Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 57; 145, Jeremiah 44:1-14, 1 Corinthians 15:30-41, Matthew 11:16-24
Jesus told the people of Galilee (and – through Matthew’s gospel – all of us):
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.
“Burden” was a vague term, perhaps intentionally so. Many things can burden us. Guilt. Family obligations. Persecution. Financial troubles. Illness. Worry. The list is endless, yet Jesus offered comfort and reassurance to all who felt burdened for whatever reason. How relieved the people must have been to hear from someone who did not wish to add to their already heavy burdens, but to actually relieve them.
Later on, Jesus had very different words for his disciples:
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Well that doesn’t sound like much of a relief, now does it?
Yet these messages are not contradictory. Jesus would have us learn whatever we need to draw closer to him. In the beginning, that may mean learning what burdens we can, should, and must lay at his feet. If the contents of our lives are so overwhelming that they crowd out Jesus, it’s time to let go of them. And if we can’t let go – for example, a caregiver of a sick child – we can spiritually reposition ourselves to let Christ help lighten the load.
We aren’t ready to pick up the cross on day one of discipleship. Before we can handle that weight, we have to be fully settled into Christ’s yoke – to genuinely trust in the strength of his “gentle and humble heart.” It may take a while, but then we can follow free of even the burden of trying to save our own lives.
Whether we need reassurance that it is safe to draw near him, or a push to follow him to the end, Christ’s words speak to us where we are.
Comfort: Wherever you are in your spiritual growth, Jesus is speaking to you.
Challenge: However close we feel to Christ, we can still grow closer.
Prayer: My Lord, I seek to grow ever closer to you. Amen.
Discussion: Which words of Jesus do you find comforting … and which do you find challenging?
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