Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote 17th century philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal (Pensées) What might Pascal say about today’s world of ubiquitous smart phones, 24 hour news feed, computer games, and Twitter! Just try sitting by yourself in a room alone for a few minutes!
The great Augustine prayed, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” (Confessions) We long for something more, something beyond ourselves to complete us! We feel the need for something to heal our broken hearts, broken minds and spirits. Augustine went on in his prayer to acknowledge that what we are restless for would not be found in wealth, pleasure, fame, success, or romance. Our restlessness is a barometer of our longing for the God who made us.
So in today’s Scripture the Son of God comes into the world offering rest. He invites “all” to come to Him because He longs to give us His rest. The rest He offers is more than time off, time out, or sleep; it is rest that is restoring, renewing, recreating. “Our Lord’s words are not, ‘Do this, or don’t do that,’ but — ‘Come to me.’ If I will simply come to Jesus, my real life will be brought into harmony with my real desires.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest) Any who take Jesus’ “yoke” discovers that He is no taskmaster or tyrant, but is “gentle and humble in heart.”
Rabbis in Jesus’ world called select young men to take up their “yoke”, which meant to learn from the rabbis how to live according to Torah Law. But Rabbi Jesus invites “all” to learn from Him, a way of living that is “easy” and “light” to find “rest” for their souls. As Jesus invites people to take His “yoke” He likely speaks not only as a rabbi but as a village carpenter. He knew quite a lot about yokes rightly fitted for animals. Justin, an early martyr from Jesus’ Galilee region, said that Jesus was a village carpenter who made ploughs and yokes (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, No. 88).
Notably, Jesus promises all takers that they will find His yoke “easy”. The word “easy” is in Greek f, meaning “well fitted”, “suitable”, and “gracious”. Jesus knows what it is to measure and perfectly fit each yoke to not chafe or irritate an animal’s neck. When we take Jesus’ yoke we find it perfectly measured and fitted just for us. Jesus does not promise an easy life, just look at His! But Jesus does promise us His rest. His rest is not a human achievement but a divine gift for all who will come and learn from Him.
One of my seminary professors, J. Dwight Pentecost, told that when he was a student he would go preach in a small rural church. One day as he was visiting in the community he saw a farmer plowing with a team of oxen. But it appeared a most unusual team, as one was a huge ox towering over a small bullock. He stopped and told the farmer he was surprised to see him plowing with two oxen of different sizes. The farmer told my professor, “I want you to look at the lines connecting the oxen to the plow. The little oxen is being broken into the yoke and is not actually pulling any weight.”
When we are yoked to Jesus He bears the load and we share in the joy and accomplishment of the labor without the burden of the yoke. If you will come to Jesus and learn from Him, He will give you rest for your soul.
Grace and peace,