Sunday, November 11, 2018

[Matt's Messages] “The King of Rest”

“The King of Rest”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
November 11, 2018 :: Matthew 12:1-21 

This is one of those places where the chapter divisions are a little unhelpful. Matthew didn’t put the chapter and verse numbers in here when he wrote his gospel. Those were added later to help people find their way around.

And putting a big number here between chapter 11 verses 28-30 and chapter 12 verse 1 might hide the fact that both sides of the chapter division have a lot to say about “rest.”

I think chapter 11 flows right into chapter 12 without skipping a beat or really changing the subject at all.

Last week, we heard Jesus issue that wonderful invitation that we’ve been memorizing together for the last few months:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Have you taken Jesus up on His invitation?
Have you come to Him?
Have you taken His yoke upon yourself and become His disciple?
Even this last week, have you found His yoke to be easy and His burden to be light?
To find your rest in Him?

It’s wonderful!

This rest that Jesus offers is so wonderful that in today’s passage, Jesus actually claims to be “The King of Rest.”

In verse 8, Jesus will claim to be the “Lord of the Sabbath.”

Which means a whole lot of things, a lot to talk about today.

But the Sabbath as given to Israel was, at heart, a day of rest. A day for ceasing of work. A day for cessation of labor. A day of desisting, abstaining from work. A day of rest.

And Jesus claims to be the Lord of that Day. The Boss of the Day of Rest. The Boss of Rest. The Lord of Rest.

The King of Rest.

What an interesting juxtaposition of ideas, isn’t it?!

Lord of Sabbath
King of Rest

When we think of powerful kings, we don’t always think about resting, do we?

No, we tend to think about working. Serving.

If you serve a powerful king, you work for him most of the time, right?

“What does the powerful king want today?”

Well, this king...

“He wants you to rest.”

“He wants you to cease. To stop. To take a break. To put your feet up. To not work at getting a leg up. To not climb the ladder today. To cut it out. To cease striving.”

“He knows that you are weary and burdened. And He will give you rest. Rest for your souls.”

He’s the King of Rest.

Most of the time when we think about “Sabbath” we think about a list of do’s and don’ts, right? What you are allowed to do and what you are not allowed to do on the Sabbath.

That is part of the problem here in Matthew chapter 12. The Pharisees accuse Jesus and His disciples of breaking the Sabbath. And breaking the Sabbath rules.

But that’s not the most important thing to get out of this chapter. It’s not really about whether you ought to have a weekly day off or not. (I would argue that you should but not from this story. It’s not about that.)

This story is about the identity of Jesus.

We’ve said all along that the Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography of the most compelling Person Who ever lived.

Matthew is intent on revealing to us Who Jesus really is.

What Jesus said.
What Jesus did.
What Jesus taught.
What Jesus was all about.

Who is this Person Jesus?

We’ve said all along that the big question in Matthew really is, “Who Does Jesus Think He Is?” Who does this guy think He is?

Well, this story answers that question in big surprising ways that can be summed up with the words, “The King of Rest.”

We said the last two weeks that the conflict is starting to heat up for Jesus.

From here until the crucifixion, Jesus gets into more and more trouble.

He makes many people, especially the Jewish leaders, more and more uncomfortable.

It’s not that they don’t understand what He’s saying as much as they do, and they don’t like what they are hearing.

So they begin looking for ways to get Jesus into hot water.

And here’s one. They accuse Him and His disciples of breaking the Law on the Sabbath. Chapter 12, verse 1.

“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.’”

Now, for us, this doesn’t like any big deal.

So what?

We might think that their eating the wheat from somebody else’s field was stealing.

But that’s not what these guys are concerned about.

The Old Testament Law (Deuteronomy 23:25) made provisions for the poor and for travelers to eat from the corners of the fields as they made their way past.

So they weren’t stealing.

So what are the Pharisees so upset about?

They’re upset that the disciples are working!

“Hey, Jesus. Stop those guys. They are working on the Sabbath!”

Now, this doesn’t look like work to me.

But they had all of these rules. The Pharisees had made all of these rules to make sure that nobody did any work on the Sabbath day.

The rule was “no work.” God gave them that rule.

But they made a whole bunch of rules to make sure that that rule got followed.

In fact, it had become a lot of work to make sure that nobody worked!

Their rules said no picking, no threshing, no winnowing on the Sabbath.

So if you had a little grainfield fast food, and you picked some heads, rubbed them open and tossed off the chaff, YOU WERE WORKING!!!!

“Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

Now, how would you answer that if you were Jesus?

You might say, “I don’t think that’s really work, guys.”

“Really? You’re going to get upset about that?”

“It takes a lot of work to not do work!”

In some of the other gospels, Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for people. Not people for the Sabbath.”

That’s a good answer.

But that’s not where Jesus goes here.

Because He knows that it’s not really about the Sabbath.

Jesus knows that it’s really about Who He is.

So Jesus makes it all about Who He Thinks He Is. V.3

“He answered, ‘Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread–which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.”

Now, I would have NEVER come up with that!

First off, He goes on the attack. “Haven’t you read?”

“Don’t you know this?”

“You’re going to attack me, well, get ready for some pushback.”

And then He reminds them of this story from 1 Samuel 21. Do you remember that from a few years back when we studied 1 Samuel?

David and his companions were desperately hungry, and they ate the consecrated bread which they technically shouldn’t have done.

And what did the Lord say about that?

Did David get in trouble with God?

Scripture does not condemn David for that.

But how is that answer to the Pharisees here?

It is if Jesus is arguing from the lesser to the greater.

It feels like it’s arguing from the greater (the consecrated bread) to the lesser (the handpicked cereal).

But it’s actually arguing from the lesser (David and his companions) to the greater (Jesus and His companions)!

If David and his friends could eat that which was technically wrong, and it be okay how much more can Jesus and His friends eat something that you could easily argue isn’t even technically wrong! Just wrong in these guy’s eyes.

In other words, Jesus is greater than David.

And then pushes further. Verse 5

“Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?”

Did you ever think about that?

Who really works on the Sabbath?

Well, those priests do. It’s their job. If they don’t work on the Sabbath, the whole thing doesn’t work. The temple doesn’t work.

So they must be able to work on the Sabbath without breaking the Sabbath.

Do you see where this is going?

The Pharisees are saying, “Who does He think He is? Does He think He’s greater than the priests in the temple?”

Jesus says. More than that! V.6

“I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.”

That’s a bold claim.

We don’t think anything of it. But imagine the most important object, place, thing in your life and imagine someone coming along and saying that He was greater than that.

The temple stood for so much to those people!

If it was knocked down, it would mean the end of the world for them.

It stood for Judaism itself.

And Jesus says, “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.”

Just let that sink in.

And then He goes back to Scripture. V.7

“If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent.” These disciples.

You don’t understand the Bible. Hosea 6:6.

And you don’t understand mercy or compassion.

You don’t get it!

People are more important than stupid rules.

The whole point of the Law is love.

Now, get this.

Jesus says that He knows this because He is not only greater than King David. And not only greater than the priests. And not only greater than even the temple.

Jesus believes that He is greater than the Law itself. V.8

“For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Jesus is saying, “I’ll be the One to decide what is right and wrong to do the Sabbath.”

Because the Sabbath is my day.

“I am the Lord of the Sabbath. I am King of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath exists for Me.

And I will interpret it and apply it to my people.”

Wow. Do you see how bold that is?

Can you imagine someone saying that about some other Law?

“I am the Lord of the US Constitution. I will say what it means. It exists for me. And I will interpret it and apply it to my people.”

Or how about gravity?

“I am the Lord of the Law of Gravity. I will say what it means. It exists for Me. And I will interpret it and apply it to my people.”

“I am the King of Rest. I will say what it means. Rest exists for me. And I will interpret rest and apply it to my people.”

He’s basically claiming to be God, isn’t He?

Who else can claim to be the Lord of the Fourth Commandment?

I have only three points this morning, and this is number one.


The whole point is His identity, isn’t it?

Who is Jesus?

Is Jesus Who He believes He is?

What do you think?

Do you believe that Jesus is Great David’s Greater Son?

Do you believe that Jesus is greater than the Levitical Priesthood?

Do you believe that Jesus is greater than the Temple?

Do you believe that Jesus is the Lord of Rest?

I do. And I invite you to believe it, too.

The fact is that many people do not.

And that was true back then. V.9

“Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’”

You see what is going on?

They want to trap Him.

And they are using the Sabbath to do it.

[Who is really the Sabbath breakers here?!]

They are tempting Him, aren’t they? They can see that He wants to heal this guy.

And they want Jesus to say that healing somebody on the Sabbath is okay.

When they did not agree.

That’s the WORK of a doctor, right?

Should you do the work of healing somebody on the day when we shouldn’t work?

Do you see how messed up this is?

Can this man work?

With a shriveled hand in that society there weren’t very many jobs that this guy could do. He can’t work. But can you do the work of healing him on the day when nobody should work?

What would you say?

Well, here’s what the Lord of Rest says. V.11

“He said to them, ‘If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? [Well, yeah.] How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’”

He’s arguing from the lesser to the greater again, isn’t He?

This time the lesser thing is a sheep. And we are the greater thing.

How much more valuable is a man than a sheep. Good to hear it! Congratulations, you’re worth more than a sheep!

Of course it’s lawful to do good on the Sabbath!

To show mercy on the Sabbath.

To show compassion on the Sabbath.

V.13. “Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.”

Whoa. Whoa!

What a reaction. What hard hearts!

You see how this isn’t about what you can and can’t do on a particular day of the week?

It’s all about Who is Jesus, isn’t it?

And do you believe that Jesus is the King of Rest?

They certainly did not.

Think about this. Jesus didn’t even do any work, did He?

He just spoke and the guy was healed, and these people wanted to get rid of Him!

By the way, Jesus knows that He is jumping into their trap, and it doesn’t bother Him.

It’s all part of His Father’s plan.

They may think that they have caught Jesus. But really Jesus has caught them.

And He’s caught us.

He’s given this man rest. Hasn’t He?

He’s given him the ability to work again.

But He’s also given him a taste of the kingdom. The kingdom of rest.

He’s taken away a little bit of that man’s worry and weariness and burden.

And restored Him. V.13 “...completely restored, just as sound as the other.”

That’s a picture of the kingdom that’s coming!

Here’s application point number two:


Don’t just believe that He is the King, but join His kingdom and live out the values of that kingdom.

For example, value people over stupid rules every time.

That’s what our King is like and what our Kingdom is like.

I’m not saying to throw out the Law.

But make sure you are fulfilling the purpose of that Law.

The whole point of the Law is love.

If we aren’t loving people then we aren’t doing the Law even if we say we are.

The Lord of Rest desires “mercy, not sacrifice.”

Compassion, not ritualistic rule-following.

V. 12 again “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

So if we are citizens of the Kingdom of Rest, it’s lawful for us to do good to others.

Are we doing that?

Or do we find every excuse to work around it?

Last week, I got a call from someone who needed some gas money and some food.

And it was really inconvenient. The call was at the very end of the evening for me. And I did not want to go out and help somebody.

But I said to myself, “What if that was me? And what if it was the Lord who was getting the call? What would Jesus do? What would my King do?”

So I got up and went out to meet them and help them in the name of our King.

I was trying to follow the King of Rest.

It actually meant that I lost a little of what I considered to be rest.

But what did Jesus give up to bring me rest?

He gave His whole life!

Do you ever think about that?

When Jesus holds out His hand and says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest,” did you ever think what that rest cost Jesus to give us?

He is the King of Rest not just by the Creation but by the Cross. V.15

“Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was.”

He’s aware that they want to kill Him. He knows.

So He withdraws. But He doesn’t stop.

Many follow the King of Rest, and He gives them rest.

He heals all of their sick.

And He doesn’t blow a trumpet about it.

He’s not televangelist. He’s not like any other pretend Messiah out there.

It’s not time for Him to go public, so He tells them to keep it quiet.

But He keeps healing. This person. That person. That person. This person.
“All of their sick.”

Verse 17.

“This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Point number three:


Matthew loves His Old Testament, doesn’t he?

And loves that word “fulfill.” v.17

This is the longest quote from the Old Testament in the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew says that Jesus healed like this, powerfully yet quietly, to fulfill Isaiah 42, verses 1 through 4.

Matthew recognizes that Jesus is the Suffering Servant of the Messianic Prophecies of Isaiah.

And He quotes Isaiah at length to show us.

And it sure sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it?

What a unique and compelling person!

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight...”

What does that sound like?

It sound like Jesus’ baptism to me.

“This is my Son. Whom I loved. With Him I am well pleased.”

“I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations [to the Gentiles! To non-Jews like, I don’t know, you and me!]. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. [He proclaims justice. But He doesn’t get all huffy about His rights. He heals people quietly. Listen to this....] A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out...

I love that description. This like last week when He said that He is gentle and humble of heart.

What good is a bruised reed?

A little bent over twig? He’s so gentle. So tender. So careful.

With losers! With failures. With the marginalized. With the hurting. With the weary and the burdened.

With the smoldering wick.

Just a tiny little smoke coming from that wick.

What do you do?

It would be so easy to dismiss it.

But Jesus cups it and blows on it gently and shields it from the wind.

Are you that little smoldering wick?

Do you see how you can trust Him?

Do you see how you can rest in Him?

Do you see how you can put yourself in His hands?

And He’s not going to change.

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”

They will rest in the King of Rest!

Now and forever.


Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me