The Sunday Lesson

Most Sundays, I post a brief vignette of the life of Jesus and consider how it relates to our lives. I don’t preach. My goal is both to understand what the writer writes, and what the hearer hears. I leave the what it really means to others, smarter than me, and more bold. It’s impossible for me to write and think about this without bias, and I will address it when I see it. I’m comfortable with Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant theologies, and with some atheist ideals. It was Augustine who said that ‘all truth is G’s truth’ and I gladly sup coffee around that campfire. My Christian belief is an expression of faith, not logic, and whatever I glom onto, I hold loose in an open hand.


My Yokes Fits Well

Tradition says that Jesus hung a sign above the entrance to his woodworking shop: My yokes fit well. I see him chuckling when he carved it, thinking of its two meanings. As the story goes, He did make well-fitting yokes, allowing the animal or person to wear them comfortably for hauling. He still offers yokes, and they still fit well. For you or for me. (As an aside here, I have to ask: how many could read in these times?)

Cad or best pal?

Jesus is typically demonized or made to sound like a pal you invite over for a beer when Notre Dame football comes on. In a way – and this is at the heart of the gospel – He’s both.

In one truth a very frightened ruling majority killed Him. In today’s parlance, he spoke truth to power, and power was none too excited to hear it.

He was also a friend, especially to the friendless, healing many and forgiving them.

Jesus offers…

But He was a third thing, too. Demanding. Even to His friends. Especially to His friends. Today, we would say He was rude and probably manipulative. We argue that this isn’t how a nice guy acts. A nice guy, a pal, lets you have your way, lets you believe what you want, and requires nothing of you. But Jesus makes demands. Even of the poorest of the poor. To the humble and meek. To everyone. To you and to me.

Watch Him in chapter 11 of Matthew’s gospel, just after praying and giving an invitation. People have already seen Him hand out food and healing. But here, he hands out peace and rest.

Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.

But requires…

Can you see the crowds? The homeless and the poor and the laborers? The burdened and tired? Does this describe you? Can you see them crowding closer, holding out empty hands and bags for a measure of fish?

And Jesus was giving something, only it wasn’t free this time. It came at a cost. To my modern ears, it sounds easy:

Shoulder my yoke and learn from me…

This ‘yoke’ was neither a new nor an unheard of metaphor to Jews in these days. Their scripture was rife with yokes, and, in all cases, it meant submission and rule. Every Middle-Eastern man, woman, or child would know this immediately.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Israelites were often offered the yoke of obedience to G or to the army across the hill. Jesus does the same thing. He offers life, and rest, and peace, but he makes that offer at the cost of wearing a yoke. His yoke. At the cost of submission. Total submission. The ox doesn’t get to play when it’s strapped to the plow.

Note how Jesus teaches here. He’s not a preacher teaching Isaiah. Nor is He John the Baptist, chiding people to serve the Father and repent of sin. He’s G, urging followers to let Him do the driving, to learn from Him, to strap His yoke around their shoulders. To submit to Him. ONLY THEN will you find Him gentle and humble and find the rest and peace that He offers.

So…a criminal? A friend? A master? Who is he? He is all three. And therein lies the mystery.



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