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Come Here (part three of three)

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Here is another example of things that Jesus says that give you pause and make you wonder. A yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. Hmm, what does He mean? I suppose if you were an ox, a yoke could be considered something easy to wear once you got used to being bound by the neck to another ox. But easy in what sense? Being yoked seriously limits ones ability to move about freely. It’s also a precursor to the reason for the yoke… hard work. It means following orders: Gee—turn right, Haw—turn left, Whoa—stop. It means pulling heavy loads for a master instead of lumbering over to the trough to enjoy a nice helping of fodder or wandering down to the pasture to graze on some sweetgrass with all the other cattle. What is He saying if not, “Stop what you’re doing and come follow me! Join me as I go about doing the Father’s work”?

After all, Jesus did tell his disciples that the fields were ripe for harvest and that he would make them fishers of men. Both involve hard sweaty labor. I guess I have to reexamine what I’m doing, and redefine what I consider restful and fulfilling. Like accumulating wealth so that I feel secure, amassing a houseful of stuff to make my life more comfortable, or spinning my wheels to satisfy the deep need inside for joy and peace. When I think about it, those things are hard because it seems that no matter how much effort I put in, it’s never enough. In the end I am weary and burdened and can relate to Ecclesiastes 2:11 “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

The yoke and the cross. Are they one and the same? They are both archaic devices made of wood. They both require submission. Both are binding and bring about death to self-will. As Jesus pondered his destiny in Gethsemane, it seemed too heavy a burden at first. Three times, He asked the Father for some other way. It wasn’t until He surrendered and embraced the hard work God gave Him to finish that He experienced rest in His soul and the divine power to carry out the task. Would the Savior have said it was easy to face His execution for the sins of mankind? That the burden He carried for our salvation was light? I don’t know, but as He faced His options, I’m sure it felt that way considering the alternative—disobedience to the Father He loved. And so it is with us as we face our options. Will we trust only what we can fully understand and feel we have the strength to bear? Or will we choose to believe what we are told in an ancient text that claims to be the very words of God, even though it seems cryptic and even oxymoronic?

The answer to that question is crucial because the yoke and the cross also come with a promise to those who will take and embrace them by faith: resurrection life and rest for the soul. “Lord, give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that says, ‘Thy will, not mine, be done.’”

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