Give and Take

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  July 9, 2023

Click to listen to the service
Read Matthew 11:16 – 19, 25 – 30
In the opening verses of our text this morning, we find Jesus condemning the attitudes of the people of His generation… who, no matter what Jesus said or did, they took the opposite view. 
As the text highlights, when John the Baptist fasted by not eating or drinking, they said he was possessed by a demon.  On the other hand, when Jesus did eat and drink, they called him a glutton and a drunkard and then went so far as to talk about the people He associated Himself with… alluding to the fact that they were not the “right type” of people.
It reminds me a lot of the back and forth that we see playing out these days with people who hold such divergent views about one another… no matter what one person says or does… it is met only with derision and criticism.  There is no desire from either side to find a way to get along… no willingness to seek a compromise… for fear of ceding what sense of control they think they have. 
But rather than focus on the pervasive negativity that we find ourselves being confronted with on a daily basis which can be toxic and draining to our spirits… for our time together this morning, I want to shift our perspective as we give particular attention to the second part of our New Testament lesson and invite us to think on the subject:
Let’s listen to verse 27 of the text again as it is found in the Message Paraphrase:

Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.
Having admonished those who had chosen to go their own way, Jesus reframed the discussion and began focusing on what brought hope and reassurance.  Jesus told the people that what He had been given by His Father, He offered to them (and to us) to take freely… not the least of which included wisdom, knowledge, and truth.
Then, in the following verses, Jesus 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.
Now, just to put things into context… yokes are heavy wooden harnesses that are put across the back and around the neck of animals to join them together so they can perform a difficult task such as plowing or pulling a heavy load.  
It has been said that when two animals are yoked together, they can do more collectively than each of them can do individually.
Let me give you an example.  Many of us may be familiar with the Clydesdale horses who became famous for their association with a certain distiller of adult beverages… however, they are known for more than just their role as celebrity mascots.  
Clydesdales are said to be the one of the strongest breeds of horse and because of that… they have often been used in strength competitions. 
But as strong as an individual Clydesdale may be, when they are yoked with another Clydesdale… what the two of them can pull together is far greater than the sum of what each one can pull alone. 
For instance, if one Clydesdale can pull two tons of weight and another can pull three tons of weight… as amazing as it may seem, together they will not simply be able to pull five tons of weight… they can actually pull seven tons… and that is because of a concept known as synergy.
Synergy can be defined as, the interaction or cooperation of two or more entities to produce a combined effect that is greater than the sum of their separate effects.  
In other words, when we work together and combine our energy, we can achieve much more than what we can accomplish simply by going it alone.
Now just imagine what would happen if the One we are working with… the one we are yoked together with… if that One is Jesus… the possibilities are endless!
Now looking back at our text, Jesus tells us that when we are weary and burdened (or heavy ladened as the KJV says) …He will give us rest.  The He goes on to say that we can take His yoke and learn from Him… we can join our lives to His and learn His ways… to be humble and gentle… and in doing that, we will find rest for our souls.
Now, to be clear, joining our lives to Christ does not mean that we will suddenly find ourselves living a life of luxurious ease… keep in mind a yoke is still a tool for work.  However, it is an instrument that allows us to share the load with the One who is much stronger than we are… the One who has much broader shoulders than we have… the One who has much more power than we do.
And when we are yoked with Jesus, He tells us that “[His] yoke is easy and [His] burden is light.”
Being yoked with Jesus means we will be able to do much more than we could ever do on our own.  And the added blessing is that He gives us an easier share of the load by taking the weight of our burdens on Himself… carrying those things that have been pulling us down because they are just too much for us to bear… and when Jesus takes that burden off our hands… we will be able to rest in ways we never imagined… and breathe easier than we ever thought possible.
But it’s all about the GIVE AND TAKE. 
Jesus gives us rest so we will be able to take time to do that which He has called us to do.
In Matthew 22 (37-39), we find Jesus explaining what the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
While in Matthew 25 (31-46) we read the story of the sheep and the goats, which Jesus uses to illustrate the importance of caring for those who are in need… explaining, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
And if we keep reading to the very last chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we are left with the Great Commission which says:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19 – 20).
What it boils down to is this, Jesus gives us life and life to the full (John 10:10) so we can take that life and give love and kindness to others… so we can be caring and compassionate toward one another… so we can be a blessing to others, even as we have been blessed.
It really is not all that complicated but we live in a world where people are willing to take much more readily than they are willing to give.  But that is not the model that Jesus set for us.
As we read in Acts 20 (35), the Apostle Paul told the Ephesians, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
It is a reminder of what we read in Matthew 6 (19 – 20), when Jesus said:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
The blessings we have been given are not meant for us to take and hide away like the servant who received the one talent in the Parable of the Talents.  We are to take the talents that we have been given and put them to good use… to bring glory to the Lord.
And while there will be days when doing that feels like a heavy lift… remember that we are joined together with the One who promises His yoke is easy and His burden is light… the One who has also promised to give us rest.
Now, I have a confession to make.  This particular text is one that speaks to me in a special way… and that is primarily because of Jesus’ promise of rest.
At the beginning of each New Year, I ask God to give me a word that is my focus for that particular year.  And the word God gave me for 2023 was REST… something that anyone who knows me knows I am not the best at doing.
But I know it is important if I want to continue doing all that God has called me to do… I need to rest. 
Some time earlier this year, I found myself reflecting on the last verses of our text and the concept of being yoked with others.
As I reflected on this idea, I thought about how we can be yoked with bosses and coworkers who leave us to do all the work and then take the credit for themselves.
I thought about being yoked with friends who only seem to call when they want or need something from us… and never call just to see how we are doing or if there is anything we need.
I thought about what it means to be yoked with our children when they cannot carry their share of the weight… or perhaps we think they cannot so we keep trying to carry the load for them… probably much longer than we should.
And I even thought about how some people are yoked with spouses and significant others (NOT MINE!) who expect so much but never seem to give as good as they get… who never seem to carry their own weight in the relationship.
The Bible even cautions us against being unequally yoked with unbelievers…
But then I thought about being yoked with Jesus… who tells us we can always share the load with Him… He can certainly handle it, whatever IT is… I mean He is Jesus after all. 
And when we take Jesus up on His offer to take His yoke, He says He will give us rest for our souls.  Now, what the Lord showed me is that when we rest in Jesus we will be renewed, energized, strengthened, and transformed… R – E – S – T.
Although age may take its toll on us, we will be renewed when we rest in Jesus.  In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul offered these words of encouragement, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
When it feels like we cannot go on any longer, we will be energized when we rest in Jesus.  In Colossians 1 (29) we read, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” 
When we feel weak, we will be strengthened when we rest in Jesus.  Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, telling them, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16 – 17).
Paul obviously knew the source of his own strength which is why in his letter to the Philippians (4:19), we read, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
And along with being renewed, energized, and strengthened, we will ultimately be transformed when we rest in Jesus.  It is in Romans 12 (2) that we read, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Clearly Paul knew what it was to find rest in Jesus… to trust in Jesus to carry the load when it became too much to bear.  No place is this more evident than what we find in 2 Corinthians 12 (7 – 10) where we read:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
So, what is the point of all this you may ask?  What is the moral of the story so to speak? 
At the end of the day, when we think about it means to GIVE AND TAKE when it comes to our relationship with Jesus… He has already given us everything we need… it really is ours for the taking…
And if you know that everything we need can be found in Jesus, I want to invite you stand and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship:  I Need Thee Every Hour #578.