Easy Yokes, Light Burdens

Matthew 11:25-30

Easy Yokes, Light Burdens

July 9, 2017         Maple Grove


          Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  Come to me, you weary.  What makes people weary?  Weary is not the same as tired.  You’re tired when you mow the grass and weed the flowers and trim the bushes.  And when you’re done your bones ache, but you pour yourself an iced tea and sit on the porch and admire how everything looks.  That’s tired.  Weary is when you get half-way done and the mower quits and no amount of pulling will bring it back to life.  So you weed the garden. go inside to brag to your wife about all the weeds you’ve pulled, and she says, “I hope you didn’t pull up the new flowers that just came up.”  “New flowers?”  Then you trim the bushes and the neighbor chews you out for leaving twigs on his lawn. That’s weary.  Tired is “worn out;” weary is “worn down.” 

          What makes people weary?  Burn-out, in my experience, is usually not about working too hard or too many hours.  It’s about working hard at things that don’t really seem to matter, that aren’t getting results any more, that no one seems to appreciate anyway. You know, weary.

          Jesus knew this weariness.  They brought someone with seizures to the disciples but they couldn’t help him.  Jesus said, “How much longer must I be with you?”  He was weary.  At the end of chapter 17 Jesus tells the disciples he’ll be betrayed and put to death, and the next thing they can think of to talk about is which them is the greatest.  It made Jesus weary.  In Gethsemane Jesus begged them to stay awake while he prayed, yet they could not stay awake even one hour.  And in chapter 11, just before today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is lamenting that cities where’d he’d done great deeds of power would not repent, and even John the Baptist had begun to have his doubts about Jesus.  He was weary. 


          Perhaps his own weariness was why Jesus prayed to God: “Thank you, Father, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.”  He knew that those who are most open to the gospel are not the strong but the weak, not those who have it all together but those whose lives have fallen apart, not the successful but the weary.  Our weariness, in other words, may not be a curse after all, but an opportunity for God.  It’s not until you get to the point you can’t do it yourself that you begin to let go and turn to Jesus.  Michael Yaconelli says:  “We know we are ready for God to work in our lives when we’re tired.”1 You know, weary.  Are you ready for God to work in your life?


          Jesus said, “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.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

          Why is Jesus’ yoke easy and his burden light?  It’s not that he isn’t demanding.  He sends us out to share God’s love and invite people to church.  Demanding.  He tells us to give to every person who begs from us.  Demanding.  He says for us to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven times.  Demanding.  He wants us to love not just our friends but our enemies.  What makes that yoke easy and that burden light?

  1. Well, for one thing, Jesus’ burden is the right burden, carried in the right way. This is what God-Centered Wellbeing and Calling means. The trick is not to find the most lucrative burden, or the most impressive, or the one closest at hand. The trick is to find the burden that’s yours, that fits the way God made you, that brings you joy and satisfaction because it is your calling.

              Another way of thinking about this is that the light burden is authentic. If you’re working hard all the time but doing it to keep up with the Jones’s or impress your friends, it’ll wear you out. If you’re nice to your family but just to keep mama off your back, you’ll come to resent them. And if you grit your teeth and fill out Maple Grove’s service commitment card because you feel like it’s your duty, where’s the joy? The light burden is the right burden carried in the right way.

          I think of Peggy Bowers whose funeral we had here yesterday.  She was a nurse for over forty years, and when she wasn’t working in the ER at Riverside, she was taking a friend to the doctor or checking on a neighbor.  No one made Peggy be a nurse, and it must have been hard, stressful, demanding work.  But for Peggy it was an easy yoke, a light burden, because it was her calling, what God made her to do.

          Sometimes, of course, we all to knuckle down and do something just because it has to be done.  Caregiving may not be your calling but your spouse is sick, overtime may not be your thing but your family needs debts paid down, I don’t love driving but my daughter lives 700 miles away.  What are you going to do?  When you’ve just got to do something, you have two choices.  You can do it bitterly, griping and complaining, making yourself and the people around you miserable; or you can accept it lightly, grateful for the ability to do it and that you don’t have to do it forever.  Even when it’s not quite the right burden, how much lighter it is when you carry the right way. 

 2. Why is Jesus’ yoke easy and his burden light? Because it’s your calling, the right burden carried in the right way. Second, the word translated as an “easy” yoke means, literally, “kind” or “loving.” There are some teachers or bosses that you’d do anything for. Why? Because they’re kind, loving. There are other teachers and other bosses that make even the simplest thing feel hard. Guess which kind of teacher Jesus is?

     Have you ever noticed how people’s attitude toward certain activities changes when they fall in love? Someone who used to hate to go to the gym is suddenly there at 6:00 am . . . if the girlfriend is there. Football games aren’t so boring, long walks aren’t as dull, even the opera is tolerable, if shared with the one you love.

     Well, what about a life lived out in love of Jesus? What about work done, sacrifices made, gifts given, indignities suffered all out of love of Jesus? The ordained ministry is sometimes called “the yoke of obedience.” Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? And it can be like that--when no one volunteers, and you fight with the Trustees, when some people call to complain you’ve done something too much and others call to complain you haven’t done it enough, and the phone rings with news of yet another death. As long as you’re carrying all that to do your job or keep people happy, it’s heavy. But Jesus says, Come to me. You’re not doing it for yourself, but out of love for me. 

     In A Chorus Line they sing: 

Kiss today goodbye and point me toward tomorrow We did what we had to do Won't forget, can't regret what I did for love.


3. What makes Jesus’ yoke easy and his burden light? Because it’s our calling, the right burden carried in the right way. Because it’s carried out of love for Jesus. And here’s one more. Look at the yoke: it’s not for one burden-bearer but for two. One commentary has Jesus saying, “Become my yoke mate, and learn how to pull the load by working beside me and watching how I do it. The heavy labor will seem lighter when you allow me to help you with it.2 Jesus is not calling you to a task. Oh, there’s work to do, but he’s inviting you into a relationship. And Jesus isn’t inviting you to come and do a duty, though again there is much to do. He’s calling you to share life with him. He didn’t say come and do a bunch of stuff; he said come to me.


          Have you ever been weary?  Maybe you’re weary today?  Jesus said,

“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.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


1 Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality: God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 98.

2 Douglas R.A. Hare, Matthew, Interpretation (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1993), 129.



Read 4313 times Last modified on Sunday, 09 July 2017 17:28



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