Come to me – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

It may come as a surprise to many that Jesus was not successful, at least in the ways in which we are inclined to measure “success.” He was a wise teacher and a miracle-worker, and at times he drew large crowds.  But he also encountered opposition, right from the very start of his ministry, and from the most religious people of his day.  Most people were simply indifferent.  When the crowds realized that he wasn’t what they expected him to be, and that he wouldn’t do what they expected or hoped he would do, they turned away.  And not all who were attracted by his clever stories and powerful deeds became faithful followers.  Even his closest, most trusted friends often disappointed him, and abandoned him when times got tough.  He died alone, except for a few faithful women who stayed to the end.

In today’s gospel, we get a glimpse of the frustration he felt from time to time when he encountered the indifference of the crowds and the opposition of religious leaders.  “To what will I compare this generation?” Jesus asks.  “It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance,
We wailed, and you did not mourn.'”

John lived as an ascetic, observes Jesus, surviving in the wilderness on locusts and honey and preaching repentance, but you wouldn’t listen to him.  I come eating and drinking, celebrating the coming of God’s reign, and I too am criticized and rejected.  You are like squabbling children refusing to join in a game, says Jesus, never satisfied, never responsive, always finding a reason to turn away from the gift of life that is being offered to you.  The point of the saying is clear: this generation is able to write off John because he abstained from normal social intercourse and to write off Jesus for exactly the opposite reason, because of his banqueting with sinners.  Both of God’s spokesmen are dismissed as irrelevant.  The indifference of this generation is impenetrable.

“Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds,” Jesus says.  God’s wisdom is being revealed and made manifest in the deeds of the Christ.  No matter how “wise and understanding” (v 25) Jesus’ opponents might claim to be, their behavior exhibits their lack of wisdom.  They have refused God’s messengers and turned away from God’s truth.

Where does Jesus turn in his frustration?  To prayer.  And it is in his prayer that we learn what God is doing.  God has hidden his wisdom and truth from those who are “wise and intelligent” in the world — that is, those who are successful, powerful, erudite, and impressive — and revealed them to “infants” — the simple, the receptive, the powerless, those who recognize their own need, the willing. Those who consider themselves “wise and intelligent” have missed the point; to the simple God reveals God’s ways.

It is to these faithful ones that Jesus issues an invitation: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  He understands that those who are humble and kind and loving and powerless are often trampled upon by those who are “strong.”  They have received his message and believed his truth, unlike the “wise and intelligent” who have found every excuse to turn away from him.  He welcomes them and offers them comfort and rest in his arms.

I suspect there are many of us who are longing to hear those words spoken to us today.  We have been carrying life’s burdens, weighed down by life’s cares.  We have tried to be faithful, but have been misunderstood, or criticized, or rejected.  We are aware of our weakness, our failure to do the things we ought to have done and to be the persons we wanted to be.  We are discouraged, disheartened, lonely or sad.  With Paul we acknowledge our shortcomings: “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very things that I hate.”

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself coming into the presence of Jesus, who is “gentle” and “humble in heart.”  Imagine him extending his arms to you, welcoming you into his embrace.  Hear him say to you, “Come to me; I want to give you rest….  I see what a heavy burden you’ve been bearing and how weary you are from carrying this load.  Let me take it from you.  Come apart for a while, and rest.”

What is the burden of which Jesus speaks when he addresses these words to you?  What is it that you are carrying today, or that you have been carrying for weeks or months or even years?  What is it that weighs so heavily upon your heart?  What is it that fills you with anxiety and fear, that exhausts your mind and dampens your emotions?  What burdens or cares are sapping your strength, day after day after day?

Take a moment now to identify and name them….. and then picture yourself handing them over to Christ. (pause)

He offers us his yoke, which is easy and light.  He assures us that we need not carry life’s burdens on our own.  He is ready to shoulder them with us, to make light whatever it is that is weighing us down.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  The invitation is especially for those of us who are tired, burdened or discouraged. But the promise is for us all, and it is offered to each of us every minute of every day.  Whenever we are weighed down with care, we can hand our burden to Christ, trusting him to carry it for us and with us.  As the psalmist says, “Whenever I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” (Ps 56:3, BCP 662).  A simple act of trust, a simple letting go, that ushers us into the place of rest.

His rest is an active rest.  His yoke is a shared yoke.  He is bearing the weight with you, and for you.  You are not alone.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Perfect rest.  Eternal rest.   Rest – now, this very day.

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3 Comments

  1. John G. on July 19, 2024 at 11:12

    I have just written a long list of burdens I wish to surrender to Jesus. It is a long list of my wrongs and could be longer. I feel much guilt as a result of these wrongs. I hanged my head in the Lord’s presence, and he accepted my burdens from me. I am free to look up and stretch my shoulders, and to make amends to any I have harmed. I am free to “go into his courts with praise; give thanks to him and call upon his Name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting, and his faithfulness endures from age to age.” Amen

  2. Alison Ives on July 19, 2024 at 09:32

    There is such tremendous comfort in these words. I am so grateful for the wisdom and thoughtfulness you chose to share with us about this today. At this time in my life, I know several people who are struggling under tremendous burdens, and I am moved to share your words with them. Thank you and blessings to all at SSJE.

  3. Malcolm Hayes on July 19, 2024 at 02:52

    Thank you brother – as I sit looking over the Atlantic from my caravan in Northern Ireland with coffee in hand you have reminded me that in our fragile state we are with one who is gentle and humble in heart – and he is able -bless you brother may his gentleness become ours –

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