Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30.
16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” 25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
No one can overestimate the influence of a good teacher. Even if we cannot remember a thing they actually taught us, good teachers will be remembered with fondness long after their words have been forgotten. This is because people are more important than words. Qualities like kindness and generosity are always more enduring than principles or rules, and integrity is more infectious than dogma.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers himself as a teacher: ‘learn from me’ he says. At this point in his ministry Jesus has had to face up to being rejected by the religious hierarchy and ‘wise’ people of his time. His message found no place in their hearts. Becoming experts in the Law had prevented them from recognising the coming of God’s Messiah, the coming of god’s Kingdom
Instead, Jesus found a ready audience among the people considered outcasts. The tax collectors and sinners, those unable to keep the Law in all it’s rigor, all welcomed Christ’s message and the hope it brought.
Unfortunately, the experts were so preoccupied with keeping the externals of the Law that they had largely lost sight of it’s purpose, to lead people to god. They were no longer open to hearing the word of god, because they did not need it. They placed the Law above every other consideration, even above people. The Law became an end in itself.
Jesus offered a different ‘yoke’, a simpler one. We do not have to worry about hundreds of laws, or keeping the minutiae of rules and regulations. Jesus simply offers himself as the model to follow. He alone is the way to god. Follow him and we will find God.
Like a good teacher, the lasting impression he makes more in who he is, than anything he says. He asks us to be like him, to be gentle and to acknowledge our need for God. It is only when, like the tax collectors and sinners, we are open to the words of God, only when we admit our dependence on God, that we are able to receive God’s mercy. And, like them, we experience God’s love and mercy, not by mindless obedience, but by meeting a person: Jesus, God’s own Son, face to face.
Jesus says that his burden id light. We can be burdened with all kinds of things, we have burdens from our consumerist society, the burdens of other’s unreasonable expectations and demands, the list is endless, we can become overwhelmed by burdens.
Jesus’s yoke is easy. It is well fitting, tailor made to the individual. Because the task he sets is simple – be yourself! Be the person God wants you to be, using Jesus as your teacher. Be gentle, with yourself and others. Be humble, acknowledge your need for God, don’t assume you have to do it all by yourself. Resit becoming overburdened by any unreasonable demands. Simply get to know Jesus, the person. Learn from him and you will find rest.