Come to me, all you who are weary (Mt. 11-18)

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…”

Throughout Jesus’ public ministry, he was constantly challenged by the Scribes and the Pharisees. These were the “learned” men charged with making and interpreting the laws that prescribed every element of Jewish life. By Jesus’ time, generations of Scribes and Pharisees had created over 600 laws beyond those of the Mosaic Ten Commandments. Every Jew had to observe these laws and the burden of these laws on the people had become a heavy yoke on their shoulders.

There are two ways to look at the word, “yoke”. We often interpret this word in the negative as something that binds and subjects. But the ancient yoke, which Jesus was referring to, was a device that put two oxen together so that they could share the burden of their labors, making their burden lighter. When Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves” (Mt. 11:28-29) He is telling us to yoke ourselves to him, that he will walk with us in our labors and in doing so, we will learn humility from him and be freed from the heavy burden of our egos, our foolish pride. This is why he says, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (v. 30).

The “wise and learned” Scribes and Pharisees had lost sight of the true wisdom of God’s law. They had forgotten (and we do too) that God’s law liberates and empowers us, rather than limits us. God’s law is the law of Love, the law that Jesus revealed to us when one of the Pharisees [a scholar of the law] asked Jesus, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” And Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt. 22:34-40)

The law for the Scribes and the Pharisees had become a matter of power and control. It became arbitrary and judgmental. Their human laws had become confining impositions rather than liberating propositions. God’s law does not seek to confine us in our guilts, but to free us with forgiveness and to empower us with grace. Man’s laws are often unjust. God’s law is always perfectly just.

The Scribes and the Pharisees saw Jesus only as a threat, a competitor, a danger to their own presumed self-importance. Because of their pride they could not see who Jesus really was. Jesus was challenging them, but he did so out of love. He was trying to liberate them from their ignorance and their hypocrisy, to “see” the error of their ways. He challenges us too. Are we listening? Are we humble enough to hear, and to accept Jesus’ challenge to take up his yoke, to bind ourselves freely to him and to find in him the rest that we so dearly desire?

Lord, increase in us a true and abiding love for your law. Though we are now weary and burdened, help us to hear your invitation to come to you and find our rest in you. We truly wish to take up your yoke of love and to bear its “burden” with us into our daily lives. We know that if we do, your grace will make our efforts, and even our sufferings, easy, and our burdens light. We pray as always in the power of your name, Jesus. Amen!

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