The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

 

JESUS HAD BEEN SPEAKING TO THE CROWDS ABOUT THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST, AND HAD BEEN PRAISING JOHN AND HIS CALL TO REPENTANCE. ALTHOUGH VAST NUMBERS OF PEOPLE WENT TO THE JORDAN TO BE BAPTIZED BY JOHN, IT DIDN’T SEEM TO HAVE MADE MUCH DIFFERENCE IN THEIR SPIRITUAL LIVES. EVEN AS JESUS HAS BEEN GOING FROM TOWN TO TOWN IN GALILEE HEALING AND DOING OTHER WORKS OF POWER, THE PEOPLE ARE STILL STUCK UNDER THE BURDEN OF THE MAN MADE LAWS AND RESTRICTIONS LAID ON TOP OF THE LAW OF GOD. THE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES, AND MOST OF THE PEOPLE, DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW THE MINISTRIES OF JOHN AND JESUS COMPLIMENT EACH OTHER, NOR ARE THEY SEEING HOW THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS COME IN JESUS. EVEN JOHN, IN PRISON, WHEN HE HEARD WHAT JESUS WAS DOING BEGAN TO DOUBT WHETHER JESUS WAS THE ONE FOR WHOM HE PAVED THE WAY.

JESUS COMPARES THE CURRENT GENERATION TO CHILDREN TRYING TO DECIDE ON WHAT GAME TO PLAY FOR THEIR ENTERTAINMENT. SOME WANT TO PLAY AT FUNERALS, PROBABLY THE BOYS, AND SOME, PROBABLY THE GIRLS, WANT TO PLAY AT WEDDINGS. SHOUTING BACK AND FORTH AT EACH OTHER, “WE PLAYED THE FLUTE FOR YOU, AND YOU DID NOT DANCE; WE WAILED AND YOU DID NOT MOURN.” EACH BLAMES THE OTHER, AND SO NO ONE GETS TO PLAY. SO IT IS WITH THE UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT GOD IS DOING. JOHN CAME TO THE PEOPLE AS A SEVERE ASCETIC, IN THE MOLD OF THE PROPHETS OF OLD, AND, WHILE HE SCARED MANY TO REPENTANCE, HIS LIFE STYLE CAUSED MANY TO REJECT HIM, SAYING HE WAS POSSESSED BY A DEMON. IN CONTRAST, JESUS CAME TO BE WITH THE OPPRESSED AND OUTCAST, EATING AND DRINKING WITH THOSE CONSIDERED BY THE RELIGIOUS PEOPLE TO BE SINNERS. “LOOK,” THEY SAID, “A GLUTTON AND A DRUNKARD, A FRIEND OF TAX COLLECTORS AND SINNERS.” EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE ABLE TO FIND A REASON TO REJECT WHAT GOD IS DOING IN THEIR MIDST, BECAUSE IT DOESN’T FIT THEIR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS OF HOW GOD IS SUPPOSE TO ACT. “YET,” JESUS SAYS, “WISDOM IS VINDICATED BY HER DEEDS.”

ONE OF THE MOST COMMON METAPHORS FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD, OR HEAVEN, IS THE WEDDING BANQUET, AND, IN THE MINISTRY OF JESUS, THE HEAVENLY BANQUET HAS BEGUN HERE ON EARTH. THE RELIGIOUSLY RIDGED AND SELF RIGHTEOUS CAN’T SEE THIS, BUT THOSE TO WHOM GOD REVEALS HIMSELF IN JESUS, GET IT IMMEDIATELY WHEN HE SITS DOWN WITH THEM TO EAT AND ENJOY THEIR COMPANY. IN HIS EATING AND DRINKING WITH THEM, JESUS REVEALS THE LOVE AND GRACE OF GOD TO THOSE REJECTED AND OPPRESSED BY THE MAN MADE RULES OF SO CALLED RIGHTEOUSNESS. THE IRONY OF THE JUDGMENT OF THOSE CONSIDERED TO BE SINNERS IS THAT THE ONES JUDGING THEM ARE NO BETTER THEN THEY ARE. EVEN THE MOST DEVOUT CANNOT KEEP THE RESTRICTIVE ADDITIONS TO THE LAW OF GOD; A SENSE OF THIS INTERNAL CONFLICT WE GET IN WHAT PAUL WRITES IN HIS LETTER TO THE ROMANS. IT IS ONLY BY GOD’S GRACE IN JESUS, THAT WE ARE FREED FROM OPPRESSIVE RELIGIOSITY, AND FREED TO LIVE IN GOD’S GRACE.

JESUS GIVES THANKS TO THE FATHER THAT HE HAS HIDDEN THE TRUTH FROM THOSE WHO THINK THEY KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE WAY GOD IS AND HOW HE ACTS, AND HAS REVEALED IT TO INFANTS; THOSE WHO ARE OPEN TO THE NEW AND UNEXPECTED. THESE ARE THE ONES TO WHOM JESUS CALLS IN WHAT WE KNOW AS THE GREAT WORDS OF COMFORT. “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.”

IT HAS BEEN SOME TIME SINCE WE HAVE PLOWED WITH YOKED OXEN OR HORSES IN THIS COUNTRY, SO A LITTLE UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THIS IDEA OF BEING YOKED MEANS IS NECESSARY. WHEN A YOUNG OX IS BEING TRAINED TO THE YOKE, IT IS PAIRED WITH AN OLDER, BIGGER, AND STRONGER OX. THE TRACES ARE ARRANGED SO THAT THE BIG OX TAKES MOST OF THE LOAD, AND THE YOUNGER OX LEARNS TO PULL LIGHTLY AND EASILY UNTIL HE IS BIG AND STRONG ENOUGH TO TAKE MORE OF THE LOAD. THIS IS WHAT JESUS MEANS WHEN HE SAYS, “TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU, AND LEARN FROM ME.” WHEN WE ARE CALLED TO JESUS, WE ARE YOKED TO HIM, AND WHATEVER WORK WE ARE SET TO, WE HAVE HIM, AND ALL THE POWER OF GOD HIMSELF, TO HELP CARRY THE LOAD AS WE GROW IN STRENGTH AND MATURITY. THIS IS ANOTHER WAY OF SAYING, TAKE UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW ME. SOMETIMES THE YOKE IS GOING TO CHAFE, AND SOMETIMES IT IS GOING TO SEEM VERY HEAVY, BUT WE CAN REST EASILY AND SECURELY IN THE CERTAIN KNOWLEDGE THAT HE IS ALWAYS WITH US TO HELP PULL THE LOAD WHEN NEEDED. THE ONLY TIME THE LOAD BECOMES OVERBEARING IS WHEN WE TRY TO TAKE OVER AND DO THE PULLING, OR HANDLE THE LOAD BY OURSELVES.

ALL THOSE WHO ARE YOKED TO JESUS ARE ALSO YOKED TO EACH OTHER. WE ARE NONE OF US IN THIS ALONE. WE ARE ALL CALLED TO JESUS, TO THE START OF THE GREAT HEAVENLY WEDDING BANQUET, AND TO THE JOYS OF THE ETERNAL LIFE WITH GOD WHICH BEGINS NOW, EVEN AS WE DO THE WORK OF CHRIST IN THIS WORLD. WE LIVE NOT BY THE RESTRICTIVE RULES AND LAWS OF RELIGION, BUT BY AN INTIMATE AND LOVING RELATIONSHIP WITH EACH OTHER, AND BY THE LOVE OF GOD REVEALED TO US IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD. OUR LIFE IN CHRIST IS A LIFE OF FREEDOM, JOY, GRACE, AND ACCEPTANCE, NEVER THE CHAINS OF RESTRICTION, DESPAIR, JUDGMENT, AND REJECTION. WE WELCOME ALL, AS CHRIST WELCOMED US; FOR ALL ARE CALLED TO THE BANQUET OF THE LORD, AND WE CELEBRATE WITH ALL WHO HEAR HIS CALL TO COME TO HIM. AMEN

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