Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy burden.” The following is a sermon transcription that help us understand we all need rest in Jesus.
Come and I will Give You Rest
(adapted from a sermon by Pr Peter Shee)
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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.” (Matt 11:28-29)
These words of our Lord Jesus Christ are to those who labour and are heavy laden. They apply to most people because the world is getting busier. People are overworked and Christians are not spared either. Knowing our needs, Jesus made the first move to come to us. He comes providing the solution but does not wish to force it upon us. Instead He calls us to come before Him that we may receive rest. Jesus has come to bless people; and as long as we are willing to go to Him, He will receive us with open arms (John 6:37-38).
The question is: are we willing?
Coming before the Lord is actually coming before Him to receive blessings, not just the physical act of attending church services. We have to come because He is the only answer to our needs. Nonetheless, there are many reasons that prevent us from truly coming to Christ and finding true rest in Him.
Attractions of Distraction
While the world is getting busier, it is also offering many attractive ways to relax. In the evenings after work, people visit nightspots or wander about town. Some people visit the gym to work out; others sit in front of their computers. This myriad of activities competes with the solace that Christ offers us and this has had a direct impact on church service attendance. We see less people coming for evening services while morning Sabbath and Sunday Youth services are becoming increasingly difficult to promote. Yet if we do not come to the right place to receive solace and the peace of Christ, we will suffer mental, physical and spiritual fatigue. Thus even among Christians we see many people who are stressed-out and overworked.
Stone of Stumbling/Rock of Offence
Jesus once said, “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea”(Mark 9:42).
Yet in Matthew 11:6, He declares: “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” The word ‘offended’ should be translated as “stumbled” as it is closer in meaning to the original language. In other words, “Blessed is he who does not stumble because of Me”. Jesus is the unique case. This is what Peter wrote about Him:
Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone”, and “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” (1 Pet 2:6-8)
On one hand, Jesus is the solid rock on which we stand and take shelter in its shadow for safety; He is the chief cornerstone on which the entire building is built. On the other hand, He is also a stumbling stone that people may kick and stumble over. In His life on earth, Jesus said many things that brought grace on people. But there were also instances where Jesus spoke strange and harsh words. The Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:26 and the Pharisees in Matthew 12:1-14 are two clear examples of this. What matters is if these people stumbled in faith or as a result actually displayed greater faith in Him.
One positive example is found in John 3:1-21. When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, He spoke in a manner that we might have taken offence. Unlike us, Nicodemus was not offended. Initially, Nicodemus approached Jesus with some level of admiration, but Jesus, disregarding it, said, “I tell you truly, unless one is born of water and the spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” This implied that Nicodemus was outside the kingdom of God unless he made certain changes in his life. Jesus used the phrase “I tell you truly” to emphasize the gravity of these words.
When Nicodemus couldn’t understand this saying, Jesus criticized him: “You call yourself a teacher of the Jews and yet you did not know such things about being born again?” Nevertheless Nicodemus did not stumble because he was spoken harshly to or found it hard to understand the teachings. Neither of these things caused him to stumble. Although Nicodemus was a disciple in secret, he remained faithful till the end, bringing spices for Jesus’ burial after His crucifixion (John 19:39).
On the other end, a negative example is that of the 5000 people Jesus fed. Jesus had not spoken harsh words to them; nonetheless His words were strange and difficult to accept, causing many to turn away.
In John 6:22-25, the multitude having been filled in the stomach followed Jesus everywhere He went. Wanting to make sure that they followed Him for the right reason, Jesus then expounded on deeper teachings. These words were not harsh in anyway, but the concepts such as “My flesh is food” and “My blood is drink” were simply too much for them to accept.
After speaking these things, Jesus perceived that His disciples too struggled with this concept. He said to them, “Does this offend you?” (John 6:61). Again, this is the same word that was used in Matthew 11. “Does this offend you” should read as “does this stumble you?” John 6:66 tells us: “from that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more”. Earlier on Jesus had said, “Whoever comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” Yet, instead of coming, they chose to go away from Him. They loved the loaves and fishes but they did not love the Bread of Life in Heaven.
Ponder over this for a while: Are we like these people? Even as Christians, baptized and with the Holy Spirit, sometimes we stumble when faced with difficulties. We may question in our hearts: why is it that after becoming a Christian, God’s blessings are still not apparent? Perhaps immediately after believing in Jesus, God’s grace to us may seem abundant. Our children excel in school and are obedient, our businesses prosper and everything is alright. However that is just like eating the loaves and fishes.
When it comes to keeping the word of God, we lament that life is increasingly difficult and it is hard to be a Christian. We bemoan Sabbath day services and how strict our church is. We come on the Sabbath wanting to hear words that will comfort the soul but instead hear many harsh demands. We think that the demands of the bible do not accord with the harsh realities of life and are hence impossible to keep. Sometimes we look at the preacher and think he is only speaking from the pulpit, and will never understand or go through the things that we do. It is these harsh sayings of Jesus Christ, declared from the pulpit, that appear to be at odds with reality and cause certain people to stumble. Such people are those who depart from Jesus because they cannot accept Him and His word.
Come to Lord Jesus
If we want to come to the Lord Jesus, these are some things we can do.
Seek Him Solely
Prior to John the Baptist’s imprisonment, he had been introducing people to the Lord Jesus, declaring to them:“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29) However, while he was imprisoned, he heard of the wonderful deeds of Jesus but his faith was not strengthened. Instead he sent his disciples to confirm if Jesus was the Coming One. “And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Mt 11:3-4)
If Jesus was not who they were searching for, then they would look for another. It is ironic that the Jews, first to know of the coming of the Messiah still await Him to this very day. While many in the rest of the world have already accepted Jesus as their Saviour, the Jews themselves are still looking for another messiah.
Likewise, there are people in the True Jesus Church, still looking around for a better church elsewhere. Should we look for another one? Rather than harbouring doubts like John did, we should go to Jesus without delay because He is the answer to all our problems. So first, do not look for another. Make no hesitations; Jesus is the One. The True Jesus Church is the True Church.
Submitting to God
“But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying:
‘We played the flute for you,
And you did not dance;
We mourned to you,
And you did not lament.’” (Mt11:16-17)
Jesus was describing the people during that time. He was very direct, accusing them of being unable to cooperate with God. When He called out to them, they did not answer. When He played the flute, they did not dance. It was as if His words had fallen on deaf ears. Today, do we treat the words from the pulpit like this? How do we regard the message spoken, and do we actually listen and apply the message in our daily lives? How willing are we to submit to God? Or do we make excuses not to follow Him?
DO NOT FIND EXCUSES
‘For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”’ (Matthew 11:18-19)
What Jesus was essentially saying here was that people were finding excuses not to accept the message of God. When the Jews saw John abstaining from wine and other comforts, they accused him of being demon possessed. On the other hand, when they saw Jesus eating and drinking just as they were, they found fault with Him as well.
Matthew 22:1-14 records of a parable about people who found excuses not to come to God. In the parable, a king held a wedding feast for his son, inviting many guests. However no one accepted his invitation. Thus he sent messengers to remind the invited guests to come. Unfortunately, they made excuses telling the king that their farms and businesses were more important. More shockingly, when the king reminded them, they actually murdered his messengers. We probably will not see such a thing occurring in real life, but Jesus spoke this parable to tell us how this has happened between God and us. Jesus has made the invitation over and over again. If we go, we will not have to wait because this feast of salvation has already been prepared. Sadly, we often drag our feet to come to this banquet or are not there at all. We should never refuse the invitation of Jesus. We should not make excuses. Instead, we should submit our hearts to His will.
Today the feast comes in the form of church services. Weekly services are planned and prepared, but are we willing to come for these services?
The Spiritual Meetings twice every year are feasts for us to come to rest as well. Are we willing to take leave to come? Are we willing to come for the full 3 days of the Spiritual Meeting? Over the years the attendance for the Morning Prayer session has been poor. In the first session, less than half are in attendance, and it is only close to lunch that almost everyone has come. Some of us are willing to make sacrifices to come. One of our brother who works as security guard had to work on a public holiday, but took leave on the public holiday so that he could attend the Spiritual Meeting. This heartwarming act of faith is in direct contrast to the many of us who also make excuses as to why we cannot attend church services. The common excuse used is that we are busy. We fail to see that it is precisely because we are busy that we need to come to Christ to receive rest for our souls. God will not cause us to lose anything if we were to come. We have everything to gain.
Enter into God’s Word
When Jesus Christ said, “you who labor and are heavy laden” it was a reflection of the Jews’ slavery in Egypt. When the people of Israel were led into the promise land, God said that He has given them rest (Joshua 21:44). In Egypt the Israelites toiled and labored yet did not have enough to eat. Canaan was a land flowing with milk and honey. When they were brought into the land, God said that He had given them rest because they lived in cities that they did not build, and ate of things that they did not plant (Joshua 24:13). In reality even in the wilderness they did not need to work for food. Everyday food fell from the sky, and when they were thirsty, the water from the rock quenched their thirst. They did not have to labor for their food. The Manna they had is a symbol of bread from Heaven, the word of God. Jesus compared Himself to the manna. In the wilderness, they had manna, and when they entered the promise land, they had milk and honey.
Peter likens God’s words to milk. As newborn babes, we should yearn for the milk of God’s words so that we grow thereby. In Psalms 19, it tells us the word of God is more to be desired and sweeter than honey. The word of God is like milk that is meant for us to be strong, and like honey that is for us to enjoy. The question is: have we really entered into God’s rest? Have we entered into God’s word? If we have entered into God’s word, then it will strengthen us in our weariness. When we enter into God’s word, it calms our nerves because it takes away our worries. Worrying makes people more sick and tired than actual physical labor, but the cure for this is the word of God. Just like the Israelites entering the land of milk and honey to receive rest, when we enter into the word of God, we enter into His rest.
Hebrews 4:1-6 tells us of the relationship between the word of God and rest. The word was preached to them but it was not mixed with faith, so they did not obey, and thus could not enter into God’s rest. Now the gospel is preached to us, mixed with faith. We believe, obey and therefore enter into His rest. This is what their entry into Canaan teaches us. Today, our entry into the Promised Land depends on how we respond to God’s word. This is the Promised Land. We have the word of God here, milk and honey, but do we rest in God’s words? Or are we still wondering about, not knowing where to find rest? Obedience enters us into that rest.
We Need Rest to be Healed
Today all of us are priests. Just as Jesus and his disciples kept the Sabbath, when we come to church on a Sabbath, we freely receive physical food and spiritual nourishment. Not only this, Jesus also healed the man with the withered hand, and this is what we can also receive when we come to Jesus on the Sabbath: healing.
Rest is a very good healing process. In Matt 11:5, Jesus answered John’s messengers by saying, “the blind see and the lame walk; lepers are cleansed…” If we come to Jesus, we will find rest for our souls. However if we are sick, how can we rest peacefully? When we are sick we have the burden of the sickness upon us. Should we choose to come to Jesus, all our sicknesses will be healed. For many people, after believing in Jesus, although their physical defects remain, they are changed in their minds and souls. It is a marvellous thing when we know how to come to Jesus because we are transformed. Jesus said when he saw Jerusalem: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem… How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37). If we really come beneath the wings of God, we will gain joy and satisfactions=”note” style=”text-align: justify;”>“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.” (Psalms 36:7-9)
This is the satisfaction and happiness that we have under the wings of God. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy burden.” Come and He will give us rest.
Do we want to come?