his righteousness out of sheer mercy, and if you believe that, your sins will never work you harm. In that way Christ, the picture of life and of grace over against the picture of death and sin, is our consolation."
Jesus is our relief, our rescue, our rest at every turn. Our rest does not rest on us at all. It rests only on Jesus, who broke the yoke of slavery and removed its burden on the cross, who daily lifts us up and carries us on eagles' wings (Ex 19:4). Wherever Jesus is, there you will most certainly find rest for weary hearts and burdened souls. Jesus is present among us, offering us His rest. We have the privilege to come to Jesus where He has promised to be found--in His holy church, where His Word is faithfully preached and His sacraments are rightly administered. Amen.