Do you ever feel it is a burden to love and to obey God?
If you do, then this Scripture reading from Matthew might bring you great comfort this morning.
For the Jewish people loving God and obeying God was in many ways a burden.
There were hundreds of laws that needed to be followed and honored.
To make matters worse the Scribes and the Pharisees would place additional laws upon the people especially upon the backs of the poor.
For those who did love God and who desperately wanted to know God they were driven to weariness and despair by the religious leaders and by the demands of the law.
But this teaching from Jesus about us coming to him and finding rest would have been seen as a breath of fresh air to the common Jewish person and also a threat to the powerful.
The religious leaders would not have appreciated this teaching from Jesus.
That is why 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.”
Jesus is lifting the burdens of the oppressed peoples.
The powerful that put those heavy burdens on the poor and lowly people would be judged by God.
Knowing God is not a burden.
Jesus wanted to make that clear.
Not only does he want to make it clear to us that we all can come to God and experience the joy of knowing God, not just those that are privileged, that he says I will help you to know God.
He says to us, “Come to me, all of 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.”
How surprising this teaching would have been to the people at that time.
How shocking this teaching would have been to the religious and the powerful.
In fact, later in the Gospel of Matthew chapter twenty-three we hear Jesus criticizing the religious leaders when he says, “They tie up heavy, burdens and put them on others shoulders.”
Jesus offers something different.
He offers a different kind of yoke.
His yoke is kind and gentle.
It fits well upon our shoulders and it does not weigh us down.
Now Jesus does not diminish the weight of the law or offer us a vacation here from God.
But what Jesus does offer is that he helps us to bear the load, the load of life and he helps us to bear the heavy weight of the law.
We put on the yoke on our shoulders, meaning that which connects us to Jesus enabling us to carry our load more easily.
This is grace.
Let me say it again… this is grace.
Jesus does this for us as a gift.
He helps us in this way because he loves us.
But with the yoke of Christ on our shoulders comes responsibility and action.
The metaphor of the yoke helps us to visualize that once we are connected to Jesus in this new way then we are following him and we are listening to his teachings.
No longer are we going off onto our own path in life but we are following in the path of God.
It is like that old hymn: I Surrender All. Do you know that hymn?
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
When we surrender all to Jesus and put on the yoke, we find healing, we find rest, we find new energy for our souls.
When we surrender all, we redirect our lives to the teachings of Jesus, we adopt his gentle Spirit, and we live out his commands.
The Christian life then becomes blessed with joy and happiness and the burdens of struggle, difficulty, suffering, and sorrow is lifted.
Jesus said these words earlier in the Gospel of Matthew chapter five, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven and blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted and blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”
Jesus comforts us and lifts our burdens and puts us on the path of righteousness.
Today you might be feeling some burdens and you might be feeling the weight of troubles.
Today you might feel distant from God and feel like it is very difficult to find God.
If this is so, then take great comfort in the words of Jesus this morning.
Hear his promise.
Jesus offers us true rest.
This rest is better than any vacation. This is the kind of rest that sinks deeply into our bones. It is the kind of rest that gives us peace. Today rest in the arms of Jesus. Know that he has you safe in his loving arms.
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! Amen.