January 16 I Thursday
“For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” —Matthew 23:4, NKJV
What kind of burden are we carrying around us? Sometimes, we may find ourselves weighed down by rules and legalism. This was what the Jewish life was like with 613 commandments, an expanded version of the Ten Commandments.
For instance, one command says, “Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:9-10). What does it mean by “work?” There are 39 definitions of “work,” one of which is carrying a burden. What is a “burden?” A burden is anything heavier than two dried figs. The scribes and Pharisees had all this layer after layer after layer of legislation, which may have been sincerely conceived by people who believed that keeping the law was a way to please God, but it had become oppressive, restrictive, heavy and, above all, controlling.
Any form of understanding the Christian gospel that imposes a heavy burden is actually the opposite of what Jesus came to do. The gospel is designed to liberate and not oppress. While the Pharisees put burdens on people, Jesus said the contrary, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). What does it mean “to give you rest?” If we were digging a hole and someone came along saying “I will give you rest,” what would we expect that person to do? Stand on the side of the hole and sing some songs to try and cheer us up? That would not be helpful. Would we expect that person to get us a new shovel—maybe a little wider and longer—so we could get more dirt on each shovel? That would not give us rest but add to our burden. Rather, if that person would get into our hole, take our shovel and dig, then we would have rest.
When Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” it is an invitation to something liberating and freeing and not taking us from one burden to another. In the same context, Jesus also says, “Take My yoke upon you….For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). There is a burden but we find rest in the fact that Jesus has the yoke on His shoulders too and it becomes easy.
Has our Christian life become a burden as we try to follow all the rules? Our foundation with Jesus is based on a relationship we have with Him and not legalism. We can find freedom and liberation when we go to Jesus and cast our burdens upon Him.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for freeing and liberating me from my burden. I am grateful that in You, I can find rest. Amen!