The First Sunday of Advent December 2, 2007
541, 73, 277, 74
At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you 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.”
In Christ Jesus, the only One who gives us true rest, dear fellow-redeemed:
The countdown to Christmas has begun—the crammed parking lots, stuffy stores, and crowded malls. People run here and there trying to get all of their shopping and other holiday activities finished. In this time of busyness, excitement, and happiness it is a notorious fact that the holiday season is one of the times in which depression, emptiness, sadness, and suicide all reach some of their highest levels.
One of the reasons why Christmas celebrations may turn into Christmas depressions is that the true reason for celebrating Christmas is lost. Each year we are reminded to not let the activities of Christmas crowd out or cause us to forget that the real reason we celebrate Christmas is the birth of our Savior. It is an oft forgotten truth that the heart of this hurriedly busy holiday is, actually, rest.
The true gift and message of Christmas is rest through Jesus your Savior. In Advent we prepare to celebrate the coming of our Savior who has brought rest for our souls. Also, we are reminded to always be prepared for our Lord's second coming when He will take us to our eternal rest. As you prepare for Christmas REMEMBER R-E-S-T THIS ADVENT SEASON. Remembering R-E-S-T will keep the truth of Christmas before you and will help you to remember some important truths about the rest which your Savior brings. I. R is for (human) Reason which cannot find rest. II. E is for Everyone. All who are weary are invited to this rest. III. S is for Souls that are completely satisfied by this rest IV. T is for the prayer, “Teach me, Lord to live in Your rest.”
Jesus addressed His heavenly Father in a prayer with these words, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.” [v.25]
Human reason and common sense are good for solving problems on earth but the problem of sin cannot be solved in the same way. Our wisdom and reason simply cannot come up with a way of salvation from sin, nor does it need to do so because God has provided it and revealed it to us in His Word. The things of salvation are not comprehended and understood by human wisdom but are, as God describes it, “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The knowledge of salvation which brings rest to our souls comes through faith created by the Holy Spirit and is not based on human intellect.
There are differing gifts and levels of intelligence so it is comforting and important to know that there is no connection between our IQ, and our salvation. Even the simplest and least educated can learn to know the Savior. God’s Word and the salvation which it declares are grasped through faith which is created by God with His Word. An individual who cannot grasp higher mathematics with his intellect can yet through faith grasp the truth that Jesus died on the cross to wash away all of the sins of the world. The truth of salvation which faith grasps is something all the wisdom of the world will never comprehend.
Not only can wisdom not find rest and salvation it actually stands in the way of it. The message of God’s Word is simple: We are sinners damned to Hell because of our sins. However, out of undeserved love, God sent Jesus to live a perfect life in our place and die on the cross and be punished in our place. Now, because of what Jesus has done, our sins are forgiven and we have the hope of eternal life in Heaven instead of Hell.
That simple truth of Scripture is rejected by human reason. Reason decides that it just can’t be true that we are all bad by nature. Reason says there has to be some good in us and what we need to do is find it and develop it and then God will be pleased. Reason says there has to be something I can do and reason puts requirements on God’s forgiveness which He does not make. Reason molds salvation to fit its own way of thinking and places part of the burden of sin back on us. However, if we have any burden of sin on us at all then rest will never be found.
Reason works against rest by applying itself to the truths of Scripture, deciding that they don’t work out according to human logic and can’t, therefore, be true. Reason rebels at the thought that it is wrong and that God is right even if we can’t “figure it all out.” Reason cries out, “Don't insult my intelligence!” When human intelligence places itself above God it becomes extreme foolishness. Scripture describes it as the clay pot telling the potter how it should be formed. Luther said it is the egg pretending to be wiser than the hen. All of it is described by Paul in Corinthians, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:0-10a).
In the words just before today’s text Jesus pronounced a curse on three cities in which He had done most of His miracles. To one of the cities, Capernaum, Jesus said, “…if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day…” (Matthew 11:23). These cities followed their own reason and did not find rest but were cursed. Such is the fate of all who are brain-proud or work-proud. Those who are led by their reason will not find rest because it is revealed to the simple. It is revealed to those who take God at His Word apart from all human intelligence.
Jesus praised His Father for having hidden the things of salvation from the wise and revealing them to babes and said that this is the Father’s will and pleasure. It is to God’s praise and glory that the things of salvation are not dependent on ourselves for then it would be an unstable and unsure rest. Salvation is free from any and all connections to our abilities and intellect, it rests solely on God. This is not to say that the wise of this world cannot be saved, but such salvation does not come from their reason but from the wisdom of God revealed in His Word.
Remember that your rest doesn’t come from your abilities or your reason but from God’s salvation which erases the cares of sin and every other worry. Remember the R in rest and then when you are at unrest you’ll say, “What am I doing here depending on myself? I’ll never find rest this way. God’s Word will give me rest. That is where I need to go to get me through this.”
E is for Everyone. Everyone is invited to the true rest for souls. The one who invites is Jesus our Savior. Jesus’ words just before His invitation give the assurance that He has the authority to invite you and everyone else to this rest. “All things have been delivered to Me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” [v.27]
Jesus gives an explanation of who He is in order to create a basis for His invitation which would follow. Jesus tells us that He is true man, for He said that all things had been delivered to Him by the Father—as God, Jesus had everything in His control at all times. It is impossible for reason to grasp how Jesus could be God and have all things, and at the same time be man and be given all things, yet that is what God says and so we believe it.
Jesus also mentions the close unity between Himself and the Father. Jesus describes the Son and the Father as two distinct persons, but yet so closely bound and unified in one God that the Father knows the Son and the Son the Father. John records the words of Jesus at another time, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).
We have noted that no one can understand the ways or the mind of God. If we are to learn about our heavenly Father, our Savior, and our salvation it needs to be revealed to us. Jesus said that no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son reveals the Father. The revelation of the Father to sinners is the purpose for which Jesus became man and for which God delivered all things to Him. John records these words of Jesus to His Father, “You have given [Your Son] authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
Everything about God and our salvation is revealed to us by Jesus, the Son of God, and the work which He did. The letter to the Hebrews begins, “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Here we should note the third person of the Trinity lest by discussing only the Father and the Son we think that Holy Spirit is not involved. The Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son and He works through God’s Word to create faith in our hearts to believe what the Son reveals.
It is the Son of God who came to reveal the Father and accomplish salvation who invites you to His rest. Therefore you know the invitation is valid and that what it promises you will receive. Jesus also makes it clear whom He is inviting: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” [v.28]
We have already seen that salvation and rest are not received through reason so there is no limitation there. Jesus erases any other questions as to whether we are invited to His rest by saying, “Come to Me, all…” Jesus’ invitation is to you. You are included in the all. His rest is for You! The Devil works hard to convince you that you are not part of the rest, that you couldn’t possibly be forgiven for that sin, but Jesus says, “Come to me all…” Jesus invites all who are weary of labor and heavy laden. The invitation for rest goes out to those who need rest. Every sinner needs rest but if he denies that need then the invitation is not going to mean a thing. If a sinner is not bowed down with the weight of sin, repentant of that sin, and looking for help then Jesus’ invitation to rest will be despised and laughed off. So Jesus invites those who are weary and saddened by their many sins. Jesus’ invitation goes out to all who recognize their sin and are anxiously looking for some remedy and hope in the face of God’s just punishment. To these He says, “I will give you rest, both now and for eternity.”
Remember the E in rest and that you, together with all people, are invited to your Savior’s rest.
The rest to which Jesus invites us is not the bodily rest we get each night. It is rest for our souls. “Come to me all you 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.” [v.28-30]
Two things are described by Jesus. First, our condition and then the load which we bear. First, our soul’s condition is described as being beaten down and tired out with labor. Like coming home and relaxing after a hard day’s work so is the rest for our souls which Jesus brings. Secondly, Jesus describes a heavy burden dragging us down ever further. Like an unbearable weight being lifted and replaced with a feather so is the rest which Jesus brings to our souls.
The weary labor and heavy load which your soul endures is that of sin. The punishment which our souls deserve would be able to drive us into total depression and despair if not for the rest which Jesus brings by telling us, “I have died for you, your sins are forgiven.” The uncertainty and fears, the doubts and frustrations of life, would be much too heavy a burden to bear if not for the rest which Jesus brings by telling us, “I’ll strengthen you, help you, and protect you with My all-powerful hand.”
A yoke is a wooden bar which went across the shoulders of two oxen and joined them together in their work of pulling the load. Or in the case of human labor, the yoke was a bar over the shoulders which would balance out two weights, such as a pail on each end. Thus, “the yoke” came to symbolize submission to an occupation or obligation. The yoke we put on ourselves is oppressive. We place on ourselves the yoke of pride, self-interest, self-help, self-reliance, and worry. Under that yoke there is no rest. The yoke of Jesus and the Gospel is lightweight for it says that Christ has done everything for us. His rest is complete, “I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul” (Jeremiah 31:29).
There are any number of other solutions and theories as to where rest can be found, but unlike the rest from our Savior they will not fully satisfy the soul. No matter what solution or rest or great thing we could find apart from our Savior it would always fail. Maybe it is rest for the body with no inner peace and security. Perhaps something will give rest to a conscience for a time but apart from Christ it is a false rest which deceives and will eventually fail—if not in time then at the end of time. Jesus says, “Come to Me all you who labor and I Myself will give you a rest which no one else can give.”
The rest which Jesus brings is the only place to direct our souls. It is a rest which comes fully and completely out of His gracious mercy. “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:5-7). This perfect rest which fully satisfies our souls is the focus of our Advent preparations. It is preparation to rejoice at the birth of the Savior who brings us rest and the preparation for His return to earth.
We need to be constantly prepared and ready for our Savior’s return. We dare never let our guard down lest Satan exploit that. We dare never rest in our vigilance, yet our souls need strength and renewal. The full rest given by Christ does both. It enables the soul to keep vigilant and strengthens and refreshes it. Whenever your soul feels weary with labor and heavy laden with care and worry, remember your soul’s complete satisfaction which is found only in the rest offered by Jesus.
The final part of our R-E-S-T is a prayer: “Teach me Lord to live in your rest.” Jesus described His yoke as easy and His burden as light, but it won’t always seem that way to us. His burden truly is light for He tells us to rely completely on Him for salvation from sins and whatever else might bring weariness to our soul. His burden is light because He has already borne the burden of sin and when troubles arise He will aid us. In other words, our burden is light because He is carrying us.
The yoke of Jesus is not going to seem light whenever we face trouble, yet, we have the assurance that God knows us and has promised that He won’t allow us to endure more than we can withstand. Whenever we fall into sin we are throwing off the light yoke of our Lord, preferring instead to be under the oppressive yoke of sin, self, and the world. When troubles and temptations are a direct result of trusting in Jesus then the yoke gets really heavy. The yoke of Christ felt so heavy to Peter that He denied Jesus in the courtyard of the High Priest. We throw off the yoke when, like Peter, we deny our Lord. This we can do without ever opening our mouth for when we don’t speak up in defense of our God, His name, and His Word then we deny Him with our silence.
It is part of the total foolishness of our sinful nature that we who are under the light yoke of our God’s grace and mercy still long for and crave the sinful lusts and corruption. By nature we don’t come to Jesus’ invitation. We need to be changed and instructed lest we throw the yoke of our Savior off just as soon as we are brought to it. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart…”
Jesus bore the burden of our sins to the cross. It was not a painless experience. He endured the eternal punishment for the sins of the world. It was not a burden easy to bear and yet He did bear it out of love for you knowing that if He did not do it, you and I and all people would be lost eternally. Peter wrote to the Christians, “Christ also suffered for us leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps: Who committed no sin nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten…” (1 Peter 2:21-23).
Jesus faced the ridicule and punishment with meekness and humility. Jesus was not weak, but He was meek because He had the infinite resources of God and still did not seek His own self interest. Meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self interest. Jesus showed true meekness and humility in being our Savior.
If we are to live in the rest which Christ brings and not throw Him off and go back to the heavy yoke of sin, then sinful self-interest needs to be replaced with meekness. Sinful pride and self-reliance needs to be replaced with a humble trust in our Lord. These are things which we can learn from only one teacher: Jesus. “Learn from Me,” He says.
Jesus has plucked us out of the unrest of unbelief but we will always return there if left on our own. Through His Word Jesus instructs and guides us and the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith to resist the temptation to return to sin. Combined with an ongoing use of God’s rest-giving Word we keep before us also the prayer that God would crush whatever pride and self-reliance we have, that He would remove everything that would stand in the way and instruct us with His pure Word and so strengthen us for now and eternity.
When it comes to your Christmas celebrations and dealing with the unrest of this life remember R-E-S-T. Reason and human reliance? No. Everyone invited? Yes. Souls in satisfying rest? Yes. Teach us Lord to live in it, now and forevermore. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.