PENTECOST 5, A – July 9, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Zechariah 9:9-12; Romans 7:14-25a; Matthew 11:25-30

“Come to me, all 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.” Matt. 11:28-29

 

If I were to ask you to raise your hand if you had difficulty getting rest, I bet many of you would raise your hand! I also bet that none of the hands raised would be those of young children. Oh, to again sleep like I did as a child, to fall asleep quickly and not wake up during the night! Oh, to have the daily worries and burdens that I had as a child… which, actually, I didn’t have! I think the only thing I worried about was what mom was making for dinner, or if she would call me in from playing with my friends before our game was over.

 We long for peaceful, restful days, such as those of a child; but, Jesus offers us better than those. He gives more than a My Pillow and a new mattress for a good night’s sleep, or an easy chair and a glass of wine to help you relax at the end of the day. Jesus offers you Himself, invites you to receive Him and find rest in Him. The rest that He gives is greater than any other rest!

 For, He gives you rest from your labors. Now, of course this does not mean that if you follow Jesus you won’t have to work and earn a living. Obviously, we all do! Nor does it mean that He doesn’t expect anything from you, that you don’t have to strive to learn and follow God’s commandments, to obey the law and do what is good and right. In one of His most famous sermons, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus carefully teaches God’s commandments and what He expects of us. So, of course you need to learn and follow God’s Law! Break the law – man’s laws or God’s laws – and see what kind of rest you get! Are you relaxed and calm when you’re driving over the speed limit and pass a cop alongside the highway? Society expects its laws to be kept and threatens to punish those who break them. God expects no less. We must work to learn what God’s laws mean and how they apply to our lives, and then obey them. If you want to call Him your Father you must obey Him as your Father.

 But, you will find this to be work and not rest. “I do not understand my own actions,” laments the apostle Paul. “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” This is Paul, a great Apostle of Jesus. If he couldn’t give God the honor and obedience He expects and deserves, do you think you can?

 Even so, “come to Me,” Jesus invites. And, who is He inviting? The people who were crowding around Him: ordinary, hard-working people from the nearby towns and villages; people burdened with sicknesses and sorrows; people struggling to know and do what God expected, and often failing to do so. People like you and me! “Come to Me,” Jesus invites. He receives us sinners and offers us His rest.

 And what is the rest that He gives? It is none other than having God as your Father who loves you, is pleased with you, and will be with you always. “All things have been handed over to me by my Father,” Jesus says, and He invites you to come to Him and share in His relationship with His Father. “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” He has chosen to reveal Him to you! Here is your peace. Your Father in heaven knows that you often fail to know and do His will. He will still be your Father! He loves you and in Jesus will always receive you!

 Be at rest, then. When you feel bad about yourself and your sins, and other people, and even your own conscience, condemn you, tell them to be quiet! This is not easy, of course. There is always something else you should do, or could have done. There are well-meaning fellow Christians who will let you know what a Christian should be like, and that you, or your spouse or your children, are not behaving like that! The law’s demands to “do this” and “don’t do that” are endless.

Ø  This is indicated in Jesus’ invitation, “Come to me, all you who labor.” The Greek word for “labor” is kopiowntes, from which we get the word “copious.” The law is copious. It’s easy to be burdened with guilt, for there are always more things you could do, and the things you are doing you could do with a better spirit.

It isn’t what others say or how you feel that matters most, however, but what Jesus says and thinks. He is your judge, for the Father has handed all things over to Him. And He says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Be at peace! Even though you are a sinner, your Lord wants you to be with Him. You are welcomed, and loved, and forgiven!

 Jesus even gives us rest when we think about and worry about others and their faith, or lack thereof, or about our church. What does God have planned? Will He open the heart of the one for whom you’ve been praying? Will He bring more people to our church? You know, it can be rather disconcerting to hear Jesus say, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children… no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” So: God hides Himself from some, and He cannot be known unless Jesus chooses to reveal Him. Well, who is He choosing? Does He want the one you are praying for to believe? Does He want our church to grow?

 Don’t dwell on such things, for He has not revealed them. Simply remember that Jesus invites everyone and anyone to come to Him. Pray for others, and speak, and invite, and do your best to honor God with how you live… and then leave things to God. You don’t need to worry about whether you said the right things in the right way, or messed up in some way and weren’t a good example of a Christian. Be at rest! You are no one’s Savior; only Jesus is. And, He died and rose for all!

 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Believe these words, for Jesus speaks them to you. Learn of your Savior, that He is gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. In the blessed name of Jesus. Amen.