“The Disciples Eat Wheat on the Sabbath,” (detail) by James Tissot
Sometimes we overburden ourselves. We may set unrealistic expectations for ourselves. We may overload our schedule. We may simply worry too much about things beyond our control.
Jesus tells us to set aside our burdens. “Take my yoke upon you,” He says, “and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).
“I desired ḥesed“
One example of Jesus’ yoke being easy is the way He observed the Sabbath day. When a group of Pharisees saw Him and His disciples walking through a wheat field, picking grain and eating as they went, the Pharisees were troubled. When they challenged Him, Jesus reminded them of a couple of scriptures which didn’t fit neatly into their rigid rules of conduct. He then challenged them to go back and reconsider the words of the prophet Hosea: “If ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless” (Matthew 12:7, see also Hosea 6:6).
The Hebrew word translated “mercy” in this passage from Hosea is ḥesed (חֵסֵד). Understanding the meaning of this word can help us eliminate distractions and focus on the heart of the gospel. Here’s a blog post on the topic: “I Desired Ḥesed”
“Grievous to be borne”
One danger of being overly anxious ourselves is that we can make excessive demands on the people around us. Jesus decried the hypocrisy of religious teachers who “lade men with burdens grievous to be borne,” which they themselves are unwilling to bear (Luke 11:46).
In contrast, King Benjamin made it a point to make life easier for his people. He said, “I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne” (Mosiah 2:14).
A good leader takes care to avoid overburdening the people around them. See this blog post: “Grievous to Be Borne” – Mosiah 2:14
“A bruised reed”
As Matthew described Jesus’ compassion in healing multitudes of people, he remembered the following prophecy of Isaiah: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench” (Isaiah 42:1-3, see also Matthew 12:18-20). A “bruised reed” might represent people with physical or spiritual infirmities, people who might be neglected or undervalued. A “smoking flax” is a candle that has nearly gone out and might represent a person whose faith is faltering. Jesus won’t give up on either group of people. As He told the people on the American continent, “I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy” (3 Nephi 17:7).
When people asked Jesus to show them a sign, He responded, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” (Matthew 12:39, see also Luke 11:29).
In the Book of Mormon, two critics of the church are similarly rebuked for seeking a sign: Sherem and Korihor. (See Jacob 7:13-14, Alma 30:43-45.)
That is not to say that God is unwilling to give us signs. When John the Baptist sent disciples to Jesus asking if He was the Messiah, He replied, “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The 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” (Matthew 11:4-5).
God will give us signs. Our role is not to demand them, but to recognize and appreciate them when they come. Here’s a blog post on that topic: Signs.
“Your inward part”
Jesus observed that the Pharisees were much more concerned about appearances than about reality: “Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness” (Luke 11:39).
Captain Moroni used a similar metaphor to explain to the chief judge the importance of setting their house in order: “Remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also” (Alma 60:23).
Our highest priorities are not always visible. We need to deal with issues which may not be noticeable by others and address the root causes of problems, not just the symptoms. See this blog post: What Does It Mean to Cleanse the Inward Vessel?
Leave a Reply