Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)
There are phrases from my childhood that I still use that drive my wife crazy. For instance, I “plug out” the toaster; she tells me that this makes no sense. I will “unthaw” meat, which she tells me means that I am freezing it again. Her least favorite is the phrase, “It’s all.” She’ll ask where the chocolate is, and I’ll say, “It’s all.” Annoyed, she asks, “It’s all what?” And I say, “It’s all.” She asks, “It’s ALL WHAT?” I retort, “It’s all gone!” She responds, “Oh, why didn’t you say so?” In the end, both of us roll our eyes at the whole thing.
The phrases make sense to me, but to others listening, well, maybe not so much.
Jesus has a couple phrases in the passage today that, if you stop and listen to them for the “first time” again, don’t really make that much sense either. He says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. The whole point of using a yoke is because the task is hard; that’s why you would use a yoke to harness your strength for a strenuous task. Jesus says, however, if you take up his yoke, you’ll find rest. Doesn’t Jesus know that one doesn’t find rest by taking up a yoke? You take up a yoke when work begins, and you find rest when you lay down the yoke when work is all. . . when work is all done.
And the nature of a burden is that it is a burden. Rest is found in laying burdens down not in picking them up. Does Jesus not understand this? Is he confused about the nature of work and rest, burdens and ease?
Probably not. Jesus is aware of the nature of burdens and the nature yokes. He is aware that throughout life we all will have burdens, we all will have yokes, and we all will have shadows. The question isn’t whether we will bear burdens, wear yokes, or be under shadows; rather, the question is which ones will we find ourselves bearing, wearing, and living under.
No life is absent of suffering, but the Christian life gives that suffering purpose and meaning. No life is absent of burdens or yokes, but the burden of the cross with its promise of hope is light compared to the burden of the world that comes with hopelessness; hope makes it a much lighter burden to bear. And no life is absent of shadows, but the shadow of the cross is a strange shadow. It is a dark shadow for those who reject the free gift of salvation that it provides. However, for those who believe, who pick up the burden of Christ, and who take up their cross to follow Jesus, it is a shadow that brings us into his marvelous light.
Heavenly Father, thank you for providing a burden that is light, a yoke that is easy, and a shadow that gives light. May we find our rest in serving you. In the name of Jesus, amen.