Contend Earnestly: Matthew 11:28-30: Our Rest: Today, Tomorrow and Forever

Monday, March 10, 2008

Matthew 11:28-30: Our Rest: Today, Tomorrow and Forever

I had the privilege of preaching yesterday at my church as our pastor was out of town at the Shepherd's Conference. I have given an abbreviated post below on the message, but if you would like to listen to it, you can listen by clicking here: Our Rest: Today, Tomorrow and Forever. The Scripture that was covered was Matthew 11:28-30

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Finding Rest in Christ: Come to Me

When taking a look at our Scripture in Matthew 11:28-30 it comes in two parts: it is a benefit of justification and proper understanding of our rest in progressive sanctification. This first part of the verse is pointing us to a benefit of justification.

The meaning of justification is simply: a declarative act of God by which he establishes persons as righteous

This justification is a one time happening. It is at the point that the person believes in Jesus Christ, God impugns, or clothes that person, with Christ’s righteousness as though it were their own. We see this in 2 Corinthians 5:21

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

It is sometimes called the “great exchange.” Because God exchanged our filthy sinful rags and clothed us with the righteousness of Christ. It is like a homeless man giving his filthy clothes to a king and that king wrapping the homeless man in a robe only due a prince.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:6

Not a bad deal for us. This is necessary, this great exchange, because we learn that God cannot approve of evil.

You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
and cannot look at wrong,
Habakkuk 1:13

The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The LORD tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
Psalm 11:4-6

The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
Psalm 34:15-16

So, we see that we must be righteous to remove the wrath of the Father, but the problem is that we find that none are righteous, none are good and in Romans 3 it actually calls us useless because of our condition.

But, what is our human response to this understanding that only the righteous will enter in the Lord’s presence? Jesus gives us a subtle polemic, or refutation against those who work for salvation. He tells us simply: Come to Me.

And He then gives attention to who he is talking to: all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest

He is speaking to those who are weary and heavy laden. Those who have heard and understood the call to be righteous to remove the wrath of God. Those who know that God cannot look upon evil, and hates it.

These, weary and heavy laden, are both terms involving work. Those who are weary are those who have grown tired because of work and heavy laden are those who have large or heavy burdens placed upon them.

The Jews had 613 laws in the Torah to follow in order to please God and bring them salvation.
So the Jewish people were well acquainted with having an impossible yoke upon their necks in regards to salvation of their souls.

4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders…
Matthew 23:4

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that Eternity has been written on man’s heart. What man tries to do is fill this eternity in their hearts with other things that are finite, but that is impossible. Think of it:
wisdom leaves us in old age, our strength is weakened over time, money comes and goes, and even those that we love grow sick and die. And ultimately what we try to do is fill this eternal need, this need for our salvation, with either stuff or works of goodness.

And we continue to try and fill the eternity of our hearts with finite things, and when one thing stops working for us, we move on to another. Our anxiety and happiness are never fully dealt with and with that in thought, Jesus simply says, “come to me and I will give you rest, because I am the eternal joy that can fill your eternal want”

The text before us is taken most of the time to just speak of the Jews, who no doubt had many rules they must keep to receive heaven. It was a “do” religion. It was always continually preached that you must do this, you must do that, to be saved. Is this not what we have in all of our religions of the world?

There are really only two religions in this world, and each one begs a different question:

1. What can I do for God, or the higher being, so that I can expect heaven? It is “my good deeds have to outweigh my bad deeds”

2. What did God do for me, so I can receive mercy and grace and receive heaven as a gift which I cannot merit?

One is a terrible yoke of works on your back that must be fulfilled for God to love you and the other is taking that yoke, that burden of work, and placing it on Christ, because through him the yoke of the Law has been fulfilled.

One pastor put it as: World Religions continue to say, “Do, Do, Do”, but the cross screams out “Done”

Christ says, it is finished, I have accomplished it, now come to Me, rest in Me.

This is what 1 Peter 3:18 is saying when it says that the just died for the unjust so that he could bring us to God.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of 2sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:3,4

God is saying that because we could not fulfill the Law in the flesh, God fulfilled it for us through His Son Jesus Christ.

This rest now that is given to us at the end of this first verse is a rest that is to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labour in order to recover and collect his strength and of calm and patient expectation.

How can Christ promise this rest?

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
Hebrews 10:11-12

Why does Jesus not offer sins for himself? How did he accomplish the yoke of good works? By never sinning!

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 4:15

Further, Hebrews 7:26 says that our high priest was holy, innocent and undefiled.

Luke records Jesus crying out: It is finished! Jesus says in his high priestly prayer that he accomplished everything that he was sent for. The reason that Christ can tell us to rest is because he is the one who fulfilled all the work that was required. Jesus fulfilled the law for us, there is no reason for us to be burdened by the law.

When it says in Hebrews that he sat down, this is an implication of a finished work and a rest from the work Christ did on this earth.

You see, we believe in a works based salvation. But it is not of our works, it is solely Christ’s work!

Continuing Our Rest in Christ

If we find our rest in simply coming to Christ and giving him our yoke and our heavy burden, then what happens after that? What Jesus says is that we must take on his yoke and we will find rest for our souls. This new yoke is one that is easy and it is light. The reason is because this new yoke is not one to where we need to worry and be anxious if we are doing enough for the kingdom to enter, for it has been finished. But Jesus seems to have a little more in store for us here in this passage as Jesus says, “learn from Me”

Jesus knows that our rest starts at justification but that our life doesn’t end there on this earth.

Notice the small change of wording that Christ uses here. The first is Jesus giving us rest, because of his work. This second phrase tells us that if we learn from Christ, if we take upon his yoke after he gives us rest, that we will find rest for our souls.

This term “find” in the Greek can be seen as “to find out by practice and experience.”

This is what we call the doctrine of progressive sanctification, or the process of God working along with us through the Spirit in becoming more and more holy.

I like how Matt Chandler has put it:

We all like hearing the dramatic conversion stories of new Christians, but what is often left out is the next 10 years of struggle with our faith and this world.

I mean, listen to some of these quotes in the Scriptures:

we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
John 15:18

Further, Peter in 1 Peter 4 tells the scattered, beaten, dying, persecuted Christians not to be surprised at the fiery ordeal among them, as though it was strange.

Also, tradition tells us that all of the original apostles, besides John, ended up being a martyr for the sake of Christ.

So, are we going to have struggles and conflict after we become Christians? The answer is yes. But, in our text Jesus tells us that after we are saved, to learn from Him and we will find rest for our souls. We will find this rest through our experiences of learning from Christ.

This is key. To learn from Christ. Just read the overwhelming verses that show us to learn from Jesus’ example: John 13:15; Phil 2:5; 1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21.

I am going to give you three things that will aid you in to a continual learning experience of who Christ is and what Christ did as he was afflicted.

You will also notice that all these, that we are about to observe and learn from Christ, require us to be humble and gentle as Christ said he was in Matthew 11:29.

Greek word gentle: Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend them against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time. (Is. 41:17, Lu. 18:1-8) Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will. (Gal. 5:23).

So, when we go through things that might upset our rest, I submit that we must learn to find our rest by doing the following things as Christ did:

1. Submission in Prayer

When you pray what are you doing? Are you not admitting that you cannot accomplish what you are asking for? Does this not cause one to be humble? When David is afflicted by the wicked, he cries out in Psalm 5:1-3

1 Give ear to my words, O LORD,
Consider my groaning.
2 Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God,
For to You I pray.
3 In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.
Psalm 5:1-3

If Jesus was truly the God/Man we would expect the same thing in his life. Look to what Luke states:

16 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
Luke 5:16

Where was Jesus when he was on the eve of his crucifixion? Jesus went to pray in the Garden Think of this! How would we have responded knowing that this very night we were going to be taken and slaughtered as a lamb? When you go through serious struggles, where do you run to? Christ, our Saviour, the Creator of everything, completely omnipotent, all powerful, goes to the garden to pray. You think that Christ’s “rest” was a little disturbed? Look at this:

37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.
38 Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
Matthew 26:37-39

When Christ was at his lowest, when he was greatly distressed, where did he go to find rest? Jesus Christ fell on his face and prayed.

Jesus shows us this clearly: learn from Him. Take your afflictions to Jesus through prayer, and he will give you rest.

Prayer reminds us that we are not in control, but that we do believe that there is One who is in control, and we ask Him to fill our cup, because he is the only One who can. Through prayer we find rest for our souls.

2. Submission to the Word

Secondly, we don’t find rest in the wisdom of the world, but in the wisdom revealed to us in the word, by the Spirit. Again, every time you read anything for the purpose of learning you are admitting that you don’t know it all.

2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,
1 Peter 2:2

7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
John 16:7

This Helper, this Comforter, how will he comfort you? Verse 13 states that it will be through the guidance of truth:

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
John 16:13

We find that Jesus Christ while he was being tempted, when Satan was trying to take his rest from him, what did Christ do?

He quoted Scripture over and over…Satan tries in three different ways to steal Jesus’ eternal rest, and Jesus responds, “It is written, it is written, it is said”

The reason that we can take rest in the Scriptures and they are where we go to for rest is because the God of our Salvation says, that His word endures forever and that his word is truth. In this day with all the questions of truth, we have it!

Look to the cry of David’s heart for God’s word in his time of unrest:

25 My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O LORD;
let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!
Psalm 119:25-32

So, by learning from Christ in the wilderness we understand that through the word of God we find rest for our souls.

3. Submission of our burdens to each other

So, we are called to go to the Lord in prayer, to his Scriptures for comfort through the Spirit, we are called also to go to each other to aid us in our rest. After Christ went and fasted for forty days and was in desperate need of food, Satan came and tempted him and Christ responded with the Scriptures. What some don’t see or simply overlook is how Christ was aided after the temptation.

Matthew 4:11 states:
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

We must learn from Christ in this area. Allow others to minister to us. Further after Jesus went to the garden to pray look at what happens:

41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray,
42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
43 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.
44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.
Luke 22:41-44

Jesus, the One who created the angels, allows one of his creations to come and minister to him, to strengthen him. If Jesus allows it, we must follow his example and allow others.

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2.

This term has the idea of taking a load or a yoke off of someone back and putting it on your own. Remind you of a passage that we are looking at? As Christ took our yoke of works of the Law so our fellow Christians take our daily yokes and burdens and aid us and minister to us.

The reason a lot of us do not like to do this is usually we don’t want to bother them or we think that they will look down on us. Listen to me. Everyone is a sinner, and they doubt and have issues just like you do.

If we are to be a people who find rest in Christ, we are to be a people who allow others to minister on our behalf. When we tell others of the burdens on our back, we give them the opportunity to fulfill the law of Christ, namely to love their neighbor as themselves.

In this respect God allows us to be what are called ambassadors for Christ. We are his representatives and when we aid each other with our burdens we are physically showing them what Christ has done for them for eternity.

My father once picked up a hitchhiker and shared the gospel with him and the hitchhiker said that he had many issues and many burdens. But, he could not give them to Jesus because he had never seen Jesus. Because he had never seen Jesus, he could not believe in him. My dad responded kindly but with authority, “today, you have seen Jesus, for I am his ambassador.”

Christ shows us this truth when He comes down and yells at Saul of Tarsus and asks, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me” Who was Paul killing and persecuting? Christians. Jesus equates the persecution and killing of his people as the same as doing it to his own body.

So, when we come alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ we give them a glimpse of who Christ is. We carry their burdens, because Christ has carried ours. In this way, we are learning from Christ, and we are finding rest for our souls.

The Reason for our Rest in Christ

It means coming to the one who has become everything to us. Jesus did not come into the world mainly to bring a new religion or a new law. He came to offer himself for our eternal enjoyment and to do whatever he had to do—including death—to remove every obstacle to this everlasting joy in him. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). When Jesus demands that we do things—like “Come to me”—the essence of these demands is that we experience the life that most fully savors and spreads his supreme worth
John Piper

So the real question should be “why?” We have looked at Jesus Christ taking our load and bearing it himself for our rest. We have seen that if we learn from Christ by prayer, the word and through allowing others to carry our burdens for our continual rest, then we must ask, “why?” It is one thing to know the “how”, but yet another to know the “why”.

Some might say that the reason why is because God loves us and wants us to rest in him…although this is true, it is not the ultimate reason.

16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

The ultimate reason for Christ to give us rest through his work on this earth, in His cross, in His resurrection and that we find rest through prayer, God’s word and the bearing of one another’s burden’s is not for our sake…but for the sake of God’s glory. It is to point continually to Jesus.

Think of this. If your burdens in your life, if the toils of this life don’t keep you down but you find rest in Jesus, people will see the glory of God and His gospel.

First we find these verses for the sake of our eternal rest in justification: So, when Jesus says come to Me, when we do, we glorify Christ, not ourselves: here are some verses to exemplify this:

Jesus endures his final hours of suffering for God’s glory (this is part of the yoke Christ carried)

27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
28 “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
John 12:27-28

God gave His Son to vindicate the glory of His righteousness

25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness,
Romans 3:25

God forgives our sin for His own sake

11 For Your name’s sake, O LORD,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
Psalm 25:11

It is not for us! It is all for the glory of God. Further when we find rest in our sanctification through prayer it is for God’s glory:

Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
John 14:13

The word of God is shown as the glory of God:

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

He tells us to serve or minister to each other for the glory of God

whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:11

Do you see this? What is the ultimate reason that you were pardoned from sin, given rest in justification and are also given continual rest through prayer, the word and through those ministering to you? It is all to point to Jesus Christ! It is all for his glory not our own.

Simply, this is why we are told to do all things to the glory of God. It is all for him, not us. It is greater than us. So, when you have rest, know that it is not merely for your good, but it is for the great and glorious God our Saviour Jesus Christ. Your rest is more powerful and proclaims the greatness of our God.


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