Sermon July 6, 2014/ Matthew 11:25-30/ Jesus Gives Spiritual Rest to the Spiritually Burdened/ Vicar James Preus
Does it ever appear that God isn’t at work? Like, God just isn’t paying attention to your plight? John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare the way of the Lord. Yet right before our text Jesus receives a message from John in prison. The one chosen by God to make the way for the Messiah rots in a dungeon. Although many people follow Jesus, many reject him. The cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, even Jesus’ home town Nazareth, they all rejected Jesus. Jesus is God’s own Son! How can he be rejected? Is God paying attention?
We might be tempted to ask the same questions today. Church attendance in general is shrinking. People are more enlightened now. They have more information than the Church can provide. Or so they think. It seems the Gospel of Jesus is rejected a lot more than it is accepted. In the current atmosphere we might be tempted to ask whether God is still working or even paying attention.
Yet in our text, Jesus praises his Father in heaven, despite the seemingly bleak situation. And what does Jesus praise his Father for? Do you remember? “That you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children (the Greek word is infants), yes Father, for such was your gracious will.” God is in control! We are not in control. And those who think that they are the most in control, who think they are wise and understanding, have even less control.
“These things” Jesus refers to, which God the Father hid from the wise and understanding, yet reveals to infants is the purpose of John’s and Jesus’ mission on earth. The wise and understanding types said John had a demon. Herod arrested John and eventually had his head cut off. These same intellectuals with their worldly wisdom accused Jesus of being a glutton, drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and sinners. They studied God’s Law and were so smart that they improved on it! (Or so they thought). Yet God proved them to be a bunch of wiseacres. Those who gloated in their own wisdom and knowledge of God’s word became blind to God’s purpose. Yet it pleased God to reveal the purpose of John’s mission and the purpose of Jesus’ mission to infants.
Now Jesus is not saying that only infants know God’s purpose or have saving faith. Rather those who are given true faith… true knowledge… true wisdom Jesus calls infants. Why? Infants don’t know much. They can’t boast of their great knowledge. You have to work all day to earn a pay check to buy food to put on the table to eat. An infant doesn’t work. An infant doesn’t do anything of monetary worth. She just receives food from her mother. God the Father reveals the purpose of John and Jesus to the spiritual infants purely by grace! (God’s undeserved love for us). Because an infant can only receive by grace, this perfectly describes our relationship with God.
And what is the purpose of John? The purpose of John is to point to Jesus. Even in prison he accomplished that. God was not ignorant, but used John to bring people to Jesus. And what is the purpose of Jesus? What about Jesus is so difficult for the wisest of the wise to understand yet is plainly revealed to those without knowledge? That Jesus comes to take away the sins of the world! That is what John boldly preached. Many thought he was crazy. But the infants followed Jesus.
After Jesus thanks his Father for hiding this knowledge from the wise yet revealing it to the infants, he calls out an invitation: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” There is something more that you need to know in addition to the fact that Jesus takes away the burden of sin from the world. You need rest! You are spiritually burdened and you need spiritual rest in Jesus.
Jesus’ purpose is hidden from the wise and understanding. This does not mean that Jesus refuses to invite the wise and understanding to “take a load off.” Jesus invites everyone. Everyone is burdened. Everyone is heavy laden. I am. You are. Your husband is. Your wife is. We are all burdened with a heavy yoke!
We are burdened because we are sinners. God’s Law demands that we love the Lord our God with our whole heart, soul, and mind. It demands that we do not take God’s name in vain, meaning we fear and love God that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie or deceive by his name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks. God’s Law demands that we not despise God’s preaching and Word, but gladly hear and learn it. It demands that we honor our father and mother and all in authority, whether we like it or not. God’s Law demands that we not only not harm our neighbor, but love him and look out for his welfare. God’s Law demands that we live sexually pure and decent lives in thought, word, and deed, and that each person love and honor his own spouse. God’s Law forbids stealing. God’s Law forbids gossip and requires us to speak only good of our neighbor. God’s Law forbids us from wanting things that God has not given us.
Did I list anything that you fail to follow perfectly? Have you kept every single one of these commandments perfectly? If God judged you solely on the basis of these commands, would you pass? I certainly hope no one answers, “yes.” God’s Word tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
Every single one of us is spiritually burdened but this burden doesn’t enjoy strength in numbers. God’s Law doesn’t grade on a bell curve. Rather each person is judged according to his own deeds And God’s Word clearly states that the wages of sin is death. If we examine our lives according to God’s Law, we will lament as St Paul did: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death!?”
The Law lays a heavy burden on our soul, because the Law does not care. The Law simply demands. It offers no respite. There is no solution, except to follow the rules. Yet, however hard we try we end each day with a heavier load of broken and unfulfilled commands on our soul. As the old country song Sixteen Tons puts it: “You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt”
Yet Jesus sends an open invitation: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” To the worldly wise, those who have justified themselves in their own minds, this invitation is silly. “I’m doing fine, thank you very much. I’m not burdened. I don’t need your rest.” However, to the infants, to those who have absolutely nothing to offer God, no works, no wisdom, nothing, this invitation is euphonic: Sweet music to their ears.
Jesus invites every poor sinner to come and experience rest from the burden of sin under the law. Jesus truly refreshes our soul. While St. Paul correctly taught the wages of sin is death, he continues: “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And though he rightly taught: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, he quickly adds: “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Jesus invites us to come to him with our heavy burden of judgment and shame brought on by our sin and Jesus takes that burden away. He justifies us (that is) he declares us righteous before God. He does this as a free gift. Jesus demands nothing from us just as a mother demands nothing of her infant daughter, but that she receives her milk. We are declared righteous, because Jesus’ blood makes propitiation for us. Propitiation means ‘gain favor.’ Jesus removes the wrath of God’s Law and gains acceptance from God. Jesus does this by suffering in our place for us, shedding his blood unto death for us.
St. John tells us if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Yet John promises: But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. St. Paul, St. John, and Jesus are all saying the same thing. Your sins are a burden. You need rest. Jesus gives you rest by forgiving your sins. Jesus takes your sins away. The Law cannot condemn you, because the Law is just. And you are justified for Christ’s sake.
Jesus tells us to take his yoke. A yoke is a beam that one attaches to a beast of burden, like an ox or a mule to pull a plow or do other such difficult labor. People generally don’t wear yokes, but we use the term to refer to a difficult task. For a person to take up a yoke is usually meant to take on hard, grunt, labor. When I think of taking up a yoke, I think of the summer I spent building log cabins. My brother and I being young teenagers were the least experienced workers with the youngest bodies. So if lumber needed to be hauled, we were the ones to do it. We felt like beasts of burden with heavy yokes hauling that lumber up hills in the sun. And though we were as some would call “spring chickens” we felt like weary old men by the end of the day.
Yet Jesus invites us to take his yoke for rest. That’s odd. Yokes are heavy. But Jesus’ yoke is light. In the Greek it can mean that Jesus’ says: My yoke is useful, pleasant, or good. Jesus’ yoke is not another Law that we must fulfill. Jesus’ yoke is his righteousness and holiness that he gives to us. This yoke is not heavy. This burden is light. We lay our burden of judgment for our sins on Jesus. Jesus lays on us his holiness. Wearing Jesus’ yoke, we have confidence before God. It is pleasant being a child of God. It is good to be called good by God.
The yoke may seem like a heavy cross when we face scorn for our faith. When the coach doesn’t start you, because you went to church instead of going to practice the yoke seems heavy. When your relatives despise your faith in Jesus, Jesus’ burden can seem difficult. Yet Jesus’ yoke is easy and light. Jesus’ yoke is a clear conscience. Jesus’ yoke is acceptance from God. Jesus’ yoke is the removal of the burden of sin under the Law. Jesus’ yoke is assurance of eternal life.
Jesus’ invitation stands. He invites everyone today, who is burdened by a guilty conscience to come to him. Jesus offers you rest. You receive this rest when you believe that your sins are forgiven and that you are received into God’s favor for Christ’s sake. You put on Jesus’ easy yoke every time you repent of your sins and remember your baptism, that you are a child of God. You receive Jesus’ rest when the pastor declares to you that God has forgiven all your sins for Christ’s sake. You learn that Jesus is gentle and lowly in heart when you kneel to receive his true body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus invites you today to come take a load off. Come and receive rest from your burdens. And Jesus invites you as infants, come without payment. Jesus’ rest is free. Jesus’ rest is for you.
Let us pray:
By grace! None dare lay claim to merit;
Our works and conduct have no worth.
God in His love sent our Redeemer,
Christ Jesus, to this sinful earth;
His death did for our sins atone,
And we are saved by grace alone.
 John 1:29
 Romans 3:23
 1 John 1:8
 Revelation 20:12-13, Psalm 28:4; John 5:28;
 Romans 6:23
 Romans 7:24
 LSB 566