For Christians, Jesus is our ultimate teacher because he teaches us about what is truly ultimate. And when we get to know him, we learn from him. A good teacher imparts knowledge to their students. And a good teacher develops skills for their students. What kind of knowledge does Jesus give us? He gives us knowledge of God, of God’s kingdom, of the world, and ourselves. Jesus teaches us that the God of grace and love is truly ultimate. And once we come to know this gracious and loving God, Jesus helps us to develop skills for living lives that are concerned with God and our world. So the skills we learn from Jesus are skills of living godly lives. That’s a great invitation. That’s a nice invitation…
That sounds nice until we realize that it’s not just sin that keeps us away from this invitation. No, it’s not just sin. Weariness and heavy burdens are also obstacles.
1) Jesus invites the weary and the heavy-laden to learn from him.
To be weary is to be tired. But we are not just talking about tired from exercising. Or tired from dealing with folks all day. We are talking weary. Weary. These are the folk who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Not only are you sick and tired of being sick and tired, you are burdened with heavy loads. You have a yoke upon you. Yokes are devices made for the neck and shoulders of oxen, but symbolically and throughout scripture, a yoke describes slavery and oppression.
Jesus is inviting you and me. Anyone weary this morning? Anyone carrying heavy burdens? Jesus has an invitation with your name on it. Some of us have been mentally yoked. Our minds are oppressed. When you can’t think straight, you may be suffering from mental oppression. When we have one-track-minds; that is a form of mental oppression. When we stop thinking for ourselves and let others think for us. That is a sign of mental oppression. Jesus is inviting us this morning to learn from him. Do you have an emotional yoke that is too heavy to carry? Are you sick and tired of that same old frustration, anger, fear, hate and depression. If so, Jesus is inviting you today. Is your body tired, aching, and sick. Do you have a physical yoke? Jesus is inviting you to learn from him this morning.
And while it might be tempting to think Jesus’ call is only personal, there’s something we must understand. A yoke is normally meant for two. Yokes are not just personal problems, they are social problems; and in fact, the Bible deals more with social issues than personal issues. Your social situation can leave you weary and heavy laden…
Leviticus 26:13 I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be their slaves no more; I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.
1 Kings 12:4 When some men come to Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, they say to him, ““Your father, Solomon, made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke that he placed on us, and we will serve you.”
Isaiah 58:6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
The yoke is a symbol for social oppression. Wealth and income inequality. But its also a symbol of spiritual and religious oppression like Redemptive suffering and retribution. Like when Victims of sexual assault or violence hear…. “God will use this as a way to gain greater glory or what goes around comes around…” weary and heavy laden… Cuz now the church is telling you God wanted these things to happen to you…
2) Jesus exposes that there are some teachers who promise rest but only offer more burdens.
Not all teachers are in front of a chalkboard, behind a pulpit, or at a friend or family member’s house. The streets can be a teacher. This dog-eat-dog economy can be a teacher. TV can be a teacher. The internet can be a teacher. All of us have multiple teachers, but the thing is this, some of these teachers act as if they have the key to finding rest. Make enough money, we are told, and we will have rest. But as the Notorious B.I.G. said so eloquently, Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems. Not only that, those who chase money at all costs have no issue of creating hell for others in their pursuit of rest. But wealth is not the same as rest, my brothers and sisters. But it’s not just money or secular things that claim they can provide rest, but end up creating more burdens. Religion and the church can add to your burdens too. It’s a sad fact that religion has done just as much evil in the world as it has done good. Christianity is no exception. America was viewed as the new promised land for European settlers and their Christian preachers claimed this a place of hard work, rest, and opportunity even as they enslaved Africans and killed Native Americans. But it’s not just our past. It’s still in the church today. It’s easy to call out Jesus’ opponents like the Pharisees. But do you know there are “Pharisees” in any religion. Matthew’s community was in a bitter dispute with the Pharisees and so it can appear that Pharisees are “bad” and Christians are “good.” Don’t fall into such a yoke.
3) Jesus denounces and recognizes the burdens that God did not and does not intend.
Look at the passage. Not all yokes, not all burdens are from God. Jesus wouldn’t be offering you his yoke if all yokes were the same. There’s a saying that God will never put more on you than you can bear, but that saying is routinely misguided and misplaced. You see, sometimes we start thinking that all adversity, that all suffering, that every burden and every yoke has its source in God, but Jesus sets us straight. This is not so. In Matthew 23:4 Jesus says that the Scribes and Pharisees “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay these burdens on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.”
…sometimes we start thinking that all adversity, that all suffering, that every burden and every yoke has its source in God, but this is not so…
God might not give you more than you can handle. But other forces will. That is why we must pray for discernment. That burden is not from God, my sister. That burden is from the enemy, and has got you thinking that God wants you to be where you are. That burden is not from God, my brother. That burden is from your family who said that you would never amount to anything. That burden is not from God, my brothers and sisters. That burden is from your friends who use your kindness and generosity as an excuse to take advantage of you and then guilt you into feeling bad when you don’t bend to their will. God does not desire you and your family to be catching hell. God does not desire death. God does not desire the pain and suffering caused by social injustice, violence, fear, and hatred. We commit sin when someone comes to us in pain and suffering and we tell them that God won’t put more on them than they can bear; but what we are saying is that God put this pain and suffering on them. Not so, says Jesus. Not so, says God. Not every yoke, not every burden is from God.
© 2015 M. J. Sales