Come to me all who are weary, loaded with burdens and I will give them rest.
Matthew Ch 11 v28
Please read in advance of this reflection Matthew 11:16-19, 25-end.
Today the National Health Service celebrates its 72nd birthday.
At the beginning of today’s gospel passage comparisons are being made between John the Baptist and Jesus’ ministry. This is because the people don’t understand it.
John the Baptist is a recluse and does not eat or drink much, while in contrast Jesus mixes and socialises with lots of people and even has meals with sinners and tax collectors. At the time people thought that either John the Baptist or Jesus were the chosen one, the Messiah who was going to lead and liberate them. They are disappointed as they are not behaving as they were expected to.
Jesus then goes on later in the passage to use a metaphor of the wooden yoke to explain his ministry. He often used images that people could relate to from their day to day lives to help them understand what he was saying. A yoke was a wooden frame put on animal’s shoulders to connect them together to help share the burden of carrying or pulling a heavy load. This would have been a common sight in Jesus time.
In some Old Testament scriptures, for example in Isaiah, the image of a yoke is seen as a symbol of oppression, but in this gospel passage Jesus uses it to show how he, as the yoke, can guide, support and share our worries.
Jewish teaching would refer to the law with all its rules and regulations as the yoke – but Jesus is saying his teaching or ‘yoke’ is to love God and to love one another, that is easier, hence his statement, “My yoke is easy and my burden light”.
Also, the image of us sharing a yoke with Jesus provides us with a picture of us being paired and connected to him, that Jesus wants to support and guide us – but most of all offering to share our burdens.
The pandemic and lockdown has had a huge impact on all our lives. All of us in some way will be feeling tired and weary – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, and for many financially. Jesus offers if we take our worries and burdens to him in prayer, it won’t always sort things out, but sharing them will ease the burden.
During the pandemic, in this country and others the health services have taken on the biggest burden. The medical staff and all involved in running hospitals and other health services have risen to the situation. They have treated the ill and cared for the dying. Many of them must be exhausted – both physically and emotionally. It is important we show our gratitude and appreciation to them.
Today the National Health Service celebrates being founded 72 years ago. One of the ways we can show our appreciation is to join in with the national campaign later today. That is at 5pm we all go back out of our homes into the streets like we did every Thursday from March to June and clap and applaud them all once again.
Lesley Marshall, Reader from St Catherine, Hatcham