“All You Who Are Over Burden, I Will Give You Rest”

I guess these words can’t be most relevant to our hearts and ears than this time. It is most apt that the church reads these suiting words of Jesus to us today when the world has become so rough and difficult for human survival. More so at this time when Nigeria our country is undergoing great politico-religious distress and tupsy turvy. Thus the insurgence of Boko Haram, kidnapping, armed robbery and every form of truancy steers on our faces. At a time when we are all weighed down with shame, guilt, stressed marriage relationships, immoral and degrading cultures, insensitivity, human non acceptance, childlessness and hard-headedness of children, heavy burdens at heart, anxieties and fears: about our economy, the cost of food and fuel, terrorism, unemployment e.t.c. Many others are suffering from health challenges: cancer, kidney, liver, HIV/AIDS e.t.c. I can imagine a small boy in his family saying to dad and mum; ‘your laws are burdensome in this house, no freedom rather everyone one is caged here’. I can also imagine some students saying to their formators in school; ‘you wicked law makers who put heavy burdens on us’. Others are highly traumatized by failure such that they pile up on to themselves burdens of self­-doubt and self-blame. At this time I suppose these words will be most meaningful to us. In spite of this turbulence and trauma warranted by our environmental and existential challenges; we are here today and we’ve just heard Jesus say to us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and I will give you rest.” Ah what a suiting balm!
One may ask, ‘Christ’s life was not painless and totally free of burdens; how come he promises to lighten our burdens should we take his yoke’? However, a greater question is necessary here; that is, what is this yoke of Christ? A yoke is a wooden bean placed across two animals to help them pull or carry something very heavy. Among the Jews the yoke was put on the necks of two cattle so that together they could pull the plough as one. It always takes a pair to work a yoke. When Jesus asks you to take the yoke, you might as well ask who is your yoke-mate? Your yoke-mate is none other than Jesus himself. The yoke, in fact, belongs to him and he only invites you to team up with him. The yoke of Christ is not just a yoke from Christ but also a yoke with him. To take the yoke of Christ is to associate and identify ourselves with him: our destiny with his destiny, our vision with his vision and our mission with his mission. It is to know that we are not pulling the yoke alone and by our power but together with Christ and by the strength that comes from him. We need to yoke ourselves with Jesus also, to help us pull or carry the heaviness of life. Jesus tells us that his yoke is easy, perhaps because he does most of the work. The yoke of Christ can be seen as the sum of our Christian responsibilities and duties. Servants were said to be under the yoke of their masters (1 Timothy 6:1) and subjects under the yoke of their rulers (1 Kings 12:10). To take the yoke of Christ, therefore, is to put ourselves in a relationship with Christ as his servants and subjects. Christ doesn’t do things for you; He does things with you. It is only when we seize from the law of Christ like the child who disobeys the father thinking the father to be a hard and hash man that we begin to see the burden of Christ to be heavy and difficult.
Hence yoking with Christ would imply taking Christ as our model in pains. Christianity is not a certificate of immunity from death, sickness, pains, disappointment nor frustration rather our Christian attitude to these challenges is that of resilience and undistracted faith which wins our victory not just here on earth but secures our insurance in heaven. Remember Christ himself wasn’t immune from suffering. Imagine the fate of the martyrs whom we venerate today. Remember the person of Job that in every disappointment his faith was unshaken. Unfortunately very many churches preach a crossless Christ and prosperous Gospel forgetting that Christ was a man at home with sufferings and pains; a grand patron of those who suffer. On many occasions I heard over the radio a wonderful and powerful preacher who said, ‘BELIEVE IN MY GOD AND HARDSHIP WILL NEVER SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN; AMEN! BELIEVE IN MY GOD AND NO MORE DEATH IN YOUR FAMILY AMEN’! The fundamental question here ought to be, is it true? Always remember that a crossless Christian is a Christian in crisis. It is only those who win the race by suffering and resilience that gain the eternal crown/reward of heaven.
“Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt 11:28-30). Thus Christ therefore is inviting us to lean on him to soften our load of worries. To learn from him to choose the essentials of life and leave off frivolities which burden our hearts. To lean on him to suit our sorrows. To lean on him for those of us who are weighed down with shame and guilt to harvest the fruit of his mission of forgiveness. Christ never met anyone whose sins were so great that they couldn’t be forgiven especially when the individual is ready to be freed. Are you yoked with Christ in your task? Remember you can’t yoke with him in your task if the task is UnChrist-like. This implies he yokes with us when our tasks are in accordance with his will. Much as we desire an end to terrorism and violence taking over the world today, let us also ourselves be ready to protect those who are weak, especially the unborn that suffer so much unannounced violence and terrorism in our hands. Are you ready to make all your tasks Christ-like? Search your consciences to be sure all your tasks are Christ-like. Which tasks in your life are you afraid of inviting and yoking with Him? A question for you and me!
Today reminds us of the popular ancient story of a man in his dream. In the dream he was walking along a beach with Jesus and they were replaying all the important events of his life. For each scene there were two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to him and the other to Jesus. But the man discovered that when the going become very challenging there were only one set of footprints. The man could not understand this, so he asked Jesus: “Why is it that during the most difficult periods of my life when I needed you the most you would left me?” Jesus replied. “My child, I love you and I would never leave you. During the challenging moments of your life, when you see only one set of footprints, those were the times I carried you.” Come to Jesus today that He may carry you in moments of difficulties.
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