A Resting Place
Text: Matthew 11:25-30
The text for today is found in a decidedly unrestful place, right at the end of a passage on woes to the unrepentant cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. It will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon where Jesus did not visit than it will be for Capernaum in the day of Judgment because they did not see the mighty works that Christ performed, works that were intended to provoke a sense of Godís almighty presence and so repentance. It did not produce repentance and it did not produce belief. Worldliness held such sway, people were living as practical atheists, making decisions as if God did not exist, that they were ignorant of the spiritual and largely indifferent. Hence the woes, the warnings of doom and judgment pronounced upon these humanistic and irreverent places. Depressing? You bet. Was it likely to produce a deep sense of melancholy? Affirmative.
So, dynamically, we are listening to a series of severe rebukes. Here, faithlessness is lined up alongside the perversity alluded to in the fate of Sodom as grounds for a destination of Hell. These pronouncements, being aimed at faithlessness suggest that faithlessness, a common condition today in our world and among our friends, is actually great wickedness, and they produce a deep sense of despair, and raise such questions as: Is there any hope for us? What grounds do we have for thanksgiving and praise is things are as severe as this? Those questions are what Jesus answers in the passage to be studied today.
We can be sure that Christ did not rejoice in the godlessness He saw around Him and yet the first words out of His mouth following, words that answer the despair of those quickened to divine judgment, are words of thanks and praise: "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth." Thereís a lot in that salutation. God is Father so we can approach God with confidence, but we dare not forget that reverence is also in order. God is sovereign and sufficientóHe both has what we need, and can deliver on it. Because God is sovereign, the covenant of redemption is secure. Church is a resting place because of this truth; we do not need to be insecure, or uncertain about our redemption. This truth, furthermore, is accessible. It has revealed to "babes." It is not something that depends upon a lot of education. The wise and the prudent, who probably were outstanding citizens in Capernaum, didnít discover this truth; their focus was on being known for their learning and world policy. Perhaps they were great scholars, and statesmen. As it is written "the world by wisdom knew not God" (1 Cor.1:21) Ėnor did they know the things of God. They were buoyed up by what Paul calls "false knowledge, or science" in 1 Timothy 6:20. And, as is frequently the case, those most expert in the sensual and the secular turn out to be most ignorant when it comes to things spiritual. They master the mysteries of nature and of the state in great measure but are clueless when it comes matters of the kingdom of heaven! Itís not that they canít know such matters, rather its a matter of focus and pride. Being proud of their own capacities, they look not to God (and so lack humility and basic inquisitiveness) and God is therefore justified in depriving them the spirit of revelation and wisdom from on high. Had they sought such things, of course, God would have granted wisdom and truth to them. But babes, Galilean fishermen, Peter and not Nicodemus was chosen to be an apostleóChrist was indeed turning the world upside down. Babes, those whom the elite of this world holds in contempt, desiring to control, manage, manipulate and exploit, those were the ones to whom Christ revealed His redemption! And so he judged both pride of self and pride of mind. In this way we can understand how the kingdom is both hidden and revealed at the same timeórevealed to babes and hidden from those who suppose themselves wise.
There is a second sense in which the church is a resting place. Because "all things have been delivered to me by the Father," all judgment has been given to Jesus Christ. Heís the one who settles the new covenant and as the mediator of that covenant He receives power and glory from the Father. He has determined that the apostate world should receive an offer of peace and happiness! He is the boss, the buck stops here person in charge, and we know Him personally. We cannot be one-upped by anyone claiming higher, or greater authority and no one, but no one is bigger than His Daddy! Of all the children on the playground of this world, we are the most secure. He possesses all power in heaven and earth (Ch.28:18) over all flesh (Jn.17:2) so as to execute judgment (Jn.5:22,27). All treasure is in His hand, all destiny. . . He is the great Referee, the conciliator, the final arbitrator. All we have to do is to submit to His arbitration. His children do so in trust, and everyone else in terror.
Not only that, but the Son possesses full intimacy with the Father. If you are in a foreign country, it is a great comfort to know the ambassador of your own country personally. That person has influence, power, authorityóvery helpful if you get into a scrape. Well, mankind has been in a massive scrape ever since the fall of Adam and Eve. Just like an earthly ambassador, Jesus Christ has both a commission (savior) and instructions (the plan of salvation) which is reserved to Himself and the One who sent Him. The counsel of peace is between them (Zech.6:13). Such a level of personal acquaintance with God is eternal life! A perfection of discourse and rationality pertains between them now and that is to be shared with us in glory. The One who was once the sole communication between a Holy God and sinful man has purposed to remove all hindrance, and restore our rightful relationship and place with God! If I might expand this metaphor somewhat, we are invited to come to Christ not only as our ambassador, but as Priest, Prince and Prophet. We come to him not just to get out of a scrape, but to be saved. . .the conditions are however that we come to Him, on His terms, to be ruled and taught by Him now and forever.
Only those who labor and are heavy-laden, however, will avail themselves of His gracious offer. We come to Him as our Rest, our Noah as that is what the names means, in whom were are safely carried away from destruction. Aware of sinís weight, burden and hindrance, we come to Him to be released, released from guilt and released to a purer, and more spiritual worship! We are the convicted and the contrite ones, who mourn their sinward ways! We sigh and cry out because the bondage of the world has wearied us. Because we are aware of our need, we find our way to Him. . .and, having struggled, we are willing at last to be saved in His way, on His terms. So much trouble comes of willfulness and so much disquiet comes from insisting that God save us our way! But the ark of the new covenant, the open arms of our Redeemer are places for us to flee the power and terror of sin. Oh, that the sin we are so cozy with would become a holy terror and drive us from itself to the One who knows us and loves us! Praise God, whatís begun now in grace will be perfected in Glory! (Hebrews 4:9) How twisted things have become for us: we consider service to God to be drudgery, interminable and tiresome when in actuality it is sin that is stale, soul-deadening. Sin wearies, service lifts! Let our minds be transformed! The yoke of the Lord empowers us to move mountains, to accomplish much and as such it is easy, gracious, sweet and pleasant. . .constant in refreshing us. From this point of view we see how reasonable, profitable and loving are all he Lordís commands for us! Such a view, enables us, like Paul, when greatly afflicted to say, "these momentary, light afflictions" (2 Cor.4:17) Whatsoever we lose for Christ, we may never lose by Christ. . . for He has promised to reward every loss, each sacrifice, all suffering for His Nameís sake! Nothing is too little to bring Him praise, and no one so insignificant as lose their kingdom place.
The church then is the place where those gather who have learned to find their peace in Him. Itís where we gather to worship and to learn of Him, to be instructed by Him and to put Him on through acquaintance, through intimate fellowship, through contact. And in all this we are secure, because He is sovereign.