Find Rest (Matthew 11)
At that time Jesus declared, "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; yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and 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. 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. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:25-30)
Finding rest. Man's greatest pursuit. Sought through many avenues, rest seems hidden too well. But Jesus knows the location. Offers to share this location with you. But you have to come to Him. You must work to find His rest.
Man is constantly seeking to find rest. He grows tiresome of this great work. Everything he does finds himself further from his goal. He seems further from rest because God has hidden His rest.
Jesus says, “I thank You, Father … that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding” (v25). God enjoys hiding His good things. Theologians calls this Deus absconditus, “the hidden God.”
The wise and understanding seek God, but they require Him to bend to their wisdom and understanding. They vow to themselves, “I will not rest until I find God's rest!” Echoing Jacob's wrestling match with the angel: “I will not let You go, until You bless me.” Seeking God's rest by human wisdom leads us to question God's understanding of rest in the first place.
They question God because God has hidden His rest. Hidden it in the foolishness of this world. Hidden it in Jesus crucified. Hidden it in plain sight, but the wise overlook this simplistic answer. They search philosophy and sociology and psychology and anthropology. Their search is futile. God's rest is not found in philosophy or sociology or psychology or anthropology. It is found in His Word.
Even little children can find God's rest in His Word. They don't seek answers in man's sciences. They seek answers in God's revelation. In Jesus saying, “Come unto Me” (v28). Comforting words that only the simple believe.
Jesus sends out His invitation. The invitation that echoes throughout the generations of man. The invitation spurned by so many. Spurned because of its simplicity. But little children yearn to hear His words. Little children who are tired of searching. Little children who only seek to receive. Little children who achieve His rest.
Jesus invites everyone, “Come to Me … and I will give you rest” (v28). The invitation looks not for our response. The invitation shows His mercy. The invitation goes out to everyone, even those who will not listen.
Jesus invites Cyrus, a Persian king who does not know Him. Cyrus conquered the Medes. Cyrus released the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem's Temple. But he did not know the LORD. He did not see God's hand moving in his life. God still calls him to be His Anointed. God's hand grasps Cyrus' right hand, subduing nations, loosening kings' belts, breaking through bronze doors, cutting through iron bars. Cyrus does everything through the unknown God who gives him strength. Cyrus receives God's rest because God does His will through Him. Cyrus grants Israel their desired Sabbath rest, allowing them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple to praise God rightly again.
Jesus invites the Pharisees and the Herodians, but they want “to entangle Him in His words.” They see the invitation being too simple for them. Jesus' invitation means nothing to them. They seek their own way. The Pharisees through the proper fulfillment and study of the Law. The Herodians through the secular government. They band together against a common enemy. Jesus' invitation strengthens them against His Word. Emboldens them in their unbelief. They band together in defense of God's Law against the Word of God incarnate. They will not come to Him. They will not find rest. They are looking for rest inwardly, not outwardly. They want rest from themselves. They don't want God's rest in their lives.
Jesus invites the Thessalonian Christians through Paul's proclamation. Paul encourages them through his encouragement from them. Paul remembers in prayer their work of faith, their labor of love, their steadfastness of hope. All these things come from accepting Jesus' invitation, believing the Gospel of Jesus crucified for the forgiveness of sins. The fruits of their labors are evident. Paul's Gospel preaching came “not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” They embodied the Gospel in their works in their imitation of Paul and Silvanus and Timothy. Jesus' Gospel invitation was alive in them. They lived it out as they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead.”
Jesus invites because He is God. Gracious and merciful. Slow to anger. Abounding in steadfast love. He is good to all. His mercy extends to everyone He has made. Throughout the centuries, God has invited all people to find rest in His Word. His gracious invitation is heard by some, rejected by others. But God remains gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. His invitation extends to all who hear His voice. It does not go out in vain. It returns with fruit, even if the fruit may be years in maturing.
Those who accept His invitation take on His yoke and burden. Many see these gifts as a new and easier Law given by Christ to Christians. A Law we can finally fulfill. But Jesus' invitation has nothing to do with the Law. Only the Gospel.
Jesus' invitation is open and free to all who hear it. Many refuse to hear its simplicity. Many want more from Jesus. What more can you get than forgiveness of sins, salvation and life everlasting? What more is there to ask for?
The wise and understanding trip over Jesus' easy yoke. A yoke that links us with Him under His cross like Simon of Cyrene. Yoked with Jesus, not to work with, but to be worked upon. Jesus' yoke is for those who labor. Those who labor find themselves without reward except the free reward Jesus gives to those who believe. The reward of His yoke. A yoke that is easy. A yoke built for learning. Learning only achieved by those who are gentle, by those who are lowly in heart. Not seeking all the answers. Seeking only the answers given. Given by Jesus' grace and mercy. His steadfast love for all His creations. Answers given to those who search as little children, seeking only His grace and mercy. Through this, learning comes to the gentle and the lowly in heart. Through this, Jesus is glorified as the Son of God, the Savior of all mankind. Who gives His easy yoke to those who humbly search for Him.
The search for His yoke comes from the very commandments He says He came to fulfill. Especially the Third. The commandment that calls for rest. The Sabbath rest of the soul. Found in hearing His Word. Preached from the pulpit, Read from the lectern, sung from the hymnal. We are commanded not to despise His Word. Not to despise His yoke. His yoke is easy. Hearing His Word is easy, filling the believer with rest.
With His yoke, Jesus also gives you His burden. This sounds like horrible news. But it is pure Gospel. Gospel rich in grace and truth. You hear Jesus placing a burden on your already heavily-laden back, and you want to run the opposite direction.
But Jesus' places the burden of His cross on your back. And the weight is light. You feel almost floating by comparison with your previous condition. His burden, placed upon your back, is His Gospel. His work on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.
In His Gospel, He tells you about both His burdens. The burden He bears is your sin. All the terrible deeds you've done. All the wonderful deeds you've not done. All these sins He bore on His cross, dying with them so they might be buried with Him.
In His Gospel, He hands off His burden of His perfect righteousness. Given to you in faith. Resting you in righteousness. The perfect righteousness once held by Adam and Eve when they were in the Garden. This righteousness is yours once again through His death and resurrection. In His righteousness, you gladly hold His Word sacred. You gladly assemble to learn. To learn how to be gentle. How to be lowly in heart. How to be like Jesus. Under His yoke. Bearing His burden. Enjoying His rest.
Rest is man's greatest pursuit. He seeks it in every way except Jesus' way. The Way is too simple. There must be something more to it. Something hidden that we can uncover. Something we strive for. But Jesus invites us to find rest in Him. In His righteousness. Given to you who accept His rest as a little child. Entering the Kingdom of Heaven through His labor and His heavy burden. Amen.