Thursday, October 14, 2021

Matthew Series, Week 21 - Get Yoked

  A few years before I joined Simpson College baseball, the team was little more than a club. There was no league for them, so they played whoever was willing to schedule them, and a lot of the teams they played were far beyond their ability. One time, we faced the “B” squad of the Master’s College in California and got utterly decimated. But there was one school that seemed to be within the ability of our team to overcome. Occidental College was a school that we played several times, and were always a run or two down from beating them. 

That is until my sophomore year. There was only one player left from the last time Simpson almost beat Occidental and it was his senior year. He wanted nothing more than to beat this team that had always just slipped away. We always played double header against Occidental, so it was two back to back seven innings games. We lost the first game, but were doing well in the second. For the the entire game we were up in runs, with the other team only getting a few hits on our pitcher. I was playing third base, something I hated, but was needed and the senior was playing shortstop. It was the bottom of the seventh, with two outs. In the two years I had played, we had never been so close to winning. The pitcher took his sign and the ball screamed across the plate, the batter swung and a typical ground ball bounced towards the shortstop. The whole thing was routine. Not only was this the last out, but the senior who had been waiting for the win for years, had the opportunity to be the one that hit the nail in the coffin. He grounded the ball clean and came up for the throw. 

The ball sailed five feet over the first baseman’s head. The runner was safe. The other team rallied from two runs down to score three that inning. The senior was devastated. He was the one that wanted it the most, and he was the one that lost it for the team. That night we rallied around him and grew closer as a team than we had before. In our defeat, we as players became stronger. I saw what it meant for godly men to strengthen and support others in a trying time and it gave me great encouragement. I’m sure that that senior still kicks himself today, but that moment, and many others after it, helped me understand the need to rely on others for support.

 

And it’s this idea of being reliance that brings us back into our Matthew series where we will be picking it back up in Matthew chapter 11, starting in verse 25. As we get into Matthew 11:25, let’s refresh our minds with where we are so far. So far in Matthew we have covered two out of five sections of the book. In the first section we saw how Jesus’ identity encases the identity of those who would be his disciples. In the first seven chapters, who Jesus is, is brought to the forefront of the narrative parts of the book, while the teaching section shows us how a disciple must view themselves in light of who Jesus is. Therefore, anything we as a disciple are to be, is in the middle of everything that Jesus already is. We cannot hope to be his disciple, apart from who he is.

In the second section, we saw how Jesus called his disciples to two things: not being tethered to this world, and participating in his salvation work. Like Jesus who was rejected by his creation and so had no place among it, we who are his disciples must realize that this world is not our home. Instead, our home is with Jesus himself. Yet as long as God has us in the world, we must be actively seeking God’s work in our lives and the lives of those who he brings us into contact. We must always be seeking the movement of the Holy Spirit to direct our prayers and our actions for the work of building God’s kingdom.

It was then last week that we started into the third section of Matthew’s Gospel. In the beginning of this third section we saw Jesus’ encouraging word about John the Baptist, calling him the greatest person who ever lived. Yet Jesus added that even the least in God’s kingdom was greater than John. In the opening passage we saw that, to be this greater one in God’s kingdom, a disciple must have a repentant heart and walk humbly with God. That means that when we go against God’s word, we must repent of that action, and we must seek God’s will over our lives instead of our own.


It’s with that starting point that the Holy Spirit, through Matthew, begins to show us what this kingdom reliance on Jesus looks like. And so we now turn our attention to Matthew chapter 11 verse 25. 

Now before we go into this, in our last section we saw how Matthew had this three-fold narrative structure. Matthew would give us three narratives and then a teaching of Jesus. This happened three times and led into Jesus’ second sermon. This time around, Matthew structures his section as a mirror. There are three sub-sections, which have narratives that are mirrored with other narratives in a sandwich type. The first of these narrative mirrors, the outer layers or bread of the sandwich, that we’ll be looking at, is chapter 11 verses 25-29, and chapter 12 verses 46-50. 


Let’s read through both narratives and then we’ll see how they fit together. 


25 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. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27 “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.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.”


Dropping down to chapter 12, verse 46.


46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”


These narrative teachings both have to deal with our relationship with Jesus. In the first narrative, Jesus is teaching on two ideas that follow each other. First, Jesus alone has the the access to God. Back in chapter 7, Jesus talked about the narrow way. Jesus’ way is the narrow way; only through Jesus can we hope to enter into God’s eternal life. Here, Jesus reveals this reality, therefore, what should a person do? They must come to Jesus. 

This has all been covered before. Yet, between that first call to only follow Jesus and this time, a lot has happened and it can seem like the life of a disciple of Jesus is an overwhelming one. Leave father and mother, don’t be tethered to this world, be useful in the salvation work of God, get ready for persecution, be ever repentant, and seek humility instead of power. These are things that can seem overwhelming, and so Jesus lets us know, that the burden we think this will be, is actually light. Jesus himself isn’t out to get us.

I just got done re-reading the book, The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer and he has this great line. When writing on the goodness of God, Tozer writes, “The whole outlook of mankind might change if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us.”

Jesus’ purpose of calling us into discipleship is so that we may know God’s good, gentle, and humble heart. This is why earlier in chapter 6, verse 33, Jesus tells us that, “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus’ purposes are not to burden his people more, it’s to take away our burdens that weigh us down, replacing them with things that are actually freeing. And so, Jesus’ burden, his yoke that directs our path like it would on an ox, is rest for our souls, not the distress that the world would put us in. 


But how then are we to have this rest? That’s where Matthew’s mirror structure comes in. In the mirrored narrative, we are told that those who are a part of Jesus’ rest, those who are a part of his family, are those who do the will of God. 

When we are seeking and putting into action the will of God for our lives, we find rest or this lighter yoke. When we are involved in the things of God, the burden is supposed to become light. So when the things of this world try to place the stresses and worries it seeks us to take upon ourselves, we can shovel them off, because we have the burden of Christ. That burden is serenity in the storm. It is the yoke of calm in the calamity. It is peace in the pandemics of life.


So then the natural question is, what is the will of God? What is this will that brings this rest and shows us to be his family?


It’s really everything that Jesus has called us to. It’s the not being tethered to this world. When the media says fear, the untethered disciple says I fear not because Jesus is in control. It is being active in the salvation work of God. And when the world says, you’re not supposed to talk about such things, the disciples responds with there is nothing of greater importance to say. It’s doing the things that Jesus says and being directed in them by the Holy Spirit. 


Look at the words Jesus uses of his burden. He says, "For my yoke is easy (v.30).” For us none farmers, a yoke is described as, “a device for joining together a pair of draft animals.”

That means that we are being joined together to Jesus. It’s his strength we are to rely upon. We are not to tether ourselves to this world, because we are tethered, or yoked, with Jesus. We are not to do our own will, but the will of God and do so in the power of the Holy Spirit who is given to every disciple.

And so, in every aspect of our lives, we must recognize the joining that occurred when accepted Jesus as our Savior through the Holy Spirit. Trouble with family, yoke ourselves with Jesus. Trouble with finances, yoke ourselves with Jesus. Trouble with viruses, pandemics, riots, bad government, or whatever else? Yoke ourselves with Jesus. 


Don’t get me wrong, being yoked with Jesus does’t mean that those things are magically taken away, but we are to rely in the strength of Jesus to carry the weight rather than putting it squarely on ourselves. And instead, go about the work that Jesus has called us to.


We cannot be separated from our Savior and Lord, and think that we can do it alone. We’re going to be yoked with something in this life. Either the world, who will heap the burden onto us, or with Jesus, who will take the burden onto himself. 

But notice, we’re there with him. We’re there attached to him by the yoke and so he works in us to accomplish all that he is going to do through us. 

And so, my challenge for you this week is to seek Jesus’ yoke. I have a craft project for you. It has a yoke with Jesus’ face in it, and I want to challenge you to place your face in that yoke next to Jesus’ and seek his yoke this week. Place that paper with yours and Jesus’ face by your bathroom mirror and everyday you see it, say a simple prayer like, “Jesus, help me take on your yoke today and not be burden by what the world has in store.” 


Let us be people who are yoked with Jesus, found in his rest and a part of his family, as we move forward in the will of God. Let us move ever away from the world’s burdens and wholly rely on Jesus who has done everything for those that have accepted his call to follow him. Amen.