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The following post is a cross-post from Blogger of Jared for our “Life of Christ” symposium.
The 11th chapter of Matthew features an extended promise from our Savior to all who will listen and obey:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Elder Holland emphasizes the importance of the first part of this message:
In this promise, that introductory phrase, “come unto me,” is crucial. It is the key to the peace and rest we seek. Indeed, when the resurrected Savior gave His sermon at the temple to the Nephites in the New World, He began, “Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Broken Things to Mend,” Ensign, May 2006, 69)
Like all promises extended from God, this one has a condition that requires obedience in order to receive the promised blessing, which in this case is the “easy yoke” Christ offers us. We must come unto Christ, following His example.
The promise of “rest” to all those who bear heavy burdens may seem at times like a mirage on the horizon of our struggles—far away, and too good to be true. But the mirage isn’t an illusion. We can indeed reach that paradise and take part in the “rest” only Christ give. To do so, we must “take [his] yoke upon [us], and learn of [him].”
Camille Fronk, Associate Professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, makes an interesting note that Christ’s statement “learn of me” should be translated “learn from me”. Once again Christ reminds us that He is the way, the truth, and the life. We can only come to the Father (or, return to Heaven) by coming unto Christ. He is our Exemplar.
How we best come unto Christ is such an interesting topic that it would best be reserved for a separate post at a later time. The point I wish to discuss is the issue of Christ’s yoke being easy.
When our burdens are already heavy, and when the yoke with which we carry ourselves down the straight and narrow path presses down upon us, how is it that taking Christ’s yoke upon us makes things easier?
President Hunter explains:
In Biblical times, the yoke was a device of great assistance to those who tilled the field. It allowed the strength of a second animal to linked and coupled with the strength of a single animal, sharing and reducing the heavy labor of the plow or wagon. A burden that was overwhelming or perhaps impossible for one could be equitably and comfortably borne by two bound together with a common yoke . . .
Why face life’s burdens alone, Christ asks, or why face them with temporal support that will quickly falter. To the heavy laden it is Christ’s yoke, it is the power and peace of standing side by side with a God that will provide the support, balance, and strength to meet our challenges and endure our tasks here in the hardpan field of mortality. (Conference Report, October 1990, p. 20)
Further elaborating on how Christ’s yoke is easier than the ones we like to carry, Brother Gibbons (a great UVSC institute teacher!) makes the following stirring statement:
His yoke requires covenants and obedience and sacrifice, but in return he removes the burdens of sin and uncertainty and darkness, burdens infinitely greater in scope and weight. He shows us where we are going and gives us the power to get there. The paralytic lowered through the roof had a bed to carry home after his healing (Mark 2:2-12) but the bed cannot have weighed more than the infirmity the Savior removed from him. The peace that came to Alma following his repentance and conversion required a lifetime of sacrifice and service, but it required less of him than the pain he felt when he came face to face with his own rebellion. (Ted L. Gibbons, New Testament Lesson #10)
I have a good friend who is struggling in just about every area of life. This person frequently runs into trouble, and anything that can go wrong seems to. Whenever I talk to him I’m amazed at the pattern I see. Clearly, this person would enjoy an easier life should he decide to start obeying the commandments and living as Christ has asked. By obeying the commandments, he would not only receive strength and blessings needed to meet future trials, but also would be spared certain trials and their negative consequences because of his cleaner behavior and attitude.
I contrast this person with role models in my own life—people who, in my opinion, are much further along the straight and narrow path than others I see around me. These people, seeking to emulate Christ and “come unto Him”, enjoy countless blessings and happiness right now. For them, the distant mirage is a present paradise, bringing them comfort, security, and peace. They have learned to be yoked with Christ, humbly sharing with Him their burdens and taking His easy yoke upon them. They have found His rest.
We can find His rest, too. First, we must come unto Him, and then we must take His yoke upon us. We must shed our pride and cease to think that we can do it all alone. We were never meant to do it alone. Christ offers us His easier yoke, granting us access to His strength and support.
Again, as President Hunter said:
Why face life’s burdens alone, Christ asks, or why face them with temporal support that will quickly falter. To the heavy laden it is Christ’s yoke, it is the power and peace of standing side by side with a God that will provide the support, balance, and strength to meet our challenges and endure our tasks here in the hardpan field of mortality.
I can’t think of a better way to get through life.