‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest,’ says the Lord. ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart.’ Matthew 11:28-29
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ has taught us that what we do for the least of his brothers and sisters we do also for him:
give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, who gave up his life and died for us;
yet lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
- Genesis 24:34-38,
- 42-49, 58-67
- Psalm 45:10-17
- Romans 7:14-25
- Matthew 11:15-30
- Next week:
- Genesis 25:19-34
- Psalm 119:105-112
- Romans 8:1-11
- Matthew 13:1-23
A Thought to Ponder
Pentecost 6 – Matthew 11:25-30
“Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart…”
Rarely outside of John’s Gospel is Jesus’ intimacy with the Father so clearly portrayed as in today’s Gospel from Matthew. Jesus offers a hymn of praise to his Father, the holy Creator of all who deeply loves his creation as a father loves his children. The great love of God for all of humanity is revealed in the love of his Son, the Messiah.
Religion as a “yoke” was exactly how Jesus’ Jewish listeners saw the Law. They saw their faith as a burden, a submission to a set of endless rules and regulations dictating every dimension of their lives. But Jesus describes his “yoke” as “easy.” The Greek word used here that we translate as “easy” more accurately means “fitting well.” In Palestine, ox yokes were custom-made of wood, cut and measured to fit a particular animal. Jesus is proposing here a radical change in attitude regarding faith: Our relationship with God is not based on how meticulously we keep a certain set of rules and regulations (a direct challenge to the long-held view of the scribes and Pharisees) but in the depth of our love of God, reflected in our love of others. Our relationship with God is not based on subjugation and weariness but on hope and joy.
There is also an important political dimension to these verses. Matthew’s Gospel was written a short time after the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. by the soldier-emperor Vespasian. For both the Jewish and the new Christian communities, it was a time of painful introspection: Would Israel’s hope for the political restoration of the Jewish state ever be realised? While orthodox Jews maintained unwavering fidelity to their people, language and sense of nationalism, the Christian “cult” saw their ultimate destiny not in the political restoration of Israel but in the coming of the reign of God – a reign that embraces not just Jews but all men and women, even Israel’s most despised enemies. Jewish suspicion of the Christian community was growing as the new group became more and more disaffected by the Jewish political agenda. Jesus’ words on gentleness and humility set off sparks between loyal Jews and Christians who were abandoning the cause.
When Christ calls his disciples to embrace the simple faith of “little ones,” he is not saying that our approach to faith should be “dumbed down” to the level of children. Christ is calling us, instead, to embrace a faith that is centred in the “simple” but profound love, compassion and hope of God: love that is not compromised by self-interest and rationalisation; compassion that is not measured but offered totally and unreservedly, completely and without limit or condition; hope that is centred in gratitude for the many ways God’s presence is revealed in our midst. It is an approach to faith that is not compromised by “adult” complexities and complications but embraced with “child-like” directness and optimism.
To love one another as God has loved us, to serve one another as Christ the Saviour serves God’s people, is a “yoke” that is “easy” (“fitting well”) in calling us to love as we are, using whatever gifts God has given us to give voice to our faith; a yoke that is “light” in its sense of joy and the fulfillment and meaning it gives our lives.
Today’s Gospel calls us to embrace Jesus’ spirit of humility: recognising that before God we are all debtors, we have done nothing to deserve the life we have been given, we are owed nothing from God or life. Humility is to realise how blessed we have been by God through no merit of our own, and to respond to such goodness with a constant sense of gratefulness, realising that every breath we take is a gift from a Creator whose love knows neither limit nor condition.
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