Proper 9 • Matthew 11:25–30 • July 3, 2011

By Paul Philp

Jesus has just concluded speaking words of woe upon the cities where the response to his proclamation among them was ignored and rejected. This word of harsh condemnation makes it clear that those in these cities remain outside of the context of the faith. These are they who do not know the Father, despite the fact that the Son has come and revealed himself—and thus also the Father—to them, and their rejection of Christ yields only words of judgment. This harsh condemnation and judgment is the very burden of our sinful natures that the yoke of law places upon us.

The corruption of our own sinful nature places us in precisely the same situation as those who rejected the preaching of Christ; we are apart from the Father. The law hangs as a yoke upon us emphasizing the burden of our sin. The burden of this sin is not only heavy but also unbearable. Ultimately, this yoke of our sinful burden will bring about our destruction under the law. Yet, at the end of this text, Jesus speaks of his yoke as being easy and his burden being light.

Is not Jesus’s yoke and burden that of the law of God the Father? Indeed, Jesus does bear the yoke of the law in perfect obedience to his Father. The burden associated with his bearing the yoke of the law is not his sinfulness, but the sinfulness of all mankind. Consequently, the yoke and burden that Jesus bore are by no means light. But, this is not the yoke or the burden to which Jesus is referring in the text. Rather, he is referring to the yoke and burden of bearing the gospel that he places upon us as a free gift. This yoke is easy, and its burden is extremely light. For with this yoke and burden comes the gift of rest in Christ and eternal life.

The text portrays the exchange of the burden of sin for the free gift of God’s grace as Jesus, the Son, makes the Father known to us. The wrath and condemnation described immediately before the text is carried by Christ, and he replaces it with forgiveness, life, and salvation. The invitation to come and find rest in Christ has been extended to us in Holy Baptism. In baptism the burden of our sin is removed in Christ, and he places upon us the yoke of his gospel. His light burden and easy yoke become for us the cause of our rejoicing as those to whom the Son has revealed the Father.

The burdens and challenges of life in this world remain; however, the easy yoke of Christ and the gospel enable those to whom Christ has revealed himself to endure the trials and tribulations they face. The invitation of Christ is to those who are burdened and heavy laden, and indeed we are all burdened and heavy laden in many and various ways. Christ has first removed the burden of our sin, but he also, by his grace, assists us in bearing all of the other burdens of our lives. Finally, at the last day, he will also remove these burdens from us, and our load will be the full, easy yoke of eternal life in his reign.

Suggested Sermon Outline “Yoked to Christ: An Exchange of Burdens”

  1. The burden of sin under the yoke of the law
  2. The yoke exchange—the burden removed
  3. The gracious invitation to come and find rest: the Father made known by the Son

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