“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (NIV)
To be honest, I sometimes feel that living a life of faith is a contradiction.
On one hand, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). Taking up a cross is about living sacrificially and selflessly toward God and others. That’s a pretty tall order and it can seem overwhelming.
And since I fail at it so much it can make me feel bad in the process!
Then, on the other hand, Jesus says, “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 11:29-30). Really? How is a daily cross and a life of continual self-sacrifice supposed to be restful, easy and not a burden!?
To fully understand what Jesus means it’s important to look at the surrounding context. When we look at the first passage about taking up a cross, there are no loopholes. If we are serious about following Jesus it will involve replacing ourselves with God at the centre of our lives.
When you look at the second passage, Jesus has been talking about those who have been proud and arrogant, leaning on their own wisdom instead of God’s. And then he talks about how God has revealed the true wisdom of his goodness to Jesus himself and “little children.”
I think this helps. Yes we are to live sacrificially and selflessly. But at the same time, we are to receive Jesus’ yoke and learn from him. There’s the rub. The word that’s used for yoke (zygos) is one meant for TWO animals, not one. The whole idea is that we are not alone. And that when we take the lead from Jesus and lean on him, the sacrifice and selflessness becomes lighter and more restful.
Maybe living a life of faith isn’t so contradictory after all.
Jesus is the Saviour. Not you. And not me. As Jean Vanier so eloquently puts it: “We do not have to be saviours of the world! We are simply human beings, enfolded in weakness and hope, called together to change our world one heart at a time.”
By Matthew Ruttan