The Burden We Should Let Go And The Burden We Should Take On
June 7, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
The Amazing One
1. What do you really think about the words which were read in today's gospel reading? Didn't you think they were a bit strange? "Follow me anyone [of you] who are tired and have taken on a heavy load! I will give [you] rest," (verse twenty-eight). This part seems fine enough, but the problematic topic of interest comes next. "Since I am a meek and humble person, take up my yoke and learn from me. If you do that, then, you will obtain tranquility," (verse twenty-nine).
2. It seems pretty strange to me. What if I said the very same thing? "Everyone at Shoei Church, since I am a meek and humble pastor, learn from me!" What do you think about that? After hearing that, would anybody repeat it to others? "The pastor at our church is truly a meek and humble pastor for sure. Because he said so, it is true." I don't think you would say that because a meek and humble person does not say, "Since I am a meek and humble person ... ," or things like that.
3. However, the writer was dead serious as he left behind these extremely strange words in the gospel record. But indeed even before that, the fact that these words have remained mean that the disciples had retained them in their hearts. It means that when Jesus said, "Since I am a meek and humble person, take up my yoke and learn from me," at least the disciples had taken these words of his seriously. Even though the disciples, who were with him eating and sleeping twenty-four seven, had heard this, not a one of them raised an objection. Also, even the disciples afterwards thought, "We agree with these words exactly" when they were told these words. So, here we are with these words still being taught to us.
4. When we ponder this, we should be amazed. [Amazed at] the one who could say such words, at the one who can get others to take them seriously and to engrave them upon their hearts. All we can say is Jesus Christ is utterly amazing.
5. The same could be said about verse twenty-eight. "Follow me anyone [of you] who are tired and have taken on a heavy load! I will give [you] rest." Just ago I put out the statement without hesitating a bit that "This part seems fine enough," but then maybe I shouldn't have put it quite like that. These, too, are not normal words [that we might usually find somebody] speaking, they are not words [we] say. But when Jesus said these words, the disciples took these words of his seriously. Also, even the disciples, who had heard them later thought, "Sounds good to me." Therefore, these words have been left behind for posterity.
6. When you look at the flow of the speech in its context, this stuff is grounds for astonishment again. Just before it a prayer to God the Father is written in the text. When you consider what's written before that, it is a message of severe and intense judgment. "... Also, Capernaum, do you think that you will be lifted up to heaven? You will be thrown down to hell. Had the miracles done around you been done in Sodom, that city would have surely been safe to this day. But, I truly say [to you]. On the day of judgment the land of Sodom will have a lighter punishment than you," (11:23-24).
7. Speaking of Sodom, it is the name of the city that is found in the Old Testament scriptures, which says it had been burned down by fire from heaven on account of its sin. Referring to that terrible story he gives the message of judgment against the unrepentant city. What an intense and harsh message that is! Everybody, does your heart and mind feel at ease and untroubled when you hear words like these? Can you breathe easily around them? I don't think we can [breathe] normally [around them]. But, after he made that heart-troubling fearsome statement, this same Jesus we're talking about says, "Follow me anyone [of you] who are tired and have taken on a heavy load! I will give [you] rest."
8. When I think about this, I don't think that this was the first time that the disciples heard about the judgment of God. Even in the gospels besides this, words that seem to tear off the mask of human hypocrisy and make one's face plain and clear, words that seem to expose defiled corpses in white tombs to the bright sunlight are recorded. It is highly likely that the disciples had frequently heard words like that. The disciples must surely have known that no sin of any kind could stay hidden in the darkness away from the sharp discernment of Jesus. But when Jesus said, "Follow me anyone [of you] who are tired and have taken on a heavy load! I will give [you] rest," at the least the disciples had taken seriously those words of his. Also, the later disciples as well, when they had heard these words, they agreed, "It was exactly as he had said." Therefore, these words are still passed on.
9. We ought to be amazed. [Amazed at] the one who could say such things and who could cause these words to be taken seriously and engrave them on the hearts of others.
A Burden To Let Go And A Burden To Take On
10. When we consider it in this next manner, then we will see that the words written in this text cannot be separated from the life of that amazing one named Jesus Christ. Even though I might say it, it would be meaningless. It's no use for others either. This is of no use if you're not Jesus. It cannot be separated from the character named Jesus Christ and his life. If I go even further with this, indeed, it would be a statement like this, that it cannot be separated at all from his death on the cross and his resurrection.
11. What kind of person was this Jesus Christ, in the first place, for the disciples who remembered these words and told them, and for the church? In order to stand in the same place with them, we should like to recall one of the hymns that is believed to have been sung at the time of the first period of the church. It is the Christ Hymn as quoted in chapter two of The Epistle To The Believers At Philippi.
12. "Christ, while being in the position of God, not wanting to insist that he was equal with God, but instead made himself nothing and became [a person] in the position of a servant, he made himself the same as a human being. He appeared in human form, humbled himself, and even unto death, even unto the death of the cross he was obedient. For that reason, God lifted Christ high, and gave to him a name superior to all names. Thus, all things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth will kneel to the name of Jesus, and every tongue will publicly proclaim, 'Jesus Christ is the Lord,' and give praise to God the Father,' (Philippians 2:6-11).
13. In this song, we can understand where the church was first seeing the self-emptying humility of Christ. It was not looking at any kind of human humility. Rather than looking there, it was looking at the self-effacing of Christ, in how the son of God who was equal to God had become human. What's more, that self-effacement of Christ was such that he was so obedient to God the Father so that [his obedience] went so far as to death, to the death on the cross. He was truly obedient to the will of God, he descended from heaven to earth, and then he descended to the very bottom called the death on the cross -- that is the self-effacement, the self-emptying humility of the Christ.
14. Of course the disciples heard today's words from Jesus, but that doesn't mean they understood them [to the point of agreeing with them at that initial moment of hearing them]. Until Christ was hung on the cross and rose from the dead, the disciples must not have understood Christ's humility in the true sense. But even though they might not have understood, they were touched by that truth. When they were sleeping and eating with Jesus, they were truly touched by the one who had descended from heaven to earth. And as messages from this descended one, [these messages] did get engraved indelibly within their bosoms.
15. And this is momentous upon understanding the message of "Follow me anyone [of you] who are tired and have taken on a heavy load! I will give [you] rest." Since the humility of Jesus ultimately means that he will go all the way to [his] death on the cross, we must hear this message as a message of a person going to [his] death on a cross. This message is that of a person who willingly walked in obedience to the point of death on a cross because he was following God's will and he would atone for our sins! He says, "I will give [you] rest." Therefore, what he meant by that is clear. It means but one thing and nothing else, "I will cause you to let go of the heavy burden of sin, I will cause the burden of your sin to drop off of you."
16. It looks to me like we have many heavy burdens. But, the real burden that human beings have weighing upon themselves is the heavy burden of sin, a burden from which we ourselves cannot ever rest or let go. Unless we have our sins atoned for by Jesus and we receive forgiveness of sin, we will not have true rest. Therefore, Jesus who atoned for our sin, says, "Any one [of you], come to me! I will give you rest." As we come to him, we need to let go of [that] burden that we should let go of first of all, the burden of sin.
17. When we do that, then afterwards, we will be able to see the meaning in the words in the next part, "Take on my yoke and learn from me!" The reason he would have us let go of the burden that we should let go of is so we take on the burden that we should truly take on. If we only seek in Jesus or the church for a breather, for temporary relief from social stress, after we get it, then we will probably go right back to our former lifestyle again. But, if we partake of the forgiveness of sins in the Christ of the cross and have Christ let go for us the burden of sin which we should let go of, then a new life will begin from there and then. By receiving the yoke of Jesus, we begin to walk anew and afresh.
18. The yoke of Jesus -- The task in that is "to love." Maybe you've been weighed down having been burdened for so long without the power to do anything about it. It may have been forced upon you. You may have a burden that is detestable to you, and horribly so beyond your limits. I want to get rid of it, I want to run away from it. You may have felt like that sometimes and still do. However, we receive from the hands of Jesus [a different kind of] burden and we take it upon ourselves, as the task "to love." We bear it upon ourselves as the yoke of Jesus. We receive it from the hands of Jesus, the one who loves us and who hung on the cross for us. We receive it from the hands of Jesus, the one who causes the letting go of the burden of our sins. We're no longer burdened forcibly against our will by anyone in society, but now become persons who have received from Jesus the task of "loving others." And as Jesus put it, we come to understand what he meant by "My yoke is easy for you to bear upon you, my burden is light."
19. "Follow me anyone [of you] who are tired and have taken on a heavy load!" Jesus is saying that [to us], so, by his side, first things first, let's have him let the heavy burdens that we should let go of go! Let's let go of the burden of our sins to Jesus! And then from the hands of Jesus, let's receive the yoke of Jesus! Let's accept this small load from Jesus. As we go from this place, there will be plenty of living for us to do in the days ahead. Our day to day lives may get wearisome. But, let's receive that way of life from the hands of Jesus! Let's receive from the hands of Jesus the task of "loving others!" And let's learn from Jesus by taking up the burden of the yoke of Jesus! Jesus says, "If you do that, then, you will obtain tranquility."