The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.

Matthew 11:25  At that time Jesus answered and said, “I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes.  26 “Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight.  27  All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  29  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.  30  “For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”  (NASB)


          Last week’s Gospel lesson was from Matthew chapter ten.  Today’s Gospel lesson is Matthew chapter eleven and starts at verse 25. That means we have skipped over a significant series of Jesus’s sayings that lead into the text before us this morning.

          The text before us this morning is one of the most comforting texts in the  Gospels.   28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.  30  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”

          In those first 24 verses of Matthew chapter eleven, John the Baptist sends a delegate to Jesus to ask Him if He is indeed the promised Messiah, Jesus answers the question and praises John as the greatest man born of a woman, then He responds to John and His own accusers who accuse John of being demon possessed and labels Jesus as a “gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”

          From there Jesus speaks one of those infamous “Woe” sayings. Woe sayings are judgments of Christ against a group of people for their unbelief and rejection of the Gospel.

          In Matthew 11:21 Jesus says, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades.”

          Now of all the towns in the ancient world, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were among the most blessed of God. They were not big cities like Jerusalem or Rome or Athens, but they were blessed by the physical presence of Christ. They were all within a short walking distance of each other in the same area. They were in the larger area known as Galilee, which had a population of both Jews and Gentiles. 

          In Bethsaida Jesus healed many people, including the blind man at the pool and fed the 5,000. In Capernaum Jesus healed the paralytic who was lowered through the roof and healed, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, walked on water on the Sea of Galilee, and He preached His Bread of Life sermon, which the Galileans found very offensive and many went away and decided not to follow Him any longer.

          So Jesus, His miracles, and His doctrine were not strangers in these three cities. The people in those towns and in the surrounding area came out in droves to see and hear Jesus, until that famous sermon.

          Despite all that Jesus said and did in those little towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, the Gospel was not widely received. These three towns received Jesus much in the same way a new congregation receives a new pastor.  He is there hope. He will turn things around. He will attract new people. He is wonderful. Then, he preaches the Word of God without compromise, the Law and the Gospel, and what happens? Important people in the congregation take offense and the crowds begin to dindle.

          That is how it worked in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, even in Capernaum, the largest of the three, Peter’s home town, and the place that served as home-base for Jesus during His earthly.

          For the Jews, rather than repent of the religion of works-righteousness and of their failure to live as people of faith and children of God, when Jesus departed so did their devotion to Him. For the Gentiles, rather than repent of their devotion to pagan gods and the hellenistic and Roman religions and practices, they went their own way, doing what was right in their own eyes.

          And what of these three towns? Virtually nothing remains of Chorazin and Bethsaida. They have been basically lost to history. At the time of Jesus, Capernaum was home to about 1,500 souls. That was a respectable sized town when it came to towns in the fishing towns. Capernamum’s ruins are now owned by two churches: the Franciscans control the western portion with the synagogue and the Greek Orthodox Church owns the eastern portion and they have built a church over what is believed to have been the foundation of Peter’s old house.


          The United States of America and the “churches” in her have much in common with those three ancient cities.  During the days of Jesus and even after His Ascension, the Gospel was preached openly in the streets and among the people. Peter’s house was one of the earliest Christian churches. Yet, as Jesus rightly prophesied, the people in these cities did not repent; that is they did not believe the Word of God. Instead they live their lives as if Jesus were just another passing event, a side show like all the other “messiahs” who had come and gone before.

          So it has become among us.  There was a time when the Gospel was preached throughout this land and in the various church buildings that filled our communities, admittedly sometimes with great clarity and sometimes confused with the Law of God. Never-the-less, over the history of the West and here in America, the Gospel had been preached and heard in the highways and byways of our country, in the halls of power in federal, state, and local governments, in the ivory towers of Wall Street and in the south side of Chicago, and just about everywhere else.  No other people have been so blessed with the outpouring of the Gospel, its spiritual and temporal gifts as have we Americans.

          Through the preaching of His Gospel and through the right administration of His sacraments, Jesus has said to us, to our children, and to our fellow citizens, 27  “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”

          Yet, as a nation and yes, even the visible church in America, we have rejected the pure doctrine of God’s Word.  We have exchanged rest for our souls, the easy yoke, and the light load for an increasing bigger and heavier pile of “junk.”

          We are trading the rest we have been given through the church and in the person and work of Jesus Christ, for the philosophies, causes, and religions of our day foisted on us by anti-Christian, academics and activists. We are ordered and pressured to adopt the philosophies and religions of our day that offer no rest for the soul, or an easy yoke, and a light load.

          Rest for the soul? An easy yoke? A light load? That is what Jesus said He offers. But what is Jesus talking about?  Being a Christian, especially a confessing contending Christian is not easy in this life. It is a burden to live as a Christian in this sinful world. Jesus taught that Himself.  “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.”  “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.”

          When Jesus promises rest for the soul, an easy yoke, and a light load, He is talking about a very specific thing, a very specific relationship. He is talking about what it is like for the Christian in his or her relationship to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

          In contrast to the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ, a restless soul, a hard yoke, and a heavy load is what the non-Christian has to live with and under.  Just think of all the rules and regulations, dos and don’ts, all the contradicting “have tos,” and “can’t dos,” and all of the causes and isms you have to juggle in your head and heart, if you are going to regarded as a good and righteous person in the eyes of America’s moral zealots. It seems a week doesn’t go by without new demands and new rules about what is and it not acceptable behavior, what is and what is not offensive, what is and what is not inclusive, what is and what is not sexist, racist, and bigoted.

          The Lord God was content to simply give us Ten Commandments, knowing that a proper understanding of those Ten “Thou shalls and Thou shall nots” would yield the kind of response we see modeled for us in the Epistle reading for this morning.

          St. Paul, 14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. . . 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. . . 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

          The political ruling class, the Hollywood elite, leftist news activist, and all the other groups who continually demand we comply with their definition of righteousness, can’t live up to their own demands. Jesus had something to say about these kinds of people in Matthew 7:2 “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”  In such a system, there is no peace between God and sinner.  There is only judgment, unrest, hardship, and burden.

          This is the point of Jesus’s invitation to come unto Him. Christ bears what is too heavy for us, that is the Law. Jesus did not and does not kowtow to the demands and expectations of sinful man. His concern was to fulfill God’s Law, His Ten Commandments in all righteousness in your stead, so that you would not be made to bear the burden of self generated righteousness.

          In Christ Jesus God acts on our behalf, bearing the burden and punishment of the Law. Then according to God’s good pleasure (v 26), He reveals to us the mystery of His kingdom through the Word and Sacrament ministry. Through faith, we receive the forgiveness of sin and the blessings of Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection.

          Paul, like every Christian was a living contradiction! He longs to be doen with sin, yet he cannot free himself from it. So also with you and with every Christian. We are all living contradictions, Christians who delights in the law of God, but who violates that law time and time again.

          St. Paul was tired!  He’s tired of himself! He’s tired of the contradiction! “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The answer of course is Christ. “Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Having given the entire struggle into the hands of Jesus Christ who has rescued St. Paul from his body of death, he goes on to wright Romans 8:1 “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

          Christians, we do what is good and right for the well being of our neighbor, but fight with every ounce of your being against the demands, rules, regulations, accusations, and all the rest of the modern religious zealots who seek to take you captive to their laws demands, and why?” So that they will approve you righteous.

          Seek not the approval of man, but know that you already have the approval, the very righteousness of God Himself.


May the Peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

Rest from the Law and World’s Demands
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