A burden that is well fitting – Thursday, 15th Week in ordinary time – Matthew 11:28-30
Matthew chapters eleven and twelve focuses on the rejection of Jesus. The rejection that Our Lord faces will find him nailed to the cross. Sadly, his rejection is not just hate filled but also indifference to all the miracles he worked and the enlightenment he shared. It is with regret, that he decries the unrepentant cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum with a woe and ironically none of these villages are inhabited till today.
In his rejection, Our Lord turns not to some distraction but to his Father; the star attraction in his life. Jesus is thankful to the Father for revealing who he is to the simple and the unlettered. Those who claimed to know the scriptures were unable to recognise in Jesus the presence of the one that they waited for generations. They could not see the Messiah standing in their midst.
Faith must open our eyes, yet often it is men and women of faith who become the greatest hurdles to seeing what the simple and unlettered see so easily. To them Jesus says, “come to me.” Jesus is calling his faithful to him. That call is specifically made to those who are overburdened and weary. As preachers, we have a bonded duty to direct our faithful to Jesus alone. It is he who has the power to give the overburdened rest. A preacher who draws people to himself is a false teacher. We are but instruments of the Master.
Yet to the overburdened the Lord does not make a false promise to take away the burned. The Lord is clear when he says, “I will give you rest.” He never said I will take away every trouble if you become my disciples and if you keep my word. His promise is rest!
What he says next is even more intriguing. Our Lord says, “shoulder my yoke.” I like this translation to the words, “take my yoke.” Take my yoke almost sounds like Jesus is about to add to our burdens and walk away. That is not his intention; his intention is for us to go to him with the challenges of life and together, Jesus and you, shoulder this burden together. Our Lord shares in your burden, he does not leave you alone.
And while he shoulders the burden with you, he makes another proposition, “learn from me,” he says. It is as if our Lord is saying, while we carry this burden together, let’s make the best of the time we have together; you and I. Let me talk to you, let me tell you how a Christian disciple should handle his stress and burdens.
One might still feel a bit cheated even though the Lord makes all this sound so nice. After all, did he not say shoulder my yoke and did he not say his burden, which he wants us to shoulder in addition to our burdens, is easy? Easier than what? Yes, the Lord does want us to should his burden so that he can teach us his ways while we are at it, but his burden is not just easy it is ‘well fitting’. You see, the translation of the word “easy” in Greek is ‘chrestos’ and ‘chrestos’ does not accurately translate as ‘easy’ as much as it translates as ‘well fitting.’
As I said earlier, the Lord did not promise to take away our burden, he promised to give us rest and while he did invite us to shoulder his burden the purpose was to grab an opportunity to learn from him. But even more, Jesus reveals a secret about the burden he asks us to share with him. He tells us that he has ‘measured us’ and found the burden well fitting for us. He has not overburdened us with his burden, he has just helped us to understand that what we carry has been measured for us. He won’t give us a burden we cannot handle.