I have always liked Matthew 11:25-30, and here’s the couple of verses in that passage most of us have heard, maybe even memorized: “Come to me, all you 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.” I liked it, but I couldn’t say I got a lot out of it personally. But this week, I asked for understanding…
I’m sure this just scrapes the surface, but there are three literally life-changing truths in this that pertain to me and you! How could Jesus say the yoke upon Him was easy and His burden was light? What does being gentle and humble have to do with it? How could He say having that same yoke upon us would bring rest to our souls? What the heck is a yoke anyway?
A yoke is a steering mechanism in short, put on animals, as they do their tasks in the fields or on their journey. A burden is whatever that animal may be carrying for their masters. We learn in Hebrews that although Jesus was perfect and never sinned, He was learning obedience to the Father all the while, through His trials. His “yoke” was the Father’s constant guidance and authority over His life throughout all the situations He was in. The yoke upon Jesus (put on and steered by His Father) led Him to the cross. And yet Jesus says it was “easy”, and invites us to the same relationship of Father/Son, Master/Yoke Carrier, promising rest if we will learn this from Him.
So what can I learn from Jesus here? Here are the three answers I find:
1) Jesus knew His Father’s heart. He was all up in His business! He knew the bottom line His Father was looking for in gaining the hearts of the world He created…and Jesus was on board. He truly wanted what His Dad wanted, and they were on the same team. So even in the agony that yoke brought Him, it would have been more agonizing, more of a burden, to have lost sight of all He had in His identity as the Son of God! The same is so true for us. This life is short! This is our chance, while we wait for His return, to be about His business–and that comes in varying forms of personal obedience. No preacher can tell you His business for your life…it begins with making God’s heart (His Word, communication with Him, practicing His presence, learning obedience through difficulties) your #1 priority. Of all the WWJD statements we could assume upon Jesus, we know for a fact His #1 priority was keeping in line with the Father’s heart, and that was a JOY to Him.
2) Why else could He say His yoke was easy and His burden light? Because He was gentle. He made the choice time after time after time to not resist the Lord’s will. He allowed the guidance of His Father to happen without pulling in another direction or figuring out another way, choosing submission, and in this way, He lived His life to the fullest of what it was supposed to be. Have you ever seen a child use all their energy fighting against the thing that would have allowed them to have a wonderful day? A healthy meal, a seat in a comfy stroller, a life jacket so they could play in deep water for hours! May I say most of us, including me, are not used to being gentle under God’s yoke on us, if we’ve even allowed His yoke to be upon us in the first place! We have our plans, our own ways we want our lives to turn out. When we think of living life to the fullest, are these the qualifications for that title?:
-Dying at 33 years old
-Being misunderstood by 99% of the people who knew us
-Being executed as a criminal
-Your life ending before your own mother’s
-Having no money, no home, nothing to pass on to anybody of material resources
-No spouse, no children
…And this was God’s Plan A for His Beloved Son!
Why do we expect the complete opposite? Why do we buck when God allows suffering, expecting and sometimes demanding He do something different for His children?
We can trust Him. We can be gentle under His leadership of our lives. He didn’t make mistakes with His Son and He will not make mistakes with us. Everything the enemy intends for evil in our lives, God can turn around for glorious good if we will relax under His movements.
3) And one last thought about how He could call this yoke easy and this way of life restful–He was humble. In Philippians 2:5-11 we remember what humility really means. Jesus’ example of humility that we can follow is that He knew His place, or I should say places. At the exact same time, Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” and knew He was a member of the Trinity! And for us, we cannot live our lives thinking God owes us anything, we can’t live with this chip on our shoulder like we are waiting for God to give us special treatment, but at the exact same time, we are called to remember we are co-heirs with Christ, with a heavenly destiny, and a Father who thinks of us constantly, brimming over with love and care! Recognizing that all we have and all we are is a gift that we didn’t deserve…that’s a first step to humility. Recognizing that God gets to interpret His promises toward us–He alone has that right–brings peace. We can spend our lives shaking an angry fist to the heavens because we don’t understand His ways, or we can choose humility and say, “Who am I to understand it all, who am I that You would share your thoughts with me?” Maybe Jesus isn’t saying you have to be gentle and humble and take His yoke upon you, maybe He was just saying do this if you want rest and peace? I believe in some good wrestling with God…and I believe it’s only healthy if it’s a short term sport!
This resting doesn’t mean I have no opinion of my own, and it doesn’t mean I am in such amazing contact with the Father that I know everything I do all day was His will! But there is a sense of ease in trusting, learning gentleness when unexpected messes come my way, learning humility when my hopes are dashed, and believing the end goal of my life is following in line with God’s end goal, even if it doesn’t look like I would have planned.
We aren’t on our own down here. He never asked us to figure out what to do and then do it on our own strength. He gives us a recipe for rest…and this recipe strips everything from us…but that everything was killing us. He invites us to come.