How is our burden light?

“My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5)

 “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn. 5:3) 

I don’t want to, as the Pharisees, lay on burdens too hard to bear; especially since I can’t carry them myself. I want us to see that Christ carried our burdens! Christ says His burden is light. John said that Jesus’ “commandments are not burdensome.” Yet, how is this true in light of the all-encompassing call to which He calls us? Does He not tell us to take up our cross and follow Him? How is an instrument of torture light or easy?

Jesus is the image of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature; our call to imitate Him is no easy calling. We are to conform our life to His life, and death. So how then could Jesus say, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30)?  It is because it is in Him that we have fulfilled His commandments and it is through Him that we’re empowered to fulfill His commandments. Our burden is light because Christ took our burden. Our burden is light because through Christ we have the Spirit who helps us. In Jesus, we find “rest for our souls” (v. 29)!

We will with Christian of Pilgrim’s Progress, find our yoke easy and our burden light when at the sight of the cross our burden falls off. When we realize that our true burden, namely sin, has been carried for us by none other than Jesus, the Son of God, we will cry out “His commandments our not burdensome!” They are but an overflow of joy. The grace of the call of Christ bursts all bonds of the burden of the Christian life. We do have burdens, you could say, but we carry them now with joy.[1] We carry them knowing Christ carried our sin on the cross!

While we must be faithful to carry our cross, we do so in light of the fact that Jesus died on the cross for us and bore the wrath of God in our place. We carry our cross, yet not to death but to victory! The cross for the Christian is not a sign of death but of victory. We run the race set before us, yes with a limp at times, but the pain flees, as with any runner, as we gaze upon the prize. Life, and even death, has purpose in and for Christ. Yes, there are many commands in Scripture, but they are blessings. They encourage us on towards joyous Christ-like conformity. It is only when we are in Christ that these commands can begin to be truly obeyed.

Many in the Old Testament saw God’s Law as burdensome. How then did David love and delight in God’s Law? It was because God gave David that delight.  In the same way when we are in Christ the Spirit comes to reside in us and changes us. We begin to love the things that God loves. His commands become not merely demands but delights to our soul.

We could talk long about the ills of contemporary Christianity, but what is the prescribed cure? Christ is! It is through Christ that we are once-and-for-all holy in our standing before God and it is through Christ that we become holy, i.e. live holy lives. Christ is the cure. Though, that does not mean that the remedy is simplistic. The prescription for the cure has been wrought in Christ, but ultimate healing won’t come this side of Eden.

We have right standing before God in Christ. No, this does not change the fact that we must still conform ourselves (that is, by God’s empowering) to match our position. But we are right before God!

No, you and I do not rightly evangelize but praise God Jesus did, and now, in Him, it is as if we do evangelize rightly. Are we willing to suffer? Christ did suffer for us! Do you spend your time wisely? Jesus always did what pleased the Father! No, brother and sister we don’t measure up. But Christ does! And in Christ we do! In our call to imitate Christ, we are just to imitate our actual standing before God; we are to, paradoxically, be where we already are.

David Platt has rightly said,

“You will never be radical enough. No matter what you do—even if you sell all your possessions and move to the most dangerous country in the world for the sake of ministry—you cannot do enough to be accepted before God. And the beauty of the gospel is that you don’t have to. God so loved you that, despite your hopeless state of sin, he sent his Son—God in the flesh—to live the life you could not live. Jesus alone has kept the commands of God. He alone has been faithful enough, generous enough, and compassionate enough. Indeed, he alone has been radical enough.”[2]

Interestingly, the way of Christ is at the same time impossible (more than just hard) and tremendously easy. We cannot carry the burden, we cannot bear the cross yet that is why the way of Christ is easy. Because we can do nothing. It is all done in Him. Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Thus, the call of Christ is paradoxically impossible and easy.

Our burden is light because Christ carried our burden. He carried our cross. As we see from Isaiah 53, Christ has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. 

He was wounded
for our transgression;
He was crushed
for our iniquities;
upon Him was the chastisement
that brought us peace,
and with His stripes
we are healed.”

Verse 11 of this chapter says that the Righteous One, Jesus Christ, will make many to be accounted righteous. We are not innately righteous. We have sinned, we do not rightly live for the Lord, yet we are accounted righteous in Christ. We have fulfilled all righteousness, but not in ourselves, but in Christ!

[1] Paul said he had many difficulties, many burdens, on top of all that he had anxiety for all the churches (2 Cor. 11:28 cf. vv.23-28) yet he also said, “We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (4:16). “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1:5). In fact, Paul was burdened to death. He said at one point, “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” (2 Cor. 1:8). We learn from 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 that at times we have burdens to teach us to rely on Christ, we learn to give Him our burden and find hope in Him. We carry burdens, but it is different now, we have Christ’s comfort abundantly now!

[2] David Platt, Radical Together, 27.

Tags: , , , , , ,

About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: