8 December 2010

Matthew 11:28-30

"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." (v. 29)


The gospel of Jesus cannot be heard by the movers and shakers of the world. The promise of Jesus comprises relief, refreshment and uncomplicated joy in human goodness. It makes sense to people crushed by life or oppressed by dictatorial leaders who must impose their views on others. 

The 'burdens' that rob people of freedom and peace of mind cannot be adequately described or even listed. They can include: grinding poverty, long-term sickness or profound disability; the responsibility of caring for a disturbed, sick or disabled person; anxiety about the future; worry and fear triggered by prejudice and hatred; guilt and shame; isolation and loneliness; or a sense that life is a mess and the pieces cannot be put together again. 

Jesus' promise is a paradox - 'You will be relieved of your burden if you let me put a yoke on your neck and shoulders'. A 'yoke on the neck' is a metaphor for becoming a disciple of Jesus, someone who learns from his words and deeds (Ecclesiasticus 51:23-26). And when a yoke fits snugly, huge weights can be carried with ease. 

Jesus calls people to become disciples (to take the 'easy yoke') in order to enter an experience of undiluted grace and blessing. God's Spirit cares for and encourages disciples, inspiring them to become like Jesus - "gentle and humble in heart". This is new life, full of God's wisdom and energy, marked by joy and peace, where disciples practise love and justice. This is what the Sabbath 'rest' was always intended to be - a celebration of God the Creator and participation in God's life. This is the kingdom of heaven. It is indeed good news for the poor in spirit and the broken hearted, as Jeremiah, much earlier, had glimpsed and prayed for (Jeremiah 6:1631:23-25). 

To Ponder

What 'burdens' of your own do you focus on in your prayers to Jesus, asking God's grace to help you cope?

"Bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2) is Paul's instruction for mutual support in the Church. In what Church settings would you feel confident about sharing things that get you down and listening attentively to others' stories?

When you meet someone who has to carry a far greater burden in life than you have ever experienced, what most of all do you want for them?

Bible notes author

The Revd David Deeks

The Revd David Deeks is a retired Methodist minister. He has always focused on theology and spirituality as practical themes.