Matthew 11 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give
you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will
find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Calvin Coolidge’s son, Calvin, Jr., was famous for having died while playing tennis, and getting a blister,
which turned into blood poisoning. This story entered the imagination of many Americans, and caused
many of us to take the appearance of a red line on the leg as a very serious sign of infection. Not that it
always was. Dr. Jeff Rabinovitz, the pediatrician, told me a story of a family that brought their child in.
They were stricken, looking at the red line on the child’s leg. Dr. Rabinovitz got a wash cloth, and washed
the line off. “What was the last thing you ate?”, he asked the child. “A cherry Popsicle”.
But this time was different.
About 25 years ago, I took my son Ben, and my nephew, Josh, backpacking in Desolation Wilderness.
We set up camp at Half Moon Lake. It was beautiful. Everything was going perfectly.
And then Ben saw the red line.
He had scratched a spider bite. The red line was growing. The day was heading into the end of afternoon,
right before evening. We immediately abandoned camp and our packs, and hiked out as fast as we
could to the car. I drove as fast as I could on the mountain roads. Poor Josh got car sick. “lower the
window, and puke out,” I yelled. Better out than in, in more than one way. We got to the emergency room.
Dr. Ulrich Hacker was summoned, and took good care of Ben. By the time Ben was discharged from
emergency, Josh and I were exhausted, and ready to collapse at home. To be continued…
The term “yoke” appears over 50 times in the Bible. Usually, it indicates a slave’s subjugation to his
master. For example Isaac prophesies that Esau will serve Jacob, but will be free eventually. In Genesis
27 v. 40By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you break loose, you shall
break his yoke from your neck.” For another example, Leviticus. 26 13”I am the Lord your God who
brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be their slaves no more; I have broken the bars of your yoke and
made you walk erect.”
So, is Jesus offering us some sort of servitude-lite? I don’t think so. Generally, our stories of Christian
martyrdom are fairly daunting. St.Lawrence sizzled up on a hot gridiron. St. Catherine ripped apart by a
wheel of sharp knives, or, in another version, beheaded. Not so easy a servitude.
I believe, however, that this Gospel leads us to a different meaning for the word “yoke”. In Deuteronomy
22 v. 10You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.” This is one of four verses that uses
the term “yoked”. The first definition of the word that shows up in the dictionary has to do with harnessing
two animals together. In the following verse, Paul, in Romans seems to be yoked to both an ox, and a
donkey. In Romans 7 v. 25 “So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am
a slave to the law of sin.” Paul seems to be yoked to two incompatible things, the law of God, and the law
of sin. Sounds even more incompatible than an ox and a donkey. Apparently, Paul needs a New Deal. In
the same verse we hear “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” So, the right Incarnation for
Paul to be yoked to, is Jesus Christ. There lies the reconciliation between Law and Sin.
Matthew 1 v. 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His
name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” He will be yoked to us, and we will be
yoked to him.
David Zelinsky Church of Our Saviour