“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give your 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 light.” Matthew 11:28-30
This has been a time like no other that we have experienced. Few are those who have not felt an impact from this pandemic. We have gone through vast changes in our families, schools, employment, hobbies, our worship, and our socialization. By now, many are feeling weary.
Perhaps you are feeling weighted down by everything you are doing and trying to do as you adapt and change, besides all the burdens you were carrying before the pandemic. It might not be a physical tired, but instead a feeling of being emotionally drained. Life might not even be as busy as it was pre-pandemic but there is that underlying boredom of sameness. Can you remember what day it is? They all seem to be the same, and so we feel weary.
The verses from Matthew 11 quoted above, are Jesus’ call to the weary. These words can bring comfort to each of us and our weary world. Just prior to these verses, Jesus has been teaching about the kingdom of God by sharing the vision and the hope that await the world through Jesus. John the Baptist, with his bold sharp unapologetic words, “you brood of vipers!” to Jesus’ portrayal of frightening inclusiveness in his words and actions, bring the message of the kingdom. But it is falling on deaf ears among those with power and authority. Those who think they are wise and learned of the day, are lacking an important trait: wisdom.
Yet there are many without worldly power, who know suffering, who live with humility, and they are the ones who receive Jesus’ words. They are like infants absorbing all Jesus shares. We hear about people like them in the Beatitudes; the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for Jesus’ sake, those who are reviled. Oh, these are the weary. These are the ones who are given rest. A rest in Jesus.
There still is much to be done to bring justice and peace to the world. There is much to be done to build unity and respect for all human life. This is a different kind of work than the work that wears us down. The kingdom building work we do for Jesus and for the love of all people in the world is done with an invitation and a promise, that we are not following Jesus alone. The Holy Spirit is with us, and in us, and around us, so, we are never going solo.
Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon us. When Jesus is our partner, we are promised that the yoke is easy and the burden light. He is gentle and humble, and you will find rest for your souls.
I think of the apostle Paul. His life story after his conversion is full of threats on his life, rejection from one towns people after another, a shipwreck and imprisonment, yet he is filled with hope and joy, filled with Jesus the Christ. The Holy Spirit is at work in him and through him. Paul realized that it was no longer he who lives but Christ who lives in him. He did not weary because he was yoked with Christ.
At times I know there are burdens I pick up and carry that have nothing to do with Jesus; nothing to do with love. They are just weights pulling me down, making me want to conform with cultural expectations. Perhaps someday I will rid myself of them sooner, or not even pick them up to begin with. Only then, do I open myself to the Spirit’s work in me. When my life is burdened and busy, there is no room for Jesus. I carry the burden alone.
I remember visiting with a woman who was terminally ill and in hospice care. She appeared peaceful, and I commented on this. I wondered if indeed I was interpreting her current state correctly. She responded that there were times when she would feel like she was carrying the burdens of the world on her shoulders. But not anymore. When the burdens were too much, she remarked, she would go through the motions of picking up the burdens, like they were heavy objects scattered on the floor, and throw them in a garbage bag. Again, not a real bag, but one she imagined. Finally, the bag was filled and the burdens no longer in sight. The plastic bag now possessed the burdens. Then, with all her strength, she would take the imaginary bag and throw it to the furthest spot in the room. It felt so good she explained with relaxed breath, to absence herself from those burdens. Next, she called out to Jesus to take them, “I don’t need this Jesus, I just need you!”
We do not need these burdens either Jesus; we just need you! If we can just listen to Jesus and accept his invitation, he will take our burdens and teach us to love as he loves. The African American spiritual by the same name says it well, “Give me Jesus, give me Jesus. You may have all the rest, give me Jesus.”
In Jesus you will find rest for your soul!