God-Soaked World Bible Guide – Day 26
March 31, 2017
Friday, March 31 – Matthew 11:28-12:8
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.”
12 1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”
Points of Interest:
- Matthew tells the same story Mark does of Sabbath grain-picking followed by a Sabbath healing that makes Jesus’ religious contemporaries defensive and angry. We won’t repeat yesterday’s comments on the narrative. You can go back one day if you missed them.
Before the story, though, Matthew adds a few other words Jesus said, and he gives us another pretty juicy quote from Jesus in the middle of the conflict. We’ll focus on those additional words from Jesus today.
- When Jesus says, “Come to me,” he’s expressing a lot of empathy in a few words. Jesus understands that life is hard – that our default posture is to be weary and feel freighted with burden. He also understands that most religious expression has added to, rather than lightened, these stresses and burdens.
Jesus says he has a different way. Jesus is gentle. One friend of mine, critiquing many religious settings that didn’t serve her well, said she heard so many harsh words about so many things. Gentleness is a mark of true Jesus spirituality. So is humility. Jesus isn’t insecure, and he’s not trying to force his way onto anyone. He offers an invitation.
- Jesus’ invitation is to presence and partnership. A yoke ties two working animals together under the leadership of a person walking those animals through a field. It’s a familiar image in Jesus’ agrarian context. Jesus’ yoke – both in any ways he’s united to us as fellow humans and any ways he’s leading us – fits well and feels right. Jesus’ work is light to carry, so to speak, and we get rest when we walk alongside Jesus and when we are led by him.
- In this context, the disciples walking through the fields with Jesus, picking grain on their day off, is a great picture of Jesus’ promise. It’s sane, it’s stress-free, it’s satisfying. It’s everything the Pharisees’ religious world isn’t.
- Jesus gets at his distinctive lifestyle and spiritual approach in another phrase – this not original to him but a quotation from the Old Testament prophet of Hosea. Jesus tells his stressed-out human accusers that they clearly don’t understand God’s words, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” I think Jesus is talking about the way he’d love for us to be able to connect with God as well as with our fellow humans.
Jesus says that God doesn’t need us to do things for God to please or appease God. Remember that our baptism – our immersion into God – begins with God’s basic posture of love and pleasure toward us. Instead, God would love for us to connect with an experience of God’s fundamental mercy toward us, that God is eager to meet us in unexpected, unmerited kindness.
And so a God-soaked world finds mercy in how we see and relate to others too. Criticism, judgment, and burden-adding all flow from the fear-based spirit of sacrifice that looks to appease God. Love, friendship, and understanding flow from the spirit of mercy that looks to receive from God.
Prayer for your six – If any of your six are burdened and stressed out, pray that God will lighten their load today. If any have been repelled by sacrifice-sounding faith, pray that they will hear an expression of mercy-based faith instead.
Spiritual Exercise – This week our spiritual exercise will be listening to and meditating on the words of Jesus, letting God speak to us through them. In today’s passage, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Sit quietly and imagine Jesus speaking these words to you. What is your reaction to these words? How are they easy or hard to receive? How do they encourage or inspire you?