Matthew 11:28-29 “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…and you will find rest for your souls.
In my younger years I participated in various endurance races, often with my good friend Doug. One of the highlights was when we competed in a four-day triathlon, clear across the state of Minnesota. The first two days consisted of cycling (over 400 miles), the third running (50 miles) and the final day was a 50-mile canoe race. If you have ever paddled a canoe with a partner, you understand the amount of effort required in keeping a canoe moving at a decent clip, and you know that you don’t require your eyes to recognize if your partner has stopped paddling. Doug was a strong paddler, and even if I was in the bow, I didn’t have to turn around to know he had stopped paddling for a drink or a bite to eat. That 50-mile canoe race would not have been pleasant on my own, and I know there would not have been a medal waiting on the other side if I was paddling solo.
That race on the water reminds me of today’s scripture reading. While Jesus didn’t have a sports analogy in mind, he did have an analogy that effectively illustrates the value of partnership. Jesus was using a farming analogy. In Bible times a new ox was often trained for plowing or pulling a cart by being yoked with an experienced ox. The yoke was useful because it kept the young ox in line, it learned to obey its master and, if fitted properly and trained, the two oxen could actually pull more than double the weight than if they plowed on their own.
Understanding this analogy, we can begin to understand what Jesus was offering his followers. He was offering not a yoke of slavery, but a yoke of loving assistance. He was, and is, offering us this yoke every day, especially when we are weak and burdened with life.
Have you ever had times where your life seems overwhelming? You feel like you have nothing left to offer the world – in fact you feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. In that place take up this awesome offer that Jesus extends to you. It is awesome when I consider that while he is the master, he himself descends and he hitches himself to us on that yoke, and that burden that once seemed so overwhelming becomes light. Jesus offers us “rest for [our] souls”, which we desperately need when disillusioned and tired. It is also important to note that, in using the analogy of the yoke, Jesus isn’t talking about removing the burden, but rather partnering with you to make that burden light.
Ephesians 2:10 says: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” While He has provided those works for us to do, he also never intended for us to carry the weight of that calling on our own, and instead desires for us to partner with him. He will rarely insist though, and he will instead quietly sit back and wait for us to accept his invitation. We serve a God who knocks (Revelation 3:20) rather than one who breaks down the door. Accept his invitation and accept his yoke so that you can accomplish all He has prepared for you to do. But do as he desires, and do it in partnership with him.