December 11, 2019
Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent
Readings for Today
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Matthew 11:28-30
What a beautiful invitation from Jesus! This passage is worth reading over and over and memorizing so that it can easily be reflected upon during those more difficult moments in life. We all have those moments. The moments when we feel overwhelmed and burdened. It could be we are burdened by some tragedy in life, or it could be we are burdened by the small and monotonous aspects of life. One of the greatest daily burdens is that of our own sin. But whatever the case may be, Jesus wants us to hear and believe these words. “Come to me…” He says. Come to me no matter what is going on in your life. Come to me without hesitation and without fear.
Jesus also promises us that His “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light.” What does that mean? Does it mean that coming to Jesus will remove all hardship from our lives? No, not really. What it means is that coming to Jesus will enable us to endure and walk through any hardship we encounter in life.
Advent reminds us that God the Son came and took on our human nature and all that goes along with being human. And though He never sinned, He allowed Himself to experience the effects of sin and the burden it imposes. So as God, He is able to look us in the eye and tell us that He understands our hardships because He lived them. He lived them out of love for us so that He could help us endure, joyfully, all we face in life.
Reflect, today, upon this gentle and glorious invitation from Jesus. Let Him enter into whatever it is that burdens you. Let Him carry the yoke that you carry and give you, instead, the gentle yoke He has prepared for you. The cross you bear may not go away, but it will be transformed and made light in His grace.
Lord, I surrender my life and all that I am to You. I accept Your invitation to come to You. Thank You for Your unfailing compassion and concern for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Daily Reading & Meditation
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 40:25-31
25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hid from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Meditation: What kind of yoke does the Lord Jesus have in mind for each one of us? And how can it be good for us? The Jewish people used the image of a yoke to express their submission to God. They spoke of the yoke of the law, the yoke of the commandments, the yoke of the kingdom, the yoke of God. Jesus says his yoke is “easy”. The Greek word for “easy” can also mean “well-fitting”. Yokes were tailor-made to fit the oxen well for labor. We are commanded to put on the “sweet yoke of Jesus” and to live the “heavenly way of life and happiness”. Oxen were yoked two by two. Jesus invites each one of us to be yoked with him, to unite our life with him, our will with his will, our heart with his heart.
Jesus carries our burdens with us
Jesus also says his “burden is light”. There’s a story of a man who once met a boy carrying a smaller crippled lad on his back. “That’s a heavy load you are carrying there,” exclaimed the man. “He ain’t heavy; he’s my brother!” responded the boy. No burden is too heavy when it’s given in love and carried in love. When we yoke our lives with Jesus, he also carries our burdens with us and gives us his strength to follow in his way of love. Do you know the joy of resting in Jesus’ presence and walking daily with him along the path he has for you?
In the Advent season we celebrate the coming of the Messiah King who ushers in the reign of God. The prophets foretold that the Messiah would establish God’s kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. Those who put their trust in God and in the coming of his kingdom receive the blessings of that kingdom – peace with God and strength for living his way of love, truth, and holiness (Isaiah 40). Jesus fulfills all the Messianic hopes and promises of God’s kingdom. That is why he taught his disciples to pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). In his kingdom sins are not only forgiven but removed, and eternal life is poured out for all its citizens. This is not a political kingdom, but a spiritual one.
Freed from the burden of sin and guilt
The yoke of Christ’s kingdom, his kingly rule and way of life, liberates us from the burden of guilt and disobedience. Only the Lord Jesus can lift the burden of sin and the weight of hopelessness from us. Jesus used the analogy of a yoke to explain how we can exchange the burden of sin and despair for a yoke of glory, freedom, and joy with him. The yoke which the Lord Jesus invites us to embrace is his way of power and freedom to live in love, peace, and joy as God’s sons and daughters. Do you trust in God’s love and truth and submit to his will for your life?
“Lord Jesus, inflame my heart with love for you and for your ways and help me to exchange the yoke of rebellion for the sweet yoke of submission to your holy and loving word. Set me free from the folly of my own sinful ignorance and rebellious pride that I may wholly desire what is good and in accord with your will.”
Psalm 103:1-4, 8-10
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger for ever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Grace bear us, by an anonymous early author from the Greek church
“‘My yoke is easy and my burden light.’ … The prophet says this about the burden of sinners: ‘Because my iniquities lie on top of my head, so they have also placed a heavy burden on me’ (Psalm 38:4)’ …’Place my yoke upon you, and learn from me that I am gentle and humble of heart.’ Oh, what a very pleasing weight that strengthens even more those who carry it! For the weight of earthly masters gradually destroys the strength of their servants, but the weight of Christ rather helps the one who bears it, because we do not bear grace; grace bears us. It is not for us to help grace, but rather grace has been given to aid us.’ (excerpt from INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY, the Greek fathers).
Come and Rest
Some might say, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” At times it can seem as though He does. Others might say, “Give it (whatever the issue) to God”. As if it were some sort of gift.
I have a very dear friend who has suffered with chronic depression for years. I have no personal experience with this debilitating disease. From my perspective, I see a prayerful, grace-filled, self-reflective person. A person of faith. A person who lives most days and nights in degrees of suffering and pain – mental and physical. Depression, as described to me, is like being deep within such darkness that with eyes open there is still no sight – endless blackness prevails. Not seeing any way out of the dark. Somehow, at some point there seems to be a sort of surfacing. Bruised, battered and fragile. This sense of being relatively “better” can last days, weeks or months. Eventually the dark returns. Through all of it, my friend has been in treatment, therapy, and on medication. Through all of it, there has been ‘hope’. Even when ‘hope’ seemed to have no meaning. As in scriptural lamentations, desperate cries of helplessness to God to take whatever burden away have not seemingly lightened or removed the “labor or burden”. Still hope survives.
A neighbor stands accused of a very heinous crime against a child. Guilty or innocent, I have no way of knowing. As might a Samaritan of Jesus’ culture, prior to any legal action, my neighbor stands tried and convicted by bystanders. I cannot begin to fathom the pain and suffering of the situation. Not only the person, but family and friends suffer as well. Shunned by neighbors, ‘friends’ and even family.
In today’s reading in Matthew we do not hear Jesus say anything to the effect that ‘you’ can handle it. Or, just give me all your sorrows, pains and suffering. I’ll take care of it all; I will fix it.
What we do hear is “…Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” Jesus is saying to us, I will teach you how to carry your own burdens. I will help you carry your burdens. Watch, listen and learn from me. Jesus wants us to come to him, invite him into our hearts, share our joys and sorrows with him. Let Me in, I can help you. Isaiah says “He (God) does not faint or grow weary…” as we often do. Jesus is meek, humble, gentle, kind and compassionate. He too lived in faith and hope in his Father. He too labored and grew weary. He too carried burdens and labored. Jesus’ invitation is to ‘come’, be with me in my burdens and I will be with you in yours. We will walk together. Isaiah reminds us, “They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength…” Jesus says, “I will give you rest”.
Let not your good be evil spoken of. Rom. 14:16
Abstain from all appearance of evil. I Thess. 5:22
Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. II Cor. 8:21
For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. I Pet. 2:15
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. I Pet. 4:15, 16
Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. Gal. 5:13
Take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. I Cor. 8:9
Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matt. 18:6
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matt. 25:40
Awake thou that steepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. Eph. 5:14
It is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. Rom. 13:11
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night: and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. I Thess. 5:6-8
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people, but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. Isa. 60:1, 2
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. I Pet. 1:13
Consider the question of whether or not you have ever allowed yourself to be so drawn into the presence of God that you lose track of time and space. It’s as if you were transported to the Heart of Christ and rested in His bosom. If you have never entered this depth of prayer know that it awaits you. The Lord’s love is so deep and so perfect that, when you experience but a taste, you will be coming back for more as often as you can.
Lord, draw me into Your presence. Help me to know You and Your perfect love. Help me to experience You in perfect adoration and praise. May I receive but a glimpse of Your glory and savor that delight evermore. Jesus, I trust in You.