Ps. 145:1-14 (ant. v. 19); Zech. 9:9-12; Rom. 7:14-25a; Matthew 11:25-30; occasion: Baptism infant Peter Charles; opening Hymn: “I Bind Unto Myself Today”, LSB #604.
Rest, “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” (vv. 28, 29).
Jesus is history’s transformational man, bringing crisis and division. Twice, for our understanding, he drives the point he comes for separation; that a person’s enemies will even be those of his own household (Mt. 10:21 & 34-36). Man’s nature is exposed in the crisis of Jesus’ word come among us.
We are brothers and sisters of Cain, capable of murder by deed and slander. Of this depravity; Jesus says to those rejecting his coming, “You are of your father the devil… He was a murderer from the beginning… [A] liar and the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44).
St. Paul describes the conundrum, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15b). Into our miasma Jesus brings, not peace but a sword of his word for judgment or transformation.
The preached kingdom of heaven was roundly rejected, especially by Jewish religious leaders, giving Jesus cause to warn even Capernaum, his home-base, of a damnation less tolerable than Sodom’s (Mt. 11:23, 24).
Imprisoned JB dispatched emissaries to Jesus; it appeared his cousin had dropped the ball; both their ministries were verging on implosion. The Baptist wanted to know, “Are you he is to come, or shall we look for another?” (v. 3).
Jesus instructed; the Baptist presaged his reign not only having anointed him the Christ and preached to make his way straight; but that John too would be afflicted from murderous hearts, “From the days of JB until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and the violent try to [snatch it away] by force” (Mt. 11:12).
Soon JB would experience violence against the kingdom, anticipating Jesus’ coming Passion; head hacked-off on whimsey of a young girl in league with her adulterous mother for preaching God’s word.
Ironically, Jesus’ kingdom is constitutive of the violence he would suffer in Gethsemane’s Garden and on the cross; the hatred of those who would snatch away man’s Atonement in Christ, separating Jesus’ blood from flesh.
If prospects for the success of Jesus’ coming reign appeared poor to JB; it looked impossible for his scattered disciples on the eve of Passover, Jesus defiled on a tree (Dt. 21:22, 23).
Jesus’ dividing comes today when he says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”; the central truth of his kingdom reign, peace with God in the atonement proclaimed as “eternal gospel… to every nation…” (Rev. 14:6).
Violent men of every age attempt to snatch God’s “eternal gospel” from those to whom it lodges in the Resurrection, Jesus’ NT church on mission to “all nations”.
For Jesus to declare himself source of our spiritual “rest” was a radical transformed OT Torah and guaranteeing violent reaction toward him and his church; not only from Jews but today from nominal “Christians” and others.
The centerpiece of Judaism was God’s seventh day Sabbath rest, associated with both the six days of creation (Ex. 20:8-11) and Israel’s Passover out of Egyptian servitude (Dt. 5:12-15).
Jesus invites disciples with the promise of “rest for souls”; at this after Pharisees charged him with Sabbath breaking when his disciples gleaned on the seventh day. To the allegation Jesus affirmed himself, “Lord of the Sabbath”, the new place of God’s gracious rest for all men (Mt. 12:1, 2, 8).
Implicit in Jesus being his NT church’s place of Rest includes he is God’s new Temple, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here” (Mt. 12:6). Word of a new Sabbath and a new Temple engorged, and still does, “religious” hatred that desires for itself only the outward trappings of religiosity (2 Tim. 3:5).
Jesus had challenged Mosaic Judaism to transformation; “rest” in God would no longer consists in honoring a day; rather by accepting God’s Son, the true meaning of, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” is made known.
On the Passover-eve, Jesus went to the grave fulfilling man’s OT Sabbath obligation. On the first day or eighth day after his “rest” Jesus rose, God’s newly “begotten Israel” (Ps. 2:7, 8) and source of his church’s perpetual rest in God. No long does the church honor or worship on a discrete day; but in the new creation, from Lord’s day to Lord’s day and all time therein.
Jesus, is king, “gentle and lowly in heart”; he has come not to do violence, but receive our violent natures. Before going to the cross Jesus followed king David’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey’s humble colt (Zech. 9:9b). Then, as now, Jesus’ enemies, secular and religious, continue violence and slander, intent on snatching from the church his “eternal gospel” and reign of peace in her Lord; desiring rather, as Judas, “their own place” (Acts 1:25).
You and I who repentantly confess sin and the impossibility of our coming to holiness of ourselves are invited into Jesus’ sacrificial faith, to let him bear the crushing weight of our violent natures, sins, and the sin of the world, always expressing self-righteous denial (Gen. 4:9).
Baptism invites us to off-load violent penchant and share that suffered by Christ crucified; bound to his flesh and blood place to “learn” the Father’s heart; what it “means [that], ‘God desires mercy, and not sacrifice’” (Mt. 12:7) and for transforming the nature of men for another nature fit for the Kingdom of God.
Bound to Jesus ascended, eternally reclining on the breast of our heavenly Father (Lk. 16:23b; Jn. 13:23) we “listen” and “learn”. Whatever claims Pharisees and unbelievers of every age make for a kingdom of their own place; all must confront Jesus’ word to being, “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mt. 12:8), “He who [has come and] is to come” to be our “rest” or our judge.
Today Jesus comes in gentleness and humility, under water and Word, bread and wine. In these is the power of faith’s salvation, to put aside Cain’s lovelessness and “do what [we] desire, and not the very thing [we] hate”.
Holiness comes from above, the work of God in Christ, alone. By this work, Wisdom is hidden from the wise, yet revealed to the infants of the church, “the mother of all living”. Today Master Peter Charles Lower is embraced into her communion for transformation to eternal life.
A newborn, now begotten from above, Peter Charles’ binding is counterpoint and proclamation to the “eternal gospel” of our utter dependence on our heavenly Father for all things, receiving double comfort in water and Word (Isa. 40:1, 2; Zech. 9:12b).
We sing as we began: “I bind this day to me forever, by power of faith, Christ’s incarnation, his baptism in the Jordan River, his cross of death for my salvation… the wisdom of my God to teach, his hand to guide…” (LSB 604, ss. 2a, 3b). Amen.