Matthew in this passage portrays Jesus as the Wisdom of God. Matthew does not present Jesus as saying that he would put his disciples in touch with God who will give them peace. Rather he tells them that he “will be their peace and rest!
The Rabbis in the time of Jesus spoke of the “yoke of the Torah.” They had another saying “My yoke is my song!” The yoke and burden of Jesus is to submit to the Will of God. It is also the surest way to the knowledge of the Father.
Readers of the Scriptures are stunned by this passage. John the Baptist did not get it. He knew his own unworthiness. The scribes and pharisees did not understand what Jesus was saying about his yoke and burden. The towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, where he performed his greatest miracles didn’t get it either. Rather the unpretentious, the humble, the little ones did get Jesus and his message, which came from God.
Jesus does not promise to remove our burdens or yoke. Instead he will refresh us and make it light. Jesus speaks to all who are burdened. Jesus promises grace is there whenever our yoke and burden becomes overwhelming.
The poet W.B. Yeats had this to say: “Can one reach God by toil? He gives himself to the pure of heart. He asks nothing but our attention.” The way to find God is by attention to Jesus Christ.
Victor Frankel, the holocaust survivor, tells us #1. To live we must choose life, #2. To love we must encounter life, and #3. To grow we must suffer. Henri Nouwen tells us that we have been given disciplines to help us with the yokes and burdens in our life. #1. The discipline of the Book, in other words the Bible is great source of understanding the Will of God in our life. #2. The discipline of the Sacraments which support us in our challenges. #3. The discipline of the Heart, spiritual directors who accompany us on our journey of life
Jesus is the source of our peace and rest. He it is who makes our yokes easy and our burdens light.
Fr. Ken O’Malley, C.P., is the local superior at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.