When a young ox is being trained to pull heavy loads, they are first yoked with a stronger, mature ox at their side. The young ox has the yoke over its shoulders just as the older one does and makes all the movements, but does little, if any, of the actual pulling. It is the older, stronger ox that is pulling the load, with the younger one at its side keeping stride. Eventually, as the younger ox gains strength and learns technique, he begins to shoulder some of the weight until eventually he pulls an equal load. Someday he too will train a younger ox, and so it goes.
The metaphor of yoking is what Jesus uses to describe his invitation to bring him our burdens. He is saying “whatever it is that is bothering you, whatever it is that is just too much for you bear; whatever it is that seems like you will never find your way through it; bring it to me, let me have it, I can take it. It is not too heavy for me, for you are my beloved, you are my sister or brother. “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”.
Jesus also says that he will teach us in his gentleness and says that in his humility, we will find rest for our weary souls. When we have run out of answers for our lives, when we have nowhere and no one to turn to, Jesus says “Come to me”. When we are bruised and beaten, when we are about to give up because the weight seems too heavy and we feel like we can’t take one more step, Jesus steps in. He lifts our burden – the burden sadness, the burden of oppression, the burden of addiction, the burden of violence, the burden of victimhood, the burden of loneliness.
This is a hard world that we live in, one that can sometimes be cruel and cold. But it is also a world that God so loved that he sent his Son. And God so loves you.
Jesus invites us to take up his yoke and let him carry our burdens. He does not demand that we make the choice, but he hopes that we will. And his heart must sink when we choose another way.
This Divine invitation is also a reminder to us that we too can help others shoulder their burdens. Just as Jesus offers himself to us as a source of strength and a way to ease our burdens, we too can offer ourselves to one another. When we have a brother or sister who is struggling under the weight of their life, we can help ease the pain, to help ease the burden. When we see another lost in loneliness we are called into community with that person. When we see another’s heart broken with sadness, we can offer loving kindness. When we see another lost in the dark night of the soul, we can be a window to the sunlight of the spirit.
We are all called to be the instrument of peace, kindness, justice, and love for one another. We should not listen to the voice of deception that says we are enemies. That voice leads only to conflict, violence and heartache.
We know the truth that speaks to our hearts. There is no denying the still, soft voice of God within that encourages us to be in kinship with one another. It is the voice of God that directs us to peace and hopes for our freedom.
Come to our brother Jesus, those of us who are heavy with burdens and we will find rest. Take his yoke upon us and let him teach us, because he is humble and gentle, and we will find a place to rest. For his yolk fits perfectly and the burden he gives us is light.