‘no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’ Matthew 11:27-28
Brothers and sisters, we’re back. I don’t know how you found that first part of lockdown, but there was for me - in the end - a sense of exhaustion. The worry about illness. The worry about what we can do and when. The worry about our relatives and friends. The exhaustion of not being able to go out. The tiring nature of being confined to the four walls of our homes, and the relentlessness of the same day repeated again and again, has slowly worn us down. Not for nothing was there celebration last night in pubs and homes up and down our country. And yet, cast your mind back to before the virus if you can and remember the treadmill of normal life. Remember the exhaustion of our old way of living, and no doubt soon we will be booking our holidays so we might escape from what we are returning to. Life is exhausting for physical tiredness is but a sign of spiritual tiredness and every person who has ever existed ends up - in their own way - asking the same question ‘Where can I find rest?’
Along with the Church worldwide we will spend the rest of the Church year - that preceding Advent - working our way through Matthew’s Gospel. And - as if it was divinely planned - we return to Church to have read to us some of the most crucial verses in all of Scripture. Verses which speak to a universal problem: spiritual exhaustion. The verses above show us both the way to the real place of rest and the offer of the ticket to get there. But be prepared, for Jesus’ message is BOTH inclusive and exclusive.
First let’s look at His exclusive words: ‘no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son’. It is popular in the modern world to adopt an attitude of ‘each to their own’. A picture has been painted of a mountain with many roads to the top. The image is of God at the top of the mountain, with humanity at the bottom. And according to the modern mindset there are many different paths leading to the summit. But Jesus will have none of that! Jesus is totally exclusive. There may be many paths at the bottom of the mountain, but only one gets you safely to the top. How can Jesus make such an exclusive claim? To understand Jesus’ claim, we need to remember that God is infinite and no human person, no finite person can possibly completely grasp Him. And if no human can fully grasp the divine and if every human makes mistakes, who can lead us to God? Well, only God Himself! If you like: ‘It takes God to know God!’ So, consequently the ONLY reliable guide is One who is divine. Jesus’ claim is exclusive, for He is the only person who can fully know God, for He is the only person who is God.
If Jesus’ claim is exclusive, then, second Jesus’ offer is inclusive: ’Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’. ‘All you that are weary’ well that is every person who ever lived. Jesus’ offer is for everyone. There is no one too bad for Jesus. No one who has committed too many sins. No one who has fallen too far from God, that Jesus does not hold out His hand and offer that person rest. But equally, the offer isn’t just for those who feel guilty, Jesus’ offer is for those who think of ourselves as good. Constantly trying to do the right thing, live the right way, say the correct thing. This too is an exhausting way of life. If Jesus is the ONLY way, and His path is exclusive, well it is an exclusive path which is open to ALL. Jesus longs to give each person rest and the only thing limiting a person from finding that rest, is their refusal to follow Jesus to the top. To each person who at times finds themselves exhausted, to each person who at times groans inwardly, and to each person who at times longs for a new and better world, Jesus holds out His hand and says: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’. Amen. (from Rev. Mike)