July 5, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Verse: Matthew 11:25–11:30
Christ Lutheran Church
July 5, 2020
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
At that time Jesus answered and said, "I confess you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and have revealed them to little children. YES, Father! for such is your delight!
All things have been entrusted to me by my Father:
and no one knows the Son except the Father,
nor does anyone know the Father except the Son,
and the one to whom the Son determines to reveal him.
Come to me! all who are weary and weighed down, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
The 4 gospels teach us about the “life and times of Jesus the Messiah”. But they are not given to the church simply to inform, or to satisfy our curiosity. But so that we might worship by hearing them instead.
The essence of worship then, and now, is to hear God’s Word, and to speak it back to him again, just like the Lord does in today’s gospel!
What we see in today’s gospel is not a case of Jesus just stopping for a little moment of prayer in the middle of his day. But rather an account of the Lord leading his congregation on that day and at that time, in rendering acceptable worship to the God of heaven and earth.
He is doing the same thing today! Right here. Right now. What a marvel!
Now, as then, humanity is guilty of the whole range of mortal sins that Jesus denounces in Saint Matthew gospel.
Do you remember those sins:
The Lord’s antagonists refused to hear God’s prophets. They stopped up their eyes, ears, hearts and closed off their understandings so completely, that even the mighty miracles that only God could do … meant nothing! The Lord’s opponents, it seems, were made of Teflon nothing could stick to them.
They were not amazed, or amused, or brought to tears as Jesus brought heaven to earth before their very eyes; but they were as sentient as a concrete block when Jesus healed the sick with a word; raised the dead with a touch, and opened the eyes of the blind using his own blessed spit, mixed with the dust of the ground for medicine. Nor did they choose to hear when he revealed staggering heavenly mysteries truths to them.
Truths that excite the weary and oppressed heart. Eternal verities that put the insanity of this world into eternal perspective; and help us to complete our earthly missions, serving the Lord with gladness.
But the same miracles and oracles of God did NOTHING for the hearts of the wise and learned.
Nor do they make the slightest impression upon the giants of the world today: the ones to whom the culture prays in vain to make the world a better place. Instead humanity still responds with united voice: Let us be done with this God, and with his Christ.
Then, as now, the choir of culture protested heaven’s message in the strongest possible terms. They upheld the temples built by men, but violently attacked the Icon of God in the person of John the Baptist of whom we hear earlier in the chapter.
They knew how to silence that one!
Cut off this head and then he will stop preaching for sure. Then we can get back to business as usual. Back to extorting, oppressing, enslaving, robbing, looting, rioting and enjoying the world’s praise, as we instruct everyone how to run their lives: if they value them.
But it did not work! John spoke from the grave through the lips of Jesus. He spoke so clearly that Herod thought that Jesus was John, miraculously raised from the dead, head re-attached.
But John’s death was not an end in itself. Instead, being the last of the Old Testament prophets, his death was a prediction of the One Great Death yet to come – the death of Jesus on the cross which shattered, death’s iron grip; and brought life and immortality to light by the gospel.
And talk about incarnational love; about mercy that endures forever; our Lord did not accomplish redemption from afar. Or painlessly. Or virtually or online – which is why his worship cannot be accomplished virtually, or online.
Instead he emptied himself, assumed our humanity, took on the form of a servant, “and was made man.” Now, in our own dying flesh, perfected in him, he engaged the “final enemy” for us at the cross.
Our latter day Samson walked right into death’s front door, plundered his house of horrors, released his captives, and brought down the house upon the devil’s unsuspecting head – thereby fulfilling the first Gospel promise given in Genesis 3:15, “And he shall crush your head.”
And so what the church hears in today’s gospel is not a random story about Jesus, but an actual worship service in progress, with our Lord as the Celebrant.
Then, as the church still does every Sunday, our Lord preached judgment in the earth. Confessed the Gospel of God in the earth. And offered acceptable worship to his Father, in union with his Bride the Church, from earth below to heaven above.
Only then does he make the Great Invitation: Come to me all you who are weary, and weighed down, and I will give you rest.”
It is the same invitation the church still makes today as often as Christ’s minister proclaims:
“Lift up your hearts.” And the Bride answers back, “We lift them up unto the Lord.”
“Let us give THANKS (Eucharistia) unto the Lord our God.” And the Bride answers, “It is truly meet, right and salutary …
Yes, we must be careful to understand that the invitation the Holy Spirit records for the church in Matthew 11:28 is not vague or indefinite. It is not like the billboard on Brookpark Road in Parma that invites all passers-by to: get to know Jesus at jesusonline.com.
Jesus cannot be known, or worshiped online. But only in the breaking of the bread, consecrated before your own eyes, in your hearing, by the very hands and voice of the priest God appoints to serve you with the remission of sins, life and salvation.
And to accomplish all this in the sacred space, in “close communion” with those who are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Those who have come through the same birth canal of Holy Baptism all wet and glistening. Those who suck from the same glorious paps of Mother Church (Luke 11:27). Those, once Prodigals, but now repentant sons who eat Christ, the fatted calf at the family table. Who partake of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, here in his kingdom of grace, that has no end.
And so let us do just as the hymn exhorts:
Come [to this altar] ye disconsolate where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat [this altar], fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.
The body of Christ given and shed for you for the remission of sins.