If you will allow me the room, I’d like to tell you a modern day parable. A man was walking on a beach with a sack of bricks slung over his back at nighttime. Up ahead of him were he could see campfires spaced apart by a few miles. As he reached the first campfire, a friend approached him. “Let me take your bag.” Relieved that someone was willing to take the weight from him, he agreed.” As they walked and talked about sports, the weather and politics, his friend slowed down and said “I guess this is where we part ways.” He then handed him back his bag. Only the bag seemed a little bit heavier than before. He slung the sack over his shoulder and kept walking.
The journey to the next campfire was a little bit more arduous. His legs strained a little bit more. His back was sore from carrying the bag of bricks. He was relieved to see that he was almost at the next campfire. Another friend appeared and asked to carry his bag once more. The man was so relieved and thankful to his friend for agreeing to shoulder his burden. He was able to rest for the second leg of his journey. The two talked about raising children, marriage and work. It was a great conversation. His friend began to sweat from the burden of carrying the bricks. The man felt a little guilty that his friend had to carry it for him. They finally reached their limit. His friend told him “I guess this is where we part ways.” The man thanked his friend for being willing to go this far with him but he realized it was too heavy for him to bear.
When the man slung the bricks over his shoulder, it was heavier than he had remembered. Even heavier than the first time a friend had helped him. Pain shot up his back and his legs were moving in slow motion. The sand shifted beneath his feet and he had trouble getting traction. He looked up ahead and the fire seemed so far away, he wondered how me might make it. Eventually he did. Sweat was pouring from his forehead. He threw the sack down and it hit the earth with a thud. Another friend walked out of the darkness and took his burden. He had trouble lifting it but he finally managed it. He put the bag on his back with a groan and trudged forward with his friend. The conversation wasn’t as easy as before. The man worried about his friend bearing this heavy load. The conversation was forced but they were able to talk about how beautiful the night was, how warm the fire was that they were leaving and how life was at times unfair. His friend was only able to carry the weight for a little while before he reached his limit. “I’m sorry friend, I only have strength for this far, I must get back to the fire and my family. God’s speed.”
The man looked at the bag. He dreaded the thought of picking it up again. He took in a deep breath and exhaled. He then mustered what strength he had left and picked up the sack. He strained as he lifted it to sling over his shoulder. When it reached his back, he crumpled to the ground from the weight of it. He looked forward to the next fire and wondered how he was going to make it. He dusted off the sand from his clothes and prayed for the strength to make it to the next fire. The wind blew and it was cold. The tide began to come in and the water was lapping at his feet. The water and the wind were cold and his feet and hands were getting numb. He once again lifted the sack and slung it over his back. This time his legs strained to straighten so that he could continue his journey.
Every step the man took was a victory. His legs trembled and his back was shooting with the pain from the massive weight he was carrying. His eyes lifted up to the next campfire. He realized he was only half way there. He slowly moved forward but his legs weren’t holding and he could no longer feel his hands because they were numb from the weight and the cold. He took two more steps and then fell into the sand. The bricks had landed on his back and he was pinned face down in the sand. He lay there unable to move and wondered how he would get out of this mess. He cried out to God for someone to help him. Then something miraculous happened. The bag was lifted off of his back. The man managed to roll over in the sand and stared up at the beautiful sky. He saw the stars and the full moon. The cold air blew over his face but this time it was more refreshing that painful.
A face appeared over him. It was a stranger but at the same time this man seemed familiar. He had the bricks slung over His shoulder and did not look tired. He extended His hand to the man. The man reluctantly took it. He was soon on his feet. “Please let me take that. It is too heavy for you. My friends were only able to bear the weight for a time and that is the heaviest yet!”
“Your friends were only able to bear the weight for a time and even though they were not aware of it, they only added to the weight in the end. They had bricks of their own to bear and you took on your bricks as well as theirs.” Confused, the man asked, “Will you add to the weight as well?” “No friend, I will take away all of it from you. If you only ask.” He then handed the man an empty bag. “This is yours to carry. It is My burden. It is light and easy to carry.”
This book is one about faith so you can guess who the stranger is. It is Jesus. I like this parable because it illustrates something very important. Friends can carry your burdens for you but you also carry their burdens as well. That’s a good thing. It is what we are called to do. The important thing to remember is that Jesus removes the weight of our burdens. He trades us in fact. We give Him our worries and He gives us His yoke.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:30
You don’t look happy yet. Maybe you don’t understand what a yoke is. I get that. Since we don’t live in an agricultural society, it sort of loses its punch. A yoke is something that was placed over then neck of oxen to keep them in step with each other as they plowed. The “yoke” that Jesus is talking about is the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees. Their rules were oppressive and rungs of a ladder that you could climb to show others how righteous you were.
There were around 600 laws that a devout Jew was to follow in the Old Testament. The Scribes and Pharisees would pile laws on top of laws. There were certain ways you were to wash your hands, things that defined what “work” looked like on the Sabbath and how much you were to tithe. They would even define for you how much of your spices you were to give! That’s pretty detailed. I’m exhausted just thinking about it; imagine what it would be like to live that way.
Jesus is saying, “My yoke, is easier than theirs. It is light by comparison. My plan and direction for you is one of love and mercy. It isn’t contingent upon your obedience or your ability” In other words, my kingdom is not about how good you are, it’s about how good I am.” This is why Jesus came: to live a perfect life, because we could not, and to die for our sins, which we could not pay for. He did all to make God’s name great. Al it requires from you is belief and trust. We call that faith.
That’s why Paul says this in Galatians:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
The Promised Land was the destination of Israel for centuries. They finally made it to Canaan and possessed it briefly. Due to disobedience they were kicked out of Israel and it was given over to a laundry list of landlords like Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. When Jesus addresses the crowd in this verse, He is telling them “The rest that you sought in the Promised Land, is finally here. I am that rest.” Jesus is telling them, “Stop searching for home, I am your final destination.”
All of the struggling that you do for finding rest can cease when you find Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, your struggles will not cease but ultimate struggles for purpose and acceptance can and will through faith. Your struggle to succeed so that you will feel worth something can cease. Your relationship hopping doesn’t have to continue. That love that you’ve been looking for is found in Christ. Through faith, you can journey toward a life of love without having to date one person. I know, it sounds too simple. It sounds like every Sunday school lesson you’ve ever heard and every sermon that you listened to growing up. But what if it were true? The only way to know is to trust and move forward in the love with God. He will transform you.
Being “Christ like” means we imitate Him in carrying others burdens, all the while knowing that He alone is capable of removing them entirely. Once we trust that God is the bearer of burdens for us ultimately, we can become imitators of that act of love. Later Paul tells us this:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2