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07 Pentecost 04 Eight Sunday After Pentecost Matthew 11.16-30

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My friends, I greet you today in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our lesson comes to us from the 11th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.

You guys just don’t get it.  You are really missing the boat on this, one.  I mean it’s not that difficult, all the evidence is here, and yet, for some reason you just aren’t getting it.

These words could be a paraphrase of what Jesus is saying to the crowds in our Gospel lesson for today.  Because it is true, they just didn’t get it.  They saw the miracles he performed.  They watched as he healed sick people.  They observed as he drove out demons.  They were amazed at his teaching, he was unlike anything they had ever seen before, and yet, for some reason they just didn’t get it.  It must have been frustrating.  You know what that can be like, don’t you? You are either trying to explain something to someone else, or have them explain something to you.  It can be maddening. 

Chapter 11 is a very important chapter in Mathew, because this is where things begin to escalate.  Those who follow Jesus, and believe in him will follow him more closely.  Those who fall away from him, will fall further and further away.  You see Jesus is beyond what everyone was expecting.  He was not what the religious leaders were expecting in their search for the Messiah.  He was not what the people were expecting in their search for the Messiah.  In fact, at the beginning of this chapter John the Baptist, who was in prison, sends messengers to ask Jesus if he was really the Messiah, or should they begin to look for someone else?  Can you imagine? John the Baptist is the one who baptized Jesus.  But when Jesus got there John had said, that Jesus should baptize him.  Which gives a hint that John had some idea of what was going on.  But now, even he is asking questions, because things are simply not going as expected.

But then again, you know how that goes too, right?  You sit down to do an assignment, and instead of taking two hours to complete it took you six.  Or you go to do a project around the house.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  You start on Saturday morning, and even though it should only take an hour, it is now three a.m. and the drains aren’t hooked up, the paneling is off the wall, and your back is killing you. David and Emily got a swing set from their grandma.  I was looking of the directions, and in the spot where it tells you how long it will take to complete the project it just read, Ha. Ha. Ha. 

Jesus was not who the people were expecting.  He didn’t fit into the preconceived religious ideas.  He didn’t fit into their religious system,   He would say and do things that would, blow them out of the water.  And that is a wonderful thing.  It is a wonderful thing when Jesus is not predictable and when he doesn’t fit and act and do things the way that we would expect him to.  Because when Jesus becomes predictable, when he becomes something that we can wrap our brains around and understand, when he no longer surprises us, when he no longer challenges us, then we are no different than the crowds of his day, who thought that they understood what was going on.

How often, or how easy is it for you and me who experience the presence of Jesus, to get caught up in a mindset of the crowds that says that these kinds of things are nothing out of the ordinary?  Think about it.  We receive the very body and blood of Jesus in, with and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion.  We are united to his death and resurrection through the waters of Holy Baptism.  He is revealed to us in the Scriptures.  His death on the cross paid the price for our sins.  His resurrection from the dead has promised to us the defeat of death, and the is the hope of eternal life.  These things are unspeakably incredible.  They are quite literally awesome.  And yet it is easy for them to become common, too ordinary and simply religious. 

These things are part of our relationship with Jesus.  Through them he comes to us, and dwells with us.  Through them our faith is strengthened.  Through them we find all that we need to live our lives as God’s people.  And yet, we face the danger of seeing them simply as acts that are part of our religious system, and not as the incredible, mysterious, means of grace that they are.  We think we got Jesus down, we think we understand and yet somehow, when we do this we miss the boat. 

Have you had that “religious” experience? And here I am not using the word in a good way.  I mean one of those times where you feel like you are just going through the motions?  You don’t really want to go through the motions, but you do it because you know you should? You know that it is not supposed to feel that way, and maybe you even feel a little guilty about it?  But it can be really difficult?  Or perhaps you find yourself on the other end of the spectrum?  You are afraid.  You know that God loves you, but deep down you wonder how can that be possible?  You figure you can make yourself worthy of his love if you just do enough?  Except that no matter how much you do, there is always this haunting, sneaking suspicion that something is still missing? 

Both of these things are the result of misunderstanding Jesus.  They are what happens when we limit Jesus, and think that we know all there is to know, and understand all there is to understand.  When this happens, we are just like the crowds.  And so the invitation that he extends to them, is extended to you and me as well.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” 

Feel like you are going through the motions?  Come and in Jesus you will find rest.  Feel like you are doing everything you can, but still need to do more, that it is still not enough?  Come and in Jesus you will find rest.  Think you got it all down, that you know all that there is to know.  Let Jesus teach you, because he is humble and gentle at heart. 

When we allow Jesus to be who he is, when we do not confine him to our preconceived religious ideas, as the crowds of his day did, when we let the Scriptures speak for themselves, and see Jesus as they really show him to be, we are able to come to him and to find rest in him. 

When this happens, the awesome, beautiful amazing mystery that is in the word, and in baptism and communion will take on a whole new significance.  We will see ourselves differently, as we are dearly loved sons and daughters of our God.  We will see the world differently, because even though we may not agree with the things that other people do or believe, they are loved by God, and he wants them to know his love and grace and mercy and forgiveness which are found only in Jesus.  We will see service differently too.  For we won’t need to work out of guilt, but as a response to the great love that our God has loved us with.  Our response will have  the joy of serving our God, loving the people around us and knowing that we are making the world a better place.  There is indeed plenty of work for us to do.  But we do not do it alone.  Instead we are joined together with one who is humble and gentle in heart.  His burden is light.  And in him alone, we find rest for our souls.  May we know this rest in all of our lives and service.  Now and always.  Amen.

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