Sunday, July 03, 2005
Sermon - Pentecost 7 - Matthew 11:25-30
7th Sunday after Pentecost
July 3rd, 2005
“Rest for the Weary”
I. Introduction –
As we celebrate this holiday weekend, I hope you have a chance to get some rest. Rest isn’t always easy to get, you know.
A man had been driving all night and by morning was still far from his destination. He decided to stop at the next city he came to, and parked somewhere quiet so he could get an hour or two of sleep. As luck would have it, the quiet place he chose happened to be on one of the city's major jogging routes. No sooner had he settled back to snooze when there came a knocking on his window. He looked out and saw a jogger running in place.
"Excuse me, sir," the jogger said, "do you have the time?" The man looked at the car clock and answered, "8:15". The jogger said thanks and left. The man settled back again, and was just dozing off when there was another knock on the window and another jogger.
"Excuse me, sir, do you have the time?"
The jogger said thanks and left. Now the man could see other joggers passing by and he knew it was only a matter of time before another one disturbed him. To avoid the problem, he got out a pen and paper and put a sign in his window saying, "I do not know the time!" Once again he settled back to sleep. He was just dozing off when there was another knock on the window.
"Sir, sir? It's 8:45!."
Today we hear from Jesus, who offers rest to his people. More than just a snooze or a catnap, Jesus brings rest for the soul!
II. Weary and Burdened
Why do we need this rest? Because we are weary and burdened.
We are weary – tired – exhausted. Life is hard. We need rest. We work hard to raise children. We work hard to earn a living. We work hard to get things done in life. But no matter how hard we work, we can’t avoid hardships. We can’t have the perfect life. The curse on Adam and Eve goes further than just thorns in the soil, and pain in childbirth. We are keenly aware of what it means to live in a world tainted by sin and sorrow and suffering. And it gets old sometimes. Life makes us weary. Sometimes physically. Sometimes spiritually.
We get tired, worn out, impatient. We cry out with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?”
Add to that, our burden. We are burdened with a yoke of sin. A yoke is a more primitive farming implement – a bar of wood laid across the shoulders of the oxen which plow the fields for the farmer. A yoke is heavy. An ox can handle it, but for a human to shoulder a yoke would be rather difficult. Such is our yoke of sin. It is a burden.
Sometimes we are particularly burdened by a particular sin. Something that is troubling you, maybe, that nags at your conscience. Something that you really, really, really, wish you hadn’t done. Something that you keep reliving in your mind, wishing you could change what you said or did. Something that you wonder, just sometimes, whether God can really forgive – even this sin?! It’s a burden. Like carrying around a wooden beam on your shoulders. Only, you are not strong enough to bear it.
III. Rest for your Souls
When Jesus invites all who are weary and burdened, it is a universal appeal. He offers rest, and he says, “take my yoke upon you”.
But Jesus brings a differed yoke – a yoke that is not a burden – in fact, rather than weighing us down, it lifts us up!
He never tired of doing God’s will for us. His body grew tired, and he slept, true man that he was. But only he had the spiritual stamina to endure all temptations, to fulfill the entire law, and live perfectly on our behalf. Only he was “strong as an ox” when it came to bearing the burden – not of his sin for he had none – but of our sin. The sins of the world.
No Jesus doesn’t literally bear the yoke of oxen. But he does carry the heavy beam of the cross. And there he was nailed, and from there he was hung, and on that heavy beam he suffered the punishment we deserve. On the cross. That’s really our yoke, our burden, that he bears.
And he gives us his yoke – an easy one, a lightweight yoke. In fact it weighs nothing at all. It is a yoke which actually lifts us up, carries us, even into heaven. It is a yoke of grace, mercy and peace. It is a yoke of unconditional love and forgiveness. It is an unburdening load, which takes away not just some, but ALL of our sins – even those we find unforgivable. God forgives. And in Christ, we find rest.
In the Old Testament, we hear a lot about the day of rest, the Sabbath day. It was originally on Saturday, and the word Sabbath is related to seventh – the day of creation on which God rested. After all the work of creating light, land and sea, fish, birds, land animals, and human beings – God decided to take a break. But it’s not because he was over-exerted, mind you. As with everything God does, he does it for his people. “Man was not created for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for Man” Jesus said.
Jesus got in some trouble from time to time on the day of rest. He was breaking the man-made rules, working and healing on this holy day. But the Pharisees did not approve. They rather seemed to enjoy the burden of their rules and rituals, dotting the i’s an crossing the t’s. If you ask me, keeping all those regulations on the day of rest seems like a lot of work. Not very restful.
But Jesus set them straight. For he, after all, is Lord of the Sabbath. He is our rest. He removes our burden. When God created our world, he did so knowing he would one day send his Son to redeem it. So Colossians tells us that festivals and Sabbaths were “a shadow of the things…to come” and that “the reality, however, is found in Christ”.
In other words, Jesus Christ, Lord of the Sabbath, is our Sabbath rest. No longer a day of the week. But now a person. We find our best and truest rest in him – rest for the soul.
Even if the 10 commandments are not found in a courtroom, they are still remembered among us. And the 3rd one, to remember the Sabbath day, is still in effect. Only now, not on Saturday only – but on Sunday in honor of Christ’s resurrection – on at any time in any place where Christians gather around God’s word. Anywhere the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners is made known.
Whatever the words, however it is expressed, Jesus’ invitation is the same and it is still in effect, “come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Every time we gather for worship we hear his word proclaimed, and we are rejuvenated. We remember his promise each time we recall our baptism, and know our guilt is washed away. We receive rest, recuperation, rehabilitation, and more – when we kneel at his altar and our load of sin is lifted.
For the Lord of the Sabbath has come to give rest. Rest from our sins, rest for our souls. He came to bear our burden, and suffer our cross. And he gives us a yoke of his own, easy and light. May we find our rest always in Him. Rest for the soul, in Jesus Christ, Amen.
We all get a little burned out once in a while. When sin and its consequences become a burden, we have only to turn to Jesus. What we receive from him gives true rest for the soul.