“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.” —Jesus of Nazareth, as recorded by Matthew (11:28-30)
Image via Mission Venture Ministries
In the previous on the words of Jeremiah, the warning to the people of God in Israel’s time was that they had stumbled off the path to God and into muddy pathways of religiosity and rebellion against their God. They were not on the “ancient paths where the good way is.” Through Jeremiah, our God in His loving-kindness and mercy was appealing to His people to return to the ancient paths where they would finally find rest for their souls.
In the passage above, Jesus repeats the promise of rest for the soul for those who take upon themselves His yoke. Many of those who heard Jesus speak would have recognized the connection to the promise of Jeremiah. Yet they likely wondered just what He was saying. In that day, the religion of the Jews laid heavy burdens and requirements upon the people. They were repeatedly told that they were responsible to obey every law by their own strength. What a heavy load! The yoke of religion was anything but easy or light.
The yoke of religious duty and the heavy burden of the Jewish religious legal system were not the path our God intended for them. Jesus echoes Jeremiah’s offer of rest in this invitation to be yoked to Him. He is offering Himself to us as our own yoke-mate, promising that we no longer must pull our own heavy load. No longer need we try to please our God in our own efforts. We must instead yield everything to His control and learn to let His Spirit live His life in place of ours.
The part-time religiosity of today is not the answer and will not bring us into intimacy or rest. Human-derived and human-controlled religiosity flows out of a divided-heart. We give to God some of our time and effort and retain most to ourselves. Our religious activities are mostly done in our flesh, yet by works of the flesh can no person please God. The reason for the gifts of the atonement and the indwelling Holy Spirit is to remove from us the burden of doing anything to please God in our flesh.
Thus Paul writes in Galatians 2: “Yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.”
The strategy of Satan is to turn God’s people away from intimacy with Him. His method is to turn people to religiosity. Satan knew that by doing this he could distance them from their God and the incredible life of intimacy for which they were made. He induces people to try to manage God with religion. Instead of unrestrained love for their God, he gets them to choose distance and duty. The strategy of the enemy has worked amazingly well, and it still does today.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” wrote: “Only the man who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets his yoke rest upon him, finds his burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.”
Willingly submitting to the right way – this is the life of full surrender to our God. Surrendering to being in union with Him. Surrendering to Him as the focal point of our living. This is the ancient, perpetual path. This is the yoke to which Christ invites each one of us, the yoke of full surrender to Himself. And “for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.”
In the Kingdom of God, there is only one “good way.” This “good way” is on the ancient paths of intimacy with our God. It is taking the yoke of Christ, the yoke of being joined intimately to Him, all day, every day. Not religiosity; intimacy. Not a distant relationship, but a deep and consuming mutual love relationship. Not a “God up there somewhere,” but a God joined into union with you and me, the deepest union possible for any human being. This is the “ancient path.” This is the “good way.” This is the yoke our Savior offers to share with us. This is the life of the Kingdom of God on earth. The restoration of this ancient path, the opportunity to share in Christ’s yoke is the principle reason for the atonement made in the blood of Jesus Christ.
This intimacy is found in our union with Christ, and is the way, the truth and the life for us.