Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Jesus says, “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Jesus also says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.”
Yesterday was the fourth of July. It was the day when we celebrate the independence of the United States of America. The United States is very proud of being a free country. As citizens, we are very proud of being free and independent people.
So yesterday we celebrated our freedom as citizens of this country. Now today, the word of God comes to us and says, “Take my yoke upon you.” And so in this one week-end, we experience the stark contrast between our worldly freedom as citizens of this country and our complete dependence on Jesus as the people of God.
Jesus thanks God for hiding these things from the wise and intelligent and revealing them to infants. In our relation-ships in this world, we like to think that the wise and intelligent are the ones who really know what is going on. But in relationship to God, it is those who are infants who are given the real insight. This is because God is sovereign, and God is the one who is in control and who has the power.
As a nation of this world, we want to be the ones who are sovereign. We want to be the ones who are in control and who have the power. The United States by its very constitution, gives the power to govern to the people. Our constitution gives us no king or a ruling class. So we are free. Free to decide for ourselves how to be a country.
But as the people of God, we are ruled by the Lord. The Lord is in control and the Lord has power. It is not up to us. We do not get to decide. We don’t even get to see what is really going on.
When I was in elementary school I went to 4-H camp one summer. I was young and it was the first time that I had gone away to camp. During that week, we went on a canoe trip. We canoed down a river and then camped out for the night.
We were divided into pairs so that there were two of us in each canoe. The counselors divided us up so that there was an older kid with each of us younger kids.
So I was in the front of the canoe and there was a bigger kid in the back. And very quickly, I learned something about canoes: the person in the back is the one who is really in control.
Like I said, I had not been in a canoe before, so I didn’t know how to paddle, and I didn’t know how to steer and the kid in the back kept telling me to paddle on the other side and I couldn’t see why or when I had to switch sides and I think I was really just an annoyance to the guy in the back.
So he navigated us down the river and got us to our destination. I did some paddling, but we got there really despite all my work.
I was like a child. I was not the one who was intelligent and wise. I was an infant. That is just who Jesus comes to. Jesus comes to infants. God has hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and has revealed them to infants. That is God’s gracious will.
It is God’s will to be yoked to the weak and wayward. It is God’s will to gather people into his boat who are not very good at paddling and who cannot understand what is going on. God brings in people who are infants. God brings in people who are like you.
Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” A yoke is a piece of wood and metal or leather that goes over and around the shoulders of an animal. The yoke is then attached to a cart or plough so that the animals can pull it. Usu-ally a yoke links two animals together, to pull side by side. For example, you might have a yoke of oxen. And that yoke is a solid connection of the two.
When Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you” it is an image of being solidly united to Jesus. It is an image of working alongside him. And when two oxen are yoked together, one of them is the near ox and the other the off-ox. The near ox is the one that is near the driver of the team. Since the near ox is the one near the driver, it is often the one that takes the lead and the other ox follows.
Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you”, calling you to be linked to him and he is the near ox. Jesus is the one right next to the driver, right next to God himself. As Jesus says, “No one knows the Father, except the Son.”
Jesus is the one in the back seat of the canoe. He is in the driver’s seat. He is the one who can see the path ahead. He is the one who understands how to navigate. He is the one who has the power, because he is the one who truly knows God. We then learn from him. We are yoked to him to learn how to pull like he pulls, to step like he steps, to work like he works. We are yoked to him to learn his ways, because his ways come directly from God.
We are the weak ones who are yoked to Jesus. It is not our wisdom. It is his. We cannot see clearly where we are going, but he has the full vision of God. We like to think that we are in the best position to make decisions about our lives, but really Jesus is in the driver’s seat. Jesus knows God as no one else does. We only know God as Jesus reveals God to us. Jesus reveals God’s mercy and love. Jesus reveals that God is calling all people, that God is calling you. He says, “Come to me”. Come to me all of you. All of you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens.
Jesus knows God, and he knows the ways of God. God’s way leads to rest. God’s way is gentle and humble. Come to Jesus and take his yoke upon you. He will teach you how to pull the load and navigate the waters. He will lead you step by step, and he will bring you safely home.
Come, Jesus is calling you, to rest in him. Amen.