Chapter 11:25-30 (ESV) - At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Question to consider: What is a yoke?
Jesus pronounced a woe (curse) upon those who professed to be wise and understanding among the towns He and the disciples had visited because regardless of what was said or done among them, they had made up their minds to reject Jesus as the promised Messiah. Whether it was the forerunner who mourned the sin of Israel and continually fasted and prayed for their repentance, or it was Jesus who brought good news and healing to the poor and afflicted and was criticized for being among the poor and afflicted, no amount of signs or sermons would soften their hardened hearts.
In today’s passage, Jesus followed up this heavy dose of Law and judgment with a pronouncement of Gospel. Even the little children could understand who Jesus was and what He freely offered them. With this same spirit of grace, Jesus invited all who would come to Him to receive what they had failed to achieve in their labor. A yoke was a wooden frame that was tied to the shoulders of oxen to work together and pull the plow. Because it allowed oxen to walk beside one another, rabbis used it as a metaphor for their teachings. A student would walk beside a rabbi and was bound to them by their teaching. The yoke Jesus offered was one that gave His followers rest from their labors and burdens, for He would be the one to carry the burden of God’s Law and the judgment of all who failed to keep it. Those who received His yoke would find rest for their souls as Christ would bring them into peace with God.
Jesus’ warning should give all of us pause. Do we think our good works will earn us a place in heaven? Do we think we are more worthy of this free gift of salvation because we’ve never been in a group like the “tax collectors and sinners?” Coming to Christ is not just a one-time act. We constantly need both Law and gospel. We can so easily become caught up in our own attempts at righteousness and forget that salvation is a yoke of rest for our souls continually given to us by Christ. The life of a Christian is a continual state of repentance, forgiveness and producing fruit in keeping with repentance. This is why we need to continually gather with other believers to serve one another, to pray for one another and to lift each other up. This is why we continually need to be filled with Christ’s word and sacrament. This is why we need to continually find our rest in the Lord and not in things of this world.
Even the “wise and learned” were invited to come to Jesus to receive this gift if only they would have ears to hear and eyes to see that Jesus was the Son of God.
Dear Lord, thank You for offering a yoke that gives us rest for our souls. May we never look to another, for You have the words of eternal life. Alleluia! Amen.