One of the ongoing themes of contemporary Christianity is to look at stories such as Jeremiah, and say, “of course he’s God’s prophet!” Looking back it is obvious to us. We’ve had a lot of history since then.
We know that Jeremiah was one of the 66 books of the Bible that was affirmed. We know that Jewish tradition also upholds Jeremiah. It’s obvious to us.
For the Jews, it wasn’t so clear. Sure, the “real” prophets usually were not full of good news. However, the thought of submitting to Babylon felt like a bad joke. God wouldn’t allow that, would he?
The cultural concept of American Exceptionalism and founding documents invoking God (honestly, though, more in a Deistic fashion, rather than a Christian one) and individuality, a yoke is an awful thing to contemplate.
A yoke means that one is not choosing the way. Another is choosing the way for you.
A yoke is usually pairing two or more together. So, not only is the way not of your choosing, but neither is your companion.
If a yoke is born by a single person, they are carrying a very heavy load, and often the load would not be their own.
This doesn’t fit into the thinking of many Americans raised and taught a particular “brand” of individual freedom. While contemporary American thinking and Jewish thinking have differing perspectives of the yoke (individual freedom versus Babylon), the end conclusion is the same.
The yoke must be broken!
The “prophet” Hananiah admonished Jeremiah. Hananiah, just like everyone else (even Jeremiah), didn’t want the yoke of Babylon.
What they wanted, however, wasn’t what was necessary. Why was the yoke of Babylon necessary? Pride.
Israel was quite prideful. Americans are quite prideful. Often that is what really hurts when we are confronted by yokes…our pride.
Hananiah responded to Jeremiah (and God) in pride (and blind hope). He broke the symbol of shame, and received a different yoke (death), and gave (through the example Israel followed) a heavier yoke for Israel.
Jesus promises a lighter yoke. The heaviness of Jeremiah’s yoke (and subsequently Hananiah’s) is ultimately based upon our pride. Jesus’ yoke is his pride.
This means that the yoke that Jesus offers us allows us to cast aside our concerns of our pride, for Jesus will take care of his own pride. Jesus’ pride was so humble and faithful, that it lead to his death on the cross.
Another way to think of it is that if Jesus is paired with us, Jesus bears his and our weight. That is a very light yoke indeed.
Jesus, may we look for the lighter burden you seek to give us. Help us to relinquish the yoke of our pride, so that we are paired with you. Amen.
1) In what areas do you feel pride? What might the “yokes” be in those areas?
2) Why is it often easier to bear our burdens and not the burdens of others? How does Jesus turn that upside down?
3) Can a burden be so light that it doesn’t weigh you down? Does a burden always need to be compared to another burden?