Come to me all you that are weary and heavy laden and
I will give you rest – Matthew 11:16-30
What is it with this generation?
You know how the spiel goes. You've probably said it yourself: “In my day children respected their elders; we didn't talk back; we knew our responsibilities. When I was your age I had to walk to school 10 miles across the paddocks. Uphill! Both ways! And, let me tell you about hard work . . .”
I'm sure every generation says that about the next one. That's how we're wired; wired to compare, to critique, to criticise, and to think we know best. So, that's what we do: we judge each other on what we wear, how we look, how we perform. As a society we judge people by what they do, how useful they are, whether they've even got a job. We judge asylum seekers, Muslims, anyone who's not like us; and, we do it knowing we in turn are being judged. Don’t we know it!
Even Jesus observed that’s how it was in his day. John the Baptist appeared: an ascetic, living in the wilderness without any creature comforts; he was critiqued, criticised, judged. “Crazy!” they said. Then Jesus came, the opposite of John. He partied and threw himself into life – others' lives – and the same people judged him a glutton and a drunk! Our judgements can be so fickle, can’t they?
But, why were John and Jesus criticised and judged? Wasn't it because they were a threat? A threat to the status quo – they were different; they were dangerous! And, isn't that why we continue that same process generation after generation? Because we are threatened: our sense of self, our sense of being, our sense of worth.
But, it gets worse! If that's how we want it, then God can play that game too. He sent his Son Jesus into the world, as a human being. As a human being Jesus played the games of human beings: the game of comparing. “To what shall I compare this generation?” he said. But, unlike us, Jesus’ critique and comparison doesn’t stem from self-preservation, or self-righteousness; his critique is the judgement of a holy and perfect God. “To what shall I compare this generation?” How about to what God expects! That’s the scariest comparison for us. If we compare ourselves to each other there’s always someone we can find to put down, or to make ourselves feel more superior; but, if we have to compare ourselves to God where does that leave us?
But wait, it gets even worse! The worst news is that we can’t do anything to change things. Oh yes, we can try to be nicer people to each other –and we should – but, even then, we remain under God’s critique – God’s criticism that we don’t measure up.
And where does that leave us? It might seem there are only two options: fight or flight; but, there is another option; that option is to take up Jesus’ gracious invitation, an invitation to those weighed down by criticism, critique and judgement: “Come to me all you that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest”.
How can we trust this invitation? Well, these are not words spoken by a booming voice from heaven, from an unseen, terrifying judge; these words are spoken by Jesus, who not long after this stands before his disciples and says: “Look at my hands; see the nail marks? This is the result of God’s judgement, on you! I have taken the burden of God’s criticism, I have paid the price, so, come to me, for when the judgement is completed there is only gentleness and humility and rest; rest from the constant barrage of criticism. Come and be yoked to me. I forgive you. I love you, just as you are. You don’t have to try to be any better. You don’t have to meet God’s standard, it has been met for you, stick with me.”
Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden light because it’s not a yoke of criticism or judgement; that’s done with, his yoke is a pattern of living based on forgiveness, acceptance and grace – a pattern of living that permeates through us, and slowly, but surely, becomes our own as we keep accepting his invitation. No matter how many times we slip back into old habits, no matter how weary we are, Jesus offers us the yoke of grace. So, in Christ, we no longer have to be defensive and judgemental in order to be right, in order to be somebody; because of Jesus, in God’s eyes we are right, we are somebody, we are God’s.
Come to him all you who are weary and heavy laden and he will give you rest.
Grace and peace
Pastor John Strelan
Pentecost 5, 2017