Matthew 13:44-52 – Valued Treasure of the Kingdom

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Matthew 13:44-5244 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it on the beach and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

In these final three parables of Matthew 13, Jesus continues to teach what the kingdom of heaven looks like. Remember, please that our word kingdom can sometimes be misleading when we try to understand the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not a country or piece of land defined by boarders. Instead, the kingdom of heaven is the active, saving reign and rule of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth announcing the reign of heaven was at hand and His every action brought that reign.

Jesus faced opposition as He ministered and brought the reign of heaven. As you look back to the context of Mt. 12 and 13, you see that Jesus is being rejected. The crowds do not believe Him, the Pharisees are seeking to destroy Him, and even Jesus’ own family is trying to get Him to quit teaching because things aren’t going so hot. But this opposition and rejection doesn’t stop Jesus. In fact, Jesus tells seven parables in Matthew 13 to teach that the reign of heaven is still going on despite the obvious adversity.

Jesus begins with the Parable of the Sower and the Seed which teaches that there is nothing wrong with the seed, which He explains is the Word. The problem is that people are rejecting it. Jesus continues with the Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat which shows that Satan is actively trying to disrupt and ruin God’s saving action in Jesus, but the parable teaches that the devil will fail and God will triumph. The Parable of the Mustard Seed shows that the operation of the reign of heaven begins small, but it spreads out – way out. The Parable of the Yeast shows that the reign of heaven will penetrate into the whole world even though it won’t look very impressive most of the time.

Our text today continues with three more parables about the active reign of heaven as it comes in Jesus. Jesus teaches these final three parables to His twelve disciples privately and not to the crowds.

First, the Parable of the Hidden Treasure: Now some take this parable as though we sinners go out into a field and find the reign of heaven, then, once we find it, we should  give up everything we have to take possession of the kingdom. But there is a problem with this. In every other parable in this chapter, Jesus Himself is the main character. We should carry this theme into to these parables as well. Jesus is the man who finds a treasure out in a field.

In Jesus’ day, landowners didn’t have mineral rights. If you there was treasure in your field but you don’t know about it, the treasure doesn’t belong to you. Notice also that the man who finds the treasure doesn’t lift the treasure up If the man is employed by the landowner (and he likely is even though the parable doesn’t state that explicitly) he is obligated to tell the owner about the treasure. Instead, the man simply covers the treasure, goes, and sells all that he has in order to buy the field. Since he knows about the treasure, once he buys the field, the treasure is his.

Copyright: Edward Riojas. Used by permission

Copyright: Edward Riojas. Used by permission

Now, back when Jesus explained the parable about the weeds and the wheat, Jesus said that the field was the world (lit. the κόσμος). So picture Jesus walking through the field of the world and coming across this treasure. What is this treasure?  It is you – you who are dead in sin and caught in a box that you cannot escape from. Remember back in our OT text (Dt. 7:6-9), God said that His people were His treasured possession. They weren’t a treasure because they were so great and so many and so mighty. They were treasured because God loved them.

Jesus puts another parable before the disciples about the reign of heaven being like a merchant who is searching for fine pearls, but He finds one so valuable that He sells all that He has and buys it. Though Jesus was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself of everything. He did this by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Php. 2:6-8).

Jesus puts one final parable before the disciples. The reign of heaven is like a net that is thrown into the sea. This net gathers up every kind of thing. Interestingly, Jesus, as He tells the parable, doesn’t even use the word fish; our English translations just insert it. Imagine throwing a net into the Red River. What would you find once you pulled up that net – empty bottles, slimy camping pots, all sorts of garbage, animal corpses, and, to be sure, fish. Once the net is filled up, the angels will draw it up on the beach, sit down, and sort the good stuff into containers but throw away the bad (lit. ‘rotten’).

This parable tells us that the day will come when the evil and the righteous will be separated. Our epistle text (Ro. 8:28-39) makes clear that Jesus, the Son of God who died for the sins of the world and rose again, is the one who condemns. He will direct the angels as they sort out whatever the net catches. He can use a little elbow grease to shine up that slimy camping pot. Who knows what kind of valuable thing He can make with a broken bottle? Jesus will tell the angels who is good, justified, and righteous, and He will tell the angels who is rotten and evil.

This whole world is filled with rotten, evil people. So is this room – this sanctuary. Every last one of us here is rotten and evil. But God in Christ found us all broken, dead, and rotten in sin. He found us, treasured us, and gave everything He had in order to purchase us back by giving His life – His body and His blood – on the cross.

“Everybody, even the worst stinker on earth, is somebody for whom Christ died” (Capon). Just as a hospital is a place for the sick, the church is a place for sinners. We are misrepresenting Christ if we act otherwise. The righteous and just are righteous are righteous and just only because of the free gift of Jesus’ righteousness. This righteousness has been offered to all. But even though Jesus has given this righteousness to everyone some decided they don’t like it and demand to be accepted just as they are, but they won’t be.

After finishing these parables, Jesus asks the disciples, “Have you understood all these things?” That is a scary question for a teacher to ask. The disciples give a quick Yes answer.

Jesus gives a blessing – to them and to you. “Every scribe (not meaning the religious group who sought along with the Pharisees to kill Him, but everyone who learns the Word of God) Every scribe who has been discipled for the reign of heaven is like a master of a house (lit. ‘house despot’), who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Did you catch that? Loaded up with the teaching of these parables, which we have only scratched the surface of, believer, you are like the master of a mansion full of treasure. And you can be glad to give these treasures away because there is simply so stinking much of it.

Believer, be at peace knowing that though you were dead in sin, Jesus found you. He treasured you. And He joyfully went and sold all He had to make you His own. Rejoice because He has promised that there is nothing in all creation which will separate you from His love (Ro. 8:38-39). He who has ears, let him hear. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Matthew 13:24-43 – For Now, This Is What You Get

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Matthew 13:24-4324 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

31He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” 34All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:

“I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

It is an age-old question: If God exists and is all-powerful, why is there still evil in this world? We ask this question all the time. Why are babies murdered in their mother’s womb when the eggs of endangered species are protected? Why are dangerous murderers released from prison only to kill again? Why are godly Christians allowed to suffer? Why do the sons of the evil one have so much freedom to work their harm and damage in this world?

People throughout history have been asking this question – even people in Jesus’ day. Jesus came proclaiming, “The reign of heaven is at hand” (Mk. 1:15). He brought that reign with Him as He proclaimed forgiveness, healed the sick, and raised the dead. Jesus won the final victory over sin, death, and the devil on the cross. Yet two thousand years later, it still appears as though evil has the upper hand. Generation after generation of Christians have all thought that it can’t get worse. The evil of sin in this fallen world continues to progress, and believers think that this world can’t last with so much evil. Even we Christians doubt the salvation that Jesus really, truly brought. Jesus came and brought the reign of heaven, but we forget that. We forget that when we allow the evil around us to cause doubt in our minds.

As the crowds stand on the beach, Jesus sits in the boat teaching the crowds of people who do not believe in Him and have hardened their hearts. Jesus teaches them in parables about the reign of heaven that He brings. And He says that the reign of heaven does not look like what we would expect. The reign of heaven isn’t a place. Instead, it is the action of God which is made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ.

After explaining the Parable of the Sower privately to the disciples, Jesus teaches the crowds another parable that has to do with seed and harvest to describe what the action of God’s reign looks like, and it is scandalous.

Parable of the Wheat and WeedsThe reign of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but in the night an enemy comes and sows weeds. The weeds Jesus speaks about look identical to wheat as they grow, but at harvest time the grains of this weed are a different color than the wheat. The servants of the master ask if they should go and go and gather the weeds, but take careful note of what the master says:

“No, lest in gathering the weeds you mistake the weeds for wheat and uproot the wheat along with the needs. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at that time I will tell the reapers to first gather the weeds and burn them. Then gather the wheat into my barn.”

Pause here: note that word “let” – it is the same word that gets translated most often in the New Testament as “forgive.” The Lord extends grace – even to the weeds – until the harvest time. Then, and only then, will the weeds be separated from the wheat.

The crowds would be shocked by this parable. What kind of farmer would ever do something as foolish as to let the weeds remain alongside the wheat? How can God’s action in this world be so gracious and patient? This is absolutely absurd.

Jesus puts two other parables before the crowds to explain what the reign  of heaven – God’s saving action in the world – looks like:

God’s saving action in the world looks like a tiny mustard seed which is planted and hidden Parable of the Leavenunder the soil. It doesn’t look like much to begin with, and it looks like nothing once it is planted and hidden in the ground. But it will grow and become the largest plant in the garden – so large that birds will nest in it.

God’s saving action in the world looks like a woman who put some yeast in three measures of flour. This amount of flour will produce over one hundred pounds of dough. Once the yeast is in there, you do not see the yeast at work, and it will be impossible to remove all of it. But once the yeast is in the flour, you can’t stop it from spreading throughout every last bit of the dough.

These parables teach that the reign of heaven is small and hidden, but just wait. It will be huge eventually. The reign of heaven is little and invisible to the eye, but it will fill every last bit of dough. The reign of will permeate everything.

After these parables, Jesus leaves the shore and returns to the house. The disciples ask Jesus to explain the parable of the weeds of the field. Jesus gives the disciples, those who believe His words, more hope than the parable would give to the crowds who have rejected Him and do not believe Him. Point by point Jesus explains the aspects of the parable to the disciples:

  • The one who sows the good seed is Me, the Son of Man.
  • The field is the world (the κόσμος).
  • The good seed is the sons of the reign.
  • The weeds are the sons of the evil one.
  • The enemy who sowed the weeds is the devil.
  • The harvest is the end of the age.
  • The reapers are angels.

Only at the end of the age will Christ send the angels to gather out of His kingdom the causes of sin and law-breakers and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the reign of their Father.

We wrongly wait for and anticipate with rabid desire God’s judgment to come upon evil. We forget that God’s grace extends even to the weeds. Christ, the Master, says, “Let (allow, forgive, permit) both to grow together until the time of the harvest.”

We live in a fallen world where there is evil and sin. But that evil and sin does not thwart God’s saving action in Jesus Christ. He is the tiny mustard seed which has been planted and will grow. He is the yeast which has been placed into the three measures of flower and will leaven the whole massive mound of dough. Even if you don’t see what you ought to see in your life, even if you don’t see what you ought so see in the church, even if you don’t see what you ought so see in the world, God absolutely is acting in your life, in the Church, and in the world through Jesus and His reign – forgiving your sin and extending His grace to the whole world until the great and awesome day.

Living in this fallen world, we often wish that God would come and eradicate the weeds. Even if He doesn’t uproot the evil weeds continually, we wish that God periodically destroy those sons of the devil every year, or every five years, or every fifty years. But He simply will not. For now, this is what we get.

“God may seem slow, but He is never late” (Gibbs). God is still Lord over the field of this world. In His time, and only in His time, will evil be punished by His righteous decree. Until then, believer, live as His children among the weeds covered with in God’s forgiveness which extends even to the wicked – even to you. He who has ears, let him hear. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Matthew 13:1-23 – The Father Went out to Sow the Son

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Matthew 13:1-23—That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.

3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

‘You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”

15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,

         lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears

and understand with their heart and turn,
and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus has already had a busy day. This day began back in Mt. 12:1 with Jesus and His disciples walking through grainfields. The disciples were hungry so they plucked heads of grain and ate them. The Pharisees accused Jesus that His disciples were breaking the Sabbath laws. But Jesus insists that He is Lord of the Sabbath (12:1-8). Jesus then goes on to enter the synagogue and heals a man with a withered hand. This really sets the Pharisees off and they conspired against Jesus to destroy Him (12:9-14). But Jesus knows they want to destroy Him, so He withdraws from the synagogue and heals all sorts of people. A demon possessed man is brought to Him, and Jesus heals the man. The Pharisees accuse Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebul. Jesus proves that their accusation is absolute nonsense (12:15-37).

What happens next is almost comical. Some of the scribes and Pharisees make a request of Jesus. They ask, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from You” (12:38). Jesus tells them that He will give them no sign except the sign of the prophet Jonah – i.e. His death and resurrection (12:39-45). After this, Jesus’ mother and brothers come to find Him and get Him to stop talking. But Jesus says that His mother and brothers are the disciples who believe in Him (12:46-50).

Now we come to our text: “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about Him, so that He got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach” (13:1-2). The disciples were probably relieved. Jesus is getting away from the opposition, and He is going to teach again similar to how He did in the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus taught on that mountain, He opened up God’s Word and made it plain and clear, and the people were astonished at Jesus teaching and authority (7:28-29).

Parable of the SowerBut Jesus teaches with the parable of the Sower and the Seed, and the disciples don’t like this. They are disappointed. “Why do You speak to them in parables?” they ask (13:10). It is as if the disciples are saying, “Jesus, don’t You see how much trouble You’ve stirred up today. People are rejecting Your message. The Pharisees hate You, and You are separating us from the crowds and even Your own family. Now, You are teaching in parables? Come on, clear things up! Teach them plainly so they can understand.”

Jesus answers them, “I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. You disciples, you see, hear, and understand. But they have hardened their hearts. So even what they have will be taken away.”

A couple of things to note about this: First, see that Jesus is still teaching to them. He is still graciously preaching the Word of God and bringing the reign of God to the crowds who have rejected Him. Second, see that by teaching them in parables, Jesus is acknowledging the reality of the situation – He is teaching outsiders. He is teaching people who have rejected Him (Gibbs). If the outsiders are treated as outsiders, maybe, they will wake up and become insiders. Maybe they will stop rejecting God’s Word.

Now, Jesus explains the whole parable to the disciples.

Jesus explains that the seed is the “Word of the reign [of God]” (more on this in a minute). The Word is sown in all sorts of places where normal farmers wouldn’t want to waste good seed. Some falls on the path and is devoured by birds. Sometimes, Satan simply snatches away the message, and the hearers never believe. These satanic birds don’t even give the seed a chance to sprout. This sounds terrible, but what happens when birds eat seeds? Right, eventually, they have to “get rid” of them – if you know what I mean. The seed is not on the original soil anymore, but it is still good seed and can still sprout, if it lands on good soil.

Some seed falls on rocky ground. That seed sprouts up, but soon dies. Some people hear Jesus and believe, but there is no soil so there are no roots. Tribulation or persecution comes and the plant immediately withers.

Some seed falls among thorns. These people hear and believe Jesus, but they get chocked out by the cares and worries of this world.

Notice, most of the ground where the seed falls fails to produce.

Consider for a moment, do you see yourself in any of these three types of ground? Do you hear the Word of God and forget about it right away? Or do you find yourself falling away when trials and persecutions come your way? Do the things of this world choke and strangle you?

Repent. Soil can’t make itself good. Soil needs to be worked over to become good soil. Pray. Pray that God will work you over so that you will become good soil. That work may be unpleasant and hard, but it will produce. Take every advantage available to you to hear the pure Word of God taught rightly. Dig deep. Find the nourishing soil fertilized by the crucified body and blood of your Savior.

Again, most of the ground where the seed falls fails to produce.

But there is a fourth place where the seed falls. Some seed falls upon good ground, and it produces unimaginable amounts of yield. Apparently, even a ten-fold yield is an almost unheard of by farmers. Jesus is saying that this seed is producing thirty, sixty, and even a hundredfold. This is some good, fruitful seed. Jesus doesn’t say exactly what this fruit is, but it likely refers to good works (Mt. 5:13-16). Whatever the fruit is, it is good and there is a plethora of it.

Word Became FleshJesus explains that the seed is the Word. Now, some say that we Christians need to get out there and sow the seed of the Word. They say we need to send pastors and missionaries all over our communities and throughout the world to sow this seed. But that misses the point, and it ignores the Scriptures that teach us that Jesus Himself is the Word of God in the flesh.

Jesus is the Word. Do you see what that means? It means that God the Father is the Sower, and Jesus, God the Son, is the Seed. The Father sowed Jesus in the fullness of time by sending His Son (Gal. 4:4). The Father has sent Jesus. He is the Word who came into the world and enlightens every person (Jn. 1:1f). Jesus became flesh and was sown among us. But many have rejected Him.

Jesus has “already, literally been sown everywhere in the world – and quite without a single bit earthly cooperation or even consent” (Capon see also Ro. 10:18). We Christians produce fruit when we simply bring the Good News of the Word, the Seed of Jesus Christ who is already there. We announce that Jesus is present as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We proclaim that His cross, His death, His resurrection, and His ascension is already present for them for their forgiveness.

Dear saints, go out in joy, produce good fruit, and proclaim that Jesus has come to forgive the sins of everyone you meet. Announce this Good News to your family, friends, and neighbors. God’s Word will not return to Him empty; it will accomplish the very purpose for which He has already sent it (Is. 55:10-11).

He who has ears, let him hear.  Amen.[1]

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

[1] I am especially indebted to Robert Farrar Capon’s book Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Parados, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus for this sermon.

Matthew 11:25-30 – God Over All & Christ For All

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Matthew 11:25-30 25 At that time Jesus declared, “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; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 ”Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our text comes just after Jesus has pronounced woes upon three cities – Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum – who had rejected the message of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. These cities had seen Jesus work miracles. In Bethsaida, He had healed a blind man. He had fed the 5,000 men plus women and children. Remember the paralytic who was lowered down from the roof? Jesus first forgave his sins then made him walk – that was in Capernaum. These three cities had seen the miraculous presence of Christ, but they had rejected Him. Seeing, they did not see, and hearing they did not hear.

The wise and understanding hearts of these cities rejected the promised Messiah. Now Jesus prays, “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.” Wisdom did not help Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. In fact just the opposite. They claimed to be wise and became fools (Ro. 1:22).

Baptism 2But God did reveal (lit. “apocalypsed”) His salvation to those who had no wisdom of their own – to the “little children.” All sinners, that includes you, are without understanding. Like Paul in our epistle text (Ro. 7:14-25), you too are a slave to sin. You carry the burden of knowing what is right and good, but you don’t do it. Like Paul, you practice the very things you hate and know to be evil. You reject and deny God’s authority over you.

Notice, though that Jesus says that the “little children” (lit. ‘infants’), those who realize they are utterly dependent, they have the revelation that only God can give. Those who are last, lost, least, and little receive the forgiveness of Christ. This is the gracious act of God. The very people who deserve condemnation, to them God gives forgiveness, life, and salvation.

God is over all things. The Creator has control over every aspect of creation, but notice what Jesus says, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father.” Jesus says that God the Father is Lord of heaven and earth and has placed everything into Jesus’ hand.

So Jesus is, now and forever, Lord over all things. Notice what Jesus says next, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” You cannot come to know God unless Jesus reveals Him to you. Unless Christ chooses to reveal God to you, you are lost.

Salvation is completely out of your hands. Does that scare you? It shouldn’t; it should comfort you because look at what the Savior says next, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Rest. Who doesn’t want rest? God fills our lives with so many good things – good families, good homes, good jobs. But rest, where do we find rest? We search high and low trying to find rest. We try to create little sanctuaries of rest for ourselves. We make our homes places of solace away from the difficult business of our day. We take time off of work to travel to peaceful places in the world and “get away from it all.” No matter how hard we try to find it or create it, true rest alludes us.

Even when we do find rest and solitude, those moments are few and far between. In whGod over All Christ for Allat might be St. Augustin’s most famous quote he says to God, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” The rest that Jesus gives is completely foreign and alien to our normal, everyday existence. The rest Christ delivers is the forgiveness of sins and the end striving against God. That rest is what God wanted us to have so He gave us the third Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” God wanted us to set apart a whole day when we could find rest in being fed with His Word. Jesus is offering the eternal Sabbath rest that only comes from God.

You see, beloved, God is over all, and the Son of God, who rules over all, is for you. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and be discipled by 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” that Jesus speaks about? The word refers to an instrument that makes work easier. The word is used for the frame that was used to control animals who were pulling a cart, but the word is also used to describe the contraptions slaves would use to make carrying heavy burdens easier. Maybe it is comforting to imagine being harnessed to a cart with Jesus, but that is not what Jesus is referring to. Instead, as a slave of Christ, you trade the yoke of your sin for the perfect yoke of rest that Christ gives. This yoke is “easy” or literally, “good, useful, fulfilling its purpose for you.” This yoke removes your burden completely.

The prefect yoke of Jesus gives you, who have been overly burdened, the eternal Sabbath rest for your soul. Jesus goes on in Mt. 12 to prove that He is Lord of the Sabbath who gives this rest. But that tale is for another time.

Today, brothers and sisters, know that Jesus has taken your burden of sin and borne it to the cross, so that you can have that Sabbath rest. Learn from Him who gives you that Sabbath rest here and now as you come to His table and receive His yoke of the forgiveness of sins in the bread and wine. Amen.[1]

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

[1] The title for this sermon was taken from Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs’ commentary on this passage.