Jesus’ invitation is enticing yet puzzling.
“Come to me, all 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.
What to make of his offer? Jesus just completed an emotionally filled rebuke of the towns which dismissed both his and John the Baptist’s words. Interestingly, he names whole towns. Were their individuals who were transformed in their thoughts and behaviors by the divine miracles they witnessed? We can only speculate. However, by naming whole towns, he indicates that individual actions contribute to corporate systems. Corrupt powers become familiar habits and the appetite for feeding them becomes insatiable. John and Jesus came to both convict and point them back to desiring the “very good” God provides for them. But turning back demands surrender to earthly gratification, human driven agendas and reasoning.
So the very towns which had witnessed the very signs of Immanuel (God with us) refused to repent of their human ideologies. In order to emphasize his point, Jesus compares them to towns whose names were already scandalously attached to sin. Whoa.
His invitation uses an analogy the crowd understood. Oxen are yoked together so that the more experienced one teaches and takes the burden of the other one as they navigate their course. God has come into their midst. There are no hierarchy obstacles or cultural/racial/gender barriers to being “yoked” with him. No religious bucket lists to follow. But rather, a relationship.
As Eugene Peterson translates in the Message:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30.
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