August 5, 2021
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.
In many places of the Bible, God asks us to come to Him with our troubles, to ask for help, to pray and give to Him our worries. Yet, this is the only place in the Bible in which Jesus, requesting the very same thing, gives us a glimpse of who He is as a person on earth: a gentle and humble person, full of compassion and a great desire to serve His fellow man.
I read this scripture over and over again…a few simple sentences, giving a seemingly simple message. And yet, each time I read it, it emphasized different words. So much so, that it was rather difficult to discern what spoke a stronger message. So, I chose to today, to speak about three pieces of the scripture that stood out: gently and humble, my burden is light, and learn from me.
Gentle and Humble
My first take on this scripture emphasized “Gentle and humble in heart”. Because I know Jesus as a gentle soul, it seemed fitting that he would declare himself as such to his disciples.
I think a lot about being gentle with people. Maybe it is just my nature to do so, but I also can be hypersensitive to those who are not. So often, it seems that people are consumed with their own perception. So consumed that they forget that everyone has their own story, and it cannot be written for them by anyone but themselves. Out of this one-sided perspective come judgement, anger and a harshness that, even in the name of love, is not. But, I find myself saying often (and usually to myself), “Be nice.” Or really bothered by the way others treat those around them. Those they know and those they don’t. To have compassion for other is to accept that they are doing the best by and for themselves. That we cannot see the meaning behind it, does not make it less valid. There is no right way or single way to live lives.
I think I am a fairly gentle person. I try very hard to understand the thoughts and perspective of other people, giving them the benefit of the doubt when I don’t understand….Usually. I feel, though, that it is getting increasingly more difficult to remain gentle with others as so many around me are not. I get bogged down a lot with thoughts of “Why should I, when no one else is.” And then I say or do something a little more bold than maybe it should have been…and feel awful about the way that I treated the other person.
And as I look out at all of you, I am reminded of people who are gentle and humble. Many who enter this church, have spoken about what a loving and caring church family we are. It speaks to our willingness to give freely of ourselves. Coming to each other’s and our community’s aid when we are called to do so. Nothing in speaks louder to me, though, than when we serve at funeral receptions. Several years ago, we had quite a few of our dear family and community members pass. It seems rather an oxymoron that in a time of grief, there could be such joy in the outpouring of love and support that was given to these families who had suffered a loss. Not only that, but as I tend to be somewhat of an observer, I noticed how people served and tend to each other, not in sorrow, but with joy. People serving in God’s love, just as Jesus served His people.
The book Gentle and Lowly by Diane Ortlund, is an anthology collection of several stories and explanations of this scripture. I was struck by an explanation of the word HUMBLE as described in this scripture. Ortlund’s thought about HUMBLE, and maybe because it is synonymous with the word LOWLY in some translations, is not simply that Jesus acted with humility, was not proud or righteous in His gift, but acted as one who was “lower” than that which he serves. In other words, he acted in servitude, as a servant to those in need. This definition reminded me immediately of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet before the Last Supper, his act of compassion in a lowly role. Jesus looked at those around Him as people who lived in a world with all kinds of hardships. And helping one another as His way of showing His love for mankind, just as we have all been called to do.
Much of the way that we teach children is through modeling. Children are constant observers. I am sure many of you parents out there have been told not to say anything in the presence of your children that you do not want repeated. Right? In this same token, Jesus’ actions were a model to us, God’s children. His acts were those that bare repeating. Being gentle with one another in our thoughts and our acts, shows our love. Just as God says in John chapter 13, “As I have loved you, love one another. By this, everyone will know you are my disciples.”
I teach college students, most of whom are freshman, coming to college fresh from the security of home, but all with a grand perception of who they are and what they know. This year I get the privilege of teaching them in 4 of the first 8 courses during their first year. Having most of them in the same classes block after block. It has become very important to me to create a community of learners in the first days of class. To do this, part of my introduction on the first day is about opinions and perceptions and giving others the right to their own ideas. And typically, it is a short spiel, accompanied by eyerolls from the students and looks of “yeah, okay, I know already!” This year, however, as I looked out over my students, I was encouraged to see a different reaction….maybe a realization of the others around them having differing opinions. And, I have to say that, even though we are only completing our first weeks, the atmosphere in this class seems different. They have more to say and they listen and respond gently. No interruptions, no talks over one another, not as many eye rolls or “oh my gosh, not again” looks as those students who have a lot to say start to tell yet one more story. Gentle.
Take my yoke upon you…….for my burden is light…..
As I explored this scripture further, the image of the yoke became more prominent. I began to contemplate what that could mean and the references that Jesus could be making as He called His people to Him. From this the realization of the statement “My burden is light”, meaning that He is able to carry a heavier load and willing to take on the load of others to give them rest.
I found it rather ironic, talking about this scripture on Labor Day weekend. For Jesus is calling all of the people who have been working hard to come to Him for rest. We all work hard. Men, women, and children. Young and old. Employed, unemployed and retired. Our work is what we find challenging in our lives. And tomorrow is a celebration of that and a day for rest.
We all carry a heavy load of things that cause us anxiety. Job, health, family, relationships, children, school, internal and external conflict; only to name a few. Some can seem unbearable. Others are things that we muddle through or even enjoy. Though, they, too, create a weight on our shoulders. Balancing work, family and self can be very difficult as the demands and stresses of each increase. In addition, our lives are ever changing, and we find ourselves facing new seasons where we have to reimagine who we are and what it is that brings us joy and satisfaction, then, once again, balance that with those around us until a rhythm is found that works. We cannot help but be burdened by the stresses that life creates or has in store for us.
But, the Bible is a continuous reminder that we do not have to struggle alone. God has sent gentle and humble people to earth to support and strengthen us, to hold us up when we cannot bear the weight any longer. Not only that, but GOD, the one true source of rest, recognizes our struggle and continually encourages us to come to Him, for support, guidance and rest. --“Take my yoke upon you….for my burden is light….and I will give you rest.” And he reiterates it many times, throughout scripture….
--In 1 Peter 5:7 “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
--In Philippians 4: 6-7 “do not be anxious about anything. But in everything through prayer… let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God…. will guard your hearts and your minds.
Talking about what burdens us is often a comfort. People lean on friends and family to share their joys and their troubles as they look for acceptance, comradery, and comfort. Reaching out for help, though difficult for some, is a good source of relief for those things that we cannot handle on our own. In the verse I mentioned a moment ago, Philippians 4: 6-7, we are also instructed to ask for help from God…”but in everything through prayer …. let your requests be known. “
Talking to God about what troubles us, can be a great source of comfort. We are taught from an early age that God answers all of our prayers. In this respect, if we ask for His help and release our burdens unto Him, He will return our prayer with answers.
I was listening to an audiobook a few months ago called, The Complete Conversations with God. As I listened there came a point where the question was posed about hearing God, “How do I know that the words are God speaking to me are not just my imagination and my own thoughts?” His answer surprised me and made me think…..His answer was this, we often rely too heavily on words to be spoken and denounce the experience, when we should do just the opposite, for God speaks to us through our experiences rather than through words. His WORD, however, is our highest thought, our clearest word, and our grandest feeling. And to know that it is His word, it will be grounded in JOY, TRUTH, LOVE. That our highest thought will be that of JOY, our clearest thought will be grounded in TRUTH, and our grandest feeling will be that of LOVE.
Have you ever looked back on a difficult experience and marveled at all you had learned through the process of it and the good things that came through it? Difficult times in our lives are opportunities and experiences that encourage us to learn and grow closer to God. In leaning on His strength and solace in those times of need, the relationship we have with God grows stronger.
Learn From Me
The last piece that was intriguing to me was the word “learn”. What are we to learn from this scripture?
Jesus carries a light yoke. His burdens are few. In this He tells us that He has room to take on our troubles. That when we lay our burdens upon Him, He can handle it. They are not burdensome to Him. Jesus call all people to give to Him all that worry them, all that cause them anxiety….and He will give rest to their souls, He will set them at ease. What’s more…He calls ALL PEOPLE to come. He does not discriminate those with whom he knows or likes, those from one community or another, just the rich or the poor. He calls all people.
As His disciples, it is our charge to act as Jesus does. To be gentle with all people around us; to work to understand each other and the roads that others travel. To be compassionate, giving, and peaceful. To reach out to those that we see struggling and come to their aid. To be humble in our acts and not seek to gain from it. For what we gain, is far greater than any reward. We, like those who laid down their troubles, gain peace and restfulness. How can this be? Won’t taking on someone else’s problems only add weight to what we carry? Aren’t we all weighed down with enough of our own troubles? Maybe, but we can look at it this way….
Helping others is not hard. And in Romans chapter 15 it clearly states, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” But so often, many people think that to help others, they must take on the task of their difficulties and find solutions, when in fact, it may be those small things, even those random things, that might help others find peace. The saying goes that “You never know the smallest task that may have made a difference in the life of another.” It may be that you take the kids for ice cream so that a weary mom might be able to vacuum the whole house once and for all or have 20 minutes of silence that she hasn’t heard all day. It may be a Hello and a hug to someone that you don’t see often. It may be building a new friendship. It may be a smile and a wave to an unsuspecting soul that is looking your way. The impact we make on other peoples’ day may be one they carry far longer than that moment. And when we carry out these acts, there is a sense of joy and peace and satisfaction within us as well. Love and peace, perpetuates love and peace.
It’s the concern we have for others that makes us disciples. Making wrongs right. Helping to lighten loads when and where and however we can. Its being gentle with one another. And its not being choosy about who we are kind to—friend, foe or stranger.