Easy Yokes and Light Burdens
What do you expect of a ruler? Someone strong and decisive? Someone confident and willing to make decisions? Or someone who asks questions and listens carefully to the answers that come even from the lowest social and economic tier of workers?
Zechariah speaks in prophetic form of the ruler who will come to Jerusalem. “Thus says the Lord …” lets all know that these are not the thoughts or dreams of the one who speaks. They are words received in prophecy, oracles that shed light on the thoughts and plans of the divine.
And what does the oracle foretell? “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!” Why should Zion shout for joy? Because a king is coming who will not be a warrior. A ruler who is just and humble, so humble, in fact, that he will ride a young donkey into town. Kings typically arrived with a great retinue of folks – trumpeters, chariots, archers, foot soldiers, and finally, the carriage in which the ruler rode. Servants and courtiers also traveled with the ruler, to make a luxurious camp or set up housekeeping in the home of a local noble. Rulers didn’t ride donkeys, especially not very young donkeys. They rode majestic horses or in fabulous chariots or carriages.
But this ruler foreseen by Zecharia is to come proclaiming peace to the nations. This one will rule over all the land, not just the land of Israel. All the ends of the earth. When Jesus chose to enter the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey, he was absolutely aware of this oracle and what it would mean to the people of his community. This was a claim to being the one who was to come, the king who would rule the entire world. The people who witnessed his arrival understood clearly what he was saying. So did the rulers of Jerusalem.
What kind of ruler would he be and who would recognize and accept him? Jesus had thought about who would be open to recognizing this long-awaited king. It would not be the wise and learned, the teachers and priests of the temple or the most educated people in each little town. It would be the ordinary folks, the “little ones” who must depend totally on God’s care and help to get by in their lives. These would recognize the Father’s presence in the Son’s love and teaching.
What kind of ruler? That’s the big question. Would this one who knows the Father personally throw his weight around and demand great works of daring and costly sacrifice to elevate his stature?
Jesus answers clearly. “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” I’m not going to demand that you keep working so hard before I love you. I don’t expect you to give me rich gifts and build up my ego. “I will give you rest.” I am humble and will serve gently those who come to me. “My yoke is easy, and my burden light.” I don’t ask for costly sacrifices, or long, unhappy, pressured hours of work. I will be there helping to make our time together pleasant and to share the carrying of life’s burdens.
As we move through this coming week, let us remember and rejoice with Daughter Zion that the Lord has come. The yoke of servitude has been replaced with a shared journey through life. No one is alone. The Lord is always with us, our partner in the yoke, helping us handle the challenges life throws our way and reminding us to reach out to each other in love and trust, so no one is left with an unbearable burden.
“My yoke is easy and my burden light.”
Readings for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A