April 6, 2021
We have recently marked the one-year anniversary of COVID reality in the United States. One year of cancellations, deaths, fear, crisis, masks, online services, and upheaval in every part of our lives. I think we all fall into the category of those who are “weary and carry heavy burdens.” In fact, many of us might go so far as to say that our weariness has become exhaustion, and our heavy burdens have developed into full-blown burn-out.
It seems a very good time to remember some of my favorite words from Jesus, found in Matthew 11.29-30: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
And here into our darkness of grief-stricken, try-harder, COVID-reality exhaustion, Jesus shines this beautiful shining ray of good news: “It’s not all up to you to figure it out and do it alone. Walk with me, and let me show you how.”
In first-century agrarian culture, a yoke was an indispensable tool. It was carved wood that fit over the necks of two animals, allowing them to work in sync side-by-side. Farmers commonly used a yoke to pair an older, mature ox with a younger, strong ox. Left to his own devices, the young ox would set out to plow a field fast and furious – but would make crooked, uneven lines and may tire himself out before finishing the job. It was the job of the older animal to teach the younger how to go slowly and methodically. This resulted in straight, even rows; but even more significantly, it resulted in both animals being able to finish the whole job without exhausting themselves.
Can you see the picture Jesus is painting here in his invitation? He is the older, more experienced one. He offers himself to us, to walk side by side with him under his easy yoke. I love how Eugene Peterson translated this in The Message: “Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
This is learning to do life with Jesus, instead of doing stuff for Jesus. And there is a world of difference between the two.
What does it look like, feel like, sound like to walk side by side with Jesus like this? Well, for me it has felt like freedom, and a definite lightening of my spirit. I see Jesus in my mind’s eye, beckoning me to walk with him, his arm over my shoulder as his “easy yoke.” He points things out in the terrain, gives me his perspective on troubling situations, reminds me what is true, and gives me courage. But Jesus has not only helped me to navigate the rough patches in the road ahead – he has revealed to me the rough patches in my own spirit, and offered to heal them. And my goodness, what a glorious kind of rest that is.
I don’t know what’s happening in your spirit as you read this. I don’t know the specifics of what you’ve faced in the last twelve months, nor do I know the decisions and needs on your horizon. But I can say with confidence that you need rest, and you need a good guide for what lies ahead. We all do.
So, I invite you into just a few moments of honest reflection as we ponder Jesus’s invitation. Maybe it’s time to pause and look around, just to take stock of where we are.
- Is Jesus beside you? Or, could it be that somewhere along the way in the chaos of life you’ve walked out from underneath Jesus’s yoke and you’re going alone?
- How is Jesus inviting you to receive rest and learn from him right now?
- Do you have space in your life to hear him?
- Knowing that it’s not all up to you, what do you need to ask Jesus for right now?
Receive these words of blessing as my earnest prayer for you:
Friends, may you receive the rest you need, and the rest Jesus longs to provide.
May you know the joy and freedom of doing life with Jesus.
May you rejoice in the gift of the easy yoke.
Rev. Michaele LaVigne
2021 Pastor in Residence