The Unburdening Burden
The Unburdening Burden
“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
A yoke that gives rest and a burden that lightens. These are contradictions. A yoke is a wooden beam put on the necks of two oxen to join them together so they can perform some heavy labor, such as plowing or pulling a wagon. Thus, the term became symbolic of one person's hard labor and subjection to another. The other term, “burden,” likewise points to difficult work that usually wears a person down under the weight of it. In verse 28, Jesus calls upon those who are weary and heavy-laden. The word “heavy-laden” is the same word in verse 30 of the burden Jesus places upon his followers. In verse 28, the burden upon them is not just a short, intense burden but a heavy burden that they have been carrying for an extended period. Jesus is calling to people who were continually wearied and exhausted because of the overwhelming load that they were carrying. While Jesus does not explicitly state at this point what the burden was, elsewhere, Jesus describes the burden of legalism that was placed upon the people who sought to earn their salvation through works of righteousness rather than grace. When we accept the idea that our salvation and eternity are based upon our merit, it leads to an overwhelming burden. No matter how good we are or how much we strive to earn God’s favor, we are plagued with the inward doubt that we have not done enough. The more we try to earn salvation, the more we feel overwhelmed with the impossibility of the task.
In response to the needs of the people, Jesus points to the contradiction of faith. When we base our salvation upon faith, the yoke becomes easy; for now, instead of being yoked with the demanding taskmaster of self-righteousness and legalism, we are yoked with the living God who promises to give us the empowerment to live righteously. We no longer depend upon our works but his, so the weight is now removed. This is further seen in the burden we now bear. Because Christ accomplishes the profession, the burden becomes light. This does not mean that we are absolved of all responsibility. We are still to walk in obedience to Christ and live for him. However, since he has accomplished the work, it is no longer impossible but possible through Christ. Christ will never call us to do that which is beyond our strength. Instead of living for Christ being a burden, it is a joy, for it frees us from the weight of sin.
But this leads us to the third contradiction in these verses, which is found in verses 25-26: The wise are the fools, and the unlearned are the wise. Christ points out that genuine wisdom does not come from the wise and intelligent but from the infant and the one who lacks knowledge. The intellectuals turn to their own wisdom. Instead of turning to God, they turn to man for wisdom, truth, morality, and spiritual understanding. On the other hand, the infant accepts God's truth without question. The wise depend upon their own wisdom, but the infant depends solely upon God. The wise become fools in the folly of their intellectual pride, while the unlearned become wise because they realize wisdom does not come from man but from God.
This confronts us with the need to change our perspective and ask ourselves what we look to for our life and morality. Do we look to the world and its distorted view of right and wrong? This results in only further enslavement to sin. Or do we simply accept what Christ has revealed in his life and teaching by faith? When we rest in him, we discover freedom from our enslavement to sin and the joy of living in light of his grace. His yoke frees, and his burden removes all burdens, giving peace and joy.