“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me”

Today we recall one of Jesus’ most often repeated passages in the Gospels, Matthew 11:28-30. But I’m not sure it means what many think it does. I think it gets back to Jesus’ core message about love.

Jesus said to the crowds:
“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.”

I have heard this reading explained to mean, “take up my cross” or “follow me.” I think it’s more simple than that. If you read what follows “take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” it’s a description of what Jesus is like. To me, that is the key to this passage of scripture. Jesus is inviting us to be like Him.

“I am meek and humble of heart,” says Jesus. He is never boastful or self-centered; Jesus always serves and encourages His disciples to serve others, always encourages others to be last and to think of others first.

“You will find rest for yourselves,” Jesus continues. Life doesn’t have to be a contest to see who places first or who is greatest. Jesus even corrected His disciples when they asked Him who would be first among them, remember? No, being meek and humble, serving others instead of always looking for others to serve you, lets you rest from the “rat race” of life, lets you rest and enjoy a calmer life.

“My yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Jesus finishes. His mien, his being, his persona, his character is easy and the burden of maintaining a humbleness rather than a competitiveness is light.

Look to Jesus’ character for inspiration. We live in a society where the boastful and brash are celebrated. We are encouraged to promote ourselves on social media with selfies and up-to-the-minute updates on where we are, who we are with, what we are eating, and what we have accomplished, even what we have bought. Life today is a frenzy, it’s labor, it’s burdensome. But Jesus’ way of meekness and humbleness is restful, easy, and light. And it focuses attention away from self and onto others.

As always, I return to Jesus’ central teaching: That the most important commandment is to love. And to love is to focus on others — God and our neighbors.

This is Jesus. Jesus is love. Be like Jesus.

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