The invitation I couldn’t resist
See the world through my eyes, have my heart towards God and the world and you will find rest for your souls.
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, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (The Bible)
For the last few days, these verses have been constantly on my mind. It is like an invitation that I cannot completely make sense of, yet. In the past, I have struggled to understand what they mean, but a new light has been shown on these verses and I think it makes so much more sense, the invitation so much more real.
I used to wonder how Jesus’ yoke is easy. How could the burden he was carrying, his death on the cross, be easy? What did he mean? I am now convinced that Jesus did not mean his cross in these verses. Though of course, crosses are not far away for his followers. Jesus referred to his passion in terms of a ‘cup’ that he had to drink, both in the conversation with James and John and in the Gethsemane prayers.
Perhaps, yoke can be understood more in terms of discipline. I am inclined to think so in light of Hebrews 5:8 “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered”. The cross is then the culmination of a life lived in obedience. Might Jesus then be referring to his way of life? Perhaps it is. Jesus says something quite incredible, something the gospels do not record him repeating: learn from me. See the world through my eyes, have my heart towards God and the world and you will find rest for your souls. That seems to be a part of what he means, if not everything.
But what came as the biggest comfort to me is, ironically, in the words, ‘Take my yoke upon you…‘ It occurred to me that I can take on Jesus’ yoke if, and only if, I let go of what I am carrying. I have my baggages, don’t I? A heavy burden that wears me down. Let that go, take this instead – my yoke is easy and my burden is light. I think it partly translates to (if not everything), ‘stop living your way and start living my way. And then you will find rest’.
Ah, now the invitation is indeed inviting! It is clear that he is telling me to let go of the weight on my shoulders and accept his yoke instead. To be sure, it is one burden for another, really. But the assurance is that his ‘burden’ is light and will bring me rest. So I pray, asking him to show me how to lay my burdens down and take up his yoke instead. Because I am so used to living this way that I do not know how to do things otherwise. But the invitation remains, and hence my hope for rest.
And yet, this is something I’ll probably have to accept every day of my life. Not a one-time thing. Partly because Jesus of Nazareth, the man presented in the gospels is lost in translation. I’m afraid I am seeing more of what I want to see and not who he really was and is. I need to see Jesus more clearly to follow him more closely. That is why my cry is also that of Bartimaeus, sitting on a road listening to the commotion of a crowd passing by… Suddenly I hear myself shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ If he stops and asks for me, I will have the exact same words that have echoed through a thousand years, ‘Teacher, I want to see!’