The light burden Jesus offers us is possible when we surrender our lives completely to Him. Jesus Christ is the one best equipped to steer our lives.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Because we want to choose our own way by nature, we chafe against giving over our lives to Jesus Christ. Even once we have made the decision to follow Him, we wrestle with following our own desires and wills.
But Jesus tells us if we will make the decision to fully surrender to Him, that we will find a rest for our souls. Christ assures us that submission to Him comes with a light burden, not heavy shackles.
Did your decision to follow Christ come with any struggle whatsoever? Were you confronted with the idea that you were going to have to let go of things in your life?
This struggle can also happen even after we accept Christ. Can you think of a time in your life when you wrestled with God over a decision you knew He was calling you to make? Did you struggle with anxiety, fear, or doubts?
In today’s passage, Jesus makes it clear that surrendering to Him brings rest. The same Jesus who offers you salvation also promises to lighten your burdens. He says this directly, and uses the illustration of a yoke to help the listener understand.
The Lesson of the Yoke
If you are unfamiliar, a yoke is a device used to guide an animal (or multiple animals) in various tasks. Yoked animals have ploughed fields, pulled carts, and transported people since ancient times.
The yoke is placed around the neck of the animal when they are young and being trained. As the animal grows, the yoke may be changed out so it continues to fit properly.
Although I don’t see this in this passage, it is interesting to note that an animal cannot be guided backwards with a yoke. It must always be moving forward to be effective.
When Jesus uses the analogy of a yoke, He is invoking an image of an animal being trained and made useful. Unfortunately, not every trainer is a good trainer. So Jesus tells His audience He is the best possible trainer – he provides rest, and gentleness.
Jesus Offers Us Rest
Jesus promises that if we surrender ourselves to Him, His rest will be the result. The light burden Jesus offers us is juxtaposed with the “weary and heavy” burdens we bring to Him.
Attempting to do this life alone, under our own strength is a challenge. Jesus recognizes this when he acknowledges the heaviness this life brings. He knows that this invitation resonates with us.
Attempting to find rest in this life, on our own strength is futile. Even when we think we are succeeding, we are faced with the fact that this world will wear us out. Why? Because ultimately nothing in this life will satisfy us completely (Ecclesiastes 1:8).
By contrast, the one thing that will fill that God-shaped hole in our hearts is Jesus Christ. When we give ourselves over to Christ, He fills us and makes us whole.
Yokes are designed to be comfortable for the animal to wear. Part of that relies on the skill of the craftsman making the yoke. It is important that the yoke be comfortable or you risk injuring the animal.
We can trust the skills of the master carpenter to make our yoke an easy fit.
Jesus Offers to Teach Us
When Jesus asks us to let Him teach us, this is another example of the light burden Jesus offers us.
Sometimes when people talk about the yoke in this passage, they assume that the light burden Jesus offers us is to join us in the yoke and take on the majority of the work in pulling for us. But I think there is a better analogy.
Jesus is the owner who is steering, and we are the ones in the yoke.
So why is this a fitting analogy? If we are the only ones pulling, that doesn’t sound easy.
The reason this analogy makes sense is the lifelong role the handler takes in training and steering the animal. When Jesus tells us He is a humble and gentle teacher, He is promising to lovingly raise us, create a bond with us, teach us His commands, and protect us from being pushed harder than we can take.
It is the handler’s role to look out for the total well-being of his animal. Jesus promises to be the kindest, gentlest teacher we could ask for.
He is not doing this from the position of being yoked with us. Jesus is the one in charge.
Jesus Offers Us a Light Burden
Now we can understand what the light burden Jesus offers us is; to be gently and lovingly directed through this life when we surrender to Him.
So what is involved with taking on this yoke?
First, we surrender to Christ every day. We must consciously make the effort to take Jesus’ yoke upon ourselves and let Him steer. Jesus will never force us to take on His yoke. It is our decision to make, daily.
Second, we abide with Jesus Christ. If we don’t take the time to get to know His voice and understand His commands for us, we will not know how to obey Christ’s commands or where He is directing us to go.
And third, we enjoy His rest. Jesus Christ’s love for us extended all the way to the cross. If Jesus is promising to give us rest when we take on His yoke, we can believe it.
By taking on Christ’s yoke, He will produce in us the fruits of the spirit. Read these fruits and see if this doesn’t sound restful to you: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
If you are struggling with putting on Christ’s yoke today, remember the light burden Jesus offers us.
More verses about the light burden Jesus offers us: