Farmville Enterprise December 12, 2018
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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) The people who heard these words of Jesus would have known that a yoke was a wooden crosspiece or collar that went over the necks of two oxen, connecting them to a plow or cart. Jesus was not telling his listeners that they would have no work to do, but that by walking in step with him they would have a lighter load. God offers to give us some relief from our burdens and to provide us with emotional and spiritual rest, unlike the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.
The Pharisees weighed Jews down by adding all kinds of requirements to the Law. Jesus frequently criticized them for this. In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke he spelled out the Woes for the Pharisees. In one chapter Jesus said, “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for people to see.” (Matthew 23:4-5a) “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:24)
At the Council of Jerusalem described in the Book of Acts there were men from Judea who came and were teaching the Gentiles that they had to be circumcised to be saved. After much discussion, Peter stood and addressed them and concluded, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15: 10-11)
Scripture clearly teaches that we are saved by grace through faith. There is nothing we can do to work our way to God. God’s grace releases us from the pressure of perfection. Jesus wants us to lay down our burdens and find rest for our souls because he cares about our well-being. “When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
If the Christmas season can be discouraging for you due to the loss of a loved one, strained family relationships, financial hardships, a long to-do list or any other reason, remember that God can ease your load.