Rest in Jesus

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost based on Matthew 11:25-30 (Romans 7:14-25)

Dear people who rest in Jesus: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The life of a Christian can be described as civil war. We have an ongoing and fierce battle waging within us. We can say along with Saint Paul, “I delight in the Law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”

As Christians, we want to do what pleases God. We want to keep His commandments. We want our desires to be the same as God’s desires. It thus pains us when our desires are not in line with God’s desires; when our sinful flesh desires those things that God does not desire for us. There is a war within us as the Holy Spirit gives us the desire to do what is right but our flesh wants only to indulge itself.

We want to fear, love, and trust in God above all things, but our flesh needs money in the bank account to feel secure. We want to go to church every Sunday and study God’s Word at home, but our sinful flesh would rather go to the lake and sit in front of the TV. We want to be forgiving and loving to our neighbour, but our flesh is angry and wants revenge on the neighbour who did harm to us. We want to be content with what we have, but our flesh covets things that God has not given to us and things that we don’t need and wouldn’t be good for us.

Our flesh cannot be tamed to want what God wants for us. As we heard, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” Our flesh has nothing good in it. Our flesh is not capable of a single good, God-pleasing desire. Everything our flesh wants is contrary to God’s will for us, and there’s nothing we can do to change or get rid of our sinful flesh. It is part of us until we die.

That’s why we also can say, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”

We can blame the devil for our sin. We can blame the temptations of the world as the reason we fall into sin. But the real problem is us. The real problem is our sinful flesh. Our sinful flesh wants to fall into the temptations of the world and the snares of the devil. That’s the real problem with us. Our flesh wants to sin. Add to that the fact that our sinful flesh is the king of excuses. We have an excuse for every selfish thing we do. Our flesh refuses to acknowledge any sin we commit as actually being sin because it is a natural desire of the flesh.

No wonder Paul exclaims, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

We cannot deliver ourselves. We cannot rid ourselves of the desires of the flesh. We cannot stop sinning. Even if we could, we cannot undo all the sin that we have already committed. We are left with nothing except a detestable body of death which will die and then burn in hell for eternity unless someone delivers us.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In the words of the great hymn:

But God had seen my wretched state

Before the world’s foundation,

And mindful of His mercies great,

He planned for my salvation.

He turned to me a father’s heart;

He did not choose the easy part

But gave His dearest treasure.

God said to His beloved Son:

“It’s time to have compassion.

Then go, bright jewel of My crown,

And bring to all salvation.

From sin and sorrow set them free;

Slay bitter death for them that they

May live with You forever.” (LSB 556 st. 4-5)

Out of His great love for us, God sent His only Son to slay bitter death for us by His own death in our place. God had compassion on us. He does not want us to die eternally, so He sent His Son to die for our sins. To rescue us from our own wretchedness, God’s Son suffered a wretched and horrific death for us.

Thus, God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord says to us, “Come to me, all who labour and our heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” You who labour under your heavy burden of sins, come to Jesus for rest. You who bemoan the wretchedness of your state, rest in Jesus. You who are fatigued and worn out by the battle with your sinful flesh, Jesus is your rest.

Jesus fulfilled for you what you cannot fulfil. He kept God’s Law perfectly for you, so you can rest from your attempts to save yourself by the Law.

Jesus continues, “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.” Being yoked to the Law is heavy and hard; it is impossible because we cannot keep the Law because of our sinful flesh. Being yoked to Jesus is easy because He has kept the Law for us. Being yoked to Jesus is light because He lifts the heavy burden of our sins from us. When sin has been forgiven and the conscience has been freed from the burden of sin, then everything becomes easier and lighter.

Even following God’s Law and will for us becomes easier and lighter. Not because we can tame the sinful flesh, but because through daily contrition and repentance we drown the sinful flesh and kill it along with all sins and evil desires. Not because we can now fulfil the Law perfectly, but yoked with Christ who has fulfilled the Law for us, we receive the forgiveness of all our sins. Following God’s Law and will for us becomes easier and lighter not because of our own goodness, but because we have the Holy Spirit who gives us the desire to do what is good, right, and holy and strengthens us to do it.

We thus rest in Jesus. We rest in Jesus through Baptism where He yokes us to Himself and gives us the benefits of His death on the cross. We rest in Jesus through the Sacrament of the Altar as Christ gives us His own body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of faith.

The Lord’s Supper is such an important part of our life as Christians because through it the heavy burden of our sins is lifted from us and our conscience is freed from the weight of sin. Through the Lord’s Supper Jesus gives us rest from our labours and gives us peace; He gives us rest for our souls.

Jesus gives us rest, because He has already won the battle. He has already conquered sin, death, and the devil. His life and death accomplished everything for us, so we can rest in Him and the forgiveness He continually gives to us. We can rest in Jesus and the salvation He has accomplished for us.

Thanks be to God, we will be rescued from our bodies of death through Jesus Christ our Lord, who will raise us from the dead as surely as He Himself rose from the dead, and give eternal life to us and all believers in Christ. In this truth we can rest now, throughout our lives, and in the moment of our death. This is most certainly true. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.