Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Merry Christmas! Our Savior was born. God the Son took on our flesh so that you would have a place to rest: in His wounds.
When we think about Jesus’ suffering, we often think about His passion and death. But this was not the full extent of His suffering. Jesus suffered throughout His earthly life just like you do. In fact, when He was only eight days old, He suffered the pain of a knife as He spilled the first drops of His divine blood in the Old Testament Sacrament of Circumcision. He fell and scraped His knees. He stepped on thorns or got scraped by thistles. He got bullied and teased. He suffered hunger, thirst, and sleep deprivation. He suffered socially as people mocked Him, taunted and tested Him, and threatened to excommunicate those who followed Him. He suffered the temptations of the Devil, which we should never discount, saying that since He is God, the temptations were not difficult for Him to conquer. He was still 100% man with the frailty and weakness of human nature.
Jesus Himself was a sufferer Suffering—this is precisely what He came to endure for you and to finally free you of. He knows the heartache of a loved one lost; the weariness of concern for a wayward relative, friend, community, and country; the stress of sleepless nights over family conflicts; the fears of job loss; the loneliness of single life, an unloving marriage, divorce, and widowhood; the affliction of betrayal and denial; the helplessness in the face of addiction (whether yours or someone else’s), mental illness, depression, and abuse of any nature; the torture of a lost reputation (whether justly or not). He willingly yoked Himself to all of this suffering by taking on our flesh and blood.
Jesus was fully human and in His humanity He suffered. In doing so, He suffered for all sin: sin inflicted upon you as well as the sin you have inflicted on others. But He knows even more because He also knows the pain that you by God’s grace will never know or feel, the pain of being forsaken by God. Jesus sacrificed His sinless divine and human life for you. And after His death, Jesus’ body rested in the tomb and His soul rested in paradise from all the work of redemption which He had done.
He invites you now to rest with and in Him. The yoke of perfection still looms over you while you are in this sinful flesh, but Jesus invites you to take on His yoke, which is easy and light… for you, since He has already borne the full burden for you. He has yoked you to Himself already in Baptism and continually draws you closer as He gives you His crucified and risen flesh and blood, which bore your suffering and condemnation already. This is how you find rest from your suffering and sorrows in Jesus’ wounds. Not that they take away the suffering, but that you receive God’s full and free forgiveness and know that this present world with all its troubles will not follow you into eternity.
In Jesus I find rest and peace–
The world is full of sorrow;
His wounds are my abiding-place;
Let the unknown tomorrow
Bring what it may,
There I can stay,
My faith finds all I need today,
I will not trouble borrow. (ELH #437:1)
Reverend Samuel Gullixson
Parkland Lutheran Church & School