In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus speaks of carrying burdens. He knows people work hard. He knows they tire. At first, it seems Jesus offers a trade, one burden for another:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.”
He calls to everyone with a heavy burden to come to him for rest. Perhaps he will carry our burden while we rest. But he seems to want us to take his burden. So maybe he simply suggests a swap. One burden for another.
What are we talking about? What are these burdens?
It might help if we make sure we know what Jesus means by a yoke. In Jesus' time, a farmer wanting to plough a field would attach the plough to a yoke, and place the yoke upon the shoulders of two animals, often oxen. The animals would pull the plough through the field, turning over the heavy soil, making it ready for planting.
Jesus often speaks about soil and planting when he speaks about the Kingdom of God. We know that his work is to build the Kingdom of God. We also know that he offers this work to us, too. When we are Baptized and again when we are Confirmed, we agree to a share in his work—the work of turning over the soil, preparing the way of the Lord in a world that does not always want to greet him. It can be very hard work. It can be very lonely work. Work that causes us to get laughed at. Work that causes some people to sneer at us. Work that sometimes gets no thanks.
He offers it to us.
We gladly say yes.
We keep on saying yes.
But it is a very heavy burden.
No wonder Jesus says—and thank goodness, he says—
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
But our work is his work. Our burden is his burden. How can ours be so heavy and his be light?
We must not forget the yoke.
He wants us to put his yoke on our shoulders. The yoke is designed for two.
It would be impossible to build the Kingdom on our own. It is too large a burden for one person alone. We do not have a God who is content to sit and watch us struggle on our own. Jesus says,
learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart
Who stands in the other harness of the yoke, side-by-side with us, sharing the load?
It is our humble God.
Not too proud to let us work on our own.
His burden is light because it is shared. We cannot build the Kingdom on our own. We must not try. We build it in partnership with Christ.
We plough the world together with Christ. We get it ready so that God can plant, so that all of Creation may be transformed by the life and love of God. So that all,
will find rest for your souls.