Come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
If this year taught us anything it is that life can be heavy. We have had the privilege of witnessing visible expressions of the brokenness of our world: a global pandemic, panic responses, slander, finger pointing, hate, isolation, and racial tension. In the midst of all this, many have faced heartbreaking loss, life changing ailments, and a sense of hopelessness for tomorrow. How then do we as followers of Jesus navigate life that is full of heavy burdens?
To answer this question, many point to the passage above. Yet a passage that should give us the greatest hope to take the next steps forward often does the opposite. Many can read these precious words, and hear Jesus saying, “Come to me and I will remove all your burdens. Your struggles have come to an end.” So what do we do when this does not happen? When a diagnosis of chronic illness is not going away? When the grief of a lost loved one remains? When the pain of having to watch a family member suffer persists? When the desperate prayers for unrepentant children are left unanswered? When healing from abuse and neglect is slow?
Inaccurate understanding of passages like this can result in some dangerous assumptions. “If you just have more faith, this would no longer affect you.” Or “I am still struggling because I must not be trusting Jesus enough.” Or even “since I am still struggling, these words of Jesus, and Jesus Himself, are simply not true.” These assumptions create a “Christiany” culture that has no space for suffering or those who are “heavy laden.” A passage of amazing hope becomes an unbearable burden.
Ironically, these types of twisted assumptions directly reflect the context of when Jesus said these words. These words are placed in stark contrast to the Pharisees and their religious games created to protect God’s ordained rest - the Sabbath. In so doing they took God’s blessing of a day of rest and twisted it into a burden for people trying to follow God (Matthew 12:1-14). And to those who simply refused to see Jesus and the Truth of what God was doing right in front of them (Matthew 11:18-19, 11:20-24)!
A Different Way
But Jesus is different. These words He spoke so long ago were intended to call people walking through the struggles of life out of their spiritual blindness and also their religious games to a different way, to Himself. So what is Jesus actually saying here? To answer this, let’s simply visualize this little parable He shares to see its focus:
Many of you can relate with the burden. It is heavy…but it is your burden to bear. So you load it upon your shoulders and begin the journey. At first it is manageable as you walk down the path. But over time, the load is heavier and heavier on your shoulders. You shift the weight from one shoulder to the next, you carry it on your arms, trying to cope with its weight. But with each step, you have less energy for the next… until finally this load seems unbearable and the journey ahead overwhelming.
Then you hear a voice call out along the road. It says, “Come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” That’s you! So you follow the voice to a man, a man named Jesus, standing there with a cart. You ask for the rest He is offering, and he says, “Here, put your load in my cart, and take my yoke upon you to pull it. And let’s walk the rest of your journey together.”
You quickly do what He says, take up the yoke of the cart, and begin walking together. Looking back, your burdens are still there, they are even the same weight… but something is different. You are carrying them a different way. And now, even though they still remain, suddenly you know you can take the next step, and the next after that. With this Jesus, the journey ahead becomes possible. And with that, you have peace and rest as you continue on together with Him.
As Jesus speaks these words, the focus is not on the burdens we carry, or on them suddenly disappearing. The focus is on the method - how we are carrying them. By referencing a yoke, Jesus is putting a very specific picture in the minds of those listening. A yoke is the crossbeam used to attach load-bearing animals together and to a cart or plow. As Jesus calls those “heavy laden” to Himself, He puts this picture of a cart in their minds. The focus is on coming together with Jesus and moving forward in a different way.
A Message of Hope
This is such a message of hope to everyone who is walking through this life. As you experience different trials and challenges - and this year has taught us that you will! - Jesus sees you. He knows your pain. He knows the heaviness of your soul and the trials of this life. He says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.” But how? As you walk through the heaviness of life together, He will not add burden upon burden by making you play weird religious games. For He is the Truth and “His yoke is easy and His burden light.” He will teach you the next step on the way and gently guide you through the fog of life. The calling is “come to me, take my yoke, and learn from me.” As this happens and the journey of life continues, though it may be overwhelming and challenging, the next step suddenly becomes possible. And the one after that…
Jesus took our burden of sin upon Himself. He was shamed for our shame. He was made guilty for our guilt. He received death for our death. By His wounds we are healed. And we are given His righteousness as the sinless one, His honor as the Son of God, and His life as the author of life. Now, as you faithfully follow Jesus today and tomorrow, His promise is not to remove the challenges of this current life. His promise is to journey through them with you each and every step, but to a specific destination. A time and place when all things will be made new. Once again we hear a voice call out:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Revelation 21:3-5 (21:6-8)
May Jesus’ words bring hope to your soul in the midst of the seemingly hopelessness. He truly is our living hope. When the trials of life persist and become heavy, may we set our focus simply on moving closer to Jesus that we journey through them a different way.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- What burdens are you be carrying right now? (If not currently in a tough season, think back to a different time you felt burdened)
- Which of these statements resonates with you more?
“Trusting Jesus means all my burdens should disappear.”
“Jesus probably doesn’t care about the burdens I am carrying.”
“My burdens are difficult to bear, but Jesus is with me and He will not fail.”
- How has others differing opinions on the above statements impacted your desire to be vulnerable with your trials in community?
- In the context of caring for one another, how Jesus’ words shape how you interact with others and their persistent burdens?
- What gives you hope in this passage/post?
**If you have any questions or concerns, we encourage you to discuss with your City Group, in your huddle, or consider requesting a meeting with our Care Team.**