Sunday, July 5, 2020

“Come to Me!”

Today, our gospel message comes to us from the 11th chapter of Matthew, beginning with the 28th verse.

“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)

Father, You sent your Word to bring us truth and your Spirit to make us holy. Through them, we come to know the mystery of your life. Help us worship you, one God in three persons, And reveal yourself in the depths of our being, by proclaiming and living our faith in you. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

“Come to Me!”

Consider WHO is asking us to come, HOW LONG it will take, WHERE he is taking us, WHAT he is asking us to do, and WHY?

Jesus wants EVERYONE to be saved, but in this text, He doesn’t seem to want EVERYONE to come. He only wants certain kinds of people—the WEARY and BURDENED. He doesn’t ask the rich or the wealthy or the energetic or the happy-go-lucky. He exclusively asks only for the weary and burdened: the two go together—it’s an invitation to people who are weary because of carrying a burden.

It’s a neat thing that Jesus doesn’t limit it to a particular type of burden or weariness. It can be any kind. You can be weary of working so hard at your job. You can be weary of being sick. You can be weary of living because every part of your body aches. You can be weary because you are sick and tired of arguing with your spouse, parents, or children. You can be weary of everyone asking you for help. ANYONE who is weary is told to come. You can be weary of having everyone attacking you for one thing or another.

A woman at the well in Samaria who had led a very promiscuous life—she was in and out of relationships. She would be the last one you would think would settle down and want to come to Jesus. Yet when Jesus spoke to her, He saw that she was tired of her broken relationships. She was almost ready for rest, but she didn’t realize it. So He spoke to her about her lifestyle and welcomed her to come to Him.

Why doesn’t He ask for the healthy and the energetic and the successful? It isn’t that He doesn’t want them, it’s just that they don’t want what he has to offer anyway. They don’t want to rest. It reminded me of when my children were younger. When you said the word “nap” they treated it as torture! They would run and hide. When daughter was born, I tried to bargain with her. I’ll read this one book, and then it’s time to sleep—no complaining! “Ok! Yes, yes,” she would say. But then when I finished the book, she would howl and howl. I soon realized that I couldn’t reason with her at bedtime. I just had to force her to lie down.

Who are those who don’t want to come to Jesus? Those who don’t think they need a nap—those who are too busy to rest. Everything is going well for them. They’re healthy. They’re successful. Their business is going well. Their children are successful. They are happy in life and active—very active. They have work to do. They have places to visit. It isn’t really that Jesus doesn’t want them—He just knows that they don’t want to come to Him. They would consider it boring and a waste of time. Which kind of a sinner are you? Are you someone who realizes that you need rest? Or are you someone that doesn’t have time for rest?

If we are supposed to come to Jesus, it would probably be good to define and know where He is. Some might say, “God is in nature! He’s in the trees! Jesus is in my heart!” Those things can all be true, to a point. Kind of like when you remember someone who has gone when you hear a song or go to a place where you used to hang out. Memories flow of the times you used to have together. But it’s not quite the same either as when you were actually with the person at the time. Jesus is more than a memory. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) He claims to actually be where we speak of Him and proclaim His name. This is why we speak His words and sing songs of Him in worship. Jesus especially comes to us in the Lord’s Supper, where he says, “Take and eat, this is my body. Take and drink, this blood is the new covenant in my name.” There’s something special here, something sacred about meeting together and singing God’s Word into each other’s hearts and receiving His sacrament together. There’s something sacred, God says, about when our babies are baptized into Christ to receive His Holy Spirit. Jesus is where His word and sacraments are, as Paul tells us in Ephesians chapter 4.

Here’s another neat thing about it—that He tells us to come when He knows we need rest. If someone came as your invited guest and laid around and slept and asked you to massage their shoulders, you might be a bit angry. If they just made a mess and didn’t offer to clean anything up, you might say, “I’m not inviting THEM any more.” But here we come to church messy with sin. We come worn out from complicated relationships and needy for love and attention, and Jesus TELLS us to come. If your spouse breaks his leg or your grandparents want to move in with you, you realize it might take a lot of work that you don’t have the time or energy to do. You’d rather pay the money to have them go into rehab or a long term facility than come to your house. But Jesus doesn’t do that. He KNEW how much work we would cause Him. He knows how much TIME it would take to take care of us. Yet He tells us to COME to Him anyway. He wants us to come, for one purpose—to give us REST. This is the whole reason He went through all of the work of coming into our world and dying on the cross in the first place. He died on the cross to give us a comfortable bed of love and forgiveness to rest in.

If you came here worn out from a relationship that was giving you stress and anger and fighting, you would find someone who doesn’t yell at you and just command you to knock it off. He knows how worthless you feel. But here in His blood and His cross, He just says, “Be forgiven. Be loved. I consider you of great worth in my sight. I look at you as holy and precious as my baptized child. You don’t have to match up to a standard to get this forgiveness. If you’re tired, just lay here.” If you’ve been working your tail off to get your bills paid, here you find that Jesus already paid your bill when He said, “It is finished” from the cross. You don’t owe God one dime for your salvation. Your salvation isn’t based on how much money you give in the offering plate. If you come in here tired because your body is worn out and you can’t sleep well and can’t move very well, just take a seat. He gives you a beautiful room with a window to the skies—pointing you forward to heaven and the resurrection from the dead. Someday you’ll be able to run and jump and see and hear as you’ve never done before. Why? Because He lives, you too will live through faith in Him. That’s it. Here Jesus feeds you with a beautiful meal that is meant to refresh your soul. He bathes you in a beautiful bath that washes your sins away. He does all of this to give you rest!

Maybe you already know you’re forgiven. Perhaps you’re good with that. Perhaps you think the church thing is a bit boring—because you want to be active with your faith. You want to make a difference in the world. You want to go and do stuff too! I can respect that. I don’t like sitting around much either. But if you listen to the rest of this text, you’ll see that as Christians, we don’t just sit around in this world waiting for Jesus to come. When Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples were just standing there and staring into the sky. So the angels came and basically said, “Quit standing here looking at the sky! He’ll come again—don’t worry—you won’t miss Him!” So they left from there. They went on with their lives. When Abraham was called to faith, he didn’t just sit there! He was called to go to Canaan and settle his family there. Peter wasn’t reinstated just to keep fishing on the Sea of Galilee. He had places to go and people to bring the Gospel too. He was imprisoned and persecuted, and throughout the process, all of these forefathers in the faith still could rest in Jesus.

Listen to what Jesus says. “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.” Think about what a yoke is used for. It binds an animal to a plow to break the ground, and it also binds one animal to another, to make the plow move easier under the power of two animals. When we are rested in His grace and mercy, it doesn’t make us lazy. It binds us to Jesus with His mercy and forgiveness, which gives us the energy to live. We don’t want to give up on life. We find reasons and strength to live!

I just recently read a book called Escape from Camp 14. It was an incredible story about a young man named Shin who escaped from a prison camp that he was born in, in Northern Korea. He was taught from little on to confess his sins to the teachers so they could be beaten in front of the class. He was also taught the honor of working in the fields and being loyal to the state. If anyone broke the rules, he was rewarded for snitching on them. One girl was beaten to death by her teacher for having six grains of corn in her pocket. One day, he overheard his mother and brother talking about escaping from North Korea, so he told on them and then had to witness them being put to death in front of him. He thought he would be rewarded for telling on them. Instead, he was strung up by his hands and feet and put over hot coals, because the officials didn’t know that he had snitched on his parents. Afterward, he was put in a cell with terrible blisters on his back with an older man he just called “Uncle.” It was a terrible system of sin and work and death. Hopeless in every sense!

Here’s where the story gets very interesting! Amid this prison cell, with no light, Uncle nursed Shin back to health. He spoke to him of the beauties of the outside world that Shin had never been to before, and in doing so opened up a whole different world to Shin that he never knew existed. Amid the deepest darkness of a cell, by caring for his wounds and speaking to him, Uncle gave Shin a reason to live! Shin was never the same. He wasn’t content with living in North Korea after that. That prison cell helped to save him. There’s so much more to the story, but Shin eventually escaped from North Korea and is now living in America. With the help of missionaries, he’s been brought to faith in Christ, and he is telling his story.

Doesn’t a similar thing happen to us as Christians? If we try to live life without being yoked to Jesus, the weight is too much to bear. Sooner or later, life wears us out, no matter how bull-headed we are. But Jesus puts the yoke of the law and failure around His neck. He bears the burden of sin. He then yokes us to Himself so that HE can carry that burden of sin, death, and hell. He then takes the reins and leads the way through life. He doesn’t drive us with a bullwhip. He doesn’t yell at us. He is gentle and humble in heart. Whatever struggles we have in life are “easy” and “light” when we know that He bore the payment for our sins. Whatever evils we face in the world, it is easier knowing that Jesus is leading us and giving us strength throughout. It is so much better knowing that this life is not all that life is about. It makes us want to live again, knowing that through faith in Jesus, we go to heaven when we die.

It’s an interesting thing when you try to put a toddler down for a nap. They kick and whine and moan, but if you stick with it and lie down with them, they’ll finally give up. When their head finally hits the pillow, they usually fall asleep pretty quickly. They wake up refreshed, and they are ready to go! They aren’t grumpy anymore. Nobody has to tie me down to take a nap anymore. I’ve grown to appreciate what beautiful things they are. They are gifts from God.

Jesus hasn’t invited us here to torture us but to bless us with rest. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” In a sense, that’s why we come here every Sunday, to take a nap with Jesus. Not to just sleepwalk through life, but to find the energy to live! I remember a mother and daughter who visited a church service in Topeka years ago. You could read from the daughter’s body language that just sitting there for one hour was like pulling teeth. She couldn’t wait to get out at the end, and the service didn’t even last one hour. The pastor had preached as good of a sermon as possible, and he thought to himself, “Was it really that bad?” It saddened him. He felt sorry for her. She needed rest, but she didn’t want to rest. How about you? We’ve encouraged all of you here on this Sunday for one reason—to give you Jesus and give you rest! I hope that after you receive the body and blood and sing the Word to each other, that you found a God who made you feel welcome and forgiven in Jesus. I hope you felt refreshed to know that Jesus wants you to be here and help you relax in his arms. I hope you want to come again soon. Welcome Home.

Let us pray: Lord of the seasons and of all life, we come to you this day with so many cares and concerns on our lives. We have planned for the summer months as times of relaxation and refreshment. We need to take some time to stop the frantic running around, to focus on your healing love, to let go of all those demands that weigh us down. Heal and restore us, O Lord. Help us be the church in times of leisure as well as in times of work and stress. As we have brought our cares to you in our prayers, let us bring our lives to your healing mercies. Strengthen and heal us, Lord. Get us gently ready for all the joyful opportunities that stretch before us. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Sermon contributed by Joel Pankow.
Jesus says, “Come to Me.” Who does he say it to, and why?

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