These are the adjectives that describe Jesus and his teaching in one of my favorite passages in the Scriptures—Matthew 11.28-30: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke [teaching] upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I think about this passage quite a bit.
I have a fitness band. I got it during the pandemic because I want to make some exercise goals when I can’t play basketball. If you want to know why Pat & I are friends, just google 1991 intramural basketball champions at Montana State University (never mind, they must have lost the records… We won the championship). Really, I have a difficult time exercising if I’m not chasing a ball…I digress. The goal is to get 15,000 steps a day, but I sit a lot because I am teaching online or doing research/writing, grading papers, sometimes watching TV, and playing Gin Rummy with my family. If I sit too much, my fitness band tells me to get up and start moving.
Matthew 11 does the opposite for me.
I live in Silicon Valley, where nothing has changed since 1849. The dominant ethos is if you work hard (harder than most) and get a little lucky (but really if you work hard) you might strike it rich. This puts our “valley” at a frenetic pace. Things have slowed down a bit because of Covid-19, but as we wrote about at the beginning of this series, this slowness comes with worry, loss, confusion, frustration, and anxiety.
When we started writing together in April, we didn’t imagine that we would layer a 400-yr. cultural crisis of how we have racialized human beings over the top of a 3-month global pandemic. This crisis has always been there, but George Floyd’s murder brought it back to center stage. So, on top of worry, loss, confusion, frustration, and anxiety from Covid-19, we can add anger, more loss, confusion, injustice, anxiety, the list goes on…Our time is heavy, it is wearisome, there are a lot of burdens.
Matthew 11 is not a passage about “escape.” It’s not like turning on Netflix and watching “Outer Banks.” We can’t escape being in the pandemic and we shouldn’t escape having the conversation about race (we’ve done that for too long). To me, Matthew 11 is a centering passage. It is an invitation to live a life in the kind of way that Jesus lived his life. He didn’t escape loss, he wept; he didn’t escape pain and suffering, he suffered alongside those in pain and he suffered when he was in pain himself; he didn’t escape disease, he moved toward it. He didn’t try to avoid the “other,” he was surprisingly present with “them.” Since Covid-19 “started,” we have passed through several marks on the Christian calendar…Lent, The Passion Week; Easter Sunday; Ascension Day; and Pentecost. These all signify God doing something new in unexpected ways.
We will be taking a break from writing for a while and we wanted to leave you with this passage. The presence of Christ in the humanity of our lives.
“Come to me, all of you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Art by Sarah Sanders