It is my hope to resume my series: First Thoughts on the Lectionary. I will see if I can follow through on this hope. It does serve me to stay connected to our Biblical tradition.
Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey.
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
11:16 “But to what will I compare this generation?
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say,
He has a demon;
the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say,
Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!
I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will…
Come to me, all 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.”
These are the texts which portray the God I have known and loved and believed in. “humble and riding on a donkey.” Truth revealed to children, not to the powerful.
And a God who is good to ALL, and has compassion over ALL creation.
I recently wrote a post about my father whom I call the most humble person I have ever known. My father was the model for me of this humble God. I know that I didn’t inherit all of my father’s humility, but enough to recognize it and value it and at times live it.
But there is another side to the Mathew text. While giving relief to the body and soul weary, Jesus also gives no sympathy to those to whom he refers as “this generation” or the “wise and intelligent.”
Who are these “wise and intelligent” people Jesus is talking about? From their responses to John and Jesus, it seems clear that “this generation” of “wise and intelligent” people are the religious leaders of Israel who couldn’t recognize truth when it was right in front to their noses.
The question for us who read the Bible is always “Where are we in the story?” The tendency is usually for us to identify with the people Jesus is speaking to – “Come to me, all of you.” Yes, we say, we are weary and carrying heavy burdens. We need rest – rest for our bodies and souls. We want a lighter burden.
Our materialistic society does leave us weary of soul and burdened with worries, debts, worries about our children and the values they are being taught. We feel Jesus is talking directly to us.
But who, then, is “this generation” that Jesus is referring to? What would Jesus say now, and to whom? Are not we “this generation?” Might not the scribes and Pharasees have felt the burden of keeping order among the people so that they did not face the wrath of their Roman overlords?
I believe God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” But how long have we tested God’s patience? How long have we been seeking solace in material stuff? How long have we spent our resources to maintain our privileged place in the world, keeping those who are clearly more like the people Jesus was addressing in a state of continual hunger, hardship, and bereft of hope?
Jesus’ words cut both ways. Yes there is hope and rest for the weary, but there is also condemnation for those whose weariness and paucity of soul comes from oppressing the poor.
I find myself in both places. I am a part of “this generation” as much as anyone else. And I long for the comforting words of Jesus, the promise of rest to my weary soul.
God is compassionate. God is compassionate for ALL. We need to reflect that compassion in our lives, and become like children, dependent on God for our blessings, not on our wealth. Then we who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, will have 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.”