By Paul Koch
I have to admit when I look the picture above; it’s easy to imagine myself there, relaxing in the hammock. Oh, I love hammocks; I love the promise of rest and relaxation. Maybe your idea of rest isn’t a hammock on a beach, perhaps it’s a trip to the mountains or a luxury hotel room eating room service or just a day without the kids hanging all over you. Rest is that elusive calm where not only does our body relax but our minds and hearts do as well. Our worries and fears drift away, our anxiety and stress ceases to be. To rest is to be so comfortable and secure and safe that we can just dwell happily in the moment, not anxious about the next day or week. Rest, true rest, it turns out is something that we are always seeking and yet it is something we rarely find.
The very fact that we long for rest reveals to us that there is something wrong, something missing in our physical makeup. Our bodies wear down, our minds constantly race, we get tired and confused and depressed. We all know without being told that there is something wrong with our world. Our world is broken we turn on the news and though we may desire to know the latest victories form Sochi instead we are greeted with images of brutal violence in the streets of the Ukraine. Everywhere we turn we find struggles for power and control and countless lives are damaged and torn in the process. How can there be rest, real lasting rest in a world of such violence?
And even if we were able to somehow separate ourselves from the brokenness of our world, if we were to wall ourselves off and hide away from it all – I think even then rest would elude us. Think of the most intimate relationships of your lives. Think of being a son or daughter, a husband or wife, a mother or father. These relationships are the very best of our lives they are where we most deeply experience love and forgiveness and acceptance. And so you would hope that in these relationships we might find rest. And yet it is precisely here that things go awry. Our children wear us thin, grinding on our last nerves till we just want to run away. Our spouses pick fights and distance themselves. We find ourselves going through the motions week in and week out but never finding any rest.
Perhaps if we were totally alone, if we had no one else to worry about or care for if we only had to deal with ourselves, perhaps then we might find the rest we want. But we weren’t created to be alone and being alone magnifies the brokenness inside of us. In fact if we are all alone we are left only with that brokenness with no one to heal, no one to forgive and speak hope. We are broken within, and we live amongst a broken people, we marry them and raise them as our children and together we dwell upon a deeply broken world. And rest, why rest is that distant dream we never seem to take ahold of.
And yet into our brokenness, into our wearied bodies and souls we are given a great Word.
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” (Heb. 4:9-10)
Just as God rested on the seventh day so there remains the hope of rest for you, real lasting and complete rest for you. Rest from a broken world, rest from broken relationships, rest from our broken hope.
Such a promise of rest was secured for you on the cross of Calvary, there our Lord took up all your sins, he became the rejected and despised sinner so that death would come calling. He embraced your brokenness; every haunting doubt, every failed love, every act of pride and violence he reached out and made his own. And he kept his mouth shut as they tried him as one of us, he received the full force of the wrath of God in his own body, he was broken so that you might be healed, he died so that you might live, he knew the struggle and turmoil of suffering so that you might know rest.
Rest is your promise, made secure and sure in the blood of Christ. Rest is your eternity made fast by our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. But the way to the rest, the means to be found in such a place is given right here and right now. Standing between the empty tomb of Easter morning and the long awaited return of our Lord is the Word.
The Word of God is a “living and active Word, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)
The Word of God, the Word proclaimed to you is the way of rest.
This Word leaves nothing to chance, it exposes every sin you have. Every failure to live as God desires, every time you hesitated to do good when you had a chance or forgive when you should have, all of it is exposed by the Word. The Word kills you in your sin, condemns you as enemies of God and not worthy of rest. And then even as you die in such sin the Word tells of that greater work of the Son of God, that glorious and unfathomable gift of pure grace. As you die in your sin you are given new life in Christ alone. As he rose from the dead so you are made a new creation living in him. And it is here; only here in Christ that you receive rest.