Summary: This sermon looks at rest, the importance of rest, and the types of tiredness we can have, and how Christ satisfies them with His rest.
I want you to think of a time in your life when you were exhausted. That moment when the tank was empty, you were depleted, and you had nothing left to give. Think of that time. Think of the most tiring day, or season, in your entire life. Recall the feelings and emotions. For me, the moment that comes to my mind is shortly after my daughter’s birth. It was that few week period where infants are to eat and be changed roughly every three hours, and she was having trouble breastfeeding. My wife was still recovering from her C-section, we were still in that new parent stage, and still figuring out our daughter’s cues and schedules. I think we all were up every three hours those first few weeks. I remember at some points being so exhausted that even after drinking a cup of coffee that I could still instantly fall asleep. I feel tired just talking about it. We know what it is like to be tired, depleted, and running on empty.
We certainly know physical tiredness: it could be those first few weeks with an infant, how your body feels after working in the hot sun, or the feeling you get after a grueling workout. We can also know mental tiredness, as well. Ever have those times where at the end of the day that it seems your brain doesn’t work? You can think, but it just doesn’t compute. You can read a book or article, and then immediately afterwards say, “What did I just read? I don’t remember a thing!” We can even know emotional fatigue. Ever been drained to the point where you feel numb or have nothing to emotionally give? We might feel that way after a funeral or traumatic event.
There is another tiredness, another weariness, that Scripture clues us in on and that the world utterly misses. As humans, we are comprised of body, mind, AND soul, as a verse like Deuteronomy 6:5 points out. It says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” We can have a spiritual tiredness as well. Today, we’ll talk about rest, weariness, and hear what Jesus says to the weary: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Let’s start with the invitation. Jesus gives the invite. He says, “Come to Me!” Luther expands on what Jesus says here in his commentary on Matthew. It is as if Jesus is saying, “Let there be no one who fears or trembles to come; let him come, joyful and without care. I shall not push him away; I shall not drive him back; I shall not cast him down; I shall not heap anguish upon anguish.” In other words, “What are you waiting for? Come!” Come as you are.
As one famous Lenten Hymn puts it: “Come in poverty and meanness/come defiled, without, within/from infection and uncleanness/from the leprosy of sin/….Come, in sorrow and contrition/wounded, impotent, and blind” Jesus says, “Come! Come as you are!” and He means it! Come with your sin. Come with your burdens, heavy hearts, fears, failures, and inadequacies! He won’t turn you away, nor will He send you in the other direction.
So, “Come!” It is a word that does what it says. It both draws and gives the power to come. It draws and moves us to Christ, and at the same time holds out to us all that Jesus has and gives. Jesus gives the invitation: “Come to Me!”
Let’s now move from the invitation to the invited. Who is invited? “All who labor and are heavy laden.” All are invited. No one is left out! Those who labor and are heavy laden are especially invited to come. But, who is that? What does that mean and refer to? The phrase is a metaphor for the difficulties and pressures of life. Last week, we talked all about those. In our lives, we can endure social ruins, physical ruins, emotional ruins, and financial ruin. We can endure anxiety, apprehension, and angst from these things. Our heart can race and flutter. Our stomach can gnaw and nip at us. Our minds can wonder and spiral with questions of “What if, what if.” We know this labor and these burdens.
But there is a spiritual dimension to this as well. It is not strictly physical or earthly weariness that Jesus talks about here. The phrase is also a metaphor for the demands of God’s Law, and the effects it can have on our consciences. In Matthew 23:4, the same terms are used in regards to the Law’s demands. When giving His woes to the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus says, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Jesus calls them out for adding to God’s commands, making them harder than they already are, and then doing nothing to help!