“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Are you weary and heavy burdened? Does life sometimes seem too hard to bear? This Sunday’s gospel (Matthew 11:16-19 & 25-30) is for us all when we are overcome with pain, anxiety and restlessness due to the challenges of life. Offering us the most comforting invitation, Jesus says, “Come to me.”
In Jesus’ days, He cared deeply for lowly, ordinary folks, weary and heavy burdened under the weight of sickness and diseases, injustice and a harsh religious system that interpreted the law legalistically while ignoring issues of mercy, love, justice and kindness. Later in Matthew’s gospel, we hear Jesus chastising the Pharisees for they “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” (Matthew 23:4). One example was the severe Sabbath restrictions on work, that offered no exceptions for critical human need.
And so, to the heavy burdened Jesus says, “come to me and I will give you rest.” This rest is far deeper than the required physical rest on the Sabbath. Jesus offers salvation leading to deep inner peace and assurance of His presence with us always. This inner rest is unmoved by the toils and challenges of the physical world and fulfilled in the promise of rest eternally with God.
Jesus further invites the heavy burdened to an intimate alliance with Him, who is the Prince of Peace. He says, “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.” Yokes were symbols of burden bearing. They were laid on the necks and shoulders of two farm animals. The yoke would hold the two animals together, compelling them to work together. Jesus offers to be our yokemate, carrying our burdens with us, so the burden gets lighter. We do not carry our burden alone, not even the burden of our darkest sins. And we can rest in that assurance and freely commit our lives to be yoked to Him as disciples, learning and living Jesus’ divine, life-giving way of being, free to rest securely and peacefully in God’s grace today and tomorrow. Amen.