Making Light The Burden


“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

As a pastor/preacher I’ve often approached the yoke teaching of Jesus with ambivalence. On the one hand I have attempted to preach the text so my congregation grasped the truth that He wants to lighten our burdens. On the other hand I have often felt the heavy burden of pastoring the very people to whom I’m preaching the message about having a light burden! Now that I’m retired from active pastoral ministry I see with something closer to 20/20 hindsight the burden I felt, and how I should have better applied Jesus’ invitation to lighten my own burden.

A proper exegesis of the words of Jesus concerning His yoke, as most of us discovered in preparation to preach on this text, reveals that Jesus was referring to the unnecessary burden of legalism the religious leaders of His day heaped upon the people. We grasp the wonderful principle that Jesus taught, that we don’t get right with God by taking on the burden of following right rules and rituals but by accepting the gift of God’s grace (the redundancy of gift and grace is intentional on my part, for emphasis).

I preached it well (I think) but I didn’t always live it well (this I know). Somehow, as a pastor I accumulated burdens of ministry Jesus never asked me to bear. I allowed people’s opinions of how I did ministry to begin to define how well I was doing ministry. A worship service with a higher attendance seemed to be more successful worship than a service where attendance was down. I found it much easier to see God’s miraculous working in the successes than in the failures, though now I see, again, with something closer to 20/20 hindsight, that the formation of Christ within me (and others) was clearly more evident in the valleys than on the mountain tops.

Jesus’ grace is given to pastors as well as to the congregation! Our success will not cause Him to love us more, for He already loves us completely, nor will our lack of success or even failures cause Him to love us less.

Jesus says that the yoke He calls us to bear is a light burden (still a burden but a light burden) because He’s in the yoke with us. Our strength is found in the yoke with Him, our identity is found in the yoke with Him, our joy is found in the yoke with Him. The yoke of pastoral ministry He puts upon us is light and bearable because we share the yoke with Him!

Just a Reminder…

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