THERE REMAINS A SABBATH REST
FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
In the name + of Jesus.
The Lord is omniscient. That means he knows everything and sees everything. King Solomon wrote: “Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD—how much more the hearts of men!” (Proverbs 15:11; NIV (c) 1984) So, there are no secrets before the Lord. You and I can keep our dirty little secrets from each other. No one has to know what thoughts lurk in your heart or what plans you scheme in your mind. If you are smart enough to keep your mouth shut, you are able to hide your darkest character from just about anyone. But not from God. His word cuts through everything, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
I remember being confronted by my parents when I was a kid, and they would ask me, “What did you do?” Naturally, I was considering carefully what I should confess to. I did not want to confess to everything, because I might have admitted to something they did not know, which would have only landed me in more trouble. But there is no point in such games before God, for all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13). God will not be mocked by our pretense that we are innocent or worthy of better things from him. Before God there are no secrets. The Lord is omniscient. He knows all, and he sees all. That is why it is good and right to heed the call to confession: “Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins to God our Father.” (The Common Service) A true heart will not try to pretend that we can hide anything from our Lord. Therefore, we rest from pretending. We come in honesty, admitting everything, repenting completely.
While it may be petrifying to recognize that God knows every thought, word, and deed, we need not hide from the Lord in terror. The summons to confession gives us every reason to flee to the Lord, not from him. “Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins to God our Father, asking him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to grant us forgiveness.” (The Common Service) For, Jesus is our Great High Priest who reveals that, even though our Father in heaven is holy, he is also merciful.
God the Father has sent his Son, Jesus, to become one of us and to take up our cause. Jesus Christ became a man to deliver mankind from sin, from guilt, from shame, and from death. As our Great High Priest, Jesus made the atoning sacrifice which covers all sins. And since he knows all things and sees all things, he did not miss any sin which needed to be covered. The sacrifice Jesus made for us was himself—his own precious blood for every shameful thought; his own innocent life for every guilty deed.
All the work that needs to be done to save us has been done. Jesus is the one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. He has done all the work to meet God's Commandments; for he is without sin. And he has done all the work to deliver us from God's wrath; for his perfect life was given to atone for sinners. Therefore, you get to rest from trying to win God's favor. God's favor rests upon you. God's mercy withdraws the punishment from you since Jesus has taken it. God's grace opens heaven up to you, since Jesus provides his innocence upon you.
There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. And Jesus continues to supply rest for your souls. For you and I still do not live as well as we ought, and we still find vicious and vile thoughts lurking in our minds. The Lord Jesus knows all this, too. And even though he is without sin, he is not without sympathy. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16) Jesus knows our every weakness, and he knows what it is to have Satan plague him with temptations. So, even when we come back to him with our burdens or with blame attached to us, Jesus is not disgusted with us, and he does not disown us. Instead, he continues to serve as the one who atones for all sins. His mercy endures forever, and his grace covers all guilt.
And so, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. It is rest from being phony. We get to be honest and confess our sins rather than pretend we are better than we are. Rather than bargain with Christ, we are forgiven by him. It is rest from having to do enough to get on God's good side. God IS on your side. Jesus has taken up your cause and delivered you from the curse of sin to the grace of God. It is a mind that is at rest from all doubt and fear. We have God's promises which have marked us as God's people in baptism, which are fed to us in Holy Communion to sustain us on our journey heavenward, which console us in every moment of sorrow, which encourage us to persist in good works, and which give us the confidence that our place in God's kingdom is secure.
While we honor the Lord with good works and with serving our neighbor all week long, here, we gather together to rest. For here, we have a great High Priest who serves us. Here, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. And here, you are strengthened and sustain in the one, true, Christian faith until you enter the heavenly rest in the eternal Sabbath.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.