Easy Burden

16 06 2013

“Come to me, all of you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on 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 to carry and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Lexham English Bible (LEB)

Oh, really?

This, from the same Rabbi who said, “The one who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and the one who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

That, from the same Rabbi who said, “But you, watch out for yourselves! They will hand you over to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues and will have to stand before governors and kings because of me, for a witness to them…” and, “They will expel you from the synagogue,  but an hour is coming that all who kill you will think they are offering service to God.  And they will do these things because they do not know the Father or me.”

Indeed.  “These things I command you: that you love one another.  If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hatedyou. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

Such service is easy? Such life is light?

Consider the records and reports available from Open Doors (www.opendoors.org) and Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com) and Samaritan’s Purse (www.samaritanspurse.org).  How would tens of thousands of Christians so afflicted all around the world today respond to such questions?

Here’s one answer.

Ever since the rebellion that resulted in expulsion from the Garden of Eden, human beings have each toiled under increasingly heavy heaps of sin and its consequences. Jesus says to all, “Come to me…” As Adam Clarke has expressed it, “Sinners, wearied in the ways of iniquity, are … invited to come to this Christ and find speedy relief. Penitents, burdened with the guilt of their crimes, may come to this Sacrifice and find instant pardon. Believers, sorely tempted and oppressed by the remains of the carnal mind, may come to the Blood that cleanseth from all unrighteousness; and, purified from all sin, and powerfully succored in all temptation, they shall find uninterrupted rest in this complete Saviour.”

Here’s a second answer.

Jews of Jesus’ day, if they at all wanted to live lives consistent with their chosen and circumcised status under God, were told by the religious elite they had to obey at least 613 commandments. Add to that all the laws and regulations imposed by their Herodian lords and Roman overlords. Weary? The Greek indicates exhaustion from hard labor. Burdened? The Greek indicates loading down to buckling knees and breaking backs. How could anyone survive, never mind thrive, under such freight?

Even so, Jesus Himself taught, “… let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  Do not think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets. I have not come to destroy them, but to fulfill them.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one tiny letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all takes place. Therefore whoever abolishes one of the least of these commandments and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever keeps them and teaches them, this person will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I say to you that unless your righteousness greatly surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Notice:  “Take my yoke…” Realize that a yoke is an implement made for more than one; a yoke is fitted to a team. Who is the one wearing the other side of the yoke? Jesus.  He is the one who has already been here and seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt that which is the human experience.  He is the Son of Man. He is also the Son of God, the Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords. If Jesus is in the yoke with you, would it not then be easy and light?

Make no mistake. A disciple ( talmid ) of Christ is no pet; (s)he works. A talmid of Christ is no bench-warmer; (s)he gets into the game and plays. A talmid of Christ is no groupie; (s)he gets on stage and performs. A talmid of Christ is no camp-follower; (s)he gets on the field of battle and fights. A talmid of Christ is like Christ. As the Apostle Paul says, Christians conform to His image so that they might very well become His brothers and sisters.

And here’s a third answer.

Pick your sport. How does one become a medal-winning Olympic athlete? Pick your instrument. How does one become a medal-winning concert musician? Pick your armed service. How does one become a medal-winning, special-forces warrior? (S)he works at it … it meaning the transformation of talent into skill.  For almost all the rest of us, that work is more than daunting.  It’s drudgery. It’s dull.  It’s dreadful. But for the one striving for higher achievement? Ah, might that person not say the yoke is easy and the burden is light? What makes the difference? What does that person have that we don’t?

Verve.  Élan. Vivacity.  Esprit.  Spirit.

We’ve all experienced it, that inner something that makes certain work fulfilling – even fun –  while others think it miserable.

Verve.  Élan. Vivacity.  Esprit.  Spirit.

Think Holy Spirit. As Jesus said: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest part of the earth.”

As Paul prayed: “On account of this, I bend my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person,  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (you having been firmly rooted and established in love),  in order that you may be strong enough to grasp together with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, in order that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  Now to the one who is able to do beyond all measure more than all that we ask or think, according to the power that is at work in us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

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