This pastoral passage was written for LRBC for July 15 2018. There may be a factual error in this post.
In recent study in the Gospel of Matthew I have noticed that Jesus’ invitation to take his ‘easy yoke’ of religious instruction is followed by two stories demonstrating the burdensome nature of the meticulous religious practice of the day (Matt. 11:28-12:14). Jesus’ word on his instruction being an ‘easy yoke’ is a startlingly liberating word for those from more rigorous religious communities than what is common for most western Christians today. Compared to earlier ages, I think it is rare for people to feel external pressure toward conformity on very many points of faith and practice. I wonder if Jesus would have felt the need to say this if he spoke to us today.
The thought that we could perhaps take from this passage for today is not that we should relax in our Christian practice and progress (which we may), but that we should be willing. After all, we are called to ‘train’ for godliness (1Tim. 4:7), and also, after all, the All Blacks would not be the greatest team in the world [sic?] if they didn’t willingly put themselves through the rigors of discipline and training to be what they are meant to be.
So on the thought of being ‘willing’, let us be spurred on by two statements that Jesus made. The first comes from 12:8, where he declares himself to be ‘Lord of the Sabbath’. He said this to make the point that he is the one with the authority to determine how the Sabbath is to be observed. He may have relaxed things on this issue – but he still remains Lord. Are you willing to allow him to be Lord and to submit to his instruction? The second comes from 12:12, where he reminded people that their religion should be marked more by doing what they should be doing than by abstaining from what they shouldn’t be doing. Are you willing to make sure your faith is marked more by doing what is righteous than by avoiding what is wrong?