The Law given by God was “good” and “righteous” and “holy” (Rom. 7:12). But through their oral traditions, the righteous leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees, went beyond the Law and created a heavy burden for the people (Matt. 15:2; 23). In contrast to the yoke of the religious leaders of the day, Jesus says “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).
The yoke of Jesus refers to his teachings and way of life.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30 NIV)
Let’s analyze this text, a bit.
The Invitation. “Come to me.” Rather than sitting at the feet of the religious leaders who continued to burden the people through their traditions, Jesus invites the “weary and burdened.”
The Command. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” This command of Jesus is twofold. Both “take” and “learn” are imperatives in the Greek text, issuing commands–this is what you must do.
The “weary and “burdened” must now take upon themselves the “yoke of Jesus” and “learn from him.” When they do, they will discover that unlike their religious leaders that Jesus is “humble and gentle in heart.”
The Promise. “I will give you rest.” The “weary and burdened” who accepts Jesus’ invitation and come to him, will find rest. The Greek behind “rest” may also be translated “refresh” (1 Cor. 16:18; Phlm 20).
This promise of Jesus then becomes a fulfillment when “the weary and burdened” take his yoke and learn from him. “You will find rest for your souls.” They will find rest and refreshment.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” –Saint Augustine
The Guarantee. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In something of a wordplay, while the traditions of the religious leaders “burdened” the people, using the same root word, Jesus says his “burden” is light.
In another place, Jesus says of the religious leaders,
“Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” (Luke 11:46 ESV, emphasis added)
“Load” and “burdens” are from the same root in the Greek text. By way of illustration, “burdens” is the same word translated “cargo” in Acts 27:10, which eventually had to be tossed from the ship, to lighten it.
Conclusion. Whereas the oral traditions of the religious leaders bent its adherents out of shape and load them down with burdens too hard to bear, Jesus invites these same people to restore and refresh them.
Those of us in Christian ministry will do well to follow the example of Jesus and be conduits of rest and refreshment for the wearied and burdened in our world.