I have been talking to a friend who is struggling with his call to ministry. He seems burdened in a way that I have not seen before. It is indeed difficult to hear God’s reassurance and comfort in the midst of distress – in the midst of difficult times. There are times I struggle – I think every minister does. And the current state of things doesn’t help. We live in difficult times in the church – theologically, relationally, economically.
Today Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
While it is a beautiful invitation into letting go of burdens and resting in God alone, but it is also a continuation of Matthew’s theme of “turning from darkness.”
The themes of wisdom and turning from the darkness continue: the context of his words “Come to me” are said in the midst of Jesus explaining that God’s Word has been hidden from some, and that Wisdom resides with those who dwell in him, who dwells in the Father. He is providing a picture of personified Wisdom. This is a common biblical theme.
And then the powerful image: “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.” This, too, is a common theme found elsewhere in scripture, and often used as a rabbinic metaphor to understand the difficulty in following Torah, but yet the great freedom that comes with it as well.
A yoke is a curious image, something that ties two beasts of burden together. It is a symbol of work – hard work at that. I’m not sure there is a field easy enough to plow that my thought would be, that yoke is easy and that burden sure was light!
The turning from darkness continues. The irony of following God continues. At the heart of much of what Jesus says is the conundrum You will lose your life in order to gain it.”
There is no where these ironies come into focus than at the Lord’s Supper. At the table the mystery is complete, confounding those who do not understand. This is part of the trajectory of Jesus’ teaching on wisdom – that of mystery. He begins today’s passage with “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” It may seem strange to our Western ears to be giving thanks to God for NOT understanding, but that is precisely what Jesus does.
His ministry is not meant to be fully understood, but to be authentic to the mystery and awesomeness of God. The cross and the table are two major conundrums that may never be fully understood. So it is with God, who is holy, sacred, and whose greatness can never be matched or touched. Jesus gives thanks for this, and declares that in him is rest from the conundrum.