Daily Reflection
July 17th, 2003
Tamora Whitney
English Department
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Exodus 3:11-20
Psalm 105:5, 8-9, 24-25, 26-27
Matthew 11:28-30

“My yoke is easy and my burden light.”  To the casual reader, these words of comfort can easily have an effect opposite to that intended.  He was the Son of God.  It was alright for him.  Hostility and hatred didn’t really get to him like it does to us.  The nails didn’t really hurt.

Jesus was referring to religion, though, and to the sometimes insufferable loads that the Pharisees imposed on people to force punctilious observance of their religious rules.  Even today, many are attracted to positions of power in the various Churches so that they can make gullible people jump through their absurd ‘religious’ hoops and thereby ensure in them a habit of dependency.  Jesus was not interested in power games.

In his carpenter’s shop he would have made yokes for oxen – wooden devices tailor-made for each animal to ensure that they would not injure the beasts’ necks.  The loads put upon them were huge, but their yokes were well-fitting and, in that sense, they made for an ‘easy’ pull.

Jesus’ burden, in dealing with his enemies, was also ‘easy’ because he knew human nature.  He knew exactly what he was up against, so although the opposition tried to discredit him, hounded him and eventually murdered him, he was not bewildered by it, as so often we are when life bites us.

“Stress in the workplace” is both an increasingly common phenomenon and an illustration of this.  There is a touching but naïve expectation that working conditions – and bosses – should somehow be ‘fair.’  Because increasing competition today makes firms cut corners (usually at the expense of working conditions) and because, statistically, 50% of bosses are ‘below average’ anyway, this can cause great stress.  What is tragic is when this ‘gets to’ workers and causes deep bitterness or nervous breakdowns.  There are few things sadder than hearing an old person, who should be enjoying the evening of his life, recount again and again some injustice way back in the past.  Whether it was real or imagined doesn’t matter.  Likewise, a nervous breakdown cannot be undone.  These unfortunate people had unreasonable expectations of human nature; they did not see that their yokes were correctly adjusted, so in the end the loads they tried to carry broke them.

The vilification that Jesus received did sting.  The nails did hurt. But he knew roughly what to expect.  He also knew that humankind, though instinctively selfish and aggressive,  was made for God and, through grace, is capable of astonishing things. That’s why the load he bore did not break him.

If we who are “exhausted and weighed down” will learn from him, then the sometimes insufferable burden of having to put up with other members of the human race will become ‘easy.’  After all, they put up with us.

Jesus’ promise is a sobering one, but they are words of genuine comfort.


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