Responding to Jesus (Week 3)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath: Enter His Rest!”

Key Verses:  Matthew 12:1-14

 

Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for the weekend of July 11-12, 2020.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS!

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John 12:32 (ESV), which proclaims, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary, as the very next verse says, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we live in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross by exalting Him (lifting up His Name) in every aspect of our lives!

 

If you were here the last two weeks, you might remember that we talked about our responses to Jesus’ call are: 1) to believe in who He is and what He did to save lost sinners, 2) to exalt the name of Jesus above all other names and authorities, 3) to gather to Him and listen closely to His teachings, and 4) to follow Him and obey His commands. If you missed either of these previous messages, you can check out the videos and the blog notes on our website, www.newcastlefbc.com.

 

Here is the main point of today’s sermon: A person cannot experience the promised rest of God through either human effort or religious legalism; the rest of God can only be attained through a personal response to the gracious invitation of Jesus Christ, made possible through His shed blood on the Cross of Calvary. It is only by faith in Jesus that anyone can enter the rest of God.

 

Listen to Jesus’ gracious invitation, from Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor [tired, weary] and are heavy laden [burdened], and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly [humble] in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Last year, I spent eight weeks preaching this promise for rest, and I am again teaching it on Wednesday nights in the Chapel. You can go back and listen to all eight of those sermons on our webpage and you are personally invited to attend my Wednesday night class. 

 

Immediately following Jesus’ gracious invitation, Jesus illustrates His authority to do what He promises by demonstrating how He fulfills the Law of God in which sabbath, the ancient biblical principle of finding rest in God, is found. Unfortunately, sabbath understanding had become reduced to what you can and cannot do on a certain day of the week—Saturday for the Jews and now Sunday for many Christians, but even that is argued about, like everything else. Jesus gets us back to the heart of the matter. Let’s watch and listen to Jesus in Matthew 12:1-8,

 

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? [ref. 1 Samuel 21:1-6] Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ [cf. 1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalm 40:6-8; Isaiah 1:11-17; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8] you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

 

Jesus states two major truths about Himself: 1) in v. 6 “something greater than the temple is here” and 2) in v. 8, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Jesus is declaring His authority to fulfill His promise to give rest, within God’s Law (though not according to man’s additional 600 codified rules). Jesus is the fulfillment of Sabbath and the rightful, authorized Lord over it (not just Sabbath, but all of the Law as we saw in the Sermon on the Mount).

 

Jesus is the One to which the temple pointed. The story illustrates this in Matthew 12:9-14,

 

[Jesus] went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

 

Jesus’ action to heal the man with a “withered hand” on the Sabbath was Jesus fulfilling the original sabbath principle of God—to demonstrate trust in God to bring about rest for His creation, as it was originally intended. In healing this man, Jesus was pointing to the consummation of all things, when there would be no more withered hands in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21-22). The seventh day principle upholds our faith in the finished work of the Cross and our hope in the return of Christ to complete all things in Him. As it was in the beginning, so it will be in the end. Even though your current life circumstances under the sun do not invite rest, you declare your faith in this hope every time you rest in the Son, Jesus Christ!

 

While this could become a major off ramp opportunity for me to teach the whole “rest motif” of scripture from Genesis to Revelation, I will not do that, but I will say this: Jesus is reminding us that from “the beginning” God’s intended purpose of the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3) and the future commands to honor the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15) are to demonstrate God’s sovereign rule over all things (time, land, people) and our right response to trust Him by resting in Him and His work, instead of the work of our hands! To do otherwise is the definition of vanity of vanities, to chase after the wind, as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes.

 

God’s rule over all creation is not ushered into the world by us slaving away—the anxious toil of Psalm 127:1-2—as if we were still in Egypt working under heavy taskmasters who make impossible demands of us, and in so doing ignoring the damage our lack of sabbath rest is doing to us, our families, and our culture. The Kingdom of God is ushered in through us resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is only through Jesus Christ being lifted upon the Cross that anyone can come to God and “find rest for their souls” (the ancient promise of Jeremiah 6:16, quoted by Jesus in Matthew 11:29). To sabbath is to publicly protest against the Pharaohs of this world and the gods of commerce that they serve, and to declare your loyalty (faith) in the God who not only modeled and commands rest for His people, but died so that we can enter it.

 

A thousand years before Jesus, the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Whose work will bring the exaltation of God to the nations and bring the blessing of salvation to the people of all nations? Let’s be clear, not your anxious toil… God’s finished work on the Cross of Calvary!

 

The dying blow to any missionary or pastor, church or gospel ministry is to put that burden square on themselves or on their people. As Paul said in Galatians 3:1-9,

 

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

 

We are all “weary” from the universal human experience of trying to make life work for us in a fallen world. And many of us are “heavy-burdened” by working hard to meet the requirements and/or expectations that religion and churched people put on us. Whether you are weary or heavy-burdened, sick or tired, or just plain old sick of being tired, you can “be still/cease striving” from all further humanistic or legalistic efforts to please God and be pleasing to people.

 

Collapse into the arms of Jesus Christ, who graciously invites you: “Come to Me, [all y’all]…”

 

Jesus’ actions on that Sabbath in Matthew 12:1-14 were not in rebellion to the sabbath commandment, but it was a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders addition of “works of the Law” by which no one can be saved [ref. Gal. 3:10-14, Paul’s way of saying, “legalism” because there was no Greek word for the concept]. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, He did not come to abolish the Law, but in fulfilling it to remove the addition of these “works of the Law” (i.e. religious legalism). In adding “works to the Law”, as they did in so many other places, they missed the real purpose of God’s Law, as Jesus said to them, “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (Mt. 12:7; cf. Hebrews 10:5-10). They missed the invitation of God to yoke with Him through faith, as Abraham had done in faith (ref. Galatians 3; cf. Hebrews 11). In doing so, they cut themselves off from God and put heavy burdens on others. Jesus came to offer them a new way to walk in the ancient paths of God—and that way is Himself, empowered daily by the Holy Spirit.

 

Instead of teaching people to walk with God through faith, the religious leaders had cut them off from the life in God’s Spirit by burdening them with teachings and additional commandments that were far too heavy for even them to shoulder.

 

Listen to Jesus’ scathing rebukes of these religious leaders in Matthew 23:4, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Again in Luke 11:46, “And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”

 

It is only in Christ that we can enter rest. As the author of Hebrews 4:8-11 explains, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”

 

Why does the author of Hebrews say we must “strive to enter that rest” and Psalm 46:10 state, “Cease striving and know that I am God”? Is there a contradiction in the scriptures? No, allow me to answer this by using Paul’s words from Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

This is essential to you being able to apply this lesson: The rest of God is not first to be found in our outward rhythms of work and rest, but preeminently in the inward movements of our heart and mind to trust God (faith) and move closer and closer to Him every day. I am prescribing rest to you through the life of obedience that comes from faith empowered by the Holy Spirit, not the “works of the Law” empowered by the flesh. If you are finding physical and mental/emotional rest difficult (i.e. taking a day off from working and ceasing from worrying), then how much more must you start with rest for your soul. It is only in Christ that you soul; hence, your brain and heart will be delivered and rescued from the deceptions of the world, the wickedness of our own desires, the lies of humanism, and the corruption of religious legalism. These are all yokes!

 

Strive to enter into the rest than can only found in the truth of Jesus who sets us free from all these other yokes by giving us the truth (John 8:32). As Paul expressed this truth so clearly in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Break the yokes of the world and get into Christ’s yoke. The rest of God is found only in Jesus Christ because “Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath: Enter His Rest!”
 
 

Listen to the Message here:

 

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