Sermon – July 19, 2020 – Pentecost 7
Printable PDF: 7-12-2020 Pentecost 7
Pastor Mark R Jacobson ~ Pentecost 7 (July 19, 2020) ~ Matthew 11:25-30
25At 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. 26Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27“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. 28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
IT’S TIME TO YOKE UP!
“At that time” is how the Apostle Matthew starts the Gospel appointed for today and the rest of our Sunday Gospel is a quote from Jesus. It’s always good to quote Jesus and Matthew quotes one of the most comforting statements our Lord Jesus has ever said. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” What a beautiful text! Yet when Matthew himself writes, “At that time,” Matthew is also communicating that context is important. So what is the context of these beautiful and comforting words of Jesus? The context is what happened earlier in chapter 11. In chapter 11 John the Baptist is in King Herod’s prison because of his faithful preaching of God’s Word to Herod and the disciples of John the Baptist had come to Jesus and asked, “Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else?” (11:3). The context wasn’t good for John the Baptist and his disciples and the context wasn’t really good for Jesus and his disciples either. Matthew reports later in chapter 11, “Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent” (20).
Like Our Father and His Son
“At that time” the context wasn’t good. I know we have read what Jesus said, but given the context, what might you have said if you were Jesus? Might you have said, “I’m just done! I’m not doing this anymore.” Might you have complained, “What’s wrong with those people? Or “Why did I get this job?”” Of course Jesus didn’t shrink and Jesus didn’t pout. “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth,” and the reason for his praise, “because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.’” “These things” are the Gospel truths. You can find these Gospel truths all kinds of children’s songs like “Away in a Manger” or “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” or “I am Jesus’ little Lamb.” Little children know all about these gospel truths, but the wise and learned do not.
Allow me to show off my wisdom and learning. I haven’t exactly been on vacation four straight weeks. One of those weeks I was fine-tuning my Greek with 10 other Lutheran Pastors and a Professor from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. One technical point I was reminded of was to be aware of the presence or the absence of the Greek definite article. The definite article in English is the word “the.” If I say, “The dogs are friendly,” the definite article “the” points to a SPECIFIC set of dogs that are friendly. If I don’t have the definite article, “the,” and just says, “Dogs are friendly,” then I am no longer talking about any specific set of dogs, but about a general characteristic of all dogs. Dogs are friendly. They bark. They wag their tail. Sniff and slobber on you.
Jesus doesn’t speak with a Greek definite article so he’s not speaking about any specific wise and learned people or any specific little children. He’s emphasizing a quality. The dominant quality of the wise and learned person is he knows everything or at least thinks he knows everything. In this context that quality is meant to teach that gospel truths are hidden from those who think they know more than Jesus. The dominant quality of little children is trust. Little children trust they and their needs will be taken care of. Trust is also the quality of a disciple of Jesus. Disciples of Jesus trust in Jesus and in everything Jesus says.
Discipleship is rocket science or brain surgery. Not everyone can build rockets or perform brain surgery, but everyone has believed like a little child and everyone can believe in God’s plan of salvation. God the Father and God the Son were perfectly united in this plan. It brought them pleasure and praise. God the Father and God the Son would not feel defeated in the least by those who stubbornly rejected this plan because they think they are smarter than God. Instead God the Father through God the Son would continue to minister to those who did trust in Jesus even as they endure the difficulties of the evil around them.
To our Lord Jesus Christ
At that time, in that difficult context, Jesus said those beautiful and comforting words, 28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” What would Jesus say at this time? What would Jesus tell us in the context of this year, 2020? Are you weary and burdened? How could you not be? Covid-19 has been exhausting. The multiple divisions in our country has been exhausting. And thinking what our Christian response should be to these challenges has been exhausting. What would Jesus say to us who are weary and burdened by these issues?
Wouldn’t Jesus say what he already has said? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Come to Jesus. Come to Jesus and he will give you rest. Come to Jesus and he will tell you the reason for the unrest. Jesus will remind you of a more deadly virus and an even greater division. The greater division is between you and God. The more deadly virus is sin. That’s why Jesus had come into our world and why Jesus had died on our cross. And through his life had death Jesus has healed us from the sin virus and Jesus has removed the division that existed between God and man.
“Come to me,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest.” Rest feels good. Rest comes when the work is done. On the seventh day God rested from his creating work because there was no more creating work to do. One reason Jesus ascended into heaven because his redeeming work was finished. There is no more redeeming work to do. God is at rest with us and our sins and as we come to Jesus in his Word we are reminded that Jesus has in fact given us rest. Our issue with God has been settled through Jesus and through Jesus we have help for what is all going on at this time of 2020.
With those who are weary and burdened
Jesus said, “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.” The yoke Jesus speaks of was not the middle of an egg, but a heavy piece of farming equipment. The yoke was attached to a pair of oxen. Together the oxen were called to carry that heavy yoke to plow a field. The yoke was heavy and when people talked about carry a heavy burden they talked about carrying a yoke. In the Bible slavery is described as a yoke and the law is described as a yoke, but here Jesus speaks of his own yoke, but his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
What is the yoke of Jesus? What is his burden? Jesus doesn’t exactly spell this out for us, but I wonder if he isn’t give us a strong hint when he says, “take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” Humility is thinking of others before you think of yourself. Gentleness is about trying to help people without trying to hurt them. Gentleness is what wins the egg toss at the church picture. Gentleness is what you want from a dentist. You don’t want to see a sledgehammer in the dent’s office.
At this time, in our context, I think we all could benefit from people who are humble and gentle like Jesus. At this time, I think a lot people could benefit from us being humble and gentle like Jesus. It’s time to yoke up like our Father and his Son. They were perfectly united in their plan of salvation. It’s time to yoke up with our Lord Jesus Christ. He gives us rest from our sins and help for our life. It’s time to yoke up with the weary and burdened. Be humble with others and gentle, especially with those who have don’t see things the same way as you. Nobody really knows what is going at this time and in our context, but when we yoke up with others with humility and gentles we too like Jesus can give people some rest and we can find rest for our souls too. Amen.