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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon # 1209

April 26, 2015                                                                                                Matthew 11:25-30

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“Rest for Your Souls”

 

1.The Revelation of Jesus Christ

 

I have been sharing with you (off and on) for the last few months, gospel passages that teach us about Jesus Christ.  My hope is that we would get to know Jesus more deeply, not just information about him, but personally getting to know him better. 

Today’s passage is probably familiar for most if not all of you.  We have heard this invitation from Jesus to come and share his yoke which is easy and light.  It is a passage of comfort and encouragement because we know that Jesus wants to help us with our burdens and labors.  So let’s take a closer look! 

One thing I had not noticed before reading this passage this week was the two uses of the word reveal.  First is in Jesus’ prayer, verse 25 that God has revealed certain things to his children.  The second use is from verse 27 where Jesus reveals God to whomever he chooses.  God reveals and Jesus reveals.  What we find here is that Jesus is revealed and Jesus is also a revealer!  Revelation is basically opening the curtain to let us see.  The first thing revealed to us about Jesus in this section of scripture is that he is revealed and revealer.

 

 

2.The Invitation to Come

 

The invitation, which begins in verse 28, come to me, is also a revelation about Jesus.  Look at the references to Jesus: come to me, I will give you rest, my yoke, learn from me, I am gentle, I am lowly, my yoke (again), my burden.  One of the things I think this reveals is that there is no other to whom we can go. 

 

In John 15 Jesus speaks of abiding in him. 

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 

Or consider Acts 4,

11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

 

Jesus is the one and only Savior.  Jesus is the one and only Lord.  Jesus is our only hope.  Jesus is our very life. 

 

The second point in this invitation is why we come to Jesus, those who labor and heavy laden, basically those who need rest.  Often we think of things we have to get done or the weight of pains and sickness, or just the general pressures of life.  Friday at the Presbytery meeting we heard a presentation about addiction and it got me to thinking about labors and burdens and how those could relate to things like shame and fear, to addictions, fantasies, or escapism.  Is Jesus inviting us, when we are overcome by depression or shame or something like that, to come to him rather than drugs, or alcohol, or food, or television?  Whatever our particular addiction might be, we all have our thing or things that we may turn to rather than going to Jesus.  But what we do is place some addictions ahead of others.  Drugs, alcohol, same sex attraction, we think those are those people, not us, but our addictions are just as real and just as much avoiding our relationship with Jesus Christ.  We all need Jesus.  Addictions seek to mask what is missing in our lives, the safety and security of a relationship with the one who made us.  We continue to hide from God in our ways of escape or addiction just as Adam and Eve hid in the garden. 

Ask yourself what you tend to do when you are anxious.  I know for me it is eating.  Food is my personal addiction.  If I am stressed or anxious or worried, I eat in order to hide.  Another one for me is science fiction.  I seek to escape into another world of Star Trek or any movie that takes me to another world.  Some people have what we consider more destructive addictions like drugs.  But any of these are our attempts to hide from God.  Jesus is simply inviting us to come to him when we are anxious or stressed, or in the words of the ESV, those who labor and are heavy laden. 

 

 

3.The Character of Jesus

 

Another part of what we see in this passage is what is revealed about the character of Jesus.  I simply went through this passage and tried to identify a list of traits:

  • Prayerful – vs. 25, he prays to the Father.
  • Thankful – He thanks his Father.
  • Chooses to reveal to some – vs. 27, He reveals the Father.
  • Invites – vs. 28, Come to me.
  • Giver – vs. 28, He gives rest.
  • Shares the load – vs. 29, Take my yoke.
  • Teacher – Learn from me.
  • Gentle – I am gentle.
  • Lowly of heart
  • Yoke Easy
  • Burden Light

 

There are probably more things we could consider, but even if we stop here we have eleven characteristics about Jesus Christ in just six verses. 

           

4.Rest Given

 

I want to lift up rest in particular simply because it is mentioned twice in the passage, vs. 28, 29. We know ways in which we need rest.  Sometimes we need to stop an exercise in order to rest.  Sometimes we stop our work in order to rest.  Sometimes we need to retreat from the busy life in order to rest.  I also want to think about this rest as a rest from sin and death.  It is a rest from addictions and striving.  It takes a complete yielding of the self to Jesus.  In this rest we no longer seek to hide from God! 

 

 

5.The Soul

 

Many people before us have tried to define what constitutes the soul.  The Bible never really gives a clear definition.  But we sometimes refer to God breathing life into Adam as a concept of what the soul is.  It is that which is our real self, God-given life and spirit.  It is the real you.  It is the deepest aspect of who we are.  What I want to do is just look at some aspects of the soul according to some references in the Psalms.  I have given you a partial list of Psalms on soul in your outline.  Let’s look at a few of those.

Psalm 23:3; 25:1; 31:7-9; 33:20; 34:2; 35:9; 55:18; 56:13; 57:1; 62:1,5; 63:1,5,8.

 

Psalm 23 is the most familiar and the phrase in the Psalm is that God will give us restoration.  He restores my soul.  He restores that which is the deepest self.  He restores my true life. 

 

Psalm 25 speaks of lifting our soul to God.  Why would we lift our soul?  In this case it is for protection from enemies.  God protects the soul.

 

Psalm 31:7-9 Let’s read this one:

I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction;
    you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.  Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.

  The soul is capable of distress and grief.  This is the greatest kind of emotional and spiritual pain possible.  But what I want us to notice is that the soul can be in distress. 

 

Let’s move over to Psalm 35:9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord, exulting in his salvation.  On the other side of the coin, the soul is also capable of rejoicing.  This is where real joy resides, in the soul.  Happiness is more toward the surface, but joy runs deep.

 

Psalm 55:18 Here is where we find the soul seeking rest in Jesus.  He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. What battles to we wage?  Against sin, death, the devil, temptation, spiritual battles against principalities and powers.  We answer Jesus’ call to come to him so that we can truly find rest for our souls from these and other battles. 

                       

           

6.Rest for Your Souls

We have a day of rest given – the Sabbath.  It is built in to the rhythm of our weeks.  It is commanded among the Ten Commandments.  It is rekindled in the teachings of Jesus.  It is both a physical and a spiritual rest.  It is a gift for the sake of our well-being and the wholeness of life in God. 

Jesus claims to give rest as a gift as well.  In the case of Matthew 11 it is a rest of labors, just as the commandment gives, and also a rest from heavy burdens.  Of course, that too could be considered a part of the Sabbath rest.  But I think, as I said earlier, that this rest is even more than that promised in the commandments.  This rest is only possible because of the yoke we share with Jesus – a yoke that is easy and light.  We don’t work with yokes and I guess the closest thing I could think of would be when we were young and did a three legged race.  You tie your legs together and share the work of running a relay.  The yoke of Jesus enables us to share the load, to share our battles, and to share in the rest as well. 

What if we looked at this rest as less about work and Sabbath, and more about rest from our burdens of fighting sin, anxiety, sadness, depression, addictions, emptiness, sickness, bad decisions, grief, pain, injustice, hopelessness?    Consider just a few of the Psalms that speak of distress in the soul and how we might find rest for that.  This rest is only possible in the person of Jesus Christ.  Amen.