"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matth. 11:28-30)
If there were a top ten Bible verse chart, this passage would surely be one of them. The popularity of this verse is easily explained. We can immediately identify with burdened and heavy-laden one. Often we feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the demands of life, and are glad to claim Jesus' promise of rest. While it is doctrinally true that God provides rest in his presence, I would like to submit to you, that Jesus is making a completely different point in this passage
Jesus offers ease for labor and a light burden for a heavy load, but looking closer, there is another, unspoken, contrast. In inviting us to learn gentleness and humility, it becomes obvious that Jesus is implying that our incorrect attitude towards others and ourselves is the source of our burden. The context of this passage is the Pharisees' continual attack on Jesus and his followers for not adhering to their strict rule of conduct. The Pharisee is a prime example of someone, who continually judges others' actions, while arrogantly thinking of himself as superior. Jesus knows that a Pharisee's whole life feels laborious and heavy-laden. Such a man constantly tries to live up to his own standards and feels like everyone else should, also. In these verses Jesus expresses his compassion for the Pharisaic like me. He wants to free me from that oppressive yoke, in order for me to experience his rest.
Jesus does not reject us, when we are tempted to react judgmentally to someone else's words or actions. He asks us to come to him to learn to replace this habit with gentleness. Jesus sorrows over the burden we place on ourselves by trying to live up to our own standards. Instead, he longs for us to humbly realize that we are attempting to accomplish what only he could do. Our value comes neither from making others look smaller, nor from making ourselves look bigger than we are. God gives us value by justifying us, accepting us, loving us, and making us new. Our new yoke is to accept in humility what God has done for us.
Let these verses become our favorite for a new reason: Anytime we feel burdened by our expectations of others and ourselves, let us run to Jesus, to learn gentleness and to humbly accept, that what he has done is sufficient.