“And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years….When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’” (Mark 5:25, 27, 28)
The burden I carry is quiet and hidden, only seen in my most vulnerable times. But it is always with me. It gnaws at my dignity and my sense of self in ways I cannot fully describe or measure. Oh, just to be free. Just to be whole. Without my lifeblood constantly draining out. O God, how long I have cried to You for deliverance and healing. I am waiting and watching for You, like a watchman waits for the morning: bone-tired and ready for rest. The conversations and activities around seem necessary but not deep enough, not true enough, not life-giving enough. I try to see through it all to You. Then a glimpse through the crowd, as a spark of sunlight glimmers. I see You and my attention trails off from all else as I chase after You. Do You see me? I pass through the crowd and stretch out a trembling hand in order to touch You. Do You notice? A jolt, like electricity, and I know something has happened. I know You know.
When I was a new believer, I hungered for a deeper relationship with God. I followed the example of a mentor in my life who had taken a focused time to work his way through past sins as a means for drawing near to God, confessing them one by one, category by category. Over the course of several days in a summer vacation, I brought my sins to the foot of the Cross in the presence of the Lord. I started this process with excitement, eager to draw near in vulnerability to God, but over time I slowly grew overwhelmed by the multitude of ways I had turned away from God in the course of my life. When I finally completed the process of confessing sin over those days, I needed to read and re-read portions of Scripture about the forgiveness assured to me by faith in Jesus Christ. Certain verses struck me as incredibly powerful: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). In his work of art, All My Sin, Ted Prescott relies heavily on process to create the final piece. In this work, Prescott first took a month to write all his sins that he could remember on paper (“a creepy and depressing list,” he writes). After shredding that paper, he inserted the bits into four open forms of glass that were heated up, sealed, and then cooled over the course of a day. The paper turned to ash and blackened the glass from the inside. The final work reflects the process of confession but also the process of Jesus’ work on the Cross. Jesus took upon Himself our sin and entered into the darkness of what sin does to us, in death and separation from the Father. Jesus did this so that we might have life to the full (John 10:10). Lent reminds us that when we bring our sins to the Cross of Christ, our creepy and depressing list of wrongs can be transformed by Christ, leading us into life, love, and forgiveness. One portion of Scripture I have never forgotten from that extended season of confession I mentioned earlier is a verse which we all might benefit from committing to memory: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our Advent journey and our preaching series entitled “‘Tis the Reason.” This third week of the series, Will Branch preached on two stories of healing by Jesus en route to Jerusalem in Matthew 17:14-20 and 20:29-34. Will really made me think about whether my faith is substantial or more like sand.
“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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Here we have the stunning invitation of Jesus our Savior. Do we hear Him?
It is not an invitation only for a few, but an invitation for “all you who are weary and burdened.” Are any of us weary? Are any of us burdened? Praise God that our weariness and burdens do not need to push us away from God but can lead us closer to Him. So what are our areas of weariness? Where are we worn down? What has caused sheer tiredness in our experiences and circumstances today? What burdens do we carry? What things from our past, our present, or our future feel like weights upon our lives? May we bring them to the feet of Jesus today.
Our encounter with the tender acceptance and care of God leads us beyond ourselves into a new way of living. The yoke that Jesus describes is a new way of learning from Jesus. When we think of a yoke, we probably think of a cattle yoke, where two animals are yoked together. But it is highly likely that Jesus is referring here to the human yoke, or shoulder pole, which is used to carry burdens more easily. The concept of the yoke was often used as a metaphor for how we live our lives. The yoke was then connected to the idea of walking in God’s wisdom and law. One took up that yoke by learning from God’s Word and teaching. So we have the opportunity turn from our own yoke—our own way of life—and turn to Jesus’ yoke—His way of living.
As we hear Jesus’ invitation we then discover and encounter His character. What is Jesus like? He is gentle and humble in heart. He is meek. He is lowly. He is, as we will continue to encounter throughout Matthew’s gospel, a servant Messiah. In fact, Jesus, as the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), shows us that there is no one as gentle and humble as God. God is the most gentle and humble being we will ever meet.
When we respond to Jesus’ stunning invitation then we will experience true rest for our souls. Are any of us restless? Are any of us feeling like we are searching for a true place of peace and home to abide in? This is found in God through Jesus the Messiah. As St. Augustine writes near the beginning of his beautiful work Confessions, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”