What Sort of Rest?
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Matthew 11:28-30
November 03, 2019

Jesus says, “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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” (Matthew 11:28-30).

A few moments ago, we sang the first few verses of that great hymn, “For all the Saints,” who from their labors rest. This song speaks of saints, labors, and rest.

What is a saint? Is a saint one of those people in Christian history who have been canonized by the Pope for doing what are regarded as extraordinary and heroic deeds? Nope. The hymn goes on to speak of saints as “those who by faith before the world confessed, thy name, O Jesus.”

This song has it right. Saints are those who hold to and confess the Name of Jesus. They are Christians. We could just as well sing, For all the Christians, who from their labors rest. You can place your own name in there. You can place there the names of your loved ones who have died in Christ and have gone on before us.

The root of the word “saint” is holy. Christians are holy because they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14).

They wash their robes by hearing what Jesus has done for them and believing it, that is, saying “yes, this is for me” with all their heart. He has atoned for them, taken away God’s judgment against their sin by shedding His blood for them.

Of course, Jesus has atoned for all sin, even the sin of those who do not believe in Him. Christians, however, are those who place their hope and destiny in the accomplished atonement. We confess the Name of Jesus before the world because He is the most important thing of all things in our lives that we will not give up, because He died for us and lives again for us. In Him, we find the hope and promise of forgiveness, victory over death, the blessing of our eternal destiny.

We join with that great company John saw in the vision that have washed their robes in Christ’s blood (Revelation 7:9ff). We along with them have believed the proclamation that comes to them from Christ’s shed blood, “you have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of your trespasses” (Ephesians 1:7). We are washed in believing this good news because God regards such faith as righteousness (Romans 4:5). Jesus said to the disciples, “You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

Christians are those who have come to Jesus because Jesus and the call have come to them. You could not come to Jesus unless He first issued the call, “Come to Me.” Come to me with your burden of sin. Come to me with your weariness.

In response to the call, you say, “Yes I come.” The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts” (Luther’s Small Catechism, Explanation to the Third Article)

The most important gift is the gift of faith that says “yes” to Jesus’s call and comes to Jesus. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

This English word “rest” is interesting. We probably hear it as doing nothing, as ceasing from work.

Actually, we can take the word rest more like refreshment. We can think of it as the refreshment that we get from sleep, or from getting some food when you’ve been working and are hungry. When you get that refreshment, you are ready for action. You are invigorated, energized.  

Jesus refreshes us. He refreshes our souls. He refreshes us with His grace and love. He refreshes us with His faithfulness and kindness. He strengthens us for the tasks at hand. He strengthens us to endure the difficulties and trials. He comes in grace, kindness and love. He is also almighty power. We need that combination; almighty power working through kindness and love; almighty power administered through grace.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4 that we Christians do not lose heart, because “though our outer man is perishing, our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Christ is doing this renewing. He is doing it through His word. He is doing it through His Spirit. It may not often feel like it, especially in the middle of the difficult times. But He is there refreshing you.

Often His refreshing you is beneath feeling. Sometimes you are quite aware of it. But He is refreshing you as He has promised, and you are sure of it because He here promises it. His promise encourages your heart.

On this day that we observe All Saints Day, we also hear the assurance of the rest that our loved ones and friends in Christ who have died are now enjoying. In the hymn, “For All the Saints,” we sing this: “Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine.”

They in glory shine.

They are Christians who have gone before us. They have died to life in this place and time. But they are not lost. They are blessed and live forever because dying in the Lord, they now rest from their labors (Revelation 14:13).

They shine.

Yes, it is true, they rest. They rest from sin. It is no longer part of their existence. They rest from the demands of the Law that requires perfection, which no sinner can meet. Those demands are no longer relevant because sin is no longer relevant.

They shine.

They like you and me rest from the fear of God’s judgment and guilt that comes from sin. Jesus has taken it all away. But now they live in the full reality of the promise of what Jesus has done. They live in joy and peace in the presence of God. And they await the Day of Resurrection and the consummation of all things in Christ.

They shine.

They rest from the frustration that life in this world brings. You know this frustration well. So did they. It is no longer part of their existence. They rest from tragedy. They rest from their own sickness and pain. God Himself wipes the tears from their eyes.

They shine.

None of these things are part of their experience anymore. None of these things can touch them anymore. Jesus has won this rest for them, and now they live fully in it.

They shine.

You live and die in the promise that He has won this rest for you and will give it to you in His timing.

But let us think of this rest as refreshment, renewing. What refreshment and renewing Jesus gives. We should not think of the “rest” they are enjoying as not doing anything. They are alive in the presence of God in ceaseless praise.

And I have got to think that Jesus is giving them something to do. Jesus always gives us something to do. There is much to do in our callings, in the love with which He has first loved us. It is true for us here. It is true for the saints who shine in glory.

We are left behind here. We feel the pain of the loss of their presence with us. This pain is deep.  We grieve, and that is okay. We give thanks for their lives and the memories we have.

But this presence will be restored. Jesus will restore it. As we sing about ourselves as those who feebly struggle here, we also sing about ourselves as those who will shine in glory. Because that is where we are headed, as we say “yes” here to the one who calls us, Jesus our Lord. You shine now, though your shining is hidden beneath the crusty Old Adam. But you will put off the Old Adam in Jesus, once and for all, and then your shining will no longer be hidden.

But even before then, in Christ’s reality, we are all one company with them even now. Where Christ is, there the saints in glory are as well. This is why we pray to the Father at the end of the proper preface in the Communion liturgy: “Therefore, with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify your glorious name, evermore praising you and saying:”

They are there in that company of heaven, because Jesus has refreshed them, and they are there in His refreshment. And when your journey here comes to its end, in the good will of our Heavenly Father, then you will join that company in the same refreshment, the same giving of life that Jesus has given them, because your hope is the eternal Gospel Jesus won and which we proclaim.

We celebrate our hope in Jesus today. We celebrate the victory He has won for us, and for all who have gone before us. What tremendous rest he has won for you. What tremendous rest He delivers.

They shine. You will shine too, in Jesus. Thanks be to God.

Amen.



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