The one who bears our burdens with us and for us is not weak at all. He is the Almighty, and can suffer no change in what He is. When we suffer, we may experience anxiety at the kind of change we experience. Suffering reminds us that we are susceptible to destructive change, so, naturally, we do not seek it out. God wants to encourage us through what we suffer – He has sent Jesus to bear with us the trials of life. Jesus did not endure these trials in an apparently invincible way – He seems to be defeated by them until He manifests the resurrection. Whatever we may suffer, Jesus bears it with us, it is only for a time. He does not command us to bear our sufferings as though they cause us no distress – Jesus Himself showed signs of distress when He suffered. But He invites us, through suffering, to grow in gentleness and humility. Since Divinity cannot be altered by suffering, we see revealed in Jesus how suffering actually transforms our humanity into something divine. The secret is not to discover how to eliminate or avoid all suffering, but to learn from Jesus – in the midst of our sufferings – compassion and humility.
You are to “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” You are not learning from me how to refashion the fabric of the world, nor to create all things visible and invisible, nor to work miracles and raise the dead. Rather, you are simply learning of me: “that I am meek and lowly in heart.” If you wish to reach high, then begin at the lowest level. If you are trying to construct some mighty edifice in height, you will begin with the lowest foundation. This is humility. However great the mass of the building you may wish to design or erect, the taller the building is to be, the deeper you will dig the foundation. The building in the course of its erection rises up high, but he who digs its foundation must first go down very low. So then, you see even a building is low before it is high and the tower is raised only after humiliation.1
THEODORE OF MOPSUESTIA:
How is it then that he himself demands a high degree of strictness? He answers, “You have not yet had experience of things that are mine, and for this reason you think this way. But if you would take up my yoke and would believe in those things I give, you would find the greatest difference between the things that are from me and those that are from Moses. From me there is great, patient endurance and kindness. Seeing such a weight of sins—murders and self-love and things more unnamable than these—I am longsuffering and bear with those who do these things, not despising them but waiting for them to repent. If ever they should repent and change their ways, I immediately forgive them, not remembering their former acts. But the law of Moses is not like this. When you sin, it immediately punishes the sinner. It knows no repentance. It promises no remission. When I make demands about the covenant, I am not so much preoccupied with investigating the things that happened. For me, it is enough that a soul choose what is good with a genuine resolution. But the law goes overboard, both adding more punishments to the smaller ones and cursing the transgressors. Therefore my yoke is good on account of forgiveness, and my burden is light because it is not a collection of customs and various observances but decisions of the soul.”2
EPIPHANIUS THE LATIN:
Therefore let everyone who wants life and desires to see good days put down the yoke of iniquity and malice. The prophet says, “Let us burst their bonds and thrust their yoke from us.” For unless one throws behind the yoke of iniquity, that is, the spark of all vices, one cannot take up the agreeable and light yoke of Christ. But if the yoke of Christ is so agreeable and light, how is it that divine religion seems so harsh and bitter to some people? It is bitter to some because the heart that has been tainted by earthly desires cannot love heavenly things. It has not yet come to Christ, so that it can take up his yoke and learn that he is gentle and humble of heart. Hence we observe, my dearest friends, from the teaching of our Lord, that unless a person is gentle and humble of heart, he or she cannot bear the yoke of Christ.3
This is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, who appeared to Moses in the bush, concerning whom Moses says, “He who is has sent me.” It was not the Father who spoke to Moses in the bush, or in the desert, but the Son.4
- SERMON 69.2. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 232). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- FRAGMENT 67. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (pp. 232–233). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- INTERPRETATION OF THE GOSPELS 26. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 233). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 1.13.83. Lienhard, J. T., & Rombs, R. J. (Eds.). (2001). Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (p. 23). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.