Yokes

Matt.11:25-30

“You will just have to bear water on both shoulders.”

In 1977 my mother was dying in Greenwich Hospital. Because my father died the previous year, I was the principal caregiver. Simultaneously, I was running a business and trying to give reasonable attention to my wife and family. My brother, who was embroiled in his own responsibilities, called from Chicago. When I complained to him that I thought I was going to collapse under the dual responsibilities of family and business, he replied, “You will just have to bear water on both shoulders.” My brother was not being flip; he was stating a fact. I had no choice about bearing my burdens. I could either do it poorly or well. I had to find a way to balance my burdens and responsibilities.

A week later I drove up state to my in-laws. Over the garage doors there was a huge wooden oxen yoke. The yoke symbolized for my father-in-law a simpler time, when his family lived on a farm overlooking the Connecticut river. In the summer they would bake shad and the children would ride the oxen. My father-in-law had a strong sense of family, which along with his faith, sustained him through hard times. I stood in the driveway, looked at the yoke, and remembered Jesus’ words, “Take my yoke upon you . . .”

When Jesus spoke of the yoke, as He does in Matthew ll:25-30, He was addressing those who were heavy laden. For many, the Law was seen as a yoke which enabled people to cope with the burdens of their time. Jesus offered a different yoke, the action of God in His life. To take Jesus’ yoke is a response of faith to His message and to God’s activity in Him.

I thought about this for a while and about my brother’s words. Then I noticed something I had not really noticed before. The yoke had two holes. It was a yoke for a team. It was a yoke for two.

I realized that I was trying to carry my troubles with a yoke for one. However, when I wear the yoke of faith in God’s redeeming activity in Jesus Christ, I put on Jesus’ yoke. He is the one whose head and shoulders occupy one side of the yoke. Christ walks besides me, as He did on the road to Emmaus with His disciples. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the life of the Church, I have a strong companion who keeps me balanced and upright.

Corporately and individually we have to “bear water.” In faith and trust we do not have to bear it alone. You and I can bear the “water” with Christ’s yoke and with His help. Amen.