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Matthew 11:28-30, 3-Year Series A
Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center, Shorewood, WI
The Rev. Dr. Jason D. Lane


GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. The second part of the Gospel Lesson appointed for today: Luke 11:28-30.


28] “COME TO ME, ALL YOU WHO LABOR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST. [29] 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. [30] FOR MY YOKE IS EASY, AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT.”


The One who took up the cross and who suffered in our place, who knows what it feels like to bear sins on His body, to sweat and to labor, He says now: TAKE UP MY YOKE. In the Gospel we heard, it’s a rather jarring transition in the text. Jesus moves from the knowledge of God as a gift, that we can do nothing of ourselves, and then speaks about our doing, our labor and work in this life. But He’s not talking about physical labor specifically. He means what we prayed for in the Collect of the Day: “Be our strength and support amid the wearisome changes of this world…” It’s as if He made the transition from Trinity Sunday to Labor Day and skipped the whole summer, from His work of revealing Himself to the revelation of our work with Him in this world.


But this is about work, and so we’ll do Labor Day a bit earlier than we planned. The YOKE Jesus is picturing is a great, big piece of bent wood—like an upside down U, with a connecting brace of wood across the bottom. But it’s not intended to hurt us. It’s meant to help with the labor, because, after all, we were created in this world to work by our Father’s side. The weariness that overcomes us, can’t be from the Lord, because He invented work and redeemed us, so that we’d work with Him while it’s still day, as we so often pray. So if you’re sick of work, it must be that you’re trying to pull the cart without a yoke. Or else you’ve got the wrong yoke on.


So Christ says, TAKE MY YOKE. It’s like you’re looking at some massive waterfall, and you say to yourself, “Wow! If I could only harness that power!” But God Almighty has made us with power that’s worth harnessing. With brains and muscles and nerves and skills that are worth harnessing! That out of human flesh and blood good things, beautiful things, useful things could come into the world, through our own work. In fact, He’s arranged the world so that most of us, thank God, have to work, so that at least as far as daily work is concerned, we can share in the image of God on earth! The Father works and so does the Son and now so do we.


Somehow, though, we’ve thought that the load we’re pulling in this life isn’t holy; it’s just the way things are. And it isn’t fruitful; it’s just running in circles. And JESUS said, His BURDEN was LIGHT—I know—but my burden is crushing me. You stop pulling for a second and it’ll run you into the ground. You’ve got bills to pay and kids to feed and a job to keep. And JESUS said His YOKE IS EASY, which means “it fits right” and “ it feels good,” but the yoke on us just chafes, and rubs us raw, which must mean…I’m wearing the wrong yoke. It’s not Jesus’ yoke. It’s a yoke built by the devil and he’s talked us into wearing it.


Have you got the wrong yoke on? Don’t misunderstand. Jesus isn’t offering us the YOKE He wears as God, UPHOLDING THE UNIVERSE, bearing up on His shoulders the Past, Present, Future, and Destiny of all things. That doesn’t fit on us. That one won’t just chafe; it’ll crush you. We were made to imitate God, not impersonate Him. We’re made to work with Him, not work instead of Him. He said He’d never leave you or forsake you. Has someone told you that He has? Does everything depend on you, now? Is it the weight of the world on your shoulders? I don’t know whether it’s fear or vanity that makes us think we could bear that yoke, but we can’t bear the weight of the past, as if we could change it, or the weight of the future, as if we even knew it, or any more of the present than right now, right here. And if we imagine that Destiny is on our shoulders, it will crush us.


When Jesus says, “TAKE MY YOKE ON YOU,” He’s speaking as a Man. He says, LEARN FROM ME, how a Man lives, how a Man works, GENTLE AND HUMBLE-HEARTED. However many times Satan tells us, “YOU must BE AS GODS,” we’ve got to say, “SATAN, GET BEHIND ME!” and humbly and gently take the man-sized yoke of Jesus, who, in His human life, ENTRUSTED HIMSELF TO HIS FATHER, left the future in His Father’s hands, and did what was in front of Him to do, knowing that THE ETERNAL GOD IS OUR DWELLING PLACE AND UNDERNEATH ARE THE EVERLASTING ARMS! And IF GOD DID NOT WITHHOLD HIS OWN SON, BUT FREELY GAVE HIM UP FOR US ALL, SHALL HE NOT MUCH MORE FEED YOU? SHALL HE NOT MUCH MORE CLOTHE YOU? Take that YOKE on you, AND YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOUL.


Have you got the wrong yoke on—not a yoke for a god, or a human being, but a yoke for an animal? St. Paul says that we know OUR LABOR IS NOT IN VAIN IN THE LORD. And God made our work to count. But we can imagine that it doesn’t count at all. We can imagine that we’re just a beast of burden. And then, suddenly, there’s no glory of God in what you do. It’s just what you gotta do. And then you gotta do again. Like cattle used to go around in circles, grinding the grain till they dropped, or plowing and plowing and having calves to grow up and plow and plow and have calves to grow up and plow and plow for nothing.


Which sounds like a mother, or a school teacher, maybe—teaching, so her students can teach when she’s dead, so their students can teach when they’re dead, while all the time, life is going by and going nowhere. And do you really think vacuuming is the image of God? Washing dishes? Driving? Do you really think it matters—the classes you teach, the mail you sort, the supplies you ship? Don’t you know it’s nothing? Don’t you know it’s pointless? Don’t you know you’re nothing? And don’t we recognize that voice? It’s the devil of hell, and he’s talked us into a yoke no human being can bear. It’s not a yoke for a human being. It’s an animal’s yoke. And it shrivels the soul, and it leaves us numb or bitter or desperate to find some way to be worth something! Maybe if we made more money? Maybe if we produced more work?


Jesus says, COME TO ME! You are not an animal. If Satan has talked us into an animal’s yoke, we’ve got to say, “SATAN, GET BEHIND ME!” And TAKE ON ourselves the YOKE Jesus offers a human being, the YOKE He wore for three years of teaching and wonders for the good of the world and the glory of His Father, and through 17 years or so of carpentry, for the good of the world and the glory of His Father. LEARN FROM HIM to be HUMBLE-HEARTED enough to believe what God has said, namely, that WE ARE GOD’S HANDIWORK, RE-CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS TO DO THOSE GOOD WORKS WHICH GOD PREPARED BEFOREHAND FOR US TO DO, for the good of the world and the glory of God. Take that YOKE on you, AND YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOUL.


Christ said, TAKE it ON YOU. A yoke’s supposed to rest on your shoulders and your chest. Put it on and say, “Thank You, Lord.” Put it on where our muscle is and consent to the goodness of it, consent to the REST it brings, and believe this Good News with all our working heart, because it’s all for us. It’s all for people who LABOR AND ARE HEAVILY BURDENED. It’s from Jesus, who wore our yoke and carried our burden all the way to the cross—as if He were us. Now He says, “TAKE MY YOKE, as if you were Me.” Work as if you were God’s beloved child in whom He is well pleased, because, LITTLE CHILDREN, you are. Live as if you wore the IMAGE OF GOD on this earth, as if you had already died to all sin and have been raised up, shining, as if you were in the world for a little while, doing the work your Father chose for you on your way to Him. That YOKE IS EASY. It fits as if it was made for you; it was. And that BURDEN IS LIGHT, as if you were made to bear it; you were. In Jesus Name + Amen.

 

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