Jesus Reveals the Father

Text: Matthew 11:25-30
Date: Pentecost IV, Proper 9A + 7/6/14

In today’s Epistle (Rom 7:14-25a) we hear of St. Paul’s deep struggle with sin under the law of God. We even take comfort as we see that someone as exemplary as he should reveal that he struggles just like we do. “I do not understand my own actions,” he says. “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” All of us are here this morning for exactly that reason. We feel guilty about our waywardness and sin. We want to do better. We also believe that we need help. So does the Apostle and everyone who tries to seek God, to seek holiness in the way and under the burden of the law. We look to God’s Word to try to find rules or principles that lead to God and to holy living. And they are there. The only problem is the law does not supply what we need to succeed. While it reveals God’s good and gracious will, it also reveals our weakness and continually condemns us. Paul expresses the final conclusion of trying to live by God’s law alone, saying, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Who will deliver me? Who will deliver you? God has provided the answer. But is His answer good enough? Okay, we’re baptized and claim to be Christians, followers of Jesus Christ. But life doesn’t seem to get much better for us. In fact many times we, like Paul, lose heart, get flustered or frustrated with ourselves and even, if we are honest, with God Himself. The problem is that it may be that though we intend to be following Christ we are actually still following the law looking to Jesus only as to give us the rules, the methods, the advice to the way of a good life. That’s how many confuse the Gospel with Law.

That’s why, just before our reading in Matthew’s Gospel, we hear Jesus “denouncing the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.” Though crowds continued to flock to hear Him they really didn’t “hear” Him, that is, they were never moved to repentance. “Woe to you” He said, “for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” “But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Mt 11:20-24). For all their appreciation for Jesus’ teaching, they were missing the most important thing.

It is good for you to look to and hear the law of God. Not, however, in hopes of being saved by it. Rather, the law only succeeds in its purpose when it pushes us over the edge, the edge of despairing of ourselves and our works, and turning…(the word repent means to turn!)…turning from our sin-laden ways and turning in faith, helpless and in our weakness, to Jesus. Paul asked, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And immediately he turned, saying, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

The contrast between Jesus’ words of law and condemnation of the Galilean cities just before our text and the words we hear today couldn’t be more striking. For Matthew tells us, “At that time Jesus declared….” “That time” was immediately after the word of judgment, the moment when repentance was possible. And what did He declare?

He began with prayer. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” What were “these things” that have been hidden? They are God’s plan God’s way of salvation by His grace alone through faith alone in Jesus our Savior alone; “alone” meaning without and apart from the law. They are hidden to the wisdom of earthly knowledge because of our blind and dead, fallen sinful nature. The prophet Isaiah declared, “the Lord said: ‘Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, …the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden’” (Is 29:13-14). It is only by allowing the Holy Spirit to work the gift of repentance and faith in the heart that God’s salvation is uncovered, discovered, revealed. For who would guess that our hope should be not in our own bravery, wisdom or strength but in the humble weakness of a suffering Savior who was a loser, rejected, crucified, who dies as if defeated by it all. But He did die being defeated by our sin, the sin of the world. By His holiness His death was our death, that is, for us as paying the price of sin, our sin, the price we could never pay.

Then the words of Gospel invitation: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This “Rest” is the forgiveness of sins. And it also points to the Sabbath, the day of rest. This is what is behind His next words, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” What is this “yoke”?

To God’s people of old, the Jews, they immediately thought of “the yoke of the Law,” the yoke of the Torah, God’s revealed word of scripture. But as we have seen, without the revelation that the Messiah, the Savior is behind all the words and commands of the Old Testament, the law remains our frustrated enemy, frustrated because we do not let it push us to repentance. When Jesus talks about His yoke it is the “law” if you will of His deliverance, in other words, the Gospel. It is the good news of release from the grip of sin and death by faith in Him. Hence His yoke, His “law” is easy and light compared to the condemning, frustrating yoke of the law alone.

“Come to me” is the invitation extended to “all who labor and are heavy laden.” Though physical sweat and pain and weariness is the experience of all in this life, the labor Jesus speaks of here is all those attempts at self-justification, salvation by works of the law, the law that condemns and frustrates and makes us confess, “Wretched man that I am!” To all who labor spiritually they will find rest, that is, forgiveness and life only by faith in Jesus. He is the gentle Savior who will not break a bruised reed nor quench a faintly burning wick (Is 42:3). He is the lowly Savior, the humble king who has come in righteousness and having salvation. (Zech 9:9).

“No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Today He reminds you, He has chosen you. He has revealed the Father to you and says, “Come to me.”