May 26, 2020
Have you ever been tired and just needed to stop and take a break? You needed to catch your breath? I can! As you know, I have been doing more exercising the last several months as I have been trying to get back into shape. Just the other day, I went on my bike for the first time in 2 years. I will admit, I was a bit nervous as the last time I biked, it was a lot heavier and in way worse shape. And at that time, it had been years since I had been on a bike. I was nervous to say the least. Overall, it went well, but there is one hill where, even with everything I gave it, I had to stop because my legs just couldn’t push hard enough. I had to get off my bike, walk it up the hill, take a rest, before I kept going. And when I finally did get home I had to rest because my legs were so tired that they felt like rubber.
We all get tired. We all need a break. We all need a rest. This is a reflection on all of life. There are times where whatever it is we are facing is exhausting and we need a break. Life happens for everyone, and with that is a whole lot of good, but also a lot of things that are completely exhausting that come from every angle: Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It can be situational, circumstantial, relational, or as the result of our own choices. Whatever the cause, no one is exempt.
There are days I am sure that any one of us will be tempted to throw our hands up in the air and ask “when will I get a break from this? When will this end? Where is my help, my relief, my break? I can’t do this anymore, so who is going to help me?” It is in those moments that I find the words of Jesus from Matthew 11:28-30 to be especially needed.
Read Matthew 11:28-30
VERSE 28 –
The statement here is to “Come to me”. That phrase could be translated and re-understood as “believe in me, receive me, accept me.”
Who is to “come”? All who are weary and heavy burdened. In other words, all those who are tired, worn out, exhausted, spent, and are carrying around what feels to be the weight of the world on their shoulders. This is directed at all those who are stressed out with life as of late, wondering how the bills will be paid, wondering how their job is going to turn out, how they are going to get their kids to study, concerned with what will happen to their mortgage, worried about their own health and the health of others. This invitation to come is written to anyone who is facing life, especially us today!
What happens when we who are weary and carrying burdens believe, accept, and receive? Jesus gives us rest. He takes what appears to be stormy waters in our hearts and minds and speaks peace into it. He takes those moments where we are exhausted, worn out, and stretched out of shape on every angle, and brings refreshment and renewal to our lives. All of us who are tired and carrying the heaviness of life, through our belief and acceptance of Him as our Saviour and friend, we find rest.
VERSE 29 –
When Jesus mentions ‘yoke’, the crowd would have understood Jesus to be talking about a farming device used with the oxen who were pulling a load and being worked. It was a wooden beam which would come across the shoulders and neck of an oxen, and pair it with another so that the two oxen would pull together, and the collective force of the two animals could be harnessed together.
The word ‘yoke’ would have also evoked images of being enslaved or tied to something.
In this case, the term ‘yoke’ would have also been a reflection upon obedience to the Law that the people had to follow.
What Jesus is telling the crowd is that they are tied to, partnered with, and enslaved to a law that was heavy, tiring, and unattainable. They were tied to the religious system of the day that crushed people under the weight of what the Pharisees and Scribes expected and taught as the only way to be religiously right and acceptable before God. It was a heavy load, and unrealistic load. Read Matthew 23:1-4 to get an idea what that load was like.
Jesus implies that the people are feeling that they are under a heavy yoke that they can not carry. They feel worn down, weary, tired, and overwhelmed by the impossible task ahead. It is in that implication that Jesus says “Take my yoke”… not the yoke of the religious leaders, not the heaviness of all that was imposed on them by others, but take the yoke that Jesus wanted to put on them.
He says: learn from me, learn about me, learn my teachings, the way of living that I model for my followers. Don’t be caught up in the learning of the religious leaders who burden you with all the DOs and MUSTs, don’t fall into their traps, but instead learn from me. Model your life after me. Know me. I am not a slave driver or task master. I am not harsh and demanding. I am gentle, I am humble, I came to serve and be like the least. Learn from me.
When this happens, Jesus says that their souls would find rest. There would be a break, an intermission, a period break from the heaviness that people were carrying.
VERSE 30 –
Why is this possible? Because the yoke that Jesus wanted and wants to give is easy. It is good, virtuous, mild, and pleasant as opposed to the harsh, oppressive, impossible, and heavy yoke that the people would have expected in their own religious system. Jesus says “the burden you are carrying today that is imposed on you, the heaviness you face is not so with me. What I give you is light.”
How can Jesus say this? It comes back to the image of the yoke. It is a partnership agreement and arrangement. Both OX are put into the yoke, and the load is shared. And in the case of Jesus, the yoke is carried for us so that we don’t get crushed under the weight as we too have to push through life. We are paired with an ox who is carrying the heaviness of the yoke for us.
You see, it comes back to partnership, and who you are partnered with. Belief leads to relief. This does not mean a guarantee of an easy life without struggles, trials, hardships, pain, loss, and all the other stresses we face. Those things are still there. But we are getting paired next to the same Jesus whose shoulders were big enough to carry the Cross and take with Him on that Cross all the brokenness, pain, and sin that we were carrying. And because He carried that load, that burden, that weight, that yoke, today He is also carrying your yoke as well. He invites you to believe, receive, and accept. He invites you to come to Him so that as you are facing your load, whatever it might be, He can carry your load. He can carry you so that you don’t have to be weighted down.
Here is the struggle. While we know we are being crushed by our own loads, by the yokes of this life, the struggles, pains, and hardships, and we know it will destroy us if we let it, we hold on. We cling to our stresses, our feelings, our obligations that we place on ourselves. We choose to live in our anxiety. We find security in what we know, and find comfort, even in our pain because it is what we know, even though it is not healthy.
The only way for us to find relief is for us to want to let go of our stuff and actually let go. We have to let Jesus remove from us the self imposed yoke that we can not carry, and replace it with His yoke, where He is the one doing the carrying – where He is carrying you. If you are still spinning with stress and feeling crushed by the weight of life, chances are you haven’t actually let go of our yoke. You may have asked Jesus to help you, but you are still clinging on to your yoke, even subconsciously, as it is what you know.
Lately I have been feeling the exhaustion of life. I don’t know about you, but living in a pandemic is tiring. Life’s routines are all changed. We have to relearn everything. A lot of things don’t seem to make sense. So much is upside down. And if it isn’t this pandemic, it is a whole lot of other stuff in life that is wearing me down. But I also know that I need to come to Him, let Him lift my burdens, my yoke. I need to let Jesus give me His yoke instead where He takes all my pain, all my stress, all my struggling, and as I walk with Him through all that, He carries me. He will carry you also if you let him.