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7th Sunday after Pentecost

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, dear friends in Christ:  Isn’t life just complicated?  People in our day use that term a lot, don’t they?  “Ohh, my life is just complicated right now!”  Or it can describe a situation, “I’m in this complicated predicament.”  Or a task we are assigned at work or a problem we encounter.  Complicated.  Or a health problem we have…there are complications.  Or it can be used to describe a relationship, (and if I’m not wrong you can even pick that option on Facebook to describe your personal relationship with or without someone).  Why are so many things in life so complicated?  Isn’t it partly because they require so much physical, mental, or emotional work to figure out that we just don’t even know where to begin?  Isn’t life just complicated?  Well, what about our spiritual life?  What about our lives as Christians?  Is that complicated?  Wouldn’t it be nice if in the most important things, in the spiritual things, it isn’t complicated?  To be at peace?  To have REST?

But there’s always people who like to complicate matters, aren’t there?  In Jesus’ day it was no different.  There were many people in Jesus’ day who actually saw Jesus perform miracles and heard Jesus preach sermons and explain God’s Word to them.  And what was their reaction? “That’s nice Jesus, but we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing and keep committing the same sins over and over again.”  Jesus explained God’s Word to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of that day, and their reaction?  “Why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?”(Matt 9:11).  In one city Jesus had healed a demon possessed man and how did the people react?  They pleaded with Jesus to leave their region (Matt 8:34).  So just before our text this morning Jesus gives a stunning warning to these cities He had preached in and performed miracles in, but didn’t believe in Him.  He said, “Woe to you…if the miracles I performed had been done in Sodom, they would have repented long ago.”

Then Jesus said, “I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”  You see, many people at Jesus’ time filled themselves with their own ideas and felt that they were doing just fine earning a right relationship with God on their own and they felt they didn’t need Jesus.  In a similar way today there are people in this city, perhaps you even know some, who don’t believe that there is a God, much less the one and only true God.  They have let their own reason and understanding become supreme.  Although they may not admit it, they do believe in a god (small g), their god is their own wisdom, learning, and understanding and the true God will not have 2nd place in anyone’s heart.  But there’s a warning here for us as well.  How presumptuous of us to ‘lord’ our reason over God and tell him how He ought to be running this world or what He ought to be doing.  When we say or think things like, “Why in the world would a loving God allow this to happen in my life now?!!”  When we say things like that we’re actually denying God’s goodness and loving control of all things.  Or, “Why did God give us this book which is so complicated to understand and so difficult to explain to people,” yet it’s really our weaknesses and lack of diligence and failure to understand the God of the universe that is the problem.  Or even when we think, “Boy, if I were in control I would sure do things differently.”

Yet what amazing love of God that although we often think we know better than He does that He continues to reveal His truth and grace to us.  May we always honor God’s Word and receive it as Jesus wants- as little children.  Who are these “little children”?  This includes really little children.  I often ‘test’ this verse with my daughter Megan.  And many of you probably do the same.  I’ll ask her, “Megan, who died on the cross?”  “Jesus.”  “And what did Jesus do on the cross?”  “Took all of our sins away.”  “So where are we going to be when we die?”  “In heaven.”  Now, in God’s book, a 3-year-old who knows that is far more intelligent than the professor or accomplished student who has earned numerous degrees and wrote many papers and essays but denies the existence of God.  “Little children” also includes you, who receive God’s truth with a child-like faith that doesn’t doubt, deny, or disbelieve God’s Word.  Jesus praises God for revealing His truth to children like you and me.  And what glorious grace of God!  If we were required to have a certain amount of wisdom or understanding in order to be saved, to have eternal life, then we’d always be unsure if we knew enough or if we were smart enough.  Rather it is God’s amazing grace and love that reaches down to each of us “little children” and reveals His truth to us apart from our wisdom or understanding.

And this was all what God wanted.  “Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”  God didn’t want to use the wisdom and intelligence of this world.  God says, “Where is the wise man?  Where is the scholar?  Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”  “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1).  God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  But a knowledge of the truth does not come from the wisdom of this world, but of the preaching of Christ and Him crucified.

Yet, doesn’t it so often seem like those who deny God who rely on a wisdom apart from God and His Word are in control?  At Jesus’ time it sure seemed like the Pharisees were in control but the fact is that Jesus remains in control.  “All things have been committed to me by my Father.  No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  God the Father handed all things over to God the Son.  So if you’d like to know God the Father, you need to listen to God the Son, Jesus.  Those who saw Jesus’ love saw the Father’s love.

Well, perhaps many people in Jesus’ day felt like they were stuck in a complicated situation.  In Jesus’ time some of the burdens the people bore were requirements to follow certain regulations and laws.  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had come up with hundreds of additional laws that a person had to follow in order to be right with God.  The Pharisees claimed to achieve this by their strict obedience to the laws.  But that’s just where the term “Pharisee or pharisaical” came from.  Outwardly they seemed like the most pious people, but inwardly most of them were outside of God’s kingdom and many actually plotted to put Jesus to death.  These Pharisees also imposed all of these man-made laws on the people and burdened their consciences.  In the face of this complicated burden of laws Jesus gives this invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened 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.”  Today we aren’t burdened so much by religious requirements, but we are burdened by guilty consciences, stress, the pressures of day to day life.  So where do we go when life gets complicated?  When we need rest?  Unfortunately the right place is usually far down the list after all of the other things that we’ve tried and failed us.  But Jesus’ invitation remains open.

Jesus invites them and us to take up his yoke- the gospel.  The fact that our sins are forgiven in full by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus means that the most important thing in life has been taken care of- eternal life is our free gift and possession.  If that’s the case, and it is, then everything else in life is feather-light.  What about that sin that I committed way back when and still haunts me?  Jesus has forgiven it.  What about the criticism I face for believing in God?  Jesus promises eternal life.  What about all the complicated tasks that I have to do from day to day?  Jesus has completed the most important task that matters most of all: the free gift of salvation is yours!  What about the crosses we bear from day to day?  Even those Jesus has turned into blessings, reminders that heaven is our real home.

But how can I be sure Jesus is speaking to me in these verses?  How can I be sure that my spiritual life isn’t complicated?  How can I know that Jesus’ invitation for rest is for me?  Take another look at what Jesus says in verse 28.  If He had actually listed your name or my name in the Bible, “Come to me Aaron Nitz and I will give you rest.”  That wouldn’t be nearly as comforting.  I would always have to wonder if He meant me or someone else with the same name as me.  But rather He said, “Come to me ALL you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  Without the least glimpse of uncertainty, without a shadow of a doubt, YOU can be absolutely certain that Jesus is talking to YOU when He says, “I will give you rest for your soul.”  You are part of Jesus invitation!  You find true rest in Jesus!  That’s not complicated, that’s comforting!  Amen