The Yoke of Grace.
At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“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.” (Matthew 11:25-30)
We can quickly assume the rite to survival in life is to conquer it, to tame it and categorize it so that we may have power and control. What we find time and again in the words of Jesus is a very different portrait of where life finds its source and desire.
In this small passage we find Christ using the familiar metaphor of children, but from a much different angle than the preceding verses which alluded to spoiled children never satisfied with the attention they crave (16, 17). It is one of these kingdom mindset shifts Jesus was so fond of that finds those who are wise and learned according to the standards of the world are the very same people who shut themselves off from divine knowledge, while those who maintain an openness, daresay a willful innocence, like children are ones capable of receiving the truth from the Father of all.
It is so hard sometimes to maintain a posture of open-handedness as a child does. For many of us, it was precisely the disappointment or disillusionment of trust in our youth that pushed us to the illusion of self-sufficiency, seeking to control our environment as a way to protect ourselves from being suckered again. Ironically, the desire to understand the world becomes the way in which we shut ourselves off to life-in-freedom offered by an infinite God. This mode of thinking prompts us to create boundaries and parameters that shut us off from grace and it halts our growth into becoming truly human in God’s way. If we continue to live in this illusion we change, we start to lose the attributes that earn our title of Imago Dei, the images of God. However, if we take on the mindset of a child, innocent to the disappointment of a world that manipulates and distracts, we keep ourselves constantly open to the revelation from God about who He is and who we are in light of His love. We are capable of being led by grace into a way of understanding life that would be unavailable to us if we were to say simply, “this is all there is, and it is folly”.
Jesus typified this kind of open-handed intimacy in its perfection. He knew that his identity and authority stemmed directly from the Father. As he brings completion to the Law and the Prophets (the revelation of God up to this point) he reveals who the Father is, acting as the veil between the holy of holies and the outside world. It is those whose eyes and hands are open to the revelation of messiah that are offered a glimpse past the veil into the shekinah presence of YHWH himself. The one who recognizes this posture of openness is the one whom Jesus can reveal the Father to.
And Jesus delights in his divine vocation to constantly point back to God as the source of all even as he rests in God’s affirmation of himself. When we question whether or not Jesus “needed” God and what that says about his divinity in a clinical setting (“what does it mean for God to be in need?” and so on) we can easily miss the relational dynamics that are presented to us here and elsewhere as we glimpse the orchestrated harmony within the Trinity. This isn’t a cold, detached doctrinal point to be made, but an embrace of intimacy that gives and receives definition from the joy of the presence of the Other. Indeed, this is what Jesus is inviting us in to as we recognize our separateness from perfect relationship which in turn prompts our move to him for rest and salvation.
Once more we find it is those who recognize their need who are prepared to encounter Jesus. Just as in the beatitudes (5:3-12), those who are able to touch their own destitution are blessed in their ability to come to him for relief. The self-righteous and worldly-wise have no perceived need for God because they have engineered a reality that operates out of the pursuit power and control. It is poignant that Jesus offers us rest in his yoke, another metaphor that paints us as oxen bound together in order to plow the field with greater strength. There is a burden in the christian life, make no mistake. But it is a light burden, a happy burden, as the experienced ox leads us into our own vocation that stems from the same intimacy he enjoys with God; here we see the integral connection between our personal salvation, our growth by discipleship, and our commission in calling to be about our Father’s business in rescuing and redeeming the world.
Our souls find true rest in the salvific work of Jesus and his leading hand as it guides us down that path.