Sermon for Sunday, July 5th, 2020, the Fourth Sunday after Trinity
The Lessons: Zechariah 9:9-12; Psalm 145:8-14; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
The Text: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
The Topic: Come to the Lord Jesus Christ for spiritual rest.
Mark Galli, the Pastor of a church in Sacramento, wrote as follows about his ministry to Laotian refugees:
A group of Laotian refugees who had been attending the church I pastored in Sacramento, California, approached me after the Service one Sunday and asked to become members. Our church had sponsored the newcomers, and they had been attending the church only a few months.
They had only a rudimentary understanding of the Christian faith, so I suggested we study the gospel of Mark together for a few weeks to make sure they knew what a commitment to Christ and his church involved. They happily agreed.
Despite the Laotians’ lack of Christian knowledge — or maybe because of it — the Bible studies were some of the most interesting I’ve ever led. After reading the passage in which Jesus calms the storm, I asked about the storms in their lives. There was a puzzled look among my Laotian friends, so I explained that we all have storms — problems, worries, troubles, crises — and this story teaches that Jesus can give us peace in the midst of those storms. “So what are your storms?” I asked.
Again, more puzzled silence. Finally, one of the men asked, “Do you mean that Jesus actually calmed the wind and sea in the middle of a storm?”
I didn’t want to get distracted with the problem of miracles, so I replied, “We should not get hung up on the details of the miracle. We should remember that Jesus can calm the storms in our lives.”
Another stretch of awkward silence ensued until someone said, “Well, if Jesus calmed the wind and the waves, he must be a powerful man!” At this, they all nodded vigorously and chattered excitedly to one another in Lao. Except for me, the room was full of wonder. I suddenly realized that they grasped the story better than I did.
— Mark Galli,
Jesus Mean and Wild (Baker, 2006)
Since Jesus calmed the wind, the waves and the sea in a storm on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-27), he is also able to calm the storms of the soul, and bring peace to everyone who calls upon him in faith.
JESUS CHRIST THE LORD AND SAVIOR GIVES REST: MATTHEW 11:25-30
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus gives us the key to the peace that we can receive and have in any of the storms of life, and this verse is one of the Comfortable Words in the service of Holy Communion:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:28, KJV)
But we must take note of the Lord’s words before this saying. In verse 25, he specifically thanks God the Father for hiding these insights from the wise and learned, and revealing them to childlike people, innocent in their ways, and in verse 26, he specifically states this was the will of the Father. What are these truths that God has hidden from the wise and understanding, but revealed to those who are childlike in their attitude to God? These are the truths of repentance and faith leading to salvation, the preaching of the Gospel that is a stumbling-block to the Jews, and folly to the Greeks (1 Corinthians 1:23). Clearly the cities in which Jesus performed his miracles did not come to repentance on account of either his preaching or his miracles, and God’s way of salvation was hidden from them. Yet all who really want to come to Christ for salvation are free to call on him and believe in him, if they choose to, but even this salvation is God’s gift, as Jesus went on to declare:
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
(Matthew 11:27, KJV).
The Lord Jesus Christ has received all things delivered to him by the Father, and this is stated a little differently in St. John’s Gospel:
Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
(John 17:1b-3, KJV)
God the Father has given to His Son all who will receive eternal life, and no-one but the Father knows the Son, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and those to whom He chooses to reveal the Father. According to John 6:44, it is the Father that draws people to the Son, so that they may believe in him and come to know him.
COME TO ME
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life (John 6:35), and the Way, the Truth and the Life, without whom no-one comes to the Father (John 14:6). He invites all who labor and are weighed down by sins and the burdens of life in this world to come to him, and he will give rest to all (Matthew 11:28). Indeed, we often apply this to the forgiveness of sins which the Lord gives to all who turn away from sin, come to him and believe in him. But the rest that Jesus gives is very much more than the forgiveness of sins. Implicitly comparing the burdens and demands of life to a yoke that was placed on oxen who drew a cart or a plough, the Lord invites everyone to take upon him his yoke, and learn from him, for he is meek and gentle in heart, and he gives rest to all who come to him. Of course, in coming to Jesus Christ, we must give up our own heavy burdens or yokes to the Lord, and receive his light yoke instead, and learn to live as disciples of Christ in a whole new way of life.
When we lay aside our burdens and come to Jesus, we find ourselves with a new set of priorities which God gives us, and we shall have that peace and rest he has promised to all who love him. We shall also find ourselves living without those burdens and anxieties which are too much a part of this earthly life, but have no place in God’s eternal kingdom. St. Augustine, in the first chapter of his Confessions, reminds his readers of how people have been created to praise God:
You (the Lord) excite man that he even delights to praise you, because you have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it may find rest in you.
(Augustine: Confessions, I.i, my translation)
Have you come to Jesus to find rest in him? How is his rest both shaping and changing your life?