These are the words of the Lord to an “innumerable multitude of people”. (Luke 12:1) Luke 12:4-5 says, “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” There is a parallel passage found in Matthew. Matthew 10:28 says, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
The Lord Jesus, in His instructions tells this great crowd of people that there are those who should not be feared and there is ONE who should be feared. It is man that can kill the body. Man can persecute us. Man can wound our bodies and even wound our spirits. Man can tempt us to sin and dishonor the Lord. At death, man has no more power over us. They cannot touch us or hurt us again. Man can kill the body, but he cannot kill the soul. We should not fear man. Hebrews 13:6 says to those who believe, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” To those whom the Lord calls “my friends” there is no reason to fear man. The sphere of their damage is limited to this earth. The Lord realized that some in that great group would be called up to give up their lives for their testimony. Many would be persecuted terribly, losing their families and their homes. Man can do great damage, but still, they are not to be feared. The worst man can do is kill our bodies, which only serves to usher us into the presence of the Lord. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
There is one, whoever, that should be feared. This One not only can take away life, but He can cast soul and body into hell. Who can do that? Only the Lord has that power! How is it that we are to fear God? Should Christian be afraid of God? Not really. Believers should take very, very seriously the teachings of the Word of God, but the thought presented is that we should greatly revere the Lord for who His is. The Lord does not want us to be afraid of Him, yet He does desire the respect due His name and He desires that we bow ourselves before Him, realizing somewhat of His power to judge and the power to set free. This is the One we are told to fear.
- Proverbs 9:10 teaches us that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”
- Proverbs 29:25 teaches us that “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.
May we cease from fearing man, and fear (revere) that loving One who freed us from our sins by sending His only begotten Son to die in our stead, so that we might have forgiveness of sin. (251.8)
Introduction: “I’ll rest when I’m dead.” Have you ever heard that? Ever said it yourself? Sometimes it feels that way to me. When I was in law school, students seemed to study every day. I believed that I should not work on Sabbath. It was a wonderful, guilt-free rest. God blessed me for it and gave me better grades than my buddies who studied every day. But, these days rest is more elusive. I still refrain from secular work on Sabbath, but I teach this lesson and sometimes preach. That seems to be as much work as anything I do during the work week. Some pastors take off Monday, but I need to work Monday. How do we balance work and rest? Let’s jump into our study and see what God has to say on the subject!
- What do you consider to be most restful? When you think of rest what comes to mind? Read Matthew 11:28-30. What kind of rest is Jesus offering to us? Is this spiritual or physical or both?
- When I think about rest, I think about laying down. This text talks about resting in a “yoke,” – which is a device to pull a load. How can putting on a load-bearing device be considered “rest?” (It assumes that we already have a burden (“come … all you who are … burdened”). Jesus is offering to share the effort of pulling our burden.)
- How, exactly, do we add Jesus as a partner in carrying our burdens? (The text tells us to “learn” from Jesus how to be gentle and humble.)
- What has that (being gentle and humble) have to do with resting?
For a few years now my wife and I have been in the process of moving to the town where I teach. We have not sold our old home and we have not purchased a new home in the new town. My wife and I have our eyes on a very impressive home that is for sale. When I consider the cost, I think “Not much rest there!”
- Why would you or I buy an impressive home? (It has to do with not being humble.)
- Can you see, now, why rest is linked to humility? (As long as we are pushing to impress those around us with our things, rest is not likely.)
I started out asking you whether Jesus is offering spiritual or physical rest. Has your opinion changed after further consideration of this text? (The two are linked. If our heart is right (we are humble) then physical rest is easier.) Rest Essentials
- Read Matthew 4:23-25. Imagine Jesus’ life. Was His life like that of a movie star? (Yes, crowds followed Him.)
- How would you feel if you had Jesus’ job? (Imagine what a great thing it would be to heal severe pain, paralysis and demon-possession. I’m sure the people healed were ecstatic and grateful. It was a great job.)
Read Matthew 5:1. Has Jesus turned His back on those with severe pain, paralysis and demon-possession? (Yes. He saw the crowd coming and He headed for the mountains to rest!)
- Was it a sin to refuse to heal these needy people? (Jesus lived a perfect life.)
- Is your job as important and compelling as Jesus’ job? (No.)
- What does this teach us about our jobs and rest? (We think that we are indispensable. We think that others cannot get along without us. We think that we cannot rest. Jesus shows us by this example that sometimes we just need to sit down and rest – even if there are compelling reasons not to rest.)
- Is the attitude that we are indispensable linked to the humility question we just discussed?
Read Genesis 2:2-3. John chapter 1 reveals that Jesus was the Creator. Even before Jesus took on human nature, He rested. Do you think that the God who could speak the universe into existence needed to rest? (I doubt it very much.)
- So, why did Jesus rest? Why elevate rest to such a degree that the rest day would be considered holy? (He must have done it for us. God wanted humans to rest.)
Read Mark 6:30-31. Is it wrong to be busy – so busy that you do not have time to eat? (The text does not say that being busy is wrong, it simply says that rest “in a quiet place” is important.)
Read Exodus 23:12. How widespread is the human need for rest? (Assuming you have an animal which works – you need to give it rest. Even the least valued in the society (slaves and aliens) are entitled to rest.) Rest and Balance
- Read Luke 12:16-18. What do you think about this plan? (It seems like a reasonable business plan.)
- What is the alternative? (Let his crops rot or give them away.)
Read Luke 12:19. Do you want to retire as soon as possible? What do you think about this farmer’s plan?
Read Luke 12:20-21. When I was a college kid, one of my friends told me I should take a break from school, earn money and have some fun. I refused, saying that my goal was to be a lawyer and I needed to keep pushing on with my schooling. My friend responded, “What if you get run over by a truck?” I admitted that would be a problem for my plan.
- Isn’t Jesus’ parable a lot like my buddy who said “What if you get run over by a truck?” (I did not get run over by a truck (although I had a very close call), and I soon had my doctorate in law. My buddy, who was also not run over by a truck, never finished college.)
- Does my experience show Jesus’ parable is a little unreasonable? Or, does Jesus have another point? (Jesus explains His point in verse 21 – don’t be selfish with God.)
- How was the farmer not rich towards God? How did this plan cheat God out of anything?
Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Does this suggest an answer to our questions about the farmer? (The farmer intended to have an extended rest in which he would focus only on himself.)
- What does the Bible say that the rich (those who don’t need to work) should do? (They need to “do good, to be rich in good deeds” and to be generous and share their money. This tells us that we have an obligation to God for both our time and our money.)
- What does this teach us about rest? (That rest should come periodically. Resting all the time is not God’s plan.)
- After reading the story of the farmer, you may have some reluctance to retire. Is the idea of retirement consistent with the Bible?
- Read Numbers 8:23-26. What does this suggest about God’s view of retirement? (At least as to the Levites, God took them out of regular service at the age of 50.)
- Was that the end of work for them? (No. The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary distinguishes the word “work” from the phrase “assist their brothers.” Work meant labor, but this commentary argues that the Hebrew word (mishmeret)means oversight, rather than just assisting. Whether the NIV or this commentary have the more correct view, the 50+ crowd was not laying down.)
- What does this and the farmer story teach us about retirement rest? (Laying down and watching television all day is not the goal. At some point we can (and should) reduce the extent of our physical labor, but the ideal rest is to always stay in the yoke with Jesus helping to advance the Kingdom of God.)
Friend, have you reached the right balance in life? Do you have sufficient, but not too much, rest? If not, join me in praying that God will aid you in moving towards that right balance. Next week: The Atmosphere of Praise.