That's No Burden; That's My Brother
Matthew 11:4-6 (King James Version) Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Skipping down to Verse 27
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. 28Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
John the Baptist is in prison. He is spending the last days and hours of his life in prison. John May have a sense that he will not get out of prison alive, but the Word does not say that. John sends his disciples to ask Jesus if Jesus is the Messiah or if that is going to be somebody else.
We do not know why John the Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah. The commentator William Barclay mentions three possible reasons. John the Baptist might have been concerned that his disciples did not understand Jesus was the Messiah, so he sent them to see Jesus.1 Another possibility is that John the Baptist was impatient. He wanted Jesus to start reigning right away.2 A third reason could have been that John the Baptist was certain Jesus was the Messiah, but was hoping Jesus would confirm that.3
There is a body of theologians who think even John the Baptist was not really sure Jesus was the Messiah. Certainly, there were very significant differences between John the Baptist and Jesus.4 The Bible, however, does not depict John the Baptist as having doubts.5
I tend to think John the Baptist might have had personal reasons for asking Jesus the question. John might have seen the handwriting on the wall. He May have known his time was short and was feeling discouraged. Knowing he might die with the Messiah so close might have left him with a sense of despair - so close, yet so far away and too far away to help.
Jesus’ response is interesting. He does not give a fast, easy answer. We seem to serve a God who does not give quick, easy answers. He could have easily said, “Yes, I am the Messiah.” And that would have been the end of it.
Instead Jesus says something that might have brought John the Baptist more comfort than a short, quick answer. Jesus responds by pointing to what He has been doing. Blind see, lepers are clean, deaf hear, and the dead live.6 And most translations also say to whom the gospel is being preached. Verse 5 ends with and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
In Jesus’ answer, He gives support that He is the Messiah. The proofs are given, without the answer being given. Those proofs may have done a lot to convince the disciples of John the Baptist that Jesus was the Messiah. And the proofs might have taught John the Baptist’s followers a lot about God’s love and a tender, loving approach in ministry.
You see, there could have been reasons why John the Baptist’s disciples had doubts about Jesus. After all, Jesus did not live a very strict life like John the Baptist. Jesus did not proclaim He was the Messiah and He did not do the things they expected the Messiah to do.7 Perhaps, Jesus was a little too loving, a little too willing to associate with average people - the Joe Six Packs of society.
Jesus’ style might have seemed far too tender to those in sin. His general approach was not to make angry outbursts at people who did not live up to the expectations of religious leaders. Remember His tender response to the woman at the well, and to the woman caught in adultery. Many people seem to feel those who made mistakes should face rage, not forgiveness, from church and society.
Rabbi Harold Kushner has written numerous books. One of the books is Living a Life that Matters. In that book, he reflects some on the angry voices we hear in some political and church circles. He comments, “ . . . I often agree with their criticisms, but I don’t hear the pain in their voices. It ought to hurt them to condemn their neighbors, as it hurt Jeremiah, but they seem too comfortable doing it, and that makes me wonder if they are really bringing us God’s words and God’s thoughts, or if the words and thoughts are their own.”8
When raging, angry words and the condemnation coming from church people and political officials is so loud I do not hear an aching heart over those who are in the world, I fear they are not speaking for God. Rage and a mean spirit are not gifts of the Spirit. Instead, they are often speaking for their own fears, inadequacies and personal pain. God’s voice is heard more powerfully in tears and in the touch of a helping hand than in yelling, raging, and condemnation.
The way the religious right, which is often the religious wrong, talks about homosexuality and bisexuality, leaves me with the sense there is little, if any, heart for queer people. All I feel and hear is rage. The rage lets me know these homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic people do not have God’s heart. Those who do not have God’s heart do not speak for God, and can be tuned out, just as one might tune out abrasive music.
There is a pattern in Jesus’ answer. Where Jesus is present, the unexpected happens. The expected is reversed.
•The blind see.
•Lepers are clean.
•The deaf hear.
•The poor get good news.
And we can be very glad the unexpected happens. Or we might not know God as a Savior and a source of comfort. Gay, bisexual, trans-identified, and queer people are accepted in the Kingdom of God. To society, that is very unexpected, but for God, the unexpected is the expected.
The well-known commentator Matthew Henry observes that the prophets of the Old Testament came mainly to kings and princes, but Jesus came to the poor.9 This is seen by many as fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that the Son of David would be the King of poor people.10
God is a God of minority groups, of those who feel left out and marginalized. And God chose Israel to be a special people. Israel was chosen as a people before the nation really existed. The Eternal chose the smallest of nations to be a special people. Perhaps, that is why God chose you - you, my queer friend, are a very prized minority.
God is still speaking to those who feel left out, to the oppressed and marginalized in our communities, our schools, and our churches. God is reaching out to those people. When the Spirit is rich and full in our lives, we see the marginalized, the oppressed and the impoverished as citizens or potential citizens of the Kingdom of heaven.
Missouri is the “show me” state. Many of us are from Missouri. When it comes to important things in life, we want to see the goods. After we see, we believe.
Jesus spoke to all those through the centuries who lived in the spiritual state of Missouri. God’s answer is the classic “show me” reply.
“You are the Messiah? Show me!” When that question comes from the heart of a person who is honestly seeking God’s face, Jesus will give the “show me” answer. Jesus lived as the Messiah, because Jesus was the Messiah. His actions and life were seen to have fulfilled Biblical prophecies about the coming Messiah. So Jesus tells John and John’s disciples to judge Him by His actions.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be judged by what I do. Those who are honest understand what I am saying. We fear judgment. There is no way we want to be judged by anybody by what we’ve done. William Barclay observes, “Jesus was the only perosn who could ever demand without qualification to be judged, not by what he said, but by what he did.”11
The cross was the ultimate sermon Jesus gave. And He did not preach the sermon. He lived the sermon, and then He invites us to judge Him and to judge God by that sermon. Over the past two thousand years, people have been judging God by that sermon, and they have been finding a loving God.
There is a legend that Jesus made yokes in the carpentry shop. According to the legend, Jesus’ yokes were the best ones in Galilee and there was a sign over the door to his shop that said, “My yokes fit well.”12
At Calvary, Jesus proved that His burden was light and His yoke was easy. He did the hard work for the salvation of humanity. Jesus paid the price. The law Jesus kept, because we are not able to keep the law.
How heavy are the loads you carry for God in life? The difference between a heavy and a light load can be the reason for the load.
We are freed from having to work hard to earn the impossible. That makes a big difference. The Spirit touches our hearts with the understanding that we are not laboring in vain, because the hard, hopeless work was done at Calvary.
The Spirit of God is moving to shape our hearts, to see our heavy loads of service for God with new eyes.
A man was walking along. He saw a young boy carrying a crippled little boy, who was smaller than he was. The man told the boy that the burden was too much for him to carry. The boy replied, “That’s no burden. That’s my brother.”13 Love made the burden lighter.
The Spirit is changing our hearts to help us see our labors as labors of love, a privilege, not a heavy all-consuming burden. The Spirit helps us see our labor, not as a burden, but as our brother, our sister. The burden becomes a privilege. And then people will hear the words of Jesus in our lives - my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.