Monday, July 7, 2008


"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" (Matthew 11:28-30).

As I've been reading through the lectionary, I've noticed that the designated passages are often short, and focus on the particularly core parts. At the same time, though, context is pretty important. I've tried to make sure I look around the lectionary passages, and not just read the verses given.

Yesterday's readings -- access them here -- include Matthew 11:25-30. I've heard Matthew 11:28-30 quoted a number of times, another of those comforting promises from an infinitely powerful God who chooses to love and care for us. And it is! But I also see it in light of the beginning of the chapter: "When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'" (Matthew 11:2-3, emphasis mine). John's physical situation was not comfortable, and he appears to have been struggling with questions about Jesus, to whom he had dedicated his entire life. Perhaps we would do well to remember, too, the events recorded just a few chapters later: "Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison.... Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people.... [Herodias] said, 'Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist' .... [Herod] had John beheaded in the prison" (see Matthew 14:1-12).

"My yoke is easy and my burden is light." What was the "yoke" to which Jesus referred? Farmers used yokes to attach oxen to each other and to their loads, so "yokes came to represent labor, service and submission to authority" (Quest Study Bible). Labor, service and submission are oppressive under the control of a tyrant, but even difficult situations can hold great joy when led by an excellent and honorable master and toward a worthy goal. The yoke of Jesus is not like the "good life" sometimes waved in front of us by our culture. It is not a life of ease, not a life of immediate gratification, not a life of having everything happen according to what we want. It is a life of great challenge and it requires full commitment. But we can rest and be refreshed at a soul level, even in very difficult times, as we walk with Christ.

No comments: