Here is my sermon from this morning. It took some prayer and meditation before the connection between the “Yoke” of the O.T. Law and the yoke of Jesus’ Law of Love became so clear. I also recalled Peter’s testimony at the Council of Jerusalem in which he referred to the yoke that they had been bearing of the O.T. observances.
The words of Jesus in Today’s Gospel Reading are both a call to prayer and a challenge.
At first thought they seem to be words of encouragement for the poor farmers, herders, and laborers that Jesus encountered during his years of ministry among the rocky hillsides and coastlands around the Sea of Galilee. There is some truth in that image. Many of the people whom Jesus met were poor, and had to work hard to support their families.
But as we consider the words that Jesus used in that invitation and challenge we can begin to see another dimension to what he said.
As Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God, his Father, he encountered opposition from the leaders of the synagogues, and the representatives of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Pharisees and Sadducees questioned by what authority he taught, and the source of his power to heal. Especially he was accused of breaking the Sabbath Laws by healing the sick, the lame and the blind on the Sabbath Day, and of failing to keep other parts of the Jewish Law. He was also accused of blasphemy by calling God his Father.
Just after the words of Jesus, “Come to me…” appear in Matthew’s Gospel we read how Jesus was confronted by some Pharisees for allowing his disciples to eat from the heads of grain plucked as they walked beside the fields on a Sabbath. That was considered as doing work of harvesting; forbidden on the Sabbath.
From this example we can see that the yoke of which Jesus spoke, was the yoke and the heavy burden of Old Testament Law as it was interpreted literally by the officials.
By contrast Jesus offered to those who heard his compassionate invitation the way to the easier yoke and the lighter burden of the Law of Love.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens ….Take
my yoke upon you, and learn from me … and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt. 11:28-29)
We can do our part in giving witness to Jesus’ “New Commandment”,loving our neighbor as ourselves, and respecting the dignity of every human being, by living the Baptismal Covenant of the Church promised by us or for us at our Baptism.
(B.C.P. p.305) Think about this!
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