Jesus Speaks Truth and Rest - Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Matthew 11:25-30
July 05, 2020

Dear friends in Christ, Jesus speaks wonderful words to us in our Gospel reading.

At Matthew 11:25. He says, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Mat. 11:25). These things are the revelation of God and the way of salvation in Jesus. The wise and understanding do not comprehend this. But the little children believe.

Jesus’s reference to little children could be a literal reference to children. It is also a reference to being child-like in faith with respect to Jesus and God. In Matthew 18, when the disciples were having a debate among themselves as to which of them was the greatest disciple, Jesus called a child to him and said to the disciples: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 18:3). Jesus is not telling us to be immature. He is blessing, however, that faith in Him and God as we find God in His word that is child like trust; like being humble and receptive to whatever God will give in Jesus; to what Jesus is and what He has come to do and the salvation He brings.

At Matthew 11:27, Jesus says, “All things have been handed over to me, by My Father.” The disciples need Jesus to teach them that Jesus is the one in whom God will accomplish all His purposes for mankind and all creation. He is the Savior and Messiah that God has provided.

Jesus needs to teach this to us also, for would-be saviors and messiahs are many. Are they meek and humble in heart? Yet, Jesus teaches us that all things have been handed over to Him by the Father. And He is meek and humble in heart.

Now human reason stumbles. For how can a human being also have all power in heaven and on earth? How can Jesus claim to have had all things delivered into His hands by the Father?

But what a blessing that this is true of one human being who was Jesus Christ. When we look at human history, there have been many human beings who have acted and claimed that God had delivered all things into their hands. We have seen secularized versions of this in modern history where they claim to have history and the future of history in their hands. Follow them and history will be made. Obey them and they will satisfy all your needs and protect you from all harm. Such human beings hold themselves out as omnipotent Saviors. But they turn out to be the most despicable monsters who rule by tyranny, cruelty and violence. But they feel justified by their cause, but their cause turns out to serve only the few. They turn out to rule more in the protecting of their own power and pursuing their own goals rather than taking care of the people. And they have been good at making war on their neighbors.

They fail to realize that human beings are just servants of God for a limited purpose. So are the institutions of civil society.

It is good news in itself, then, that almighty power is vested in Jesus, that it has been removed from any other human being, or any other human institution. For even though they exercise their claims in violence and tyranny, their claims are empty and will ultimately fail.

Jesus goes on to say that no one knows the Son except the Father, and that no one knows the Father except the Son, and the person to whom the Son wills to reveal the Father.

We have lived in an age that boasted that reason and the human spirit can investigate and know all things, even God, by its own powers. But Jesus declares that no one knows by their own powers. The Father alone knows the Son. The Son alone knows the Father. And a person knows the Father when Jesus reveals the Father to him or her. No one is spiritual apart from the Son.

Now the claim by mere mortals to be able to penetrate all mysteries, even the depth of God, takes offense. Now the claim of the human spirit to work all good and justice out of its own corrupt self takes offense. Jesus asserts that reason and the human spirit are ignorant of God, and Jesus places limits on what they can accomplish.

Yet, He also proclaims that God is known in Him. The true Spirit is found in Him. All the aspirations of human beings are found in Him. Human beings are ignorant on their own, ultimately, but taught with knowledge and wisdom pertaining to God and ultimate things in Jesus.

Jesus makes some astounding and wonderful claims. How does He demonstrate His right to make them?

Here is where we see the truth of Jesus, in contrast to would be Messiahs and the wise and understanding of this world. Jesus is meek or gentle and humble in heart. He does not threaten with violence. He does not come on a warhorse, but on a donkey. The imagery of Zechariah is beautiful: “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations” (Zechariah 9:10).

And what is more, in His meekness and humility He gave Himself willingly in sacrifice for us to fulfill God’s will. He gave Himself in sacrifice to accomplish a reconciliation that is much, much deeper than what reason and the human spirit think justice and a perfect society mean. And because of His meekness and humility, in which He was obedient to the Father’s will even unto death and death on the cross, God the Father raised Him from the dead and appointed Him Lord and Christ.  

These are Jesus’s credentials and the demonstration of His right to make His claims. But oh how the wise and understanding reject them and seek the path of power and war.

Finally, Jesus speaks His invitation. Come to Me all you who are weary from toil under the law and the striving for perfection; come to me all you are burdened by the oppression of the law and its demands, imposed by the wise and understanding. Come to me, Jesus says, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.

Is this really good news, our culture may say? Jesus speaks of a yoke. A yoke is not freedom. A yoke is oppressive. Jesus, if you want to set me free, then it cannot mean a yoke. It must mean setting my autonomous spirit free in its right to be autonomous in its own self-determination. Freedom must mean having no yoke whatsoever. Justice must mean being free in my own autonomous self-expression, even if that expression is lawless and brings destruction to myself and others. If you are Savior, Messiah, how can you be talking about a yoke? If I am yoked to you, even if you may be good, I am sill yoked, under restraint, under control of another. My life does not then seem to be my own.

But the weary and burdened realize that this vision of freedom is a grand illusion. It has only relative value and that only with respect to trivial matters or with respect to one’s vocation in life. But it is an illusion with respect to much more serious matters of truth and falsehood, right and wrong, being human as God created humanity to be.

There is no such thing as a fully autonomous, absolute freedom, not if God is Creator and we are His creation. Indeed, we find freedom in our being yoked to Jesus, because freedom is found in being yoked to the good without external coercion. This kind of yoking is there in Jesus.

Here is a fundamental clash between the way our culture is going and the Christian faith.

You are truly free when you are yoked to Jesus who knows how to make you more fully human in yourself than you could ever be in pursuing the mirage of absolute freedom. In being yoked to Jesus, Jesus gives you yourself in faith and love, in grace, humility, goodness, and truth.

Here is rest for your souls. But we cannot find this rest on our own. We find it by being joked to Jesus. And then we find that His yoke is good and merciful, and His burden is light.

Christ’s yoke and burden are to believe in Him and trust Him in that kind of faith which is a surrendering to Him and relying on Him in a childlike trust. True enough, this involves a kind of surrendering of our autonomous self. But Jesus is good and kind and woos us into this surrender. And He teaches us, leads us and inspires us in a way that being yoked to Him we do not lose but find our soul.

Jesus certainly wants to lead us in the way of truth that is God’s way, but He does not beat you or threaten you or harangue you and vilify you and cause you to be guilty for what you have not done. He is honest with us about our selfishness and sin. But He takes that into Himself and makes atonement for us by putting it to death in His death, and He rises to be in His own person the promise of everything you hope for, not only here, but forever, in a new creation.

Give thanks today for you are blessed to hear Jesus speak His words and come to you in His Word and Sacrament. For here He binds Himself to you to woo you to bind yourself to Him. And in Him you find rest for your soul and the One who gives you inner strength now and ultimately leads you home.

Amen.



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