Jason Helopoulos / Nov 8, 2015 / Matthew 11:25-11:30
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Sermon Summary / Transcript
This is the holy and inerrant word of God:
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.”
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
I came to saving faith in college. Although I had not been a Christian, I grew up hearing the stories of the Bible. I knew about Adam and Eve, knew about Jonah and the whale, and knew that “Zacchaeus was a wee little man”. I had heard all of those stories, so it was eye-opening to me when I became a Christian in college and began sharing the faith with my roommate Marty. Marty was also an unbeliever, but he had never heard any of the stories in the Bible before.
I can remember one moment when I was telling him about Genesis 6: the account of Noah and the ark. He had literally never heard of Noah before. He asked me to tell him the story over and over. I probably told it to him four or five times. He would say, “So, God told someone to build something and how to build it?” And I would say, “Yes, Marty.” “And then He took all of these animals onto this thing?” “Yes, Marty.” “And He flooded the whole earth?” “Yes, Marty.” We probably went through this four or five times.
Marty was shocked by this story. Many of us have heard these stories from the Bible over and over, though, and (unfortunately) they have lost their shocking nature. Even sadder, though, is that many of us are no longer shocked by the great story of the Bible: the gospel. It’s old hat to us. It doesn’t stir us, move us, and delight us. It should, though, no matter how many times we hear it. It is shocking, and it’s meant to be shocking.
In our passage this morning (Matthew 11:25-30), Christ utters truths that are at the heart of the gospel. As we look at it, I want to point out three things these six verses: first, the shocking source of salvation; second, the shocking objects of salvation; and third, the shocking effects of salvation.
The Shocking Source of Salvation
At my home, we attempt to do family worship regularly. It’s not a big deal. We gather together as a family for ten or fifteen minutes and read a short portion of the Scripture together. Then we pray, and sometimes sing, together. Some nights, I’ll ask my family to do a prayer of thanksgiving. I’ll say to them, “Let’s thank God for some of the things that we’re grateful for in our lives and world.” I love prayers of thanksgiving in family worship because it gives me a little glimpse into my children’s’ hearts—and even my wife’s heart. I hear what they delight in, value, and love.
In our text, Jesus, the Son of God, is praying a prayer of thanksgiving to His Father. We get a glimpse into the heart of the Son and what stirs Him with joy in Father as we listen to this prayer. We’re taken, if you will, into the intimate chambers of the holy, triune God, and see why it is that the Son is thankful for the Father.
As a pastor, I have (on a few occasions) been in the room with a couple when one of them is breathing their last breaths of air and getting ready to pass from this world. It’s a sobering reality to be in there and listen as the spouse who is going to live begins to speak to the spouse who is dying. I have been a little uncomfortable in these moments, because the words are so intimate and the relationship is so close that it feels like I’m an intruder just by hearing these things. And yet, uncomfortability isn’t the only emotion I’ve experienced in those rooms. There’s also this emotion of privilege, of honor that this spouse is okay with me sitting there and hearing these intimate words—as they remind their wife or their husband of why they love them, of all these years that they have spent together, and of why they are thankful for them.
The Scriptures give us insights to the Son’s thankfulness for the Father and the Father’s thankfulness for the Son—this intimacy that they’ve enjoyed for all of eternity. What is it that the Son is thankful for? What is it that He delights in the Father because of? It’s shocking! He says, in verse 25:
“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…
He is thanking the Father, who He calls the Lord of heaven and earth. This is no accident. Christ thanks the Father, who oversees all of the heavens and the earth and has the entire universe under His authority, because He chooses to reveal the Son. He chooses to save some. It’s shocking.
Too often, we take this for granted. We think this is who God must be. He must be One who saves. Isn’t this part of God’s job description? Isn’t this who He is? He doesn’t have a choice! That’s simply untrue, and it’s foolish. He would have been just and right to leave us in our sins and damn us for all of eternity. He is, as Jesus says, the Lord of heaven and earth. The very act of salvation itself should be shocking to you.
He does not have to save, yet He chooses to save of His own sovereign, free choice and of His gracious will, as Jesus says in verse 26. He’s not cajoled, required, or forced. It’s an act of sheer grace. Shockingly, He is the source of salvation. And it’s shocking not only because He did not have to save, but it’s also shocking because we have no part in saving ourselves.
I have yet to meet an unbeliever who has a belief in life after death who doesn’t take one of these two truths and deny them. Either they believe that God must save and lets everyone into heaven, or they think that they can do enough good, right, or well that God will accept them into heaven. The gospel turns this worldly thinking on its head. Jesus says in verse 27 of our passage that:
…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 know the Son unless the Father reveals Him to you, and you cannot know the Father unless the Son reveals Him to you.
And yet salvation is only found in Him. Men through the ages have cried out that “This isn’t fair!” They’re shocked. They want to be able to come to God in their own strength—or at least contribute something—but they’re not the source. Not in the very least. He is. The Father is more distant than the next galaxy if Christ does not illumine our hearts and fill our spirits with the knowledge of the Father. And we are as ignorant of Christ and His beauty as a newborn babe is ignorant of calculus if the Father does not reveal the Son to us. Apart from His willing and His working, He remains hidden. He is the only source of salvation. You can’t study it and arrive at it. You can’t learn it. You can’t happen upon it. He must will and reveal it. He is the source.
He’s also the source in another way. Look at what Jesus calls us to in verse 28. He is not like Mohammed, who points you to Allah for salvation. He is not like Buddha, who points you to an idea for salvation. He is not like modern-day, self-help psychology, which points you within for salvation. He does the shocking thing. He doesn’t point somewhere else, but says, “Come to Me. Not ‘there’ is salvation, but ‘here’ is salvation. Not ‘there’ is God, but ‘here’ is God.” Jesus says:
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
“Come to Me.” He places Himself in the center. Don’t come to an idea, a building, or an ethic. “Come to Me!” Who says such things and actually means them?
Look at all the personal pronouns in this passage and be shocked. “All things have been handed over to Me. Come to Me, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me. My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Jesus invites the sinner to come into the school where, as one theologian said, “He is both the teacher and the core curriculum.” The shocking source of our salvation is God, who wills and ordains it, and who then points us to Himself in the person of His Son. This is the Father’s gracious will, Jesus says. You cannot be saved unless you know Him, you cannot know Him unless the Son reveals Him to you, and you cannot know the Son unless the Father reveals Him to you.
Now that sends all kinds of questions off in our head, doesn’t it? Some may be sitting here wondering, “Has God chosen me?” If you cannot know the Father without the Son revealing Him to you, you cannot know the Son without the Father revealing Him to you, and you cannot be saved unless you know them, how do you know if you are chosen? Jesus is no fool. He knows the anxiety that such a thought could create within us. Notice how He immediately follows this statement (verse 28). He doesn’t instruct us to figure out if we are chosen by God. He doesn’t encourage us to try to dive into the hidden will of God. He just issues a command: “Come. Come to Me.” It’s that simple.
My friends, if you come to Him, it is guaranteed that you are His. He willed it. If you trust in the Son of God for your salvation—in His perfect life and His death in your place—and if you come to Him in faith, then you are chosen. He willed it. You can rest. It’s the surest thing in the universe. The Son thanks the Father and delights in the fact that He is the source of salvation. He turns the world upside down that it might look up at Him.
The Shocking Objects of Salvation
“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…
It’s an odd statement, isn’t it? It’s not what we would expect. Those whom the Father chooses to reveal the Son to are not who we would expect. The Lord does not choose as man chooses. We see this time and again throughout the Scriptures.
Do you remember when Israel wanted a king? They were elated with the selection of Saul. He was bigger, taller, and stronger than all of the rest of the men in Israel. This is the man that the Israelites would have chosen. This is the man that we would have chosen. But he was a bad king. You will remember that God sends Samuel off to anoint the next king to follow Saul. He sends him to the house of Jesse. When he arrives, Jesse lines up his sons. Samuel walks up to the first son: the one who is tall, strong, and good looking. And Samuel says to himself:
“Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.”
(1 Samuel 16:6b)
But God said:
“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.
(1 Samuel 16:7a)
So on down the line Samuel goes. He goes to son after son and thinks “It must be this one.” “No,” the Lord says, “it’s not that one.” “So it must be this one.” “No,” the Lord says, “It’s not that one.” “It must be this one…” He gets all the way to the end, and it’s none of them. And Samuel says to Jesse, “Are these all of your sons?” It’s almost like Jesse has to remember he has another son. “Oh yeah, there’s one more. He’s the youngest—a ruddy little boy. We just send him out to watch the sheep.” And yet, David is the one that the Lord calls to Himself. The Lord says to Samuel, in that moment:
…the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
(1 Samuel 16:7b)
The gospel turns the world upside down. The objects of salvation are shocking. He chooses, as Christ says, to reveal salvation not the wise and understanding, but to the children and the weak—to those who walk with a limp, those who are frail, those who we would not choose. We would choose the wise, the strong, and the intelligent, but God does not choose them. It’s because those wise and understanding by worldly standards tend to look to themselves, not God. That was Saul’s trouble, and is the trouble with many who are wise and understanding. They tend to think that they need no God.
Now, let’s be clear as to what Jesus is saying and is not saying. He’s not saying that God shuts the door of heaven to the intelligent. If He did, we’d better get out of this university town. Goodness’ sakes, this congregation is filled with Ph.D.’s. Christ is not saying that the door of heaven is closed to the intelligent.
He is saying that the door is shut to those who trust in their intelligence. Unfortunately, this is often the case for the brightest, most successful, and most accomplished in our world. They trust in the gifts rather than the Giver of those gifts. In essence, it is a forceful, independent spirit of pride, which hinders so many from entering through the gate of faith and repentance.
Do you remember the story of Nicodemus in the gospels? Nicodemus coame to Jesus, and they had a conversation. Do you remember what Jesus calls Nicodemus? He says that he was the great teacher of Israel. He is filled with knowledge and wisdom—and yet Christ told him that he must be born again. He must go back and start all over with nothing. He could not depend upon himself. He had to lay aside every ounce of human wisdom, knowledge, and teaching. He had to come empty-handed to God with nothing to offer, just like little children. Jesus uses babies as a metaphor for the weak, who the Father has revealed salvation to. Babies are the exact opposite of the wise and understanding. They are dependent, frail, and needy. They quickly look to another.
How needy are we? Jesus (in verses 28-30) uses the imagery of a man under a yoke. You’ve probably seen this on TV or in movies. It’s a wooden beam that goes across a person’s neck and shoulders. You can have ropes dangling from the sides, which allow you to carry this heavy burden upon your shoulders. That’s a picture of us. We’re sinners—and a man who knows himself to be a weak and frail sinner, a child, is a man who knows that he has a thousand weights upon his shoulders. He realizes the extent of his guilt and the cosmic rebellion that he has participated in. His heart sinks as it’s filled with terror of the judgment of God to come. He feels himself sinking, like a person trying to keep his head above the ocean waves as they roll in and keep beating him down.
Such a man does not boast that he is wise or understanding. Rather, he is desperate for someone to reach out and grab ahold of him. Jesus says to such people, “Come.” A man who knows he is sick goes to the physician. A man who is hungry goes to food. The sinner weighed down by sin goes to the Savior.
Are you tired? Are you bedraggled? Are you weary? Do you walk with a limp? Are you frail? When you look within do you see a sinner? Does it grieve you? Can you believe the thoughts that go through your mind, the desires that are in your heart, and the wickedness that shapes your cravings? Join the club. It has been true of all who are in Christ. We’re to see Him and come. Isn’t it shocking that it’s not those who have it all together that Christ calls and the Father grants salvation to? He calls children, the dependent, the broken and guilt-ridden, the tired and weary, and the heavy-laden.
There are a number of people in my life that I regularly pray for. Some of them I regularly pray for because they have not yet come to saving knowledge. They are still lost in their sins, and just aren’t aware of it. So I continually and constantly pray the same prayer for them: “Lord, bruise them but do not crush them. Bring them to an end in themselves. Drive them to see that they are destitute apart from You. Bruise them and shake them from this proud façade of independence. Oh, but Lord, do not crush them.” Does that sound like a harsh prayer? It’s a good prayer, because it’s the only way to salvation. As Richard Sibbs said:
“Better to go to heaven bruised, than sound to hell.”
Bruise but do not crush. This is the beauty of our Savior. He knows that we are weak and frail, and He deals gently and graciously with His people. As He says in verse 29,
I am gentle and lowly in heart,
He’s a good shepherd who takes His lambs, puts them upon His shoulders, and carries them. He is not a hard taskmaster. He is a lion to His enemies, but He is a lamb to His saints.
Isaiah 42 just pictures this beautifully. There’s a prophecy about Christ, where we are told:
…a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
We’re bruised reeds, not trees, and He knows. We’re weary children, not wise and understanding adults, and He knows. We’re tired and heavy-laden, not free and independent, and He knows. And He deals gently with us accordingly.
It’s a good thing to be weak and wounded, sick and sore. It’s a good thing to sense the weight of your guilt and corruption. It’s a good thing to come to the end of yourself, for it is the only path that leads to Christ. In fact, it is the path trodden with the footsteps of all the saints who have come before us. The weak, the wounded, the burdened, the sick, and the mourning—the objects of salvation are shocking, but such are we!
The Shocking Effects of Salvation
There are two effects we must note. The first has God in view, and the second has us in view. First, Jesus thanks God for hiding these things from the wise and understanding, and revealing them to children, because it magnifies the glorious grace of God. Calvin said this:
“In choosing little children rather than the wise, he has a regard to his glory; for the flesh is too apt to rise, and if able and learned men had led the way, it would soon have come to be the general conviction, that men obtain faith by their skill, or industry, or learning…therefore human wisdom is justly thrown down, that it may not obscure the praise of divine grace.”
Paul seems to be providing a commentary on this very passage (in Matthew) when he says this:
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
(1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
And then he says this:
30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; 31 therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:30-31 RSV)
The shocking objects of salvation are the weak declaring that the shocking source of salvation is God so that He might receive the greatest glory. Not us, but Him! Our low estate magnifies the glorious grace of God.
Let me see if I can illustrate this for you. Pastor Kevin thinks he is the most athletic pastor on staff here at URC. I grant you, the competition isn’t great. It’s just him and me. He does triathlons. What is that? It’s a little bit of running, a little bit of swimming, and a little bit of biking. My kids can do all of those things. And it doesn’t even involve a ball! I think he underestimates me. I don’t want to brag, but I have some skills in kickball. In elementary school, when I would get up at the plate, everybody in the outfield would back up, because I could kick that big bouncy red thing.
Let’s say we were going to have a kickball game here at URC. Kevin was going to be the team captain for one team, and I was going to be the team captain of the other team. I would, of course, give him the first pick, because I have the great advantage. He would probably pick the most athletic person in our congregation. Then when it’s my pick, I would pick that guy that no one wants. He has a broken arm, he’s blind in one eye, and he only has one leg—and it’s kickball! But I knew that! I fill my team with people just like him, but I do it with purpose. I fill my team with the weak, so that when I crush Pastor Kevin’s team, my wonderful talent at kickball will be magnified. You will see it.
Our low estate, being the weak, frail sinners we are—those walking with more than a limp—magnifies the glorious grace of God. It is a shocking effect of our salvation that God receives glory. Think about that: He calls to Himself the least of mankind and receives glory from it. He wraps up our salvation with His eternal glory! Imagine that!
I’m always blown away how God refers to Himself in the Scriptures, and especially in the Old Testament. He does this over and over. In Exodus 20, when He’s getting ready to give the Ten Commandments to the nation, He says to them, “I am the Lord your God.” Isn’t “I’m the Lord!” sufficient? Isn’t that enough? But He doesn’t stop there. He says, “I am the Lord your God,” He sees Himself in relation to us. He even defines Himself in relation to us. He glorifies Himself in relation to us. It’s shocking. He delights in being our Savior, and appoints our salvation as the chief means by which He receives glory for all of eternity.
Finally, the shocking effect of our salvation is that He grants us rest. Again, the world is turned upside down by the gospel. When the world thinks of salvation, it thinks of a carefree life, but that’s not what is granted in our salvation. It’s rest. A carefree life is what the world offers, but never delivers. That is what riches, vacations, and retirement offer, but never fulfill. Christ doesn’t even offer it. Jesus says that we are to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him. That’s not a carefree life.
Our battle against the flesh and against sin does not end in coming to Christ. No, in many ways, it has just begun. He says that we are to take His yoke and learn from Him. There is labor to be done. We are to learn from Him. We are being taught. We are to grow. We are to develop. We are to mature in Christ. Does that sound like a burden? Does that sound like you just exchanged one master for another? It is anything but. The yoke of Christ is not like the yoke of sin. As He says in verse 30, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
It’s not light because He demands less of us. He makes that very clear in the Sermon on the Mount. It’s lighter because He bears it with us. His yoke actually provides rest, not weariness, to those who serve Him. The least burdened man in the world is the man under the yoke of Christ. It is a sweet yoke. It is a pleasant yoke. It is a stunningly gracious yoke. As you come to Him, you are able to cast all your cares upon Him. Yes, your sin, but even more than that: your fears, your anxieties, your disappointments, your discouragements.
I think of Pat’s prayer that he just prayed—about how many of you have lost loved ones in the past two years. But it’s not just your burden to carry. He mourns with those who mourn, and He weeps with those who weep. Some of you struggle with severe anxiety and fear. He bears it with you. He is your Rock, your Refuge, and your strong Tower. There are many of you that are just exhausted. He mounts you up on the wings of eagles. He gives you strength, and will not allow you to grow faint.
We give our heavy burdens to Him, and He gives us a very light burden. We would get nervous if an adult in our congregation said that every day, when they got home, they dumped all of their problems upon their children at home: they told them all of their sins, fears, discouragements, and problems that they were having, expecting their child to carry that burden. We’d say, “That’s just too much. Your child can’t handle all of that.”
Even when you’re married…I have a spouse. She is my helpmate, and she can help to carry my burdens, but she cannot take all of those burdens. There are some that I just have to carry the brunt of—because if I don’t, I can overwhelm her and she can sink.
We need have no such fear about our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. We are to cast all our cares upon Him. We are to throw it all upon Him. He can withstand it. He can carry it. He can hold it. The weight is no longer ours. He bears it, and no matter how much we cast upon Him, He is still able to bear more. He can bear the weight of the world. More than that, He can bear the weight of all the sin of the world, for He is also Lord of heaven and earth. He will never crush us with His burden, and we will never crush Him with ours.
And the result? He gives the shocking promise, “I will give you rest.” It is not, “If you come to me, you can find rest. You may find rest. You might find rest.” It is, “You will have rest.” He grants it. It’s ours. It is a promise—not just for a season, a moment, or a day, but for all of eternity—of rest for our souls.
It is shocking. I think about my roommate Marty. He found all of these things shocking, but he didn’t go the step further. He never delighted in them. He never found joy in them. He never actually knew them. I pray that when you hear the gospel, it’s not “Oh, yes, I’ve heard that before” or “Yeah, it’s something that is shocking, but not something that gives me delight.” I pray it is something that moves your soul—that you can’t help but delight more and more in the Lord—that you find yourself, like the Son, going down upon your knees and thanking the Father in heaven for this unbelievable, shocking gift. Be shocked by the gospel, would you? Delight in your Father in heaven.