O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Mt. 11:25-30
Preached on July 6, 2014
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Little children of the heavenly Father, my son loves cars. Ever since his eyes worked he has been fascinated with wheels and the way they move. One day, because he had been listening extremely well, I promised to let him drive the car. And no, I don't mean the toy car. I mean the real car. Daddy's car. We were headed home, and as I pulled into the driveway I put the car in park. I peeled my two year old son out of his carseat and plunked him down in my lap. His feet dangled cheerfully off the edge of the seat, and I had to prop him up so he could see out the window. His face beamed as he placed his hands on the steering wheel. He was going to drive the car. I shifted the car into drive and let my foot off the brake, and the car eased forward. Slowly we drifted down the driveway, his hands on the top of the steering wheel, my hands on the bottom. And as we headed into the garage we started screaming - Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh - like we were going to crash - until I playfully hit the brakes and put us into park. My son had driven the car. Daddy's car. Man, I don't think we heard the end of that for three days.
In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus paints a similar picture of the Christian faith and life. He offers us a chance to "drive Daddy's car" - to sit on His lap holding the steering wheel, while He drives the car into the garage. "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Take my yoke, He says. It will give you rest, He says.
Now, this statement could be a little confusing for us. The only yoke most of us know of is the kind that smiles up at us from the frying pan. No, Jesus doesn't have some sort of special egg for you. Its not that kind of yoke. I know its disappointing. No, there is another kind of yoke - one used for farming - but even this yoke isn't going to take the confusion out of His statement.
Because this kind of yoke is used for work, not rest. It is used to keep a pair of oxen together while they plough the earth. To keep animals lined up while they work the ground. This yoke is a large wooden beam with two loops for the two heads of the oxen. It is laid across their shoulders so that when they walk they pull the bit through the soil behind them. So you see the confusion, don't you? Take my yoke upon you. It will give you rest. How could a yoke possibly give you rest? It sounds like a burden.
Well, I suppose it depends on who you are yoked with. It depends who the other ox is that shares that wooden beam with you. Take MY yoke, Jesus says. I will give you rest. Because I will do all the work.
When you're yoked with the Son of God, it isn't a pair of adult oxen pulling together evenly. You are just a baby ox, along for the ride. You don't pull a thing, in fact, you probably cause the big guy to work a lot harder. You are sitting on Daddy's lap with your feet dangling over the edge of the seat. Sure, you've got your hands on the steering wheel, but Daddy controls the pedals. Daddy's the One who is actually steering the car.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Who is this yoke for? Jesus offers His yoke to those who are burdened. Those who know the weight of their sin. Those who have tried and tried and tried to do the right thing, pulled and pulled and pulled on their own, but know the work is never done, nor has it been done very well. Jesus offers His rest to those who are upset with themselves. Who are burdened about the way things have gone. Who wish things were different. He offers His rest to those who are anxious and who worry. Who cannot forgive themselves. Jesus offers His rest to those who are afraid of what they deserve. Those who fear punishment and death.
Because as much as we can use the cute illustration of the child on his father's lap, or the baby ox being dragged along by the adult - the work that needs to be done isn't cute. It isn't light. It isn't easy. The earth, yes the whole creation is broken. It isn't yielding any good fruit. God said to Adam, "Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
The work that needs to be done will bring pain, thorns, sweat and death. Pain, thorns sweat and death - and there is only One who can do this work - only One who can endure the pain and the crown of thorns and the sweat and even death. Your Christ, the crucified One - He does this work for you.
I want you to take a look at your bulletin cover. I want you to see the yoke of Christ. I want you to see the large wooden beam that you share with Him. The cross with which He drags you. Do you see the pain and the thorns and the sweat and the death? They are not on you. They are not on Simon of Cyrene. They are on Christ. He is pulling all the weight - He is ploughing a new earth - He is making all things new - You are just along for the ride.
Jesus does this work. He becomes this curse so that you might have rest from all your sins. So that you might be free of the work of having to save yourself. That endless labor of trying to make yourself righteous. Trying to justify yourself before God. Jesus does this work so that He can take you along. So that you are righteous in Him. Look at the One who begs you - take my yoke upon you. Look at the One who wants to make things right for you. Truly He loves you. Truly He has mercy on you. No matter what your burden. No matter what your fear. He has overcome it for you.
Come to Me, He says. And I will give you rest. But how do you come to Him? Where does He want to be found? In His Word and Sacrament. Those things He instituted for your rest. Those things He comes to serve you with here in His Divine Service. His Word of Baptism - Come to Me, I wash you. His Word of Absolution - Come to Me, I forgive you. His Word of Supper - Come to Me, I feed you. I don't want you to ever feel the burden of the work again, for I have already done it. Rest in My Word.
Do you have burdens? Do you come with cares? Don't bear the weight of them anymore, but throw them on Christ. Heap them up on Him here at the rail. Let Him pull you through, for He is gentle and lowly in heart. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Little children of the heavenly Father, we are headed home. The car is already in the driveway. And while it looks like you are the one holding the steering wheel, your Father has complete control of the car. If you need too, you can scream, Ahhhhh, if you think you're going to crash - but Dad has His foot on the brake, and He knows when to stop. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr