"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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."For those who don't have the entire Bible memorized, or at least a really good picture of who is generally quoted in the New Testament, I want to point out one really important thing about this verse:
the person speaking is JESUS.
Now, why would I consider that something really important to point out?
Here's the thing: if I say that I believe that God created me and all things, and that Jesus is God and a member of the Trinity, and that God always speaks the truth, then
anytime God speaks, we need to listen.
So, Jesus is speaking here. Oh Lord, help us hear!
The scripture quoted above is from the NIV (New International Version of the Bible). Another translation where I have heard teaching on this scripture was NASB (New American Standard Bible), and it uses a really interesting word. Instead of "burdened", NASB uses the word "heavy-laden."
That's an interesting term. It is certainly not a common descriptor these days, so what does it really mean?
To get my point across, I think it would best be done through this picture:
|© Jessica Van Eaton 2013|
This pine tree is absolutely covered in snow. Probably close to 8 inches at the tallest of mounds. And because it has all of its needles, there are giant blankets of snow weighing down each branch. They are sagging and stooping under the beautiful white blankets of snow.
There is so much weight, it is literally bending over from all of the weight.
It can't stand up straight!
This tree is heavy-laden with snow. It is such a deep descriptor when we look at our lives.
When we are weary (aka. exhausted and tired) and heavy-laden (or deeply burdened), we are so overwhelmed by that which is burdening us and exhausting us that we are not physically, emotionally, or spiritually able to hold ourselves upright!
And it is in those exhaustive moments in our lives that Jesus is speaking to us. Listen to his words: "Come to me ... and I will give you rest." Rest! He will lift away that which is pinning us down and give us the moments we need to be rejuvenated.
"...you will find rest for your souls."
How beautiful is that image? To have our very souls be at rest. To have our striving, our worry, our panic, our issues, our fears and all other 'problems' be pealed away from our weary souls so that we may finally live in a place of rest. A place of calm. A place of hope. And a place of complete trust. For we can only rest in the midst of the chaos of this world when we are constantly reminding ourselves that we can trust God to have power and dominion over all of it!
But there is a part in the middle that we need to look at. It tells us how we will find that rest. What path we need to take.
"Take my yoke upon you ... For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
What is the yoke that Jesus is speaking about?
For starters, a yoke is commonly used to strap two strong animals together, to use their combined strength for work like tilling or plowing a field. Horses, oxen, and other large animals have often been yoked together by man to make the work faster and easier than with one animal striving on its own.
But for a yoke to work best, both animals must be similar in size, strength and temperament.
Sometimes, though, a yoke can be used to work through some of those differences, especially temperament. The one who is weaker will be lifted up by the stronger, and the one who is restless will be mellowed by the calm.
The labor that is requiring this particular yoke which Jesus is speaking about is the work that we are to do in the world. There is so much 'tilling' and 'plowing' and 'planting' that has to be done! Yes, I am speaking in the spiritual terms of those words: sharing the good news and planting seeds of righteousness! And it is certainly not something that is an easy task. And certainly not a task that can be accomplished alone!
So how can Jesus say that his yoke is easy? And that his burden is light? How can that be true when we already know that the task is daunting?
I believe it is because in 'taking his yoke', you are choosing to be yoked to Jesus for the work that we are called. And he is the strongest and most well-tempered there will ever be! The burden on us is light and easy, for Jesus is the one able to do the 'heavy lifting' when we find ourselves stumbling. He is the one who knows the most straightforward path that must be taken for each task. What a blessing that he even offers to do this for us!
"... learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart ..."
Lastly, we are called to learn the ways of Jesus. By yoking ourselves to him, we are allowing him to teach us -- his temperament, the path that he follows, where he gathers his strength -- and allowing our spirit to learn from his guidance.
And in the midst of teaching us, he is promising to do so with gentleness and kindheartedness. I also believe he is saying that we are called to learn the qualities of a gentle and humble heart from him.
Learning by being yoked is not an instant fix for our struggles and ineptitude. But God is patient!
What a beautiful gift he is constantly giving us -- his time, his patience, Him!
At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to the little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."