Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Year of the Ox- Matthew 11:28-30
The ox isn't a particularly smart animal. Little more than a walking fermentation chamber that coverts grass into muscle, it invariably ends up in a pot of beef stew, or sentenced to a lifetime of hard labour. So I am really not so sure about the auspiciousness (or lack of!) of entering the Year of the Ox.
Jesus must have had an image in His mind somewhat like the one above when He told His followers to "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
I must say I have always had problems with the interpretation of those verses.
The traditional view is that Jesus was refering to our menial and physical labour. I know it is very comforting to imagine coming home to Jesus at the end of the day, tired, weary, all stressed out, laying our physical and emotional burdens at His feet, and finding rest and solace there. There is certainly some truth to that but I am not so convinced that was what Jesus was actually refering to.
The 'burden of being a Christian' is never so easy, and Jesus has never promised us that it will be so. In fact He tells us quite bluntly, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Can such a yoke ever be easy?
So what was Jesus talking about?
Well...this was a time in Jesus' ministry where he was enduring almost on a daily basis, various challenges from Pharisees and traditionalists. Do this, do that, don't do this, don't do that,...it must be like this, not like that...etc etc... I believe when Jesus saw His antagonists, he saw this image of oxen lugging around this enormous burden behind them, ... this enormous burden of their 'religiousity'.
For Jesus, it was never meant to be like that. That's why He says..."Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. "
With Jesus, it was never about the 'religion' or the 'religiousity' of what we do. It was always about our life with Him. When He encourages us to 'take His yoke', He is not speaking just as the driver of the ox cart, but the fellow ox who labours at our side. Our partner at life and work. That's why He is able to say, "... my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
In this very turbulent Year of the Ox, may we find rest for our soul with Him. Have a very blessed and happy Lunar New Year!