The Yoke and a Different Kind of Labor Day


The day had started like most days. The morning sun was beating down on the dusty dirt road and little rain was in sight. The days were now beginning to get a little shorter and the heat had started to be less oppressive. Summer was now turning to fall and the grain fields were ripe for harvest. Jesus could look out and see the fruits of the labor of the farmer. He knew the farming routine like the back of his hand even though his trade was with wood. He had seen the drama play out for as long as he could remember.

The two oxen were given the yoke and it was no easy chore to even place it over their heads, settling it onto the base of their neck and their shoulders. Gosh how stubborn those huge animals were! It was quite an event to get them to plow along the path the farmer wanted. Sometimes the hard headed oxen listened; at other times they would need a good hard directive to keep them on their path with a wooden stick that had a nail in it.

Jesus was standing in the shadows of a place of worship watching as the Pharisees and Sadducees entered into the synagogue while looking just across the fields at the laborers cutting the wheat for harvest. Some could go into the house of the Lord while others were left standing. Jesus was watching the whole scene play out. Between the farmer and the farm hands working in the field, the “holy” men entering the synagogue, and the outcasts unable to read or hear the word of God, a crisis was about to occur like a car stuck on a train track with the conductor blowing the horn from the engine of a fast moving train. It was coming by golly!

Oh how heavy, how burdensome it all was, he thought. Those people entering that synagogue with all of those rules; how could a person stand to walk with the heavy yoke of a religion draped over their heads like a heavy yoke, being yanked around by the straps of a hard headed religious know-it-all, and the pull of a translated religion based on heavy laws and opinions that over time would wear a person completely down; Is this what the love of God was supposed to be about, he thought?

Between the crossroads of this religious place and a grain field ripe for harvest, it hit him: this whole event is exactly how people believe they should relate to God. The do’s and don’ts, the regulations, all of it, every single word of it that those leaders required, all, painted a picture of a God of wrath and judgment and ritual. If there was one thing, one thing Jesus knew, it was that this kind of ritual did not represent who He knew God to be. In the shadows of the holy place, within earshot of a farmer’s toil and labor, of fancy Pharisees prancing around in their religious garb, and people on the outside looking in, he began to speak:

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“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.”

People who heard those words of Jesus, his disciples, the outcasts, and the hyper religious knew what Jesus was saying. The “sinners”, those who were not allowed into the holy place, knew the heavy yoke of both the ox and the religion that played out every day. If you were on the outside of the religion of the day, you knew it was impossible to keep all the do’s and don’ts.

He finished his sermon and immediately allowed his life’s events to be a living kind of illustration where once again, he would tick off a bunch of those he would call hypocrites, the same bunch that would kill him one day. He would take his disciples after the farmer had finished his work and walk through the field, picking and eating whatever grain they could find on the day of the Lord. Problem was that it was the Sabbath, and Jesus had a point to make, a point that would only further to anger the Pharisees that while they were wearing people out with their laws, they had neglected the point of any religion which was mercy and justice and a relieving of heavy burdens in the lives of people who hurt.

No more had Jesus began to walk through the field than the Pharisees, who were watching from their building, yelled out, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” Jesus, having heard their religious baloney all too many times before had an idea what they were going to say.

Jesus yelled back to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Oh it was on now! They knew their bible well enough to know that no man born from a woman was going to be THEIR Messiah! They were sure of what the bible said, dead set sure, and no one was going to misinterpret what they felt was right to do by the good book! And to say that there was “something greater than the temple?” Really?

To make a point of what he meant by how they were using their temple, he upped the ante with one more little exercise to prove his point. He healed a man, on the Lords day, in the temple of the most high and kinda hit them with their own bible from 1 Samuel 15:22 that reads; “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8″For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Something greater than the house of the Lord? Compassion, not worship? People over the law?

Happy Labor day!

4 Replies to “The Yoke and a Different Kind of Labor Day”

  1. You have touched on a sore point for me. After years almost 75 to be exact. I am so tired of a clichéd and platituded religious experience that doesn’t touch where I am or what I am about. God does it in a more relevant way for me than what I experience in church or organized Sunday. Scbool. I am far too liberal for my church. I am searching for an innate spirituality., a sacred dimension.. I have hungesr that cannot be fed by what Mainstream religion is dishing out.. No one has a monopoly on spirit. It is bigger than any religion. I have had more experiences with God in the woods than I ever had in church.

  2. Madalyn, you have hit on something that rings true to so many and I know especially for we who are artists. It is difficult to put God within a framework that actually works for those of us who are out there. I have tried to explain to people that whenever I sit in a worship service, there is something that I see in my minds eye that either enhances my relationship with God or turns me off. I cannot explain it. And what it feels like whenever it gets jumbled up in my mind is a fog of sorts or a discombobulation(?). I am not sure if I would ascribe the term liberal to you because it is used too freely to describe those of us who don’t fit in a traditional realm. In many ways, what you describe, is way more fundamentalist than we would ever think, because in a real way you put your fingers on the fundamentals of what spirit and God is and I affirm your search!!!

  3. And sharing that statement that you find nothing enhancing, you are met with what you have heard all your life. “Then you didn’t come spiritually prepared.” There is that blame, that guilt trip. How does that help you?

    Now, you feel worse for sharing it.
    I am not a stone. I am moved every day by something. I come home feeling lost, outside, confused from services. Sure I can be manipulated to feel certain things hearing a moving story. I love moving music. I have been told I want too much, expect too much. I have experiences with God in ways different from the average person sitting next to me. The outdoors the woods specifically are my praying fields. I want a full wholebody, whole brained, all in worship. Spomeone said that the awe and wonder that I want the beyondness, the moreness, the more than I can graspness, the awe and wonder of sunset, mountains, the night sky, the ducks on the lake, the source of all good things and the highest exercise of joyful worship isn’t to be had. Oh yes, it is I have had and still have it. Just not in the right places, i am told. I think if God picks the place for my worship, it is undeniably the right place.

    I want to feel everything in me united in the exercise of contemplating a transcendent living God.

    1. Thank You Madalyn! I affirm your struggle and your journey! The place that houses we followers of a risen God somehow gets lost and stagnant. Seems that those who need structure somehow over shadow and confine those of us who see a holy God in broad strokes rather than in the parenthesis. Carry on friend!

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