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Gospel of Matthew 11: 25-28 (NIV)
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No-one knows the Son except the Father, and no-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
In my mind I carry two visions of a yoke. One is from rural communities in East Africa where farmers rely on cattle to assist them to plough their small plots of land. Farmers yoke two cattle together to draw the plough. A hand-shaped timber beam across the two beasts’ necks has iron rings to which the plough may be fastened by iron chains so that the plough can be drawn through the dry hard ground.
The other vision is from south-east Asia where human burden-bearers employ a springy beam, up to about two metres in length, across one or both shoulders with equal loads hanging from both ends.
Either example assists me in thinking on Jesus’ comforting words in verses 28-30. Who is not burdened today with the ordinary concerns of living: the raising of children in a rapidly-changing and oft-times hostile society, the care for sick or ageing relatives, the grief of losing close friends or loved ones, the challenges of finding employment or of losing it and the constant barrage of negativity from news and media outlets?
Jesus has promised “rest” or “relief” to those who come to him weary and burdened. The “rest” could possibly refer to “eternal rest” with him though I know from continually relying on him that the “rest” he offers is also in the present. Jesus grants a sense of peace when his followers release the affairs of life to God and are willing to accept God’s control over the affairs of the world – for good in the long term.
Jesus’ urging is not only that his followers accept his yoke rather than any other but also that they learn from him. His followers are to follow his example of being “gentle and humble in heart” (verse 29) which involves not thinking more highly of oneself than one ought. The survival of the world or even of the Christian Gospel is not dependent on any one of us! We are called on to allow God to work things out his way and to ask him to reveal to us what role, if any, he would have us accept in following his will for his creation.