August 31, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened down, and I will give you the rest you desire. Take My yoke upon your shoulders and learn from Me. I AM gentle and humble in heart. You will find the rest for your souls which is your earnest pursuit. How? Because My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11. 28-30)
“Then they asked Him, ‘What must we do to do the works which God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.’ So they inquired further, ‘What sign will You give to validate this word You have given so that we will know it is true and can believe in it? What will You do?’” (John 6.28-30)
Well, we know the answer to the question posed by the disciples in John 6, verse 30: Jesus took up His cross and followed the will of God to Golgotha and changed the name of that hill for our sake to Calvary. What sign indeed! The empty cross at the top of the hill and the empty tomb at the foot of the hill are the evidences provided by God in Jesus Christ so that we might believe in the One God sent. And let us not get too far away from the intention and purpose of these gospel reflections provided by the next generation of disciples. Several times throughout the gospels, someone like the rich young ruler or the inquisitive young lawyer (both trying to make a name for themselves in the kingdom) ask a similar question. Their question sounded like this: “What must I do to [gain, purchase, inherit] eternal life.” In differing words, the message from Jesus in response was the same as we have considered over the past several days. That message was and is and will continue to be “bend your will to that of God’s desire to clothe you in righteousness.” In every instance, the inquiring mind determined that they “did not want to know” once they heard the answer Jesus gave them. It was too difficult for them because they were too rich, too prominent or too powerful in their own right. And the disciples seeing the result of that conversation [as those who asked turned away] then asked Jesus “If not them, then who can be saved?” And you have to understand, their question was far less about the fate of the one walking away as it was about themselves who were not rich, prominent or powerful in the eyes of the world. These had always been the “signs” of being saved, being righteous and being assured of an eternal life (for those who believed in such a thing because not all Jews did.)
Okay, let’s be honest with ourselves and thus a benefit to others. Who doesn’t want to have the blessing without having to endure the burden? Go ahead, raise your hands. And you can’t look around to get permission or validation to do so because only God is watching. You might as well be honest with yourself. Remember, you are not alone in this Q&A. In the Garden of Gethsemane following the confrontation with Judas of Kerioth and the celebration of the Seder (with lessons of application) with the remaining disciples and followers in the Upper Room, Jesus raised His hand just as we did. Yes, He did. In the midst of earnest prayer which was a “fierce conversation” with God, Jesus asked “If it be possible, Abba, take this cup of destiny from me.” Right there, the “walk with us Jesus” whom we love and serve contemplated “the blessing without the burden.” The thing about recorded prayers in the gospels is this: we only hear one side; that of the one praying. We don’t hear God’s response in the midst of prayer. We see the consequence and result of that response which is evidence of God’s word given in that time of prayer. We see it with our eyes and hear it in our mind as we read the gospel rendering. Read it out loud with meaning and feeling and you will hear it with your ears and heart as well. It is a full body experience to which we are exposed as Jesus reveals how in tune with us He is. His words which followed that confession became a profession of faith. He said with conviction, “Not My will but Yours be done.” Now, I didn’t hear what God said to Jesus in that moment any more than you did. But, the storyteller in me might offer something in tune with the teaching Jesus offered in Matthew 11 which is part of the context for today’s reflection. In short, I would hint at God saying to Jesus, “Take My yoke upon Your shoulders. I have fashioned it perfectly to meet the need of Your Work for My sake and theirs. I AM gentle and humble in heart. You will find the rest You are desiring. Remember, I AM with You always.” I don’t know about you, but if I heard that from God I would more willingly (not my will but Yours be done) and boldly (trust in the Lord with all my heart) follow through on my commitment to be a follower all the way through the cross, the tomb and the valley of the shadow of death to dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
If we look at it in this way, we might see how “the hard work” has already been done. Being clothed in righteousness, making that bold profession of faith and taking the steps to fulfill the Great Commission are the blessings beyond the burden. The burden has been lifted. That burden is bartering righteousness with works as if we can earn it, buy it or simply make the naïve claim that “I am saved because I say I am.” We also know that because of what Jesus did at Calvary (Golgotha and Joseph’s Tomb), the burden of eternal death which is the consequence of unrepented sin in our lives has been lifted, removed and cast far away to a place where we cannot reach it and it cannot infect us. Because of Jesus as the Christ, these burdens have been lifted and we can walk by faith in this world (the kingdom of humanity) as we will in the world yet to come (the kingdom of divinity). If this “hard” work has been done, or at least shared with us by the divine yoke bearer, Jesus, then what is left has to be the “easy” work? What is the easy work? Well, Jesus answered that question in John 6 and Peter answered it in Acts 2. The answer is “believe in the One whom God has sent, repent and be baptized in the name of the One whom God has sent and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in you, on you and all around you.” Jesus makes it possible for us to do God’s work planned for each one of us because He has yoked us with Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are not a part of a two mule team but a four mule team. And the “weakest” team member is put at the front left to set the pace that is best for them to proceed into the field. In their working together for good, the good is experienced by the weaker who then becomes the greater. Not greater than God, my friends, but greater than they ever thought they could be. We know this because Jesus spoke it to the disciples in the afterglow of the Seder Feast. We read it in John 14, “Those who believe in Me and the works I do, will do them as well. Not only will they do them but greater things will they do because I AM returning to the Father.” Wait, greater things than what Jesus did we will do? How can that be? Well, let’s simplify it for the time being by making two closing observations.
First, after experiencing what Jesus has “done” for us at the cross, at the tomb, in the Garden, in the Upper Room, at the seaside and finally at the mountain, we would certainly (or should certainly) be committed in gratitude to say thanks in every way possible. We would strive to be more, do more and witness more of the love of God for us so that God’s love for others can be known, shared and collected together on earth as it will be in Heaven.
Second, we are blessed with the “burden” of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that we would not be able to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit unless He returned to the Father. He promised us that the Holy Spirit would come to dwell on us, in us and among us to teach us, inspire us and give us confidence with the peace that surpasses all understanding. What surpasses all understanding? Wisdom! That wisdom surely bears the fruit of patience and patient endurance. We will be able to accomplish greater things because we will not be “all-knowing.” We will be “all wise” having put what knowledge we have into the full effect of words and deeds which glorify the Father and express gratitude to the Son.
Sounds like “good” work to me!
For all You have done for us and for all that You continue to with us, we give You thanks in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May our thanks be giving you all the glory, honor and praise as well as the opportunity for others to do the same in their lives for You. AMEN.