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ST. STEPHEN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH

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Jesus Reveals His Truth

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 Sermon on Matthew 11:25–30, Pentecost 7, July 20 & 23, 2017

Today we have a very familiar portion of Scripture. It’s familiar to us because of its beauty. “Father, you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and have revealed them to little children.” “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Familiar and beautiful, but also packed with Gospel truth and meaning. There are three parts to this lesson—and they are arranged a lot like a sandwich—two very delicious pieces of the bread of life with some very substantial meat in between.

I. … to little children, but hides them from the ‘wise.’

  1. The first part is a very sweet piece of the bread of life: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from clever and learned people and have revealed them to little children. 26Yes, Father, because this was pleasing to you.” …and it reminds us of other times when Jesus praised children. “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:13). “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). When Jesus talks about having a child-like faith, or “to such belongs the kingdom of heaven,” he is talking about how a child trusts. If you tell a child a Bible story or a Sunday school lesson and then ask the child ‘What does this story mean?’ the chances are very good that the child will then tell the story back to you. “Jesus walked on water. What does that mean?” “Well, it means that Jesus walked on water.” “How could he do that?” “He could do that because he’s Jesus.” “Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. What does that mean?” “Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He said he was the Resurrection and the Life. Now he shows it.” That is a child-like faith. That is God revealing his truth to little children.
  2. But there’s more in that first part—that first piece of the bread of life, isn’t there. Jesus said, “Father, you have hidden these things from clever and learned people.” How can clever and learned people have no understanding when a small child does? Well, clever and learned people have this thing, almost a compulsion, to say, “I have this all figured out.” “I know how this works.” And those thoughts can kill faith. You have probably seen this on TV or read this in newspaper or magazine articles—some Biblical account is mentioned, and a scholar explains it—but really empties it of all meaning. “Jesus walked on water. What does that mean?” The scholar says, “To understand Jesus walking on water, we have to understand the Messianic expectations of the Jewish people of that time along with the myths of the Greeks and Romans who had gods and heroes who did things like walk on water or raise the dead or walk through walls.”[2] What just happened? The story about Jesus is no longer about Jesus. The Gospel of the powerful Son of God is put in the mythology section along with Zeus and Hercules. The professor misses it. The child gets it because he takes the Gospel of Jesus at its Word.

II. …that he is our only way to the Father.

  1. And that takes us to the second part—the meat in the sandwich. It is just as important as the first part, but it really is the substance. “Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wants to reveal him.” Jesus makes his Father known. He reveals the heart and mind of God to us. This is both talking about revelation—where do we learn these things? Only form Jesus. Only from his Gospel, given to us in his Word. And it’s talking about salvation. The same thing Jesus was talking about later when he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). If you don’t have the Word, or if you know it but don’t trust it, you don’t really have Jesus. And if you don’t have Jesus, you don’t have God.
  2. In this second part, Jesus is telling us that faith is not a matter of child’s play. It is our connection to God. He is our connection to God. And we won’t find this kind of connection anywhere else. This is the doctrine of the means of grace. Are we close to God when we go out in the woods or sit by a lake? We are close to God’s creation. We can admire his handiwork. But the Word is where we meet him. It is where we get to know his mind and heart. It’s where we meet Jesus and hear his forgiving Word. His comforting Word. His refreshing Word.

 

III. …that he alone gives rest and refreshment.

  1. Now we are into the third part of the passage. Another very sweet piece of the bread of life: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” That’s one of our favorite passages, isn’t it? I know it’s one of mine. Perhaps you learned it as “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” What makes us weary? What makes us burdened? Life itself lays many burdens on us. There are health problems—eventually everybody is going to have some health problem. Family problems. Financial problems. Inward struggles—memories of failure, guilt, a low feeling of self-worth—and that’s just the personal burdens, the inward burdens. Then there’s everything we see in the world, the bad news we see on TV. That’s a burden. And then there is the conflict in our hearts when we know what is good and right from God’s Word—but we see the world going in a different direction, or we also hear the world telling us to follow and we know we can’t—and we also know that life for us is then going to be going against the flow. Swimming against the stream. What burdens we have in this life. (It sounds a lot like Ecclesiastes.)
  2. But what does Jesus say? “Come to me all who are weary and burdened.” He gives us an invitation—and that shows us what an amazing Savior Jesus is. He wants us to come to him, even with all our burdens—even with all our messes. What compassion Jesus has!—it’s above and beyond any love we have. Don’t we often try to avoid people with burdens, with messes, with complications? But to us, to those with burdens, to those with failures, to those with conflicted hearts, Jesus says, “Come to me!” and after that, he gives us a promise. “I will give you rest.” By “rest” Jesus is talking about a pause from the labor—but he isn’t exactly saying, “Come to me, you who labor, and I’ll let you take a nap or I’ll give you a La-Z-Boy chair and you can pull the lever and put your feet up.” Sometimes we need to do that. But the “rest” Jesus is talking about here is more constructive. We see in the rest of the passage. The rest Jesus gives is refreshment. A recharge of our spiritual batteries. A renewal of strength.[3] As King David says in the twenty-third Psalm, “He restores my soul.”
  3. The “rest” is not La-Z-Boy rest because next, Jesus talks about our task as his disciples. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” A yoke, Y-O-K-E, was a kind of harness that an ox would wear to pull a plow or to pull a wagon. There is indeed a burden with discipleship. We heard about that in last Sunday’s Gospel, Matthew 10:38. “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” We bear Christ in our hearts. We have been called by Jesus to be salt and light in this world—to be different from the world and to make a difference because of our discipleship. We have been called to give up selfishness—to turn a deaf ear the world so we can listen to Christ alone—and to follow Christ—“good and gentle, more like thee.” Overcoming selfishness, pride and anger so that we can be like Christ is hard. But it’s much easier than giving in to those things. What happens when we try to deal with our burdens in self-serving ways? Maybe you’ve heard this, maybe you’ve said this to yourself: “I’m going to drink to forget—or do some drugs to cope with my problem.” What happens next? The thing you were trying to find your rest in becomes an even greater burden. You serve the solution which is really no solution—instead of the solution serving you. What does Jesus say, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light.” Much lighter than the selfishness, anger and pride. Rest. Refreshment. Renewal. “He restores my soul.”

Conclusion: Without Jesus, we would have none of this rest, refreshment or renewal. And when we Christians dwell on ourselves, we have less of Jesus’ blessings than we could. Listen again to Jesus’ invitation. Cme to him. Believe the Gospel of his life, his work, and his promises–fully. Hear his gracious Word. “Come to me, and give me that burden of guilt—because I already have taken it away” (John 1:28). “Come to me with that burden of doubt—what’s going to happen next in your life—what’s going to happen next in the world. I already know it all. I already have my good plan and purpose working for you” (Romans 8:28). “Come to me with the anger and impatience. Cast those cares on me. Put love, peace, patience and kindness in their place.” “Come to me with all those feelings of worthlessness and failure. Because I have given you value by purchasing you with my own blood. This is what you are worth to me, my brother, my sister.” “Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

Amen.

“At that time, Jesus continued, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from clever and learned people and have revealed them to little children. 26Yes, Father, because this was pleasing to you. 27Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wants to reveal him. 28“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (EHV)

[1] This is actually an ancient literary device called a chiasm, where a theme is introduced, then the main point is stated, and then the theme or a similar theme concludes. Psalm 23 also has this kind of structure: The Lord is my shepherd. I fear no evil for you are with me (main theme). The Lord is my royal host.

[2] See http://jdstone.org/cr/files/jesuswalkedonwater.html for an explanation that “along side” or “near” was confused with “on.” A comparison with Matthew, Mark and Luke with John makes it very clear. “On.” Also http://www.tahoeepiscopal.com/doc/sermons/WalkingonWater.html which says walking on water is simply a metaphor for holiness or something else, paralleled in Buddhist, Hindu, Greek and Native American myths.

[3] See the NAS Exhaustive Concordance. Also, Prof. Daniel Deutschlander noted that Luther translated “I will give you rest”  (Greek: anapauō) as “I will refresh you.” (German: erquicken.)

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