You have perhaps heard the story of an elderly man who said while going through a bout of illness to his wife, “You know, Judith, you’ve always been with me – through the good and through the bad. We got married and then I got drafted. You became a nurse so you could be with me. Then I was wounded, and you were there, Judith, right by my side. Later I lost my job – you were right there by my side again; I couldn’t find work for such a long time and we had nothing – but you were there with me. When our son got into trouble and we didn’t know what to do, once again you were right there by my side. And now, here I am, sick as a dog, and as always, you’re right here beside me. You know, Judith,” He paused, “I think you’re bad luck!”
You know, if poor Judith was expecting appreciation for her loyal love and care, she was sadly disappointed, right? All of us as we live our lives, we all have certain expectations. We think that if we do this, then this other thing will happen. In our gospel lesson Jesus teaches us about our expectations. What do we expect? What are our expectations? Are our expectations realistic?
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 in some ways they are like children who play in the in the market place. And as children will do, they complain that the others are not behaving the way they want. 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 is how we are with God isn’t it? We do one thing and expect God to respond the way we want him to. On a regular basis we say to each other, “I don’t get it, I have always been good and look what God allowed to happen.” You see, we tend to think that if we do such and such, God is obligated to do such and such in return, kind of like a vending machine. We pray such and such a prayer, we give such and such a gift, we live such and such a life and then God should do whatever it is that we expect him to do. And it doesn’t always work that way does it? I mean sometimes it does, sometimes and perhaps usually people who are good and work hard and do the right thing, good things happen for them. Yet sometimes that is not the case. We don’t understand why God does the things he does. Things happen in our lives, in the lives of those we love, and even to those we know and we do not see rhyme or reason for why. Yet sometimes it is all a matter of perspective.
Sometimes we need to change our perspectives. And that’s why Jesus says the following: “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. It is so comforting. Jesus says “Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” If Jesus had only stopped right there but he doesn’t. If Jesus simply said he would take all our burdens away; that would be great! We all have burdens; we all have 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 and give us rest because we are weary. If Jesus would just say, “OK, lie down there on the recliner and lean back, close your eyes and take a break. I will just stop the world from spinning for a little while until you get your bearings again.” No He doesn’t say that; it would be nice perhaps if he said that, but instead he says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” He says, “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 carrying my heavy burden; life is tough, I want a break. Instead of offering us a break, per se, Jesus says take my yoke upon you and learn from me. “Take my yoke upon you.” Yokes are those u-shaped things you strap around your neck so that you can pull heavy loads. We are thinking, “I don’t need a yoke; things are already tough in my life.” But what Jesus is offering is different. You see, what Jesus is offering is a place in a double yoke. This is really a neat picture that I want you see. In those days they would take a mature ox, a mature bull, 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, the older ox actually does most of the work and then 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.
This is the picture Jesus uses for us. He doesn’t tell us that we get a pass from life’s problems or that we get to check out because we are tired now. 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. After we put the yoke on and he begins to pull with us, Jesus tells us to learn from him. It is not enough to simply get the help we need in those rough times 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 rather like the old fellow who thought Judith was bad luck. 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 the problems with a perspective that this is all there is, then the problems we are facing are very discouraging and can be really disheartening. But if we realize that where we are in life is only a part of an eternal life and that God is the one with us who is helping us and will protect us, well then, this puts an entirely new perspective on our problems and on our lives.
Jesus said, “Come to me you who are weary, you who are carrying heavy burdens. And who isn’t; who doesn’t have a problem or two or three or more in his or her life? Jesus said, Come to me. He tells us that he will help us pull those burdens and he will help us endure those problems and then he will teach us how to see life differently. He will teach us how to think differently. He will teach us how to live differently.
So let us as his disciples, go to Jesus, put on his yoke and learn from him. Amen