Archive for the ‘Zechariah 9:9-12’ Category

The Cross and the Yoke!

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost 4A, July 6, 2014

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“Come to me, all 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” [Matthew 11:28-30]

This morning, God has chosen to reveal a great and wondrous mystery to you… if you have been worn down by life, if your labors have seemed to zap you of strength and the joy of life, come to Christ and He will give you rest.  If you seem to be trapped by life circumstances and bad choices, come to Christ and He will give you rest.  But more than that He will set you free from the strongholds of your life and transfer you from a stronghold of hopelessness and death into a stronghold of joy and eternal life.

Are you ready to experience this?  Good, then all you need do is allow Jesus to place His yoke upon you; that is you must allow His life giving and life changing Word to transform and renew your mind, and then, you will have rest for your soul.

Now, before we get started remember this one bit of advice:  As you are listening do not allow the allure of the world to take your eyes off of Christ and His cross.  What ever the world may have in abundance will be forever lost, but what ever you may lose in this world because you follow Christ, that will be added to you in abundance on the day of Jesus Christ.  You can be sure of this, because Jesus Christ your Savior, your brother, and your God has assured it through “the blood of God’s covenant (His promise) with you.”  He has, He is, and He will set you free!

The invitation: This morning, Jesus shows you that the yoke that He places on you and the cross that you are given are in fact one and the same.  Now people who have set their hopes and hearts on the promises of this world and our sinful society will at once cringe and turn away from this kind of talk; they will say, “Why would I want to follow a Savior who only promises me hardship and pain?”  But that is a defective question; it is disingenuous.  Jesus does not promise only pain.  Pain is something that everyone experiences in this world; it goes hand in hand with the disappointments of sin.  So pain is always a reality in life, along with the fact that people and life will always disappoint you, but God will never disappoint.  What ever He promises you, He seals it as fact with the great AMEN, which is the very lifeblood of His Son Jesus Christ and His cross.

Supposed Wise and intelligent men and women who focus on only this physical world can not accept this promise of God’s blessing, because they can not accept the cross; not Jesus’s cross or their own.  They are filled with their own ideas, and so God finds them already filled and satisfied, and He can give them nothing.  They are those who say, “The idea of God is dead.” But you who gather this morning, are to be like infants, because you realize that you lack everything; you know that on your own you are empty and the world and society cannot fill you.  You are the poor that mourn and are meek; you hunger and thirst for righteousness.  You who have nothing will one day, on the day of Christ be given everything by God. [Matthew 5:3-6; Philippians 3:8]  You are those who can declare with certainty that, “God is not dead.  For I have tasted His presence and He is good!”

Dear friends, please know that this invitation is universal; that is it is for everyone, everyone who is willing to come like an infant and depend on the care and promises of our Heavenly Father.  Each of you who have responded to the invitation, must now also hear of the intent of God.  God the Father desires to place upon you the yoke of His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Yoke: If you find yourself drawn to Jesus with His invitation to come to Him for rest, then you have experienced the desire and power of God to draw all men unto His Son for eternal life. [John 12:31, 32] And it is that same power of God that will allow you to receive and live under the yoke of His Son that is placed upon your shoulders.  That yoke that He places upon you is faith to believe that God alone is your ever-present help; He alone is able to complete the good work of salvation and eternal life within you; and He alone will never leave nor forsake you.  The yoke that is placed upon you is meant to disconnect you from the load of guilt and fear of sin, death, and the devil, which the world gives, and instead place upon you the yoke that His Word alone places upon you; a Word that connects you to Jesus Christ. It is a yoke that always involves a strong declaration of faith in God’s presence and work in your life.  When we live under the yoke of God, we can declare happily, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him,” I also believe that in His Word and the message of the cross, God has called me to His Son, and He alone enables me to follow the way of the cross.

So what is the way of the cross?  It is the only way to find real rest; rest for this present life and the eternal one to come.  It is knowing that through the cross alone, you have a God who is for you and not against you.  It is knowing that you are God’s true child and an heir to the kingdom of heaven. [John 1:12-13; Galatians 3:26; Romans 8:17]  It is the assurance that your rest is even attended to and protected by holy angels. [Hebrews 1:14]

On the other hand, as we live our lives of faith, we acknowledge as God’s children that the high dignity of being a Christian is not fulfilled in this world; that is it is not displayed in a way that sinful flesh can understand.  Rather, the same humility and lowliness that was displayed in the life of Jesus Christ should also be displayed in a Christian’s earthly life.  And this imitation of our Lord, this bearing the burdens that God through our lives places upon us or allows to be placed upon us, is called the cross of a Christian.

Now those who reject Christ and His cross also have burdens and sorrows, but only the sufferings of Christians are called a cross.  What you dear Christian suffer as a Christian, as you live out your faith in Christ alone in this sinful world, that only can be called a cross of God.  If you follow Christ and confess the Gospel of Christ crucified, who is a stumbling block to the religious and an offense to the educated elite, you WILL receive the same treatment from the world that Christ and His dear saints before you received.

You have by faith through holy baptism, been forever connected to the cross of Jesus Christ; that is the burden He has placed upon you and it is also your own cross.  Your cross then is to be forever bound together with the Christian faith and the Church.  This is most certainly true, so true that who ever refuses to bear this cross of faith should no longer claim to be a Christian.

So, how should we view this cross that is ours to carry? Well, the truth is that if left on our own, our sinful flesh would consider this cross-bearing a burden to heavy to carry.  By your sinful nature, you are led to think that when the world mistreats you and you suffer because of your faith and desire to worship God as He leads you, you are not receiving what you should as God’s own child; as an heir to eternal life.  You may even be tempted to think that God has forgotten you or that He is against you.  But this way of thinking is a trick of the devil, and unless those kinds of thoughts are defeated and destroyed, you run the danger of loosing your faith and abandoning your eternal home in heaven. [Luke 8:13]

The only way to combat this faulty view is through God’s own means of grace.  The Word alone is able to create in us a new and clean heart; a heart that by faith understands that all things work together for our own good, because we love God and are called according to His purpose and not ours.  Scripture alone instructs us that we should not neglect the meeting of the saints, that is God’s Divine service in this place because it is there that He fills us with His gifts of faith, peace, and hope.  Scripture further instruct us that when we suffer because of our confession of faith in Christ by Word and works, the cross is for us a great testimony of the Holy Spirit’s power and work in our lives.  That is, how we live under our cross is a divine testimony to the world and the devil that we are not of this world; we belong to Christ.  Or, as St. Peter has said, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” [1 Peter 4:14]

So then, what is the purpose of the cross?  How does the cross benefit us? The cross in its simplest form is God’s way of leading Christians through this sinful world into eternal life; it is how God brings you to the place that Jesus has gone to prepare for you. [John 14:3]  It is the very thing that gives strength and proves true the words of scripture, which declare that, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”  But those same scriptures also bring us strength and a proper perspective to our cross, by saying that, He who “raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present (us) to himself. [2 Corinthians 4:14]  And, that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” [2 Corinthians 4:17]

But how can we have the strength to bear our cross? God’s Word teaches us that the strength to bear the cross comes entirely from His assurance that all of our sins are truly forgiven and we have already been given eternal life.  It is only you dear Christian who can experience the promise of God’s glory in a time of trouble; it is only you who will not perish in times of danger, suffering, sickness, fear, and pain.  It is only you who will bear it because the very promise of Christ empowers your faith.  What promise is that?  The assurance that His “yoke is easy and His burden is light.”

Dear friends, what can be lighter than a burden that unburdens sinful and fearful hearts?  What is lighter than a yoke that bears the bearer of a cross?  Hear this dear Christians, Christ’s burden does not oppress, threaten, or demand a thing from you.  In fact it makes the load light and itself bears the burden along with those of us who are under the load.

Perhaps there is no greater load to carry than the load of sins past, present, and future.  “Come unto me,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest.”  That is He removes that burden of sin, so that you may continue to live your life by faith in what He did for the entire world upon the cross, and for the gift that He gave to you in Holy Baptism.  You are free, forgiven, and equipped for a purpose.  That purpose is to glorify God in thought, word, and work.  On one hand you struggle under the cross of acknowledging your sin and you say along with St. Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” [v. 19]  “(Oh) wretched (person) that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  But then also with St. Paul, the truth you declare and the life you live in service to God and your neighbor declares, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” [vs. 24, 25]

Dear friends, God does not want to attack or torment us, but the devil does, and he cannot stand your dependence on God’s Word and your faith in Christ.  There is nothing he hates more than our faith in God’s Word. It is only the Word of God that exposes him, and leaves him nowhere to hide. The more you are in God’s Word, the more the devil will attack you.  He will use your friends, family, employer, and even the government as tools to trick you into abandoning the promises of God and the gifts of hope and strength that God gives to you in His Divine Service here at Christ’s church.  But be of good courage and do not give an inch, because Christ fights for you, and His very Word assures you that Christ and His cross have overcome your enemies, your own grievous sins, even your own death, and especially the devil.  AMEN!

But For the Grace of God…

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Palm Sunday B, April 1, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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If you were in Jerusalem on the day Jesus made His triumphant entry, would you have been part of the crowd that gathered to greet  Him with loud Hosannas?  Probably so; you see it was the simple everyday people like you and me that were attracted to Him.  They  liked the idea of Jesus being the Messiah, the son of David, because He was a simple man; one of them.  He was the underdog, and you  know how we all like to support our underdogs!  But they also were attracted to the mysterious side of this son of David; they were  attracted to the miracles He performed, and the fact that the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious party couldn’t explain or refute the  miracles.  Yes, I think we would have been there that day.  I believe that God’s Spirit would have drawn each of us out to shout loud  hosannas!

But there was another group that went out to see Jesus.  They weren’t there to cheer for Him and admire Him; no they were there to  plan His death.  You see, they had a man on the inside so to speak; Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve that made up Jesus inner-circle.  He  would be the tool they would use to trap Jesus and arrest Him in the dead of night, when all of these crowds weren’t around.

So that we can understand all that was getting ready to happen in that first holy week, we have to go back a few days in time; back before Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Lazarus has already been raised from the dead in the little town of Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem.  The entire town is alive with the exciting news that Jesus raised one of their favorite son’s from the grave.  So they wanted to have some kind of recognition for this great day; there must be a formal celebration.  A man named Simon, who Jesus cured of leprosy offered his spacious home as party central.  There must have been a lot of people at this party, and while we don’t know everyone who was there, we do know through all of the gospel accounts, especially John chapter 12, who some of them were.  There gathered around the dinner table with Jesus, was of course the host Simon the Leper, Lazarus who was raised from the dead, Martha and Mary his sisters, and of course the twelve apostles, including Judas Iscariot, the mole, the Sanhedrin spy!  I think that we can easily identify with each of these people.  Let’s see if I’m right.

You are like Simon because as He was healed of his physical leprosy, you too have been healed of your spiritual leprosy, your sins.  You are no longer an outcast, separated from God’s love for His people; you are one of His people, one of His children who are invited to the Lord’s Table..  Because of all of this, you gladly open your heart and home to Jesus!

You are like Lazarus, because you too were once dead in your sins; lost forever to the living, but by the grace of God you are now alive and no longer lost but found, and because of that you are eternally grateful!

You are like Martha and Mary too, because you can celebrate new life for someone you love.  We all have someone we love who has been saved in baptism!  Because God is faithful in providing, you too have resolved to be faithful in your service towards Him with your time, talent, and treasure!

And you are also like the apostles.  Sometimes you feel so blessed to be a part of Jesus inner circle.  You see God working so mightily among us and within you that you just want shout glory!  You want to praise Him and get lost in worship.  But other times, in the dark times you can get confused and discouraged.  Like the apostles, when Jesus talks about suffering and death, carrying the cross and humbling yourself as a servant of all, you can begin to feel lost and frustrated; maybe even terrified. And when these moments come, all we can do is gather around God’s gifts, His Word and Sacraments and let go of everything else, all of the distractions, fears, and worries, and just worship Jesus.

Mary, the sister of Lazarus knew how to worship Jesus.  She opened a very expensive bottle of ointment and poured it over Jesus body.  This anointing she performed wasn’t some empty ritual performed to impress  others.  No, it was an act of the heart; an act of worship and adoration.  But Jesus tells us that it was also much more than this; He tells us that it was also an act of prophecy, because Mary was anointing His body for burial.  Mary alone recalled the many times Jesus said He was going to Jerusalem to die; that He was going to be lifted up high on the cross so that by His stripes, by His death we may all be healed.

What a beautiful act of worship; it was an act that was not understood by the others at that party.  And if it were not for the grace of God, Mary would not have understood either, but God made sure that she did; He made sure of this understanding because Jesus proclaimed that from that point on her story would be told wherever the gospel is proclaimed, and so now you too understand the significance of her act of worship!

The others at the party must have been confused  by what Mary did, but because Jesus allowed this act of adoration to proceed they were silent, everyone that is but Judas!

And now I must point out that we are all a little like Judas as well.  I know you would rather see yourself in Mary’s place, because she is the picture of pure worship.  But the truth is we can be a lot more like Judas.

When Leonardo da Vinci was painting his masterpiece The Last Supper, he looked long and hard for someone to model for his Christ. At last he located a man from one of the local churches in Rome who was very handsome, a young man named Pietro Bandinelli.  Well years passed, and the painting sat unfinished. All the disciples had been painted except one—Judas Iscariot. Da Vinci looked many years for a man whose face was hardened and distorted by sin—and at last he found a beggar on the streets of Rome with a face so villainous, da Vinci himself shuddered when he looked at him. He hired the man to sit for him as he painted the face of Judas on his canvas. When he was about to dismiss the man, he said, “Can you tell me your name.” “I am Pietro Bandinelli,” he replied, “I also sat for you as your model of Christ.”

Yes each of us still carries around with us our sinful nature just as Judas did.  We love it when the crowds run to our church on Easter Sunday and pack the pews.  We love to see the potential of a large and successful congregation.  We love to see money coming in during the offerings, because not only will we be able to pay the bills but we can do oh so much for God with it.  We can help Jesus build His church!  But when the crowd is small, or the offerings on Sunday seem insufficient, we can become discouraged.  When the worship time doesn’t meet our expectations, when the experience doesn’t meet our needs we will either run away or manipulate events so that we can make Jesus church serve our needs and desires.  And when we go down this road of self-service, we are doing the very thing Judas did.  We are ignoring the example of our Savior Jesus Christ who being God took on the form of a servant, and humbled Himself by putting others first, even sinners.  And He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Mary I think had a glimpse of this, but Judas could not understand because he would not!

Instead, Judas saw this simple act of worship from Mary as a lavish waste; he saw it as an unnecessary ritual.  As the sweet smell of the perfumed ointment filled the room, there was another odor that overwhelmed it; it was the vile odor of Judas’ poison.  “Why was the ointment wasted like that?  For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denari and given to the poor.”  And as Judas’ poison filled the room, the sweet aroma of worship for the great “I AM” was replaced by the stench of “I want!”  One by one, the other apostles began to be overcome by this poison as they agreed with Judas.  The hour of worship was over for them; it was disrupted by the demon of greed!

Then Judas Iscariot got up and went and found the chief priests in order to betray Jesus.  Judas would latter, because of his betrayal take his own life.  He would die in his sins and pay the eternal penalty for them.

Now, if you are feeling guilty at the truthfulness of these words, please take time to thank God right now.  You see, your guilt is the very proof that you are not like Judas at all; you are not a child of sin but a child of grace, forgiven and loved by God because of your faith in Jesus.  Guilt is the one thing that Judas did not feel, because He would not allow God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to bring him new life.  He had no remorse because he had no faith, and because he had no faith, he would never know the forgiving love of God!  And because Judas could not experience God’s forgiving love through Jesus Christ, he would never understand why Mary worshiped Jesus the way she did!

But you know God’s love because like Mary, you can see the need for Jesus to go to the cross for you.  You know that while Jesus was riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, in His heart He was already experiencing the agony of the cross, and you know that He does it all for you!  You know and have tasted His forgiving grace.  And because of this grace, you know what Good Friday and Easter mean.  They mean that on God Friday when Jesus died, He died for you and your sins.  And on Easter morning, when He rose from the dead, He rose for you… He rose so that you would know that one day you too will rise from the dead.  He rose so that you would know and trust in Him alone.  And that is why you will never be a Judas!

A man once asked a pastor, “Why did Jesus choose Judas Iscariot to be his disciple if He knew he would betray Him?” Rather than explaining all of the theological significance of the act, the pastor simply replied, “I do not know, but I have an even harder question: Why did Jesus choose you and me?”  But for the amazing grace of God, when we see Judas we can say that could have been me!  I could have been the one to betray my savior.  Forbid it Lord and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil… in Jesus name… AMEN!

Yes, It Really Is That Simple!

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Eight Sunday in Pentecost, July 6, 2008

Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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“Come Unto Me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” [Matthew 11:28]

INRODUCTION: We Americans don’t like the thought of being held captive by anyone, and the historical proof of this is that 232 years ago, the Declaration of Independence was issued, dissolving the colonies’ subjugation to King George III by proclaiming that all people are created equal with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Today, over 2 centuries after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we may be free from the tyranny of King George, but our nation has witnessed and is still dealing with many other kinds of tyranny and captivity. Terrorism, war, broken families, crime, and racism; these are all signs that tyranny is still at work in this great nation of ours!

Today, it is my privilege to proclaim to you that because of what Jesus Christ has done for you, you’ve been freed from the GREATEST form of captivity and tyranny, SIN!  And today, it is my duty to proclaim to you that there is nothing within you that God would look at and determine that you deserve His passion or His gift of salvation … NOTHING… but as our savior hung on the cross, as He was suspended between heaven and earth, He willing took on your sin and exchanged it with the perfection of God!  And as He hung there, He cried out unto the Father and the whole creation, “IT IS FINISHED!” These three Words were both your declaration of independence from God’s Law that judges you deserving of death because of your many sins, and they are your declaration of dependence upon God’s mercy.  It is God’s love that calls out to you in the midst of your many sins and says, “Come Unto Me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  

I.  With all of this being true, why do we constantly seem to be overcome by sin?  Why do our sins and the sin of others seem to rob us of the joy of Christ’s gift of salvation?  Listen to St. Paul’s words in our Epistle lesson and see if they ring true with you: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want to do is what I keep on doing” (vs.19) “I delight in the Law of God in my inner being, but I see another law waging war against my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Vs. 22-25)  We’re a peculiar bunch of people, we Christians!  We hunger for God’s protection and perfection in our lives, yet it seems we constantly fall short of the mark!  We seem to constantly fall into sinful habits that non-Christians enjoy so much yet when we engage in the same activity, not only are we unable to find satisfaction in these things, but they also become a trap, even a prison that takes away our joy.  In short, …WE BECOME MISERABLE!  Why?  Because we are acting outside of Christ’s nature that was provided for us at the cross and then wrapped around us in our baptism!   

The story is told of a lamb and its mother, who passed a pigpen each morning on the way to the pasture. Watching the pigs wallow in the mud seemed like fun to the lamb. On an especially hot day the lamb asked its mother, “May I jump the fence and wallow in the cool mud with the pigs?” The Mother replied, “No.” And the lamb asked, “Why not?” The mother simply stated, “Sheep do not wallow!” Well, this didn’t satisfy the lamb. He felt his mother had no reason to refuse. As soon as she was out of sight, the lamb ran to the pigpen and jumped the fence. He felt the cool mud on his feet, his legs, and his stomach. After a while he decided he had better go back to his mother, but he couldn’t do it. He was stuck! His thick wool was weighed down with heavy, sticky mud. His pleasure had become his prison. He was a hostage of the mud. He cried out and the kind farmer, his owner, rescued him. When he was cleaned and returned to the fold, his mother said firmly: “Remember, sheep do not wallow!”   

Well sin is like the mud in that story. It looks so inviting, and appears easy to escape from whenever we wish. But, because of God’s Law at work in our hearts, which is like the wool, we don’t find pleasure, but only pain! What seemed like pleasure becomes our prison. Because we sin, because we are born in sin and because we sin daily, we are held captive under the Law.  We are caught in what the prophet Zechariah in our Old Testament lesson called the waterless pit. (Zech. 9:11)  This waterless pit was a dry well that was used in biblical times as a sort of jail cell.  Once in, there was no way out accept if someone (your jail keeper) were to lower you down a ladder of some sort. 

Friends, for us, our waterless pit is the Law of God that says, “Thou shalt… Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul.  You must always put God and His will first in your life!  Thou shalt love your neighbor as you love yourself.  You must put the needs of your family, friends and neighbor at a level that is equal to or above your own.”  Oh what wretched people we are!  We try and try to do what the Law says we must but instead of victory we run into failure after failure.  Who will deliver us from this prison of death?  “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” 

We hear Him now, at the mouth of the pit calling down to us, “Come unto me, you who have been laboring to free yourself from your prison of sin and guilt, and I will give you rest.”  He calls to us and says, “Here friend, here is the ladder of my grace that you will need to leave the prison of the Law.  But before you climb up to me, set your burden down and leave it there in the pit.”   “Now that’s odd” we think, “I wonder what burden He’s talking about?”  Reading our minds, He replies, “I’m talking about the heavy burden on your back!  Friend, at least take it off and look inside to see what you are carrying.”

Now this is where our Savior gets personal. We don’t want to look inside, because what’s in there is hidden for good reason-it’s embarrassing!  We might even try to down play the weight of our burden by replying, “Oh that thing?!  Well that’s nothing.  I can manage climbing out of here and still carry the weight.  Don’t worry about me.”  But now Jesus is no longer at the top of your prison calling down to you, He’s right there with you.  And He takes off your burden and opens it.  Inside each burden, you will always find two very heavy things…

II. Pride and discouragement.  If there is one word that adequately describes the average American it would be pride.  We have many reasons to be proud.  We are proud of our country, which is One nation under God.  We are proud of our brave men and women who valiantly fight and sacrifice their lives for our freedoms.  We are proud of our work ethic, which says along with the Ford Motor Co. that quality is job one.  These are all great attributes that we can and should be proud of, but there is another kind of American pride that is not so admirable.    It is the kind of pride that says, “I’ll be fine.  I can do it myself.”  Young people, your grandparents called this “lifting yourself up by your own bootstraps” and today we say that we “are an army of one.”  Pride says, “I got myself into this mess; I don’t need any help and I can get myself out of it.”  But to our pride Jesus says, “(No friend.  You must do this my way) and then I will give you rest.” 

There is another burden within our sack that we must surrender to the Lord, and that is discouragement.  Discouragement is a burden because it is a sin; it is a sin because it’s a loss of faith in God’s mercy and love.  Discouragement says, “Oh Lord, I’d like to put this burden down and climb out with you, but I’m so tired.  And you know Lord, I’ve tried to come out so many times before, but I just end up right back where I started.  No, I think I’ll just rest here a while and maybe someday give this freedom thing another shot.”  Friends, discouragement and pride are the very things that Jesus is asking you to give to Him today. But He won’t take them from you, you must give them to Him.  You must come to Him and surrender all of your burdens, and then He will give you rest.  He’s made it easy for you to trust Him by providing the very means that creates this trust; we call this trust faith.  He points you to His Word that gives you the faith to believe that each and every promise of rest and peace is for you and that it is true! He points you to the Baptismal font where He first saved you through the water and the Word, and He says, “I was there with you then and I am with you now.  Believe that I will always be with you!”  Why He even calls you to a Holy dinner where He invites you to feast on His very body and blood, where your faith is strengthened and He ensures you that all of your sins are forgiven!  And now that you are out of the pit and the captivity of sin, He has just one more thing to say to you…

III. “Now, 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.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (vs. 29a) Rest…Wonderful rest!  We all need rest.  In a world where sin, sickness, disappointment and death are all around us and even within us sapping our strength, rest is the one thing we know we can’t live without and at the same time it seems to be the hardest thing to find! Yet, when we first hear these Words, it might seem that Jesus freeing us from one burden only to give us another?  Could this be true?  Well, yes!  You see friends, the rest and the yoke are two pictures of the same blessing; Jesus is saying that when we take His yoke upon ourselves we will find true rest for our souls; in fact, we take this yoke when he gives us rest.  We know that this is true because we have experienced its truth in our lives already! 

We have already established that we no longer need to carry around with us things like guilt, shame, and discouragement.  In our confession today, we gave him these burdens when we confessed our sins.  And then, praise God, we heard and received the sweet words of absolution, “You are forgiven!” So, if you have faith in this truth, you already feel relieved; you’ve already “tasted and discovered that the Lord is good!” (Ps. 34:8; 1 Peter 2:3)  If you have already discovered by experience that the Lord is faithful and good, that He is a loving God, then you’ve already received His yoke. While he is giving us His yoke he is teaching us through experience that He is right there beside us; a gentle, humble, and loving God shouldering any load we encounter, so that we will know that He is right there working with us.

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, what can be lighter than a burden which removes burdens and a yoke which carries you?  Christ’s burden doesn’t oppress us, but instead it carries itself.  The yoke and Christ’s rest are just two sides of the same coin.  When you take one you have the other.  When we take on a new Master, and he lays on us a new load-but what a difference! 

Now we know that Christ yoke includes the burden of living out our lives under the blessings of His cross, and we know that when we live out His rest, we can expect difficulties just because we are walking with Jesus, but dear friends, all of this is more than counterbalanced by the power, help, strength, and consolation supplied by him.  By simply trusting in Jesus Words and following his gentle instruction we enjoy His grace, mercy, and peace because we are surrounded by His love.  When we let go and let God lead and teach us, then we can truly know freedom from all forms of tyranny, even sin, death and the devil.  Yes, it really is that simple…just let go and let God take over!

Let’s bow our heads in prayer.  Heavenly Father, we thank you that you have revealed all of these things to us your little children because of your gracious will.  Continue to show us how to give you all of the things that hold us back from trusting and walking with you and may Your Spirit, like a dove descend upon our lives and make us whole. 

In Jesus name…AMEN!