Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew.
Glory to you, O Lord.

[Jesus spoke to the crowd saying:] “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “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.”

The gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Grace to you and peace from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

My grandson, Paul, is now 2½ years old and he likes to help. We encourage him to do things to help out, but some things are hard for him. He can barely open the trash drawer, he can’t open the outside doors, He can’t reach under the couch to pick up small toys. When he does have trouble, he has learned to ask for help, which we gladly give. We don’t generally do it for him but we take some of the burden of off him. We make it easier for him. We help him open the trash door, we unlatch the doors and let him pull them, we reach under the couch and move things forward enough for him to reach.

We are designed to both need and to give help. I’ve found that being helpful is one of the most satisfying things there is and most of are willing to jump right in if we are able. Asking for help is a little harder, especially as Americans in a culture that lifts up rugged individualism. We like to think that we can do it ourselves or that we’ll manage, and when we’re young, we often can, but as we age, we start to realize once more that we do need some help now and then.

God didn’t design us to be individuals, he designed us to live in community, be it as a community of two, Adam and Eve, or a community of national size, the Israelites. It’s in community that we thrive. We especially thrive when we are in community with God.
In our Gospel today, Jesus tells us, “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.”

I’m going to be talking about yokes for a few minutes, but I realize that not everyone may exactly sure what Jesus is talking about or what a yoke is.

This is what a yoke is. It is the large wooden carved beam that goes across an animal’s shoulders and is curved to fit them. They have two bows that go around the animal’s necks to hold the yoke on. The yoke serves two purposes. It gives the farmer something to attach a heavy rope or chain to, to pull a plow or weight with, and it unites the two animals into one unit. Here’s a short video of a contest to see which team of oxen can drag the greatest weight. It gives a good view of the yoke in action.

Show video

To be yoked together means to be joined together. As impressive as they were, by themselves, those two oxen couldn’t have even budged near that amount of weight. Yoked together, they were able to move 15,500 lbs. So it is with us, when we are yoked together, joined together, we can do so much more than we can by ourselves.

Something you may have noticed in the video, besides how massive those oxen were, was how similar in size and strength they were. In Deuteronomy 22:10 the Israelites were told: “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.” It’s not hard to understand why they were told that. Can you imagine if one of those two oxen had actually been a donkey? The yoke wouldn’t have fit correctly, leaving most of the burden to the ox which would have forced it to turn either into or away from the donkey. At the very least, using an ox and donkey together would make it hard to plow and at the worst it could injure the donkey. You’d get no work done and if you were plowing, your rows would be anything but straight.

It matters what animal is yoked together with what animal. It also matters for us. If we are joined together with someone who is not our equal, we can have difficulties. If you’re old enough, picture the Odd Couple, where one person was a neat freak and the other a slob. They had constant friction. Picture me trying to run with my 6’2” athletic brother. I was frustrated because I couldn’t keep up and he was frustrated because he had to slow down. Picture a home body married to a party animal. It’s probably not going to end well. If I really need to get something done, Paul is not really the person I want to be yoked with just then. As helpful as he tries to be and as much as I love him, it’s going to be frustrating.

We have a deep need to be yoked with others but if the person or people we are connected to are too different, it will be hard. I’m not saying impossible, but hard. Maybe even harder than going it alone.

So what’s up then with Jesus saying we should take up his yoke? We are not even close to being equal with him, so how can we even consider being yoked with him? Why would he want us to be?

To answer the third question first, why would he want us to be yoked to him? Simply because he loves us. He know we are carrying burdens in our lives.

We carry the burden of current sin and the burden of guilt over past sins. We carry burdens of sickness and loneliness and fear and all sorts of other burdens. These burdens weigh us down and tire us out. Sometimes they make us just want to stop and give up.

By taking on the yoke of Jesus, by joining with him, he can ease our burdens. He’s already relieved us of the burden of our sin and guilt, we just need to be reminded to let go of it. And while we may not be entirely relieved of the other burdens in our present lives, he has promised to be there and walk through them with us and he tells us in Revelation of a coming time where “…God himself will be with them; God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…” Someday, all of our burdens will be relieved completely and we will find rest for our souls.

The second question was, “… how can we even consider being yoked with Jesus?” Jesus, or God if you will, is do far beyond us that we have no hope of being his equal. Isaiah tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Because we cannot become God’s equal, God came down in the form of Jesus to be our equal, to walk among us as a servant. God meets us where we’re at on our journey and walks beside us along the way matching his step to ours and sometimes, as the famous poem, “Footsteps in the Sand” says, he carries us. And like we do with with Paul, God lingers ever near to assist when asked and pick us up when we fall. He is humble and gentle with us.

Perhaps the best part of it is that we are already yoked with him. When we are baptized, we are joined together with Christ. We just need to let to stop straining to do life on our own and allow Jesus to ease our burdens.

“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.”
Amen, come Lord Jesus.