August 22, 2021

Our Rest In Jesus

Passage: Matthew 11:25-30

Most of you will be familiar with the story of Sisyphus, king of Ephyra from the Greek mythology.  He was proud and was punished by the gods for his pride.  His punishment was to roll a heavy boulder uphill.  But you see, he never reached the top.  Each time when he came close, the boulder slipped from his hands and rolled downhill.  Then Sisyphus had to start all over again.  The cycle repeated itself and was never ending.  That was the essence of his punishment.

Jesus saw those around Him who were just like the Sisyphus.  They tried so hard to work out their own destiny in life, but without success.  Matthew 11 deals with the doubts of John the Baptist, the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and the wickedness of the towns where Jesus had been preaching.  Those who came to follow Him unconditionally saw all those things before them and they didn't know how peace would ever be a part of their lives.  Their reality was just too much in turmoil.  But still they wore themselves down as they tried to do something in their lives.

Don't we experience the same concerns as the people in Jesus' time?  In countries like Pakistan and Nigeria Christians are persecuted; there is discrimination against those who make their stand for Jesus in many facets of life.  At a University in the United States the president of the student counsel was removed because his Christian principles made some students uncomfortable and they decided on someone who was more neutral.

There are so many obstacles some Church leaders face – a lack of commitment from their members and zero tolerance from many in a secular world.  You know, it's sometimes just human to be so fatigued when you see all the things I mentioned.  Because of those realities some have thrown in the white towel.  But then it's so wonderful that after more than 2000 years our Lord brings the same invitation He made to His distraught   followers: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”        

From those words that sound like a symphony there are conditions to follow.  The first is 1 Come To Jesus.  To appreciate His invitation every single person in the world should understand what it doesn't mean.  It doesn't say, “Come to Buddhism or Confucianism or Hinduism or Islam.”   There is no prophet from any other religion that will ever have the key to success or the future.  None of them can secure peace and solace.  It's only Jesus Christ Who is the answer – the One sent by the Father when this world couldn't have peace and all people were dwelling in darkness; when all people were restless in their sin.  Jesus' invitation doesn't mean, “Come to your own self-orchestrated plan for your future.” 

So often we hear of those who claim that they just have to follow their hearts; they have everything worked out.  No, my friends, if you and I or anyone else have to work out our own fortune in life, certain failure will be the end result.  “Come to me” doesn't mean to go to your career as an answer or your friends for the ultimate solution.  There is one crystal clear conclusion Jesus had in mind when He made the invitation.  Only He is worth going to.  The author of Hebrews affirmed that in his letter in chapter 4: 15&16, “For we do not have a high priest Who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have One Who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet He did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Can we ever comprehend how crucial it is to accept the invitation Jesus makes, “Come to me”?  Some people over the ages regretted missing out after they had been offered the opportunity of a life time.

Years ago a lady in Belgium gave up her apartment as she moved into a Care Home.  She knocked at the door of her young neighbour, a man in his twenties.  With excitement she offered him a painting and said, “They told me, this is worth a lot.”  But the young man refused the painting and slammed the door on the lady.  About a month later he learned the news of another person in his building that received a Van Gogh painting from an elderly lady and it was worth over $5000 000-00.  The young man put his face in his hands and cried out, “How did I miss out on the opportunity of a life time?”  There will be more regrets for so many who received invitations from Jesus, more than once, but never responded.

Jesus said, “...all you who are weary and burdened...”  What He pointed out was 2 The Presence Of Fatigue.  To be weary and burdened or like other translations put it – to be “heavy laden” means that something is dragging you down.  To Jesus there was only one thing He could think of.  It was something He mentioned every time He proclaimed the Good News – sin.  That's why He had John the Baptist go before Him with a very strong message, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” 

O my friends, we mentioned earlier persecution and discrimination to be major causes of fatigue, but nothing comes to sin.  There are so many people in the world who go from doctor to doctor with their “chronic fatigue syndrome.”  But you see, they don't realize that it's guilt that makes them feel like they lost every good reason to live.  Jesus had to deal with people in His day, who had to be delivered from their guilt.  There was the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob, there was Thomas who stumbled in the dark alleys of Jerusalem, because of his sin of doubt and needed Jesus to restore him.  And we always mention Peter.  At the Sea of Galilee Jesus could just sense his fatigue.  He needed to be pardoned.  After he denied Jesus, his guilt took so much out of him.  Jesus recognized in the lives of the Samaritan woman and Thomas and Peter and all the people of the world what they needed.  You and I need it too – more often than what we can ever imagine.  We all need Our Rest In Jesus – the rest only He can offer to bring complete transformation in our lives.

That brings us to what Jesus is willing to offer to someone who is weary and burdened.  He says, “...I will give you rest.” 

There is 3 Effective Rest in Jesus.  So many people go for sleep therapy, because they can't find the rest they need.  And when they have therapy they are told, “You have to think what the cause is that you feel so restless.”   But what Jesus offers brings an immediate solution for those who accept it.  The word He used for rest in Matthew 11: 28 is a fascinating word.  From the Greek it means to refresh or revive, as from labour or from a long journey.  Maybe you have been working very hard lately to please God, but you feel like what you offered, didn't have an impact on others.  All that you put in made you just more tired.  Today a change is possible for us.  Jesus wants us to take off the burdens we carry on our shoulders and put them down before the cross.  Sometimes in the New Testament the word rest was used for “chains falling off of someone’s hand.”  Our Lord wants to remove our chains.  He doesn't want us to live with those things that can pull us down to the point that we can't move forward or backwards.  I'm not sure if you have seen pictures of ancient porters.  They had a wooden frame on their backs loaded with items from luggage to mattresses and rugs.  One wonders how one person could carry so many things.  I think quite often that's how many of us look spiritually, because of the burdens we bear.  But now, Jesus says, “Take it off and be free with what I offer – rest from spiritual fatigue.”  St. Augustine once said, "Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it rests in Thee."  You know my friends, we all need to accept Jesus offer, we need it as often as we can come to Him.  He wants to take us out of a hectic world and show us that with Him we are secure.  Yes with Him, we indeed can be in green pastures and be led by quiet waters.