For many people life seems to be an uphill climb that never seems to end. Life never turns out as they hoped it would or thought it should. They just cannot seem to make life "work" for them. It's a never-ending, uphill climb while heavy-laden with great burdens that make us miserable even as we make those around us miserable.
But in the midst of that dark pain, a light dawns. Someone says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
A yoke is that harness thingy (pictured above) by which two animals can be hitched to a plow or a wagon. In the ancient world it was a common metaphor for the never-ending demands of a bunch of religious rules -- "the yoke of the law" -- referring not to the actual law of the loving God, but to the intolerable burden of generations & generations of "religious tradition." See Matthew 23.1-4 or Acts 15.10 for examples in the Bible.
But this "yoke" language was actually used in many places in ancient Jewish literature outside the Bible too. The yoke of this religious demand, the yoke of that religious rule, etc...
But NOWHERE in the ancient world does ANY teacher EVER have the boldness to invite others to put their necks under "my yoke" and "learn from me."
But Jesus does.
And that would be outright blasphemy if we did not recognize what the Bible everywhere teaches -- that Jesus is, in fact, God in human skin.
And this God-Become-Man has promised us that his yoke will remove burdens, wonderfully refresh, and give us our longed-for rest and relief.
And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. the way to God's promised rest."
"For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”
In Matthew 11.28-30 Jesus boldly says that he is the way to God's promised rest.
Tomorrow morning at DPC we'll be looking at this promise / invitation more closely.