Jesus says, “Come to me all of you who labor and are burdened down with heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
Everyone has burdens to bear and to each one his burden seems hard to bear whether it’s a neighbor’s cat that leaves things in your flower bed or a child with cancer. Maybe your burden is a sister or a brother, a child or a neighbor or even a spouse. Our burdens vary from time to time. But the truth is that most of the time I am my most difficult burden to bear.
Maybe you have not seen the truth of this last statement yet. “I am my most difficult burden to bear.” I will not try to convince you that this is what you must believe but I will try to show you how I have come to this conclusion for myself.
Everything is based on the foundation that I have decided to follow Jesus and give my life into his Lordship. For me this means that his words and the teaching of the rest of God’s word is the truth for my life, conduct and understanding.
Jesus has said that we are to “make disciples”. As I have meditated on this and labored over it for some time, it seems to me that the first disciple that I am responsible to make is myself.
In the passage we are looking at today, Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” This is a phrase that refers to Jewish men who would commit themselves to one teacher or rabbi. In doing this they would commit themselves to spending as much time as possible with the rabbi in order to learn to speak and act as much like him as possible.
We understand that the disciples who followed Jesus left everything to follow him. Peter and Andrew, James and John left their fishing business and Levi (Matthew) left his government job to follow Jesus. Following Jesus meant being with him 24/7, listening to what he said and doing what he commanded. Learning to be like him.
Today we are not able to be with Jesus in flesh but we have his words and we have his spirit. We can study His Word (the Bible) and his words to see how he responded in situations. We can study his teachings to learn and be filled with his spirit.
When I memorize and meditate upon his words it is possible for them to change my mind and the seat of my affections (my heart) to become like his.
Someone will complain, “I can’t memorize,” or worse, “I don’t like to memorize.” Everyone over the age of four has already memorized hundreds of things. By the time you have progressed to be able to read this article, that number has grown to thousands and hundreds of thousands. Just consider what you had to commit to unconscious memory to translate the shapes on your screen or paper into words and then those words into meaningful ideas that you could disagree with.
If it’s important to you, you can commit it to memory. If you can remember your birthday, your address and your phone number, you can surely learn by memory, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” If it’s important.
That is the easy part! Once I have it in my mind, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”, then I have to think about it. What does it mean? How does it apply to my life? Does it apply to my life in any way? What action do I need to take?
When I begin to take Jesus words and apply them to my own life, then I begin to take his yoke and learn of him. Then I begin to see that the greatest burden I need to bear is me; my pride, my sense of always knowing, my thinking I am rich in knowledge and understanding of spiritual things.
Of course the other burdens are still very real. But as I learn to follow Jesus, I am also learning to cast all my cares upon him, because I am learning that he truly does care for me as He cares for each one of us. I am learning that all of the trials and sorrows in life only come to draw me closer to Him.
At the end of this passage, Jesus says an amazing thing. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
How can this be true? Didn’t he come to die on the cross for the sins of the world?
Well not exactly, although that was part of it. It is written about him, “I come to do thy will, oh God.” (Psalms 40 & Hebrews 10) Jesus came to do the will of God. As I become his disciple that becomes my purpose as well; to do God’s will.
How can I know God’s will? Read it, memorize it, meditate upon it. Begin where you are. Start with one thing: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Memorize, meditate, pray. When that is securely in your mind and growing in your heart, move on a little. “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” These are virtues that are surely God’s will for your life and mine.
These seem like simple steps and they are. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. These are possible things that we can do and as we do them God will work in us to form the character of Jesus in each of our lives.
It's something to think about.