Matthew 11: 25 – 30
There are days when I feel like a weighty load. Then I picture God, like a father, hoisting me up and carrying me like a child on his shoulders. There, I feel protected and safe. I’m unburdened, light as a toddler and free.
Yet, from up there, I can see the wider picture. From there, I gain some perspective about my predicament, within the context of the world and develop a more discerning eye, enabled through the Holy Spirit; scripture; conversations; teaching and songs that have familiarised me over the years with God’s intentions for humankind, and even for me within that teeming multitude of God’s profound creativity.
The yoke Jesus refers to, symbolises the yoke of discipleship, taking upon oneself the teaching of a scholar or rabbi. But Jesus is a gentle teacher, who cares passionately for the well-being of all humankind. The Jewish Rabbis, however, spoke of the ‘yoke of the Torah’ the ‘teachings’ or ‘law’. I’m sure we can imagine how, with 613 regulations, it would be easy to inadvertently slip up and find oneself on the wrong side of the law!
By contrast, Jesus stresses that the yoke he invites us to bear is ‘easy’ and his ‘load’ is ‘light’.
But how can this be? We know there are costs to discipleship, we’ve heard about them, even if we haven’t experienced them.
And yet suffering under oppressive yokes, ‘man-made’ by people who don’t care for humankind’s well-being, is so much harder than Jesus’ yoke, because Jesus is yoked with us in the carrying of burdens, as we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to carry them.
Matthew gives us a further glimpse into the problem in chapter 23. “They (that’s the religious leaders) tie on to people’s backs loads that are heavy and hard to carry, yet aren’t willing even to lift a finger to help them carry those loads”.
A diligent Jew believed that he could fulfil the law if he devoted his life to doing just that. However, Jesus teaches that even when the Law is fulfilled, it does no good as far as doing God’s will is concerned. Fulfilling it only leads to a false confidence that one has achieved a valid relationship with God.
Jesus showed that what counted was our right relationship with God, which could be achieved by obeying just two laws – love God and love your neighbour as you love yourself.
The teachings that will lead to the ‘life in abundance’ that Jesus also spoke about, are simple to remember (even for people like me, who struggle to remember lists) two simple life enhancing teachings that, when put into practice, can transform the world.
If we each love our neighbour in practical and material ways the world will be loved. If we only love our family and friends, people will be missed out – those without family or friends, the most marginalised. But if I love my neighbour and they love their neighbour… and so on, the whole world is loved and the burdens of life eased.
In Jesus’ world order, the people of Bangladesh are our neighbour. My neighbour’s neighbour is my neighbour; the world is my neighbour, and its flourishing is as important as my own.
We struggle, don’t we, with the ‘as you love yourself’ bit! But self-care is important. Because of it, I cannot hate myself and love my neighbour. I cannot put myself in the theologically un-sound position of hating myself, because that would be to hate something that God created! I am to be content, and feel loved and valued, to see myself as God sees me, and then I will see my neighbour in the same way – a person loveable and valuable. And I will want with all my heart, all my being to ensure their wellbeing.
Learning through the Commitment for Life Programme, we have been invited to pay attention to the smallholders of Bangladesh and play our part in their prosperity, as we yoke ourselves to them – side by side, bearing the load with them, just as Jesus is yoked to us – side by side
We are invited and called to navigate Jesus’ new way with him, and through it to find the new life of release and peace and a right relationship with our Father through His Son, and in so doing be in right relationships with the world and all its people.
O God, who gave us life to cherish and enjoy,
and made us capable, in its service,
of costly love and powerful commitment:
help us to choose life in all its fullness,
not only for ourselves and for our children
but for all our struggling world,
for whom you were content to lay down your life
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
We covenant to support the work being done with people in Bangladesh as our Commitment for Life partners,
in giving, in praying, in campaigning, in loving solidarity,
help us to be true neighbours,
with much to give and much to receive
by the grace of God, our Maker, Saviour and Enabler. Amen.