Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
Then, as now, the people of God laboured under the heavy weight of Law. Daily they carried around on their shoulders the Law burden with its crushing, unreachable rules and regulations. Added to this the myriad traditions of men handed down through extra Biblical sources.
What’s changed? Within our churches the people of God labour daily under the heavy weight of law. They sing about grace, claim the Blood, preach redemption, but find no rest. The voracious man-built religious system we have built around us continually demands we pour our lives and the lives of our children into it without question. It is a self-perpetuating hungry machine, never satisfied, never placated, always searching for new and better ways to keep the people busy and feeling useful. And so the people are never led to rest, never allowed to graze beside the still waters.
Instead they are taught (by those who apparently have the control and measure of such things) that a constant state of motion and production is the path to reaching full spiritual potential. Rather than being conformed to the image of Christ they find themselves conforming to the image of the senior pastor, favourite ‘apostle’ or celebrity worship leader. Life is eked away on one purpose driven meeting after another, cutting edge conferences, and dynamic feel-good Sunday sermons, before the whole round starts again. Unceasing labour is required for the witnessing, the fundraising, the visiting, the Sunday School, the charity shop, the cleaning and maintenance of the building and on and on. This yoke and this burden are passed from one generation to the next in a cycle of pseudo-Christianity that bears little or no resemblance to the living, liberated, law-free church originally birthed by Jesus Christ.
His words are timeless. Today, as then, they are meant to cause us to cease and come. He says cease and come! Cease from the labour, cease from the treadmill of religious life, cease from the endless pursuit of perfection under a law of work and sacrifice and come into His own rest. The yoke He offers is love. The burden He offers is the Cross. The rest He offers is grace, freedom at last from jumping through the endless hoops of law and labour.
But who will take up the invitation? It’s easier to blend with the circus-following crowd than stand in the middle of the road shouting out the burning questions. It’s more comfortable to be going nowhere fast with the multitude than somewhere unknown off the beaten track with the misfits.
Often it’s easier to carry a set of stone tablets on your back than to submit to the rule of love enabled by the Spirit of life. After a while you stop noticing the weight, it just becomes part of who you are.
The easiness of His yoke and the lightness of His burden is not what our religious flesh or the religious system we like to call ‘church’ desires, but it is exactly what He’s offering us, His people. In our spiritual pride we push away His offer as if fit only for the ‘unsaved’. In our activity-induced blindness we do not see it’s us, His own people, He’s calling into His rest.
And if we all took up His invitation to trade our self-imposed labour and our self-righteous law-keeping for His yoke and His burden, what would happen to this great glittery monument we’ve erected to show God and the world who we are? Would it fall down in ruins, exposed as the ugly lifeless machine it has become, unable to sustain itself without our sweat and daily sacrifice to its self-importance?
More importantly, what would happen to us? Now, there’s a question worth asking.
But it’s so much easier to carry a hoop than a cross.