"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."
As a carpenter Jesus would have made many yokes for donkeys, mules and horses. He would know the difference between one that fitted well and one that chafed the animal’s neck. A well-made yoke is called ‘easy’; it is comfortable on the animal; a badly-made one must be a torture. He said his way was an easy yoke. It may tire you but it does not frustrate you. He does not ask you to drag your life along on open wounds. He keys into your real strengths, he does not harp on weaknesses that you show in the course of the work.
Rabbis spoke about “the burden of the Law.” “My burden is light,” Jesus said. He could say this because he was not binding up heavy burdens to lay them on our shoulders – which is what he accused the scribes and Pharisees of doing (Mt 23:4). He may ask us to bear burdens much heavier than any the scribes or Pharisees envisaged: justice and mercy. But, unlike them, he first captivates the heart.
He captivates the heart because he is himself “gentle and humble in heart.” He has no strategy, no technique – those things we put such trust in. “How unnecessary is it to teach an art of loving!” wrote the French mystic Jeanne Guyon (1648 - 1717). “The best way to learn the love of God is to love God. The ignorant and simple, because they have more heart and greater simplicity, often excel in it. The Spirit of God needs none of our arrangements and methods; when it pleases God, he turns shepherds into prophets: and, so far from excluding any from the Temple of Prayer, he throws wide the gates, that all may enter; while Wisdom cries aloud in the streets, ‘Whoever is simple let them turn in here’ (Proverbs 9:4)…. And does not Jesus Christ himself thank his Father for having hidden the secrets of his kingdom from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children? (Mt 11: 25).”
When the yoke is easy, nearly every burden seems light.
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