Listen, Obey, Witness

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light.”

Thank you for joining today as we continue our Ordinary Time journey focused on listening to, obeying, and witnessing to Jesus.

This statement of Jesus, concerning taking up of a yoke – a weight, an obligation, a means of being controlled – seems odd. Why would Jesus ask us to do that? Didn’t He come to free us and take the weight of sin off our shoulders? And anyway, I’m not going to allow myself to be obligated to anyone.

First, let’s be honest about Jesus’ statement. Yes, He means we are to submit to His will. We are to turn over control of our lives to Him. We are to allow Him to direct us and take us where He will, not where we will. We are to let Him do this through His Word and His Holy Church.

I can hear people say, well forget that. Who does God and His Church think they are. I can make my own decisions.

Yes, we can make our own decisions, and this decision is a key one because unless we accept the yoke of Jesus, we have no hope of entering His rest.

Is this decision easy? No. It is bad enough when we have to allow someone else to drive us around, much less to have completely surrendered control over our lives to another.

What may help us in reaching the right decision is the metaphor Jesus uses, the yoke itself. The yoke is used throughout scripture as a symbol, but unless we liked Westerns (Wagon Train?) or lived near Amish farmers, we have little practical knowledge of what a yoke is.

A yoke is a binding devise for two animals who walk side-by-side. Oxford Dictionary defines yoke as: ‘a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.’

You see, Jesus is not asking us to pick up His yoke and put it on our necks and do it all ourselves, for His yoke is Him on one side and us on the other. We are bound together when we accept Jesus and decide to walk in His footsteps, side by side doing His work.

We never go it alone with Jesus. He stands with us, sets to work with us, plows God’s field with us. He tells us that His yoke is easy, and light because He is carrying almost all the weight for us.

If we bind ourselves to Jesus, accepting His yoke, we accomplish great things. Lives are saved, sinfulness is ended, the good news is proclaimed, people accept Jesus and they are made new. The joy we encounter in doing Jesus’ work, at His side, makes even the slightest burden lighter.

Let us then listen to Jesus’ call to the yoke, obey Him by taking it up, and walking with Him witnessing the kingdom, and drawing in those who do not know Him to also take up the yoke.

Taking up the

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

These scriptures for Ordinary Time speak to where we are and urge us to deeper spiritual formation, authentic responses to God’s call in the midst of our challenges, and to a renewed commitment to evangelism.

Today we hear Jesus invite us to come to Him and find rest. He asks us to take up His yoke for it is easy and light.

As a young person, this verse confused me a little. Why would one come for rest only to take up a yoke? It seemed ironic at best to lay down one’s burdens just to take up another. What could this mean?

Jesus’ invitation is indeed for those who labor and are burdened down. The Greek words in original scripture speak of labor and burden as grinding toil and desperate burden. Desperate burden is that kind of weight that creates on-going weariness. It is seemingly inescapable.

As we reflect back on the lives of people at the time Jesus walked the earth we might imagine some of the burdens they carried. They had to turn over nearly everything they had to corrupt tax collectors. They had to scrape for a bit of oil and wheat to make some bread, maybe a bit of weak wine on a special occasion? On top of that there were the requirements of the old Law. Sacrifices had to be made for sin. Rules had to be obeyed diligently, often for no better reason then they were made requirements by religious leaders who enriched themselves.

Jesus invites these weary people to come to Him – He would give them true rest. The Greek word for “rest” used here suggests renewal and refreshment. It doesn’t promise that burdens will go away. It does not promise that people who receive this renewal and refreshment will never be weary again. Rather, their lives will be changed to such an extent that toil and burdens will pale in comparison to the glory they will receive.

Jesus’ invites the desperately weary to take up a new yoke – new life that brings joy – not weariness. As understood in Jewish culture, this yoke was beautiful submission and obedience to God. Jesus’ invitation was to know joy and freedom by following His path.

We too were once called to come to Jesus, to take up His yoke – to become His disciples. Perhaps some are called out of their burdens today. Inescapable weariness didn’t disappear in the year 100, 1,000, 1980, or 2016. What has changed is that we have the opportunity to say yes to a light and beautiful burden that destroys grinding toil and desperation. Take up His yoke, throw down burden, find joy.