A Light Burden
In our speech, we have several expressions which suggest that something heavy is not good. We say that someone has a heavy heart. We refer to a difficult topic as being a heavy subject matter. Someone who is under much stress and pressure is carrying a heavy load.
In contrast to heavy, we refer to that which is good as being light. A jovial person is lighthearted. The person who is nimble and flexible is light-footed. Someone who is relatively stress free has a light workload.
What sort of language might we use to describe learning from Jesus? How might we talk about being Jesus’ disciples? In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus uses the language of heavy and light to talk about those who follow Him.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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).
If we regard following Jesus as a heavy burden, then we are not doing it the right way. To those who are “heavy-laden” Jesus invites “Come to me.” In the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had made the Law a very burdensome thing. Jesus says that they have “shut off the kingdom of heaven from men” (Matthew 23:13). In contrast, the yoke of Jesus is easy and light.
This does not mean that following Jesus is a carefree endeavor involving no labor or work. Actually, taking a yoke implies that we will be working. But, we should view the work as enjoyable rather than burdensome. This is because of the type of master that we have. He is “gentle and humble” (Matthew 11:29).
At some point, you have probably heard someone say, “That person is easy to work for.” It doesn’t mean that the work itself is easy. In fact, it might be difficult labor. However, the job is enjoyable because of the attitude of the person in charge.
The Gospel of Matthew was likely originally read and heard by people who were burdened by the teaching of the Pharisees. Jesus wanted the people to know that He is easy to work for. Again, this doesn’t mean that being a disciple is easy. Jesus also said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
Following Jesus entails a life of constantly being reoriented to His will. It isn’t easy. Some days, it can feel quite difficult. However, we must remember that we are being led by a good shepherd, who is gentle and humble. He wants what is truly best for us. In comparison with all other paths, submitting to the will of Jesus results in an easy yoke, a light burden, and rest for our souls.