The story is told of a boy who was earning nothing but ‘F’s in public school. His parents talked with him, the teachers talked with him, the principal talked with but there was no change. He wouldn’t behave in his classes, he didn’t do his homework, he wouldn’t study and he kept failing. Finally, in desperation, his parents decided to send him to a Catholic parochial school. In this new school the boy changed. He behaved himself in class, he did his homework, he studied and his grades shot straight up. And by the end of the first semester he was earning straight ‘A’s. One night at the dinner table his parents asked him, “Son, you were doing so poorly in public school, but now, look at you; you are earning straight A’s. What happened?”
Their son replied, “Well, I realized they were really serious about school here. Every classroom I walked into, they have this guy nailed to a plus sign.”
It is all about our perspective isn’t it? What do you see, how do you understand what you see? In our gospel reading, Jesus said to the crowd, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, we played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
Jesus says to the crowds that they are like children. And as children will do when they play with each other, they complain that the other kids are not doing what they want them to do. When they play the flute the others are supposed to dance; when they sing the sad songs, the others are supposed to pretend they are mourning. Jesus points out that this how we are with God isn’t it? We expect God to do the things we expect him to do. In the context of the gospel, the people didn’t expect John the Baptist to behave the way he did and they didn’t expect the Messiah to behave the way Jesus was behaving. The fact is, all of us tend to have expectations on how we think God should act and then when He doesn’t, well we get upset. There is a man I know from Titusville and whenever something bad happens he complains that he can never catch a break. We all have heard people say, “I don’t get it; I have always been good and look what God has allowed to happen to me.” You see, we tend to think that if we are pretty much trying to behave ourselves, God is obligated to make sure that bad things don’t happen to us. It is the vending machine mentality. If I do this then God should do that. If I put in my quarters then I should get my candy bar. We are like the children Jesus talks about.
It is at this point we need to change our perspectives. It is not God who needs to change; it is us. And frankly God is not going to change. If we are going to be able to get a grip on life we need to realize that it is us and our perspectives that need correction. Jesus is the only one who knows the Father, He knows what is going on and will help us have the right understanding. And that’s why Jesus says: “Come to me all you who are weary and 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.”
People love this Scripture. Isn’t it wonderful? If Jesus had only stopped right after he said, ‘and I will give you rest. It would have really been great. But instead he added ‘take my yoke upon you’. We all have burdens and problems; most of us are weary at least we are weary from time to time. And it would be great if Jesus would simply just take away our burdens, all our problems and give us rest because we are tired of our burdens and tired of having to deal with our problems. If Jesus just said, “OK, lie down there on the recliner and lean back, close your eyes and take a break. I will take care of things for a while until you get your bearings again.” No He doesn’t say that; but instead he says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” What? But Jesus I am coming to you because I am weary! I am tired of the yoke I have in my life; life is tough, I need someone to tap me out. But instead of doing that, Jesus says put my yoke around your neck and learn from me. Yokes are those u-shaped things you strap around your neck so that you can pull heavy loads. You might think I don’t need another yoke; I am already pulling a heavy load.” But what Jesus is offering is different. You see, what Jesus is offering is a place in a double yoke. This is really a beautiful picture. In those days they would take an older mature ox and yoke it to an immature or young one in a double yoke. They would then take the two oxen yoked together out to a field. The younger ox doesn’t know what is going on, it doesn’t know how to pull correctly; it doesn’t know how to stay together and pull the plow or the load. In fact, to begin with the older ox actually does most of the work and also has to keep the younger ox in line. For days the older, stronger ox patiently trains the younger ox as it gradually learns what it is supposed to do and how it is supposed to pull. And when Jesus says his yoke is easy, the word easy is referencing not so much that the load will be light and life therefore will be easy but rather that the yoke is custom fit. The yoke itself doesn’t chafe or cause blisters because it has been made precisely for that particular oxen.
This is the picture Jesus uses for us. He doesn’t tell us that we get a pass from life’s problems. No, we still have to keep going, but what he tells us is that he is willing to step into the harness next to us. He is willing to help us with these problems that are wearing us down and exhausting us. And He will fit us with a yoke that he has been made exactly for us. God knows what we can do. He knows what we can handle. He has prepared us in our lives for what is coming. After we put the yoke on, he begins to pull with us. Jesus tells us then to learn from him. We need to study Him and learn. We need to figure out how to live our lives. It is not enough to simply get the help we need as we are going through one particular rough patch, but we also need to see our world differently. You see our perspective on our life and our perspective on our world is usually out of skew; it is often out of focus. We tend to judge things from only our perspective because our perspective is the only one we have. But Jesus helps us to learn to see things from God’s point of view. He helps us learn to trust in God and to see things with an eternal perspective. If we look at the problems we face right now, health issues, family issues, financial issues, community, country, or world issues, if we view these problems with just a personal perspective, then the problems we are facing can be overwhelming. But if we realize that God really is in control and we really can trust Him and not only that God is in control, but that He really loves us and cares about us! Well then, this puts an entirely new perspective on our problems and on our lives rather like the young fellow who suddenly realized school needed to be taken seriously.
Jesus said, “Come to me you who are weary, you who are carrying heavy burdens. That’s us, isn’t it? So let’s go, let’s ask Him for help. Let us learn to trust Him more, to obey Him better, so that we are able to see life differently, to think differently and then how to live differently. Amen