‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest:’
What a welcome invitation!
At the end of the road a light in the tunnel, an open house, a hot bath, the smell of freshly baked bread, a time to relax. . .
But what about the rest, after the rest? We're so good at getting only half the story:
‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.’ That is where we would like the story to stop, but Jesus goes on:
‘for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.’
This is a less welcome invitation. To come in, to rest - only in order to go back to work?
A pair of oxen, yoked together, ploughing a furrow is not an everyday sight, nowadays, unless you come from a third world country.
I understand that one ox can pull one ton, but yoked together two oxen, can pull seven tons. It sounds like a good invention, the yoke, provided oxen both want to go in the same direction!
But a yoke is hardly a must-have accessory for us, nowadays. Or is it? If we think carefully, do we not bow our necks to virtual yokes, which masquerade in multiple disguises, pulling us this way and that, playing havoc with our better judgement? Things which seemed good to us at the time, - but where did they pull us, or where are they pulling us now?
Am I a fully paid-up, card-carrying Conservative, Labour, Liberal or Green party member, a trade unionist, or campaigner for nuclear disarmament?
A Freemason, football aficionado, a Friend of the Earth?
When push comes to shove, who or what has first call on my life? What am I yoked to?
The mobile phone, so useful but now everyone has my number I have no peace..?
If we are not careful we can find ourselves yoked to this therapy, this diet, this debt, this initiative, this cause, this club, this guilt; and they push us and pull us until we find ourselves relating to St Paul when he says:
‘I do not know what I want and I do what I don't want to do, and what I want to do I don't do.’
So many things have a call on our lives and our time, even legitimate things like the church,- and we can become weary with it all, weary and burdened and our shoulders get sore, and rubbed raw.
But here is a carpenter who says, ‘Come to me.’ He will ease these painful yokes from my shoulders and pour on soothing oil. Now I can stretch my aching muscles, relax.
But as I lay down my yoke, casting my care upon him, for he cares for me, this again is only the first part of the story:
He won't let me lay down my responsibilities, for I would cease, then, to be a man or woman, I would be his puppet.
But as I watch the carpenter he selects, and fashions a new, light, yoke, for both of us. It fits perfectly never pulling, but guiding us together; he doesn’t ask us to give up our responsibilities, clubs or organisations that we belong to, or the commitments we have to keep, but yoked to him they are now in their proper place.
Who is he, this man who says ‘Come to me’? Do I trust him enough to take his yoke, follow his lead, as we plough our furrow together?
Not out of coincidence did God, knowing our need, carve himself out a career as a carpenter:- - bespoke furnishings - yokes a speciality, satisfaction guaranteed.
Who is this carpenter?
God incarnate Jesus Christ, who longs that we share our life with Him. That is the whole story.