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Rest

Date: Mar. 13, 2016

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Matthew 11:25-12:21

Key Verse: Matthew 11:28

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

When was the last time you were on vacation? My family last went on vacation this past June. We went with my brothers-in-law to Clearwater Beach in Florida. I’ve got to tell you that there is a reason why it is called Clearwater. I could be standing neck deep in the water and could still see the bottom. It was amazing. Our hotel was right on the water, about a five or ten-minute walk to the white sand beach. Everyday, we went to the beach. It was relaxing and restful. It was a good way to recharge our batteries. Unfortunately, when it was over, we had to go back to our lives and deal with the everyday stresses. Some people out there get so busy on vacation that when they are done, they need a vacation to get over their vacation. What I am getting at is that we all have this need to rest. We all have this need to take a step away from our normal lives and hit the reset button. Sadly, the rest that we find in this world is only temporary. We go out on vacation, but at some point it ends and we are right back where we started. But, what if there was a way to get rest, to get peace, that lasts and transcends anything that we have ever experienced? Would you want that? If you do, I have some good news for you. Jesus promises to give rest to all who come to him. Let’s see what he is talking about.

So, two weeks ago, we talked about mission. We are all called to a mission and it is up to us to answer that call and complete that mission. We are called, but we choose to answer that call. Last week, we talked about doubt. It is natural for us to doubt, but what we do with that doubt is important. If we take our doubt to Jesus and search for an answer, our doubt can be dispelled, but if we succumb to our doubt and let it overwhelm us, we live in fear and worry. In our doubt, we become blind to the truth that is in front of us, that Jesus is the only way to overcome our doubt. Our passage, today, begins, “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’” (11:25-27) Jesus praises God for hiding the truth from the wise and learned, and revealing them to little children. This seems a bit surprising, but the seemingly wise and learned are also usually proud of their knowledge. They have a hard time accepting that something is beyond their ability. Little children, on the other hand, easily accept that something is beyond their ability. Overcoming doubt is beyond our own ability and requires us to seek assistance from God. From there, we have to recognize that the only way to God is through Jesus. As Jesus said, “no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (11:27) We have to come to Jesus to overcome our doubt. We have to seek the truth through him.

When we try to overcome this doubt on our own, we’re more likely to succumb to that doubt. We seek solutions and those solutions leave us weary and burdened because those solutions are not light. The truth is that we are sinners. We have spent our lives serving ourselves and our desires. We’ve spent our lives doing things that don’t please God. We’ve pulled away from God and, although he has given everything to be close to us, we doubt and reject him because he does not act the way that we expect him to act. In our doubt, we try to fix our own lives. We try to follow the rules, but we are too dumb and stubborn to see that there is no way in heaven or hell that we can follow those rules. Even if we did, we still broke the rules up to that point and following the rules does not negate the fact that we broke them in the first place. If you kill just one person, and no other people after that, does that make you right? The fact that you didn’t kill people does not negate the fact that you did kill someone. You cannot make penance for your evil deeds. It is a fallacy that we like to feed ourselves, but when we keep going down the path of trying to fix our mistakes, it wearies and burdens us because keeping all the rules straight will drive you insane.

To those under the burden of doubt, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (11:28) Jesus offers rest from our burdens. Those with doubt don’t have to carry the burden of trying to fix things. They can have rest. Those who are tired can find solace in Jesus and it is not only for those under the burden of doubt. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He uses the word “all”. This means that everyone who is weary and burdened can find rest in Jesus. We all have stress and carry burdens. Have you ever felt so stressed out in your life that you think you that are going to break? It’s those times when you are at wits’ end, your nerves are frayed and your spirit is so weary that you don’t even care about anything. In those times, food has no taste and doesn’t satisfy. What once brought us joy becomes another bother. In those times, we look for a way out; we look for a way to find peace, but it seems like we can’t find any. It is to us in those times that Jesus also calls for us to come to him and find rest.

Think about that for a moment. Everybody who is weary or burdened can come to Jesus to find rest. We put on ourselves the weight of the world when we try to take care of all the issues that arise from our daily lives. We might have work and school and family that we have to balance and it is making us a little frayed. We can have so many projects that are due at all the same time and not know what to do. Our lives have hit such a fevered pitch that we run and run and run until we collapse at night. There is a song that sums this up so well. It goes, “Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor. It’s off to the races everybody out the door. I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life. Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can. Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand. So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life” (Breathe, Jonny Diaz). How often does our life feel like that? We just keep going from here to there to somewhere, rushing around just trying to make ends meet. In my house, once we clean up something, in just a matter of minutes, it is all destroyed again. We are weary and tired and we don’t want to do the same tasks over and over and it seems like it never ends. In order to just survive, it feels like we have to do a million things all at once. People feel like they need to multitask just to do all that needs to be done, but quite honestly everybody sucks at multitasking. You either know that you suck or you are in denial. When you multitask, it takes you twice as long to do a poorer job than if you did each task one at a time. At any rate, we feel pressured to perform because you see your friend’s life on Facebook and Instagram and you think that it is real and unedited. We try to keep up with the Joneses not realizing that the Joneses are trying to keep up with us. It is a perpetual cycle of futility created by false visions.

And yet, there is still hope. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (11:28) Jesus promises us rest if we come to him and let all these other things just melt away. That same song continues, “It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day. When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel You say just Breathe, just breathe. Come and rest at My feet And be, just be. Chaos calls but all you really need Is to just breathe.” (Breathe, Jonny Diaz) Jesus gives us the ability to just breathe. He helps us to catch our breath in the midst of all our busyness. Then, things really begin to change as peace fills our lives and souls.

Now, what the rest that Jesus brings looks like is very interesting. Jesus continues, “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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (11:29-30) Jesus says that we should take his yoke. A yoke is a device that attaches cattle or oxen to a plow so that the fields could be cultivated. This implies that Jesus’ rest involves work. We like to think that we would find rest in the absence of work. We take a vacation to get away from our work and worry and stress, but Jesus’ rest is different. It doesn’t involve getting away from work. It actually involves getting involved in work. Two weeks ago, we talked about a calling to a mission from God. That is the yoke that Jesus mentions here. When we are trusting in Jesus and follow the mission he has given us, we find true rest. Now, we can’t try to do the mission on our own. If we do, then we just get burdened and worn out. However, when we serve the mission with Jesus, he carries the greater part of the burden of the mission. There is a saying that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. Depending on your major, that might be because you can’t find a job in your field, but for everyone else, that is because it won’t feel like work. When you are doing what you are meant to do, it doesn’t feel like work.

There is another way to think about this. Many times we are stressed out because there is so much weighing on us. We want all that is bothering us to disappear. We try to get away on vacation, but those problems are waiting for us when we get home. Jesus’ rest is different. His rest doesn’t remove the problems to give us rest. Jesus’ rest changes us and leaves the situation the same. There is an example of this in the book of Philippians. In the book it is written, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) I love these verses. They say that when you’ve got something on your heart and mind that is just eating away at you, then just bring it to God. When you do that, then God sends his peace to help you. The verses don’t say that God will change what makes you anxious, but that he will give you peace in the situation that you are anxious. In the same way, everything that stresses you out doesn’t just magically disappear when you come to Jesus in search of rest. Instead, Jesus gives you rest despite the fact you are in a storm of situations that could stress you out. This reminds be the story of Stephen in the Bible. Stephen was a follow of Jesus, and one day some people arrested him and brought him before the Jewish leaders. They kept accusing him many different crimes. It was a very stressful situation for him. I know that if someone accuses me of something that I didn’t do, it stresses me out, but Stephen was unaffected. They said that his face looked just like that of an angel. He had peace. He had rest because of Jesus, all the way to his death.

When you look more into this passage, you can see how Jesus gives this rest. “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.’” (12:1-2) Jesus was going to a town on the Sabbath. For those of you who do not know, the Sabbath was the Jewish day of worship, in many ways like Sundays for Christians. Now, the Sabbath was instituted by God. God created the world in six days and on the seventh day he rested. He rested as an example to us to show us that we need a day of rest. It was to be a day that we would put aside all the daily work and take the time to come to God and find rest. God said that his people were not supposed to work on the Sabbath. It was a simple directive, but eventually, people began to wonder what God defined as work. Certainly, there were things that had to be done. People still needed to eat and be clean. What was the boundary line that defined work? Some of the religious leaders came up with a set of rules that defined work. If you did anything on the list, then it would be considered work and you weren’t resting. So there was a whole list of thing that you couldn’t do on the Sabbath.

One of those things that people couldn’t do was harvest their grain on the Sabbath. That kind of makes sense. If you are a farmer, then part of your work was to harvest your grain, but God said that you shouldn’t work on the Sabbath. It could wait one more day. That makes some sense. In this passage, though, Jesus’ disciples were hungry and they picked some grain and ate it. The Pharisees saw this and said it was unlawful for them to do that. The Pharisees were pointing out what they were doing was harvesting grain. They were working. That seems a bit silly. The disciples weren’t farmers and they just picked a couple of grains to munch on as they went. What you can see here is the problem with the all the rules. The rules were set up for good reason. They were a defined measure to guide people to rest in God. Over time, the rules became more important than resting, and it became more work to not work than it was to work. There are some signs of this nowadays. Even in modern times, Jews follow the Sabbath rules. They can do no work on the Sabbath. In the modern age, this also means that they are not allowed to flip an electrical switch or push a button that makes something move. They can’t operate an elevator on their own. This is a problem for people who live in high-rises. On the Sabbath they can’t take the elevator because it would violate Sabbath laws, but they could take the stairs. If you had a kid in a stroller, you would have to lug the stroller up the stairs back home. That was allowable, but taking the elevator was not. Which is more work? The rules became about not working, and not about finding rest. We have a tendency to take what is good and turn it into a burden. Thank God for Jesus.

Jesus answered the Pharisees with a couple of thoughts. First, he talked about David. When David was on the run from King Saul, he took the consecrated bread, which was only for the priests to eat, but he wasn’t reprimanded. Also, priests work on the Sabbath, but they are not guilty of breaking the Sabbath. They have to do their work on the Sabbath. Jesus really wanted to have mercy in their hearts. To the Pharisees, it was all about following the law and they forgot all about the point of the law. They weren’t understanding, just full of spite. Jesus, on the other hand, understands both the point of the law and our need. Jesus knows that we need rest. When God created everything, he knew that we need rest. If we work all the time without a break, there will come a day when your body will shut down forcing you to rest. I’ve heard of people having heart attacks because they don’t rest. We either have to voluntarily rest or our body will make us by failing us. We will either collapse from exhaustion or worse. One way or another you will rest because we need it. Jesus knows that and he understands that we need rest more than just avoiding work.

The Pharisees, however, were just about following the rules. They didn’t like Jesus downplaying their rules and they wanted to trap him, so they had a question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (12:10) To heal is a job, so healing on the Sabbath would not be allowed in the Pharisees’ minds. Jesus saw things differently, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. (12:11-12) The Pharisees would pull a trapped sheep from a pit because it has value to them. Jesus reasons that it is even more important to help a person out of a pit because they are more valuable than a mere sheep. There was a man with a shriveled hand in the synagogue where Jesus was and he couldn’t really rest because of his hand. He was not whole can carried the burden of the shriveled hand. He had the stigma of sin because of his disfigurement. If there was something wrong with you, then you must have done something wrong. I don’t know what caused the shriveled hand, but in the deepest part of his soul, it prevented him from resting, so Jesus healed him. Sadly, the Pharisees were not moved by the healing. Instead, they became more steadfast in their belief and they now wanted to kill Jesus. They were so focused on the rules, that they did not have rest on the Sabbath by coming to God. Instead, they were so worked up that their thoughts turned to murder.

Jesus knew those thoughts and he knew that it wasn’t time to face those thoughts, yet. So, he left the area and continued his work. Jesus bringing rest was not a new-fangled idea. It was actually something that God told his people about 700 years before Jesus came through the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah wrote, “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.” (12:18-21) I like the words “a bruised reed he will not break”. They denote the gentleness and understanding that Jesus has. We are all bruised reeds. We are all weary and burdened in our lives, but Jesus doesn’t sweep into the room saving lives at the cost of lives. If you see some of the superhero movies that are out there. Some of them have massive amounts of destruction. The Superman movie a couple of years back Man of Steel showed Superman destroy a great deal of the city in an effort to save the world. Thousands were probably killed to save billions. Jesus, however, does not break a single bruised reed. He gives each of them rest and helps them to recover.

I am someone who really wants rest. An average day for me includes getting up at around 6, making my breakfast and lunch and getting ready for work. At the same time, I help the kids with their breakfast while urging them to hurry up and eat and then get dressed. We try to get out of the house by 7, but it is usually closer to 7:30. I drop the kids off at school and head to work. Depending on traffic I arrive at work between 8:30 and 9, after a 33-mile commute. I then work all day and come home. At dinner time, Viola and I constantly remind the kids to take bites of their food. After eating, sometimes there is a bath to draw or there might be a bit of playtime, and then it is off to bed for the kids between 8 and 9. Then we have to sit with the kids until they fall asleep. Many times, we fall asleep with the kids. Very few times, there is some time to do some chores or relax a little bit and then it is off to bed for us. We feel like we rush all the time and all this moving about just makes us want to collapse, but we don’t have any rest in our hearts. If you look at my schedule, there is not a lot of time that I spend with seeking Jesus. When I am weary, burdened and stressed, it is a sign that I have not come to Jesus. It is a reminder that I need to come to Jesus and find rest only in him.

I wish I could tell you how wonderful resting in Jesus is, but I am in need of it just like each of you. Jesus is the only place where we can find rest. He calls to us to come to him and find rest. Our lives are stressful. We are weary. The technology of our lives brings so much convenience, but it has led to us becoming like Pavlov’s dog. In his experiment, Pavlov would ring a bell and then feed a dog. Over time, every time Pavlov rang the bell, the dog would drool. Now, every time a notification goes off on our phones, we instinctively look to see what it is and 95% of the time, it is meaningless. There are even times where we feel or hear our phones vibe, but it never actually went off, but we still check it. We are bombarded with things. They distract us and make us busier than ever. We can find no rest in this world, but there is rest in Jesus. When we come to him, he doesn’t change our circumstances, but he brings into our heart a peace that makes no sense and brings rest to our weary souls. I want for you to take the time this week to reflect on your lives. Are you weary and feel burdened about something? Bring it to Jesus. Hand it over to him and find the very rest you seek.

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