notre dame montreal

Sermon on Matthew Chapter 11

By The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman

My Yoke is Easy and My Burden is light


A couple of weeks ago many of us turned on our TV’s to watch the American Formula 1 Grand Prix only to see just 3 teams on the starting grid after the parade lap

As we now know, there was a problem with the safety of one of the types of tyres and so the rest of the teams did not race

Several alternatives were looked at to get round the problem but they all seemed to break one of the myriad of rules that govern how a Grand Prix race is run

Ultimately they just couldn’t get round the weight of rules and the race became what many saw as a farce

It was if the people involved had lost the key reason why millions of people turned on the TV all over the world – they wanted to see a race and a spectacle and couldn’t understand why some compromise could not be found that would enable the race to take place

It was as if they were crushed by the weight and complexity of the rules that surround racing

To Jesus, it was as if many of the Jews were in the same kind of Grand Prix race

The Jews had laws to help them live holy lives, the 10 commandments, the Torah, books about the Torah and the law, commentaries on the law, commentaries on the commentaries on the law, sermonettes on the law, but they had lost sight of what the law was all about…

Taking a legalistic approach to the minutiae of the law, following the letter of the law had become more important than anything that the law itself stood for, like helping them live holy lives which were honouring to God-.

They had not understood that the law was a means to an end, not the end itself

Jesus gets cross with people like these and earlier in Matthew chapter 10 Jesus has been very frustrated with people who cannot see the significance of what He is saying and doing

And in the section of the gospel which is today’s reading Jesus invites people to get out from the burden of the law and follow and learn from Him

His law is the law of love.

‘A new commandment I give to you, love one another as I have loved you’ Jn 13 v 34

He invites all who are weary and burdened to come to him to find rest, through His gentleness and humility for His yoke is easy and His burden is light

And that seems a bit strange, a bit of an oxymoron, because isn’t a yoke designed so 2 oxen can pull a heavy plough or farm implement?

Well, yes, in a sense. But one of the primary roles of the yoke was also to keep the oxen together, so they could walk together

When Jesus invites us to take up His yoke it’s not just so that we can have Him share our burdens, which He does, it’s so we can be connected to Him so He can guide us in our lives and show us the way to walk

Now we might think that because we’re not Jews we don’t have the burden of the law so we don’t need to come out from under the burden or take up Christ’s yoke, we’re free enough already and we don’t need any of the yoke nonsense at all

And that may be true, but sometimes the culture, values, taste, and behaviour that we find ourselves following can be a yoke in itself, something that constrains us and effectively governs how we are as people

We find ourselves conforming to the world and our society and being shaped by the world and the people around us, even when we don’t want to be, its as if we have no freedom to make choices for ourselves

Alternatively we find ourselves weighed down by our cares and concerns

Not that it’s wrong to engage with those around us and have cares or be concerned about the world. The Make Poverty History initiative is a great example of something with which Christians should be involved

God does want us to get stuck in and make a difference

But if we only see world poverty as an issue we care about from an economic or political standpoint we miss an important element of poverty, that it is also a spiritual issue

If people are not changed then we will only have limited success in eradicating poverty and world hunger, irrespective of any grand edicts and directives that ay come out of the G8 summit

We’re falling into the same trap as did the early Jews. Its not that there is some better world order that we can assess and bring about just by following our own ideas and a set of economic and political principles, important factors as these are

Jesus wants us to be free from that burden and stricture too, so we can be our true selves, free for any constraints and connected to His so He can guide us in today’s world, whatever we do, including working to get rid of poverty and a whole load of other things in this world which are not the way God intended

He wants us to be concerned about what Hs is concerned about, because those are the important things in this world, that’s the burden He wants us to share with Him as we take up His yoke

And we can only be truly effective if we are connected to Him - otherwise we’re just pulling in the wrong direction