Psalm 105:5, 8-9,
“My yoke is easy and my burden light.” To the casual reader,
these words of comfort can easily have an effect opposite to that intended.
He was the Son of God. It was alright for him. Hostility
and hatred didn’t really get to him like it does to us. The nails didn’t
Jesus was referring to religion, though, and to the sometimes insufferable
loads that the Pharisees imposed on people to force punctilious observance
of their religious rules. Even today, many are attracted to positions
of power in the various Churches so that they can make gullible people jump
through their absurd ‘religious’ hoops and thereby ensure in them a habit
of dependency. Jesus was not interested in power games.
In his carpenter’s shop he would have made yokes for oxen – wooden devices
tailor-made for each animal to ensure that they would not injure the beasts’
necks. The loads put upon them were huge, but their yokes were well-fitting
and, in that sense, they made for an ‘easy’ pull.
Jesus’ burden, in dealing with his enemies, was also ‘easy’ because he knew
human nature. He knew exactly what he was up against, so although the
opposition tried to discredit him, hounded him and eventually murdered him,
he was not bewildered by it, as so often we are when life bites us.
“Stress in the workplace” is both an increasingly common phenomenon and an
illustration of this. There is a touching but naïve expectation
that working conditions – and bosses – should somehow be ‘fair.’ Because
increasing competition today makes firms cut corners (usually at the expense
of working conditions) and because, statistically, 50% of bosses are ‘below
average’ anyway, this can cause great stress. What is tragic is when
this ‘gets to’ workers and causes deep bitterness or nervous breakdowns.
There are few things sadder than hearing an old person, who should be enjoying
the evening of his life, recount again and again some injustice way back
in the past. Whether it was real or imagined doesn’t matter. Likewise,
a nervous breakdown cannot be undone. These unfortunate people had
unreasonable expectations of human nature; they did not see that their yokes
were correctly adjusted, so in the end the loads they tried to carry broke
The vilification that Jesus received did sting. The nails did hurt.
But he knew roughly what to expect. He also knew that humankind, though
instinctively selfish and aggressive, was made for God and, through
grace, is capable of astonishing things. That’s why the load he bore did
not break him.
If we who are “exhausted and weighed down” will learn from him, then the
sometimes insufferable burden of having to put up with other members of the
human race will become ‘easy.’ After all, they put up with us.
Jesus’ promise is a sobering one, but they are words of genuine comfort.