“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11.28). This is one of Jesus’ most famous sayings and it is easy to understand why it is so popular. Everyone feels weary and stressed sometimes and so the offer to come to Jesus to be given rest is an attractive one.
Jesus then went on to explain how we receive rest but often that bit gets missed out and the space that is left gets filled with our own bright ideas on how to find rest. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11.29-30)
Wearing a yoke doesn’t appear to be restful. Look at the animals in this picture, the heavy wooden yoke would also be attached to a cart or plough which they would then have to pull together. Do they look happy and peaceful? Why does Jesus link the rest he promises to wearing a heavy yoke?
It’s a bit like carrying a train carriage. None of us can do it, but as you can see from the picture below, it’s easy if we aren’t relying on our own strength. Is the yoke metaphor a bit like saying that although we have to take the weight of a train carriage upon us that Jesus will be our crane? With the crane, the train that is so heavy is actually easy to carry.
We all carry burdens but will we swap them for the opportunity to follow Jesus which, although it does have a heavy cost, is easy to bear if we rely on Jesus? If we live the Christian faith in our own strength we will fail, but if we rely on Jesus then the challenges we face are a light burden to bear. Lightness of burden is found in being consistent in relying on Jesus. To hop out of the crane and to try to lift the train by hand is not going to end well.
We once played a game in church to illustrate a part of what being yoked with Jesus meant. I asked one of the younger children to come and move a chair and Amy (aged 4) volunteered and moved it. I then asked Amy to move a stack of chairs and she looked at the stack and then looked at me (as though I was stupid for even asking) and said she couldn’t. I then suggested that I could carry the stack and that she could help. I lifted them and she held one of the chair legs as I moved them. She was really no help and I nearly tripped over her at one point (nearly another epic fail from me!) Afterwards when I asked her who moved the chairs she said, ‘we did it together’. The truth is that I had moved them, but from her perspective she was involved in doing with me what she couldn’t have done alone. The chairs were heavy, but to her they felt easy to bear and light to carry because I was taking the weight of them.
Jesus offers us rest but that rest is found in leaving our burdens with him and joining him in his work and his way of living. Christianity is not a pick and mix, it’s about a commitment to follow Jesus as Lord. Jesus is not serving us on our terms and he does not serve up rest to us in the way we think we need it, he wants us to receive rest that lasts and that is satisfying. Taking on Jesus’ ways can seem daunting and following him involves a real change in lifestyle and attitude but what you find is that when you rely on him that those changes feel natural.
Is it time for a rest? May we turn to Jesus and trust him as he walks alongside us and teaches us about life as lead us into his rest. I hope that we are amazed as we do with him the things that we cannot do alone.