A healthy milk cow produces 30 litres of milk daily, twice as much needed for feeding her calf. That’s good news because humans need the excess it produces. If a cow isn’t milked at least once a day, the build-up of pressure in her udder causes great discomfort and could lead to skin rupture and serious conditions like mastitis. Can you imagine what happens on a farm where the farmer prohibits work on a Sunday?
A farmer who’s good to his animals knows that cows need to be milked – even on Sundays (I do fully believe in the blessings of Sabbath and the principles behind the 4th Commandment, to enhance our relationship with God and others). In Jesus’ time, He made it clear the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).
In agrarian societies, in times past, where families worked the farm, work and home life were one and the same. The whole family pitched in on the various chores on the farm and in the kitchen. Grown men did the physical lifting, womenfolk showed young girls the way in the kitchen and with food production, and young ones collected eggs and milked the cows. Every one was involved in various aspects of work and family life, and worked all the time.
As societies developed into a digitised economy, somewhere along the way, a dichotomy made its way between where we worked and lived, between what we considered ours and what belonged to the company, between what’s ‘me’ time and what we’re willing to share with the world.
It’s a dichotomy when infringed upon brings an inordinate amount of unhappiness. Boundaries so important to our happiness and to well-being have blurred and the current Work-From-Home (WFH) arrangements have accelerated this blurring of lines, causing stresses we sometimes cannot articulate.
What would Jesus do?
He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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” (Matthew 11:28-30).
I like closing my eyes and picturing Jesus giving me this invitation as I gaze into His gentle face. On seeing my tired frame, instead of giving me a pillow, He’d offer me a ploughman’s yoke. Imagine my surprise. But, as His wisdom is perfect, I’ve to consider what this means. How’s the yoke a comfort to a wearied and burdened mind?
As Jesus doesn’t offer false dichotomies, perhaps what will set us free is to know that work and rest aren’t mutually exclusive. Perhaps freedom can come from us learning what the author of Hebrews says, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest” (Hebrews 4:11).
So what exactly is this rest that Jesus promised in Matthew 11? Specifically, it’s rest for our souls (v29). The soul is the will, the intellect, and the emotions. The soul expresses itself most commonly in these six words – ‘I want, I think, I feel’. If you find yourself mentally and emotionally exhausted, you’re most in need of what Jesus wants to offer you.
Jesus’ remedy for the weary and burdened soul is that yoke. To be yoked to Him is to co-labour with Him. In His intimate and personal style, He wants to teach you about things He has hidden from the wise and the prudent and revealed only to babies – to those who trust Him enough to be yoked to Him even in their tiredness.
Rest is for those He loves. Rest is for those who choose to be yoked to Him, for those who’ll learn from Him.
To be yoked is to be intimate with. You’re closely bound to whom you’re yoked with. And, in that intimacy, you speak with and listen to Him. It’s prayer unceasing, it’s the quietness within when the world is so loud. He said His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He wants to teach you about how to obey His commandments and show you how, when yoked to Him, obedience is lightness and joy. Constant prayer and silence becomes lightness and joy.
This rest isn’t a physical rest or the momentary type associated with a holiday. It isn’t the holiday after a holiday that people claim they need. You can sense His rest has a more permanent effect about it and the effect is on the soul.
I’ll not trivialise it. The changes in our lives because of Covid-19 have been drastic, and for some, downright difficult. There may yet be a distance still before this whole thing blows over. Meanwhile, our Lord offers you that yoke to work alongside Him. He who neither slumbers nor sleeps promises to be with you on this journey, even in the difficult parts, and even on Sundays.