"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." Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
Jesus invites us to walk with him on a wonder-filled adventure. The invitation is given to all who are saddled with weariness or bogged down with the pressures of day-to-day life. Looks like that includes just about everyone!
The invitation is to “come.” We are challenged to be willing participants alongside others with Christ on this journey. The promise offered is rest. Rest from having to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders all by ourselves. Implicit in all of this is the promise that we will cease walking by ourselves, choosing our own direction and path. The encouragement to “come” is not a summons to do more work or to engage in a lifestyle of busyness. The promise of Christ is that in coming to him we would receive a special type of rest that prior to coming to him has been elusive.
As a boy growing up in a rural community I was familiar with a yoke. I was too young to have ever used a yoke, but heard plenty of stories from my father about how he had worked with oxen that were yoked together. The purpose of a yoke was to bind two animals together so that they could work together, in tandem, as a team.
I am pretty sure that being yoked with Christ is not because Christ expects me to do equal pulling. In fact, Christ dispels that notion right away by stating the goal of being yoked with him. He says, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” The root word for learn is the same root that means to be a disciple. The invitation from Christ is not a call to do equal work, but is a plea for us to sojourn with him as student learners.
The older I get the more I realize how much I do not know. I do not know why the road of life has so many twists, turns, hills, terrain changes, hazards, pitfalls, chuckholes, and challenges. But I am confident that by being yoked with Christ I never face any of the potential perils alone. Our founder, John Wesley, allegedly said on his death bed, “Best of all God is with us!”
Emmanuel, “God with us,” invites us to walk in harmony with him and with each other. Our guide and instructor is Jesus. He promises to be a gentle and humble leader that can direct us to places where our souls will find rest.
As we approach the Lenten Season we enter in to a period set aside for self-examination and spiritual assessment. As we look at our lives under the microscope of the Holy Spirit, we are once again invited by Christ to lay down our burdens and receive from him a yoke that is easy and light.
The burdens of life are not removed simply because we choose to walk with Jesus. Our burdens are lightened because Christ has the ability and the willingness to shoulder the load. Our task is to walk with Jesus and to LEARN how he deals with the stuff that we encounter on the journey. Jesus can teach us how to forgive, how to deal with the complexities of our changing world, and how to model his character and nature to folks wanting to see if the Christian lifestyle is real and authentic.
One of my recurring prayers is this, “Lord, your words say that the steps of the righteous are ordered of the Lord. Help me to not lag behind nor to run ahead. Help me to faithfully walk each day yoked with you, learning as we journey together.”
Jesus knows “the way forward” and Jesus knows how to grant rest from the cares and the labors to each one that responds to the invitation to come and follow.