Come and Rest
6th Sunday after Pentecost
Come and Rest
Text: Matthew 11:28-30
Yihee oar. Two words bellowed out into a vast expanse of timelessness and emptiness. He spoke Yihee oar—Let there be light—and there was. Day 1. Each day God spoke and there was. Sky. Land, seas, and vegetation. Sun, moon, and stars. Fish and fowl. Creatures, man, and woman. Six days of labor none could ever fathom. Work infinitely impossible for man, yet infinitely easy for an almighty God.
With all-seeing eyes God surveyed all that he had made. It was perfectly good and perfectly complete. So he rested. Not because he was tired. He was just finished. Thus this seventh day God blessed and made holy because it was a day of Shabbat—Sabbath, which means rest.
God carried forward this precedent of a day of rest for thousands of years until the time of Moses when he commanded Shabbat-rest. God’s third great commandment for all time: “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” Rest was so important that God even commanded a day to be set apart for it.
You heard from the mouth of Joshua in the first lesson that God even gave his people a Promised Land of rest. It was a place where they could dwell as God’s people in peace and safety. Everywhere Israel turned—their commandments, their weekly schedules, the place they lived—they were reminded of Sabbath rest from the Lord.
But it became only ritual and old-hat to the Israelites. The joy of rest got old, like a child getting sick of a new toy the week after Christmas. Sabbath was turned into drudgery. It was “that day they couldn’t work.” Sabbath was turned into a futile stab at holiness as they added to God’s law—even restricting how many steps you could walk on the Sabbath Day.
The true meaning of Sabbath was lost and forgotten. What was meant to give rest was now a chore. What was meant to give spiritual refreshing was now old and stale. What was meant to give joy was now a burden.
This was the culture and climate into which Jesus was born, and he experienced it often. He was scolded for allowing his disciples to gather grain and eat on the Sabbath. He was rebuked for healing and helping on the Sabbath. They just didn’t get it! They had no clue what real Sabbath rest really was. They didn’t understand that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath-rest.
So Jesus taught them. Verse 28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Those Jews wanted to find rest in their manmade laws. They wanted to find rest in the number of good things they did for God. They wanted more money. That would give them rest. They wanted the Romans off their backs and destroyed—like the good ol’ days with Joshua at Jericho when the walls came tumbling down. That would give them rest. They grasped at countless human or worldly ways to find rest, but they came up empty handed each time. So Jesus told them, “Come to me . . . and I will give you rest.”
Times haven’t changed much. People haven’t changed much. God certainly has not change at all though. Today God still talks about Shabbat—Sabbath-rest. His commandment still stands for his people in 2011: “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.”
But today that commandment isn’t so much about setting aside a particular day, like Saturday or Sunday. That’s not the real point of the commandment. The point is not, “Remember the day,” but rather, “Remember the Sabbath.” In other words, “Remember to get rest.” That’s God’s command for all time.
And we sure need rest, don’t we? We wake up in the morning sore and stiff. We groan as we get out of bed, “Oh, another day of work?!” Our minds become nearly numb as we expend brainpower on millions of minutia: What’s on my schedule? What can I get done today? What has to be pushed back? What does my family need today? How long am I going to be secure in this job? How many more bills will land in my mailbox today? Will this government ever get better? Or can they at least stop talking about it on the news? Wait, who was I just going to call? Oh, and I forgot to pick up milk at the store! By the end of the day it feels like we ran a mental marathon. I’m tired!
If only the physical and mental toils were the end of it. What about the emotional turmoil we endure every day? It hardly seems normal to go a day without hearing tragic news. Usually it’s someone we know. Often it involves us. We panic to the point of hyperventilating. We worry to the point of boiling blood pressure. Our heart feels nearly broken. Our tear ducts are bone dry. I’m tired!
So we try to find rest. We look for rest in our pillows. So be it if it’s until noon on Saturday or even Sunday. We look for rest in hobbies. We pour out money on goofy gadgets and cluttered collectibles. We look for rest in alcohol. We look for rest in drugs. We look for rest in food. We look for rest in tobacco. We look for rest in the comforts of a nice home and a nice car. And if we don’t quite feel rest, then we upgrade our fridge and our TV and our car. Then we’ll have rest! But if it doesn’t work, then we’ll look for rest in self-help books and seven step programs and magazines filled with “secrets from celebrities.”
We need rest. We want rest. We yearn for rest. We grasp and grab at rest. But we never do find it. Each of those avenues is a dead end. Each of those outlets brings temporary satisfaction but eventual disappointment and sadness. We look and try so hard to find rest. But all the while we don’t realize that we’ve become modern Israelites.
The true meaning of Sabbath gets lost and forgotten. What was meant to give us rest becomes a chore. What was meant to give us spiritual refreshing becomes old and stale. What was meant to give joy brings a burden. “Sunday? Again? Alright, fine. We’ll go this week.” “I suppose I really ought to dust off my Bible sometime.” “More Bible study opportunities? Maybe I’ll go one of these times. Then at least the pastor will stop preaching about it.”
As we lose the true meaning of rest more and more, we push God further and further away. The more we backslide into modern Israelite attitudes the more we disobey our God with actions that are deserving of eternal death, not eternal rest.
So Jesus teaches us today, too. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” The only source of true Sabbath-rest is Jesus. How easy and pleasant it is to be connected to Jesus! Verse 29: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
The one inviting us to find rest is gentle and loving and gracious. He does not treat sinners as they deserve or repay them according to their iniquities. Rather he humbly bowed his head in death for sinners. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us by the outpouring of his innocent blood in our stead.
By his loving and humble sacrifice he bought us and brought us rest. We have rest knowing that every wrong is forgiven. We have rest knowing that we are guilt free. We have rest knowing that a loving Savior leads us by the hand each and every day. Best of all, we have a Promised Land of rest waiting for us where we will dwell as God’s people in peace and safety for all eternity.
For all of our trying and effort and struggling to find and obtain rest, Jesus simply offers it for free. Take the yoke of following Jesus. He tells us his yoke is easy and his burden is light. It’s not heavy like the burdensome yoke oxen carry on their necks. Jesus’ yoke is light. Yes, we may have troubles in this world because we are Christians, but that yoke is light as air when we consider that eternal rest is waiting.
We need rest. We want rest. We yearn for rest. We grasp and grab at rest. Well Jesus offers it to you! So Come and Rest. Come to the one and only that will give you true rest, your Savior. Find Sabbath in him when you ponder and meditate on his Word at home. Find Sabbath in him when you have devotions with your children and sing Jesus songs at bedtime. Find Sabbath in him each week as you praise him and proclaim him in worship. Find Sabbath in him as you receive today his boy and blood given for you for the forgiveness of your sins. That is the true fulfillment of the third commandment. Remember Jesus, who gives you Sabbath rest.
So come! Come one and all! Come all you who are weary and burdened by your troubled lives in this sin-ridden world. Come to Jesus. Be around Jesus. Listen to Jesus. He will give you Sabbath—now and forever.
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Posted on August 4, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged Burdened, Church, Eternal Rest, Heavenly Rest, Matthew, Matthew 11, Rest, Sabbath, Sermons, Shabbat, Third Commandment. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.