Summary: If we accept the rest Jesus offers, all we have to do is accept his teachings as well as the obligations he will lay upon us. He invites us to treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Nothing I do is ever enough!!!”
Have you ever heard someone say that? Have you ever said that or thought that yourself? Well I certainly have, especially when my father was alive. Sometimes no matter how much we do, how much we say, how much we pay, how much we save, how much we exercise, etc., it just never seems to be enough. Jesus knows how we feel, because he went through the same thing here on earth.
Jesus wasn’t the first person that the Pharisees didn’t accept. Like Jesus, John the Baptist was seen as someone other than who he really was. He was seen as a demon-possessed lunatic, and Jesus was seen as a glutton. John’s austerity in dress and food underlined the severity of his message. Jesus, on the other hand, went to where the people were, a participant in their condition, if not their sin, where the joys and sorrows played out in families, towns and cities. The people of John’s and Jesus’ time rejected God by rejecting his messengers; neither approach pleased them, because neither man fit into their mold, so they lodged contradictory complaints. In both cases, the wisdom of the courses of action of both men was proved only by the results. In other words, the ends justified the means. We often want the Jesus we want, when we want him. The people in Jesus’ time were the same, and he was frustrated. The problem for those who reject Jesus is their awareness that taking John the Baptist and Jesus seriously requires people to change their lives.
The elite did not accept John the Baptist or Jesus-the poor did. The same situation exists today. There are those who think that they are so high in society that they don’t need God. Then there are those who are so downtrodden and suppressed by society that they eagerly accept Jesus’ teachings.
There is an interesting contrast in our Gospel reading this morning. Jesus is contrasting Man’s Law with God’s Law. Man’s Law was formed as the result of the Ten Commandments. God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jewish people to guide them through the moral traps of life, but well-intentioned people added on to the law until it became its own trap. Religious professionals prided themselves on their observance of the law, but even they couldn’t avoid breaking the law. The common person did not stand a chance of perfectly observing the law. All of these rules and regulations were a huge burden on the people. The law was a dispensation of terror.
Jesus came along and said to the Pharisees, “Look, guys-you don’t need all of these man-made rules and regulations. You don’t need rules stating how far a person can walk on the Sabbath, or how clean they have to be in order to be part of society, or what type of work people can do on the Sabbath. That is not the intention of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are rules for how people are to live their lives and treat their fellow man. They are not meant to be a spiritual strait-jacket, but you, with your rules and regulations and determination to obey the letter of the Ten Commandments, have forgotten about the spirit of the Ten Commandments.” People might be learned in religious rules, customs and teachings, but our main source for understanding God’s ways doesn’t come from that knowledge. It comes from receiving Jesus and his message. In fact, strict observance of the law can make us blind to the Spirit’s freedom Jesus is offering us.
Jesus went a step further and replaced all of these laws with the two Great Commandments-love God and love people. He told the Pharisees, “Look at how much easier and less demanding the Great Commandments are. They are a common-sense approach to living the life God wants us to lead. If people obey these two commandments, they will form the basis for how people live their lives. “
Most of you have seen oxen that are harnessed together by a yoke. They share the burden and work together so that one doesn’t have to do all of the work or shoulder the entire burden. Oxen are trained for a specific position in the yoke, so when they are put in the other position, they refuse to move, much like the Pharisees refused to change for Jesus or John the Baptist.
When Jesus tells us to take his yoke, he is inviting us to submit to his authority. If we submit to him, he will give us rest by sharing our burdens. We all need rest. That’s why God created the Sabbath. A Sabbath changes the pace of our lives. It helps us restore our strength and helps us be still. It helps us to let go of our grip on our lives. Jesus is asking us to let him be in control of our lives. He wants to guide and direct our lives. As the old saying goes, he wants us to “let go and let God”.