Skip to comments."Rest for the Weary" (Sermon on Matthew 11:25-30 and Romans 7:14-25a)
Posted on 07/05/2008 10:10:01 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
Rest for the Weary (Matthew 11:25-30; Romans 7:14-25a)
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.
Jesus here issues a wonderful invitation and makes a wonderful promise. Come to me is the invitation, and I will give you rest is the promise. And to whom does he address this invitation and this promise? To all who labor and are heavy laden. What is it, then, to labor and be heavy laden, to be weary and burdened? What does Jesus mean by that?
Jesus speaks to those who are weary of trying to please God by their own efforts. He is speaking to those who labor under the law. Those who are burdened with their weight of guilt. Loaded down with all the weariness and the burdens that life in this vale of tears lays upon people. Jesus speaks to those who are heavy laden with loads they are unable to carry. To them, to those who realize their weariness and burdened state, Jesus says, Come to me, and I will give you rest.
Is Jesus speaking to you? All who labor and are heavy laden: Is that you? Are you weary and burdened? Then, yes, Jesus is speaking to you today. He is inviting you to come to him, to learn from, and to receive from him, receive the rest he freely offers.
Jesus words back then addressed people who knew what it was to labor and be heavy laden. The Pharisees, you see, loaded a heavy weight on the peoples backs. For they thought, and they taught, that the law was something--if you worked hard enough--you could keep. That was how you could be accounted righteous before God--by your works. And thats a heavy burden to bear. Only the best and most dedicated could hope to live up to that standard--oh, people like the Pharisees.
The Pharisees thought they could manage the law and master it. Of course, what they did was to take the teeth out of the law and make it just an external, superficial keeping of the law in its outward form. For instance, instead of really keeping the Sabbath commandment, which had to do with resting from work in order to hear Gods word, they would instead make up their own regulations about how many steps you could take on a Sabbath days journey, that sort of thing. A manageable kind of law. And that really sidesteps the main issue, which is that the law is to show us the sinfulness of our heart. It exposes us as sinners who do not want to hear Gods word and hold it sacred. In this way we come to see our need for Gods forgiveness and his righteousness. But the Pharisees deluded themselves into thinking they were keeping Gods law and thus were righteous.
To make themselves seem righteous, they had to look better than everyone else. So they devised a lot of man-made laws, a lot of regulations, and developed a whole system of minute rules that, if you really put your mind to it and worked really hard, I suppose you could keep in some outward fashion. Other people, of course, those who were not so attentive to these rules, would come off looking less religious, which in turn made the Pharisees look good by comparison. That was their game.
Now what was the effect this had on people? They felt weighted down, burdened. Jesus would later say of the Pharisees, They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on peoples shoulders. By directing the people to the law--whats more, to their own added-on human regulations--the Pharisees tied a heavy load on peoples backs. It was more than they could bear.
This issue came up again later, in the early church. In the Book of Acts, we read that there were some who were saying the Gentiles--that is, the non-Jews--had to keep all of the Jewish law in order to come into the church. The Gentiles must be required to obey the law of Moses, they said. But the apostle Peter got it right when he said: Why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.
The law is a heavy yoke that you and I are not able to bear. Keeping all the commandments of God is an enormous weight, and we are not strong enough to lift it. The apostle Paul realized this about himself, as we heard in the Epistle from Romans 7: For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. . . . For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. . . . Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Paul himself had been a Pharisee. He knew something of the burden of the law. And here we can hear him straining under that heavy weight. He knew now that he was nowhere near good enough or strong enough to carry that load. He couldnt do it. And if Paul couldnt do it--and he who was about as zealous and religious as they come--guess what? You and I cant do it either.
This is the battle within that Paul describes here. It is a battle raging within every Christian: our inability to do all that we know we should do, according to Gods law, and our corresponding tendency to do things we know we ought not to do. We keep falling into the ditch on either side: sins of commission, actively doing wrong things, and sins of omission, our failure to do the right things. This battle within, the conflict between the new man who wants to obey God and the Old Adam who serves only self--this battle, and the fact that it weighs upon our conscience--this too is the labor and the heavy burden that Jesus is talking about.
Do you feel it? Do you realize that you have not loved God as you ought? Do you realize that you have not loved your neighbor as you ought? That you have not kept Gods commandments in all your thoughts, words, and deeds? Do you realize that this law of God condemns you as a sinner and sentences you to death? And that there is no escape, no way out, nothing you can do to get out from under the crushing weight of the law that comes crashing down on your head? Pauls question remains relevant today: Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Thank God, Paul knows the answer to his own question! He joyfully declares: Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Yes, dear friends, it is through Jesus Christ our Lord that you are delivered, that the load is lifted, the burden removed. Thats why Jesus can say, Come to me, and I will give you rest.
Jesus Christ is the only one who can do this for you. He is the only one strong enough to carry the load that is the weight of the law. Thats what Jesus did. He lived the life we do not live. He kept Gods law perfectly, in our place. His love for God was total, his love for the neighbor complete. Nothing was left out or fell short of the mark.
Then Jesus did something more. The crushing weight of the law, the sentence it pronounces on sinners, the verdict it declares, Death to all those who do not do all that is written therein--the death sentence we deserve Jesus suffered in our stead. The sinless Son of God did the unthinkable--he died the death of sinners, hanging on a cross, suspended between heaven and earth, mocked by men and abandoned by God. That is a heavy load to bear, nothing heavier.
In ancient Greek mythology there was a fellow named Atlas. His job was to carry the world on his shoulders. Well, dear ones, Jesus is our real-life Atlas. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, he really does. The heavy, unbearable weight of the whole worlds sins. That is the load Christ carried to the cross. He lifts it off of your shoulders and puts it on his own.
Remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: Humble and mounted on a donkey. A donkey is a beast of burden. For Jesus came into Jerusalem so that he himself would bear the burden of our sins by carrying them to the cross.
My friends, the weight of your sins has been lifted, the load has been removed. That heavy load is gone just as surely as the huge, heavy stone was rolled away on Easter morning. The heavy millstone of judgment, the enormous tombstone of death--these have been rolled away. Sin is forgiven, death is destroyed. Jesus lifts these burdens from you. And now he says to you, in warm, inviting tones: Come to me, and I will give you rest. Quit struggling on your own. Lay down your burdens at foot of the cross. See my nail-pierced hands. I have done the job for you. Now you are free.
In his book, Pilgrims Progress, John Bunyan tells the story of a Christian on a journey, carrying a large bundle on his shoulders. He arrives at a place somewhat elevated above the surrounding area. On that hill there stands a cross, and below the hill there is a grave. As the man comes to the top of the hill with his heavy burden, the load is suddenly released from his shoulders. It drops to the ground, rolls down the hill, and disappears into the empty grave. That is a picture of what Christ has done for us. We labor along, carrying a heavy load. The cross appears before our eyes. We lay our heavy load down there, and it is rolled away.
What a relief! What rest for our souls. As St. Augustine once prayed to God, Thou hast formed us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in thee. Here then is the rest you need. Jesus Christ is our Sabbath rest. He gives us rest and refreshment from our labors. Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in thee. And we find that rest in Christ.
The yoke of the law is a load too heavy to bear. Jesus bears it for you. But notice what he says: Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me. . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. What? Is Jesus just giving us one yoke in place of another? No, not as though he were some new lawgiver. Rather, Jesus yoke is really an invitation to discipleship: Come to me. Learn from me. To take his yoke upon us is to be his disciples, to follow him in faith and receive rest and new life from him. Thus it is, paradoxically, an easy yoke, a light burden.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Come to Jesus, and find the rest you need. Rest for the weary, those worn out by their sins and the effects of sin we labor under in this fallen world. Rest for the battle-weary, Christians who feel and are grieved by the internal battle within, as the new man has to contend with the sinful flesh. Rest from just all the burdens we feel--sadness and pain, sorrow and loss.
Jesus is speaking to you today: Come to me, and I will give you rest. Yes, come and lay your burdens down. Find true spiritual rest in Christ, both for this life and for the age to come. We have this rest now--peace with God and the forgiveness of sins. And we have the sure hope of eternal rest in the promised land of heaven. Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest; sweet is the calm of paradise the blest. And that, my friends, is the rest of the story.
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.
Romans 7:14-25a (ESV)
We know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Very nice read.
The Universal Church Strikes again... Just like you were at our Mass Today in Kuwait!!!!
Thanks pastor for reminding us that Jesus took all the load of the Law off our shoulders.
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