His Yoke is Easy and His Burden is Light - Radical

His Yoke is Easy and His Burden is Light

If we assume that the Christian life should be carefree and filled with uninterrupted joy, we are likely to be shaken when reality hits. The truth is, in a fallen world, faith can be hard and our burdens can be heavy. Gratefully, Jesus knows life in the real world, and he knows what we most need—his grace and his power. In this message by David Platt from Matthew 11:30, we hear Jesus call the weary and heavy laden to himself to find rest. He reminds us that his yoke and his burden is light.

If you have a Bible—and I hope you or somebody around you does that you can look on with—let me invite you to open with me to Matthew 11:28–30. Jesus is speaking here to a crowd of people who were feeling heavy-hearted and weighed down by the burdens of life, including the burdens of religion trying to do this or that to please God. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” What does that mean? Here’s the truth we’re going to see, then I want to unpack it phrase by phrase: When faith is hard and burdens are heavy, Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light. Just let that soak in. 

Faith can be hard.

The concept of this passage in Matthew 11 is fascinating and revealing. Jesus is speaking to crowds who are feeling weighed down—not just in their lives, but in their faith—by rules and regulations religious leaders are piling on them. Even before that, at the beginning of this chapter, Jesus just talked about the greatest prophet ever, the man whom Jesus called the greatest man ever born—John the Baptist. Yet John’s faith was struggling. Look back at Matthew 11:2–3. The Bible says, “When John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” John had been thrown into prison and had likely been there a while. He was perplexed. What’s going on? What is Jesus doing?

John is basically saying, “I believe you’re the Messiah. I’ve been pointing people to you. But I’m starting to wonder if are you really the one, or not.” I want you to think about this with me. This is so important. This is John the Baptist, the greatest prophet ever, who’s asking questions and struggling with doubt in his faith

Sometimes we can think, “Well, if I have questions about my faith, if I struggle with doubt, there’s something wrong with me.” Some might even think, “If I have doubts, maybe I’m not even a Christian.” But that’s not true. Doubt is a part of everyone’s faith journey. I can think of numerous conversations I’ve had with people who have walked with God for years, even decades and have hit points in their lives when they’ve said to me, “David, I’m struggling with my faith,” or, “I’m struggling with doubt.”

I’m reminded of a quote from Alastair McGrath, an Irishman with a brilliant mind who has debated all kinds of non-Christians about the truths of Christianity. He once wrote, “Doubt is natural within faith. It comes because of our human weakness and frailty.” Then he contrasts doubt with unbelief. He says, “Unbelief is the decision to live your life as if there is no God. It’s a deliberate decision to reject Jesus Christ and all that he stands for. But doubt is something quite different. Doubt arises within the context of faith. It is a wistful longing to be sure of the things in which we trust.”

Likewise John MacArthur pointed out when the New Testament talks about doubt—whether you’re talking about the Gospels or the Epistles—it primarily focuses on believers. It’s as if you have to believe something before you can doubt it. You have to be committed to it before you can begin to question it. So doubt is held up as the unique problem of the believer.

Can I take that one step further? It’s not just believers, but pastors. Even Charles Spurgeon, one of my favorite preachers in history, said, “Some of us who have preached God’s Word for years and have been the means of working faith in others and of establishing them in the knowledge of the fundamental doctrines of the Bible, have nevertheless been the subject of the most fearful and violent doubts as to the truth of the very gospel we have preached.”

All this to say, faith can be hard and doubt can be a part of the faith journey. When we think about faith that is hard, it’s particularly difficult situations that cause us to doubt. Think about what was contributing to John’s doubt in our passage. John has been pointing people to Jesus and look at what and where it got him: Shame. Hunger. Physical torment. Emotional struggles. Now he’s sitting alone in prison. 

Difficult situations and unmet expectations. Remember what the Old Testament said about the Messiah. He will proclaim liberty to the captives, the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Isaiah 61:1). Doesn’t feel like that was happening for John. On top of that, most Jewish people thought the Messiah would overthrow Roman rule, but the Romans were still oppressing the Jewish people at this point. And on top of all that, John had limited perception. In other words, he had all kinds of questions about why this or that was happening and he didn’t have an answer. 

The reality is, we all experience doubts for these same reasons—when we encounter difficult situations, when life is hard at home, at school, with family, with friends, mental struggles, emotional struggles, relational struggles. Sometimes it feels like all of the above. And unmet expectations? Maybe we tried trusting God for a little while, but it doesn’t seem like anything is getting better. Maybe things actually get worse, so we begin to doubt if God is even there. Or if he is there, does God actually care?. “God, I think you’re good, but I find myself immersed in or surrounded by what seems so bad. Why won’t this struggle end?

Which leads right into our limited perception. We don’t understand why. We ask that question a lot. Now don’t miss this picture here with John the Baptist. John had no idea how this story of Jesus the Messiah was going to play out. He had no idea if God was ushering in a totally different type of kingdom that was more than just a political regime change. God was ushering in redemption for the entire world. But John didn’t know that. His perspective was small. 

Whenever we go through difficult situations with unmet expectations and questions begin to rise within us, we often ask is God real? Is God great? Is God good? Is God there? Does God care? We need to remember that our perspective is always limited. We have no idea all that God is doing.

I was talking with someone in between our gatherings today about the cutest little 18-month-old in the world named Mercy. At the same time we were talking about still waiting to adopt our son from overseas. We’ve been waiting for three and a half years. Even in that conversation, it was really clear that we had no idea what God was doing in the waiting to go get our son from China, yet how He provided this precious little girl in our family here. 

God has power to take that which is broken and hard and bring about beauty. The question we struggle with in the brokenness is why. We don’t always see why. Faith is hard. 

As I was studying this passage in the middle of the night, it made me think about another passage before this in Matthew 7. Look at what Jesus said before this to his disciples in his famous Sermon on the Mount. Listen to Matthew 7:13–14: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” 

Did you hear that? Jesus is saying in Matthew 11, “My yoke is easy.” Before we get dive in there, we also need to hear Jesus saying, “The way is hard.” The way of following Jesus is hard which is why many people don’t follow it. Only a relative few do. Why? Because it’s hard. 

Let’s look at a few more verses from Matthew to show how hard following Jesus is. In Matthew 10:16 Jesus tells his disciples this: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” Well, that’s hard. If you’re a sheep, the last place you go wandering into is a pack of wolves. You have no defense mechanism. Your only response mechanism is to run—and you’re slow. That’s not good news. You’re not thinking, “Oh, this is awesome. Our pack of sheep is going to be in the middle of a pack of wolves like sheep.”

Jesus keeps going and says this: “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” Does that sound easy? No. 

Skip down to verse 21: “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When” —not if— “they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.” That doesn’t sound easy either. 

Jump down to Matthew 10:38. Jesus says, “And whoever does not take his cross” —an instrument of torture and death— “and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Lose your life. That’s not an easy way. 

We could keep going all the way to the end of Matthew and the verses we quote to each other at the end of our worship gatherings, Matthew 28:18–20:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Is making disciples easy? Is it easy for you to go into your workplace this week, share the gospel and lead people to become followers of Jesus? No! Is it easy to do that in your school? Is it easy to do that in this city? Is it easy to go to the nations where it’s difficult if not dangerous to make disciples? Then think about the phrase “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Think about all Jesus commands us to do.

We were recently talking with the students and teenagers about difficult things. In a sexually confused and sexually obsessed culture, the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 4:3–5, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” That is hard in this culture for teenagers—and for adults. 

Along with so many other commands, we could list many more from the Bible that go totally against the grain of our culture, including what we studied in Mark 12 a couple weeks ago that summarizes all the commandments. Remember what Jesus said was the greatest commandment? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s hard to love God with all we have and to love all our neighbors as ourself.  

So are you convinced that faith is hard? Just in case you’re not convinced, think about the passage we were planning to be in today, Mark 14. Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, agonizing to the point of sweating blood over obedience to the Father’s will that’s about to lead him to the cross. There is a very real sense in which faith was hard for Jesus himself in that moment. 

Burdens are heavy.

There are days and nights and seasons that sometimes last for a long time, when faith is hard for all of us, when burdens are heavy. I trust I don’t need to belabor this. We all know how burdens in this world can weigh us down on so many levels and in so many ways. School, work, jobs, responsibilities. Financial burdens. Physical burdens, sickness, disease, pain. Emotional burdens like anxiety, depression, obsessive thoughts, despair. Relationship burdens with family or friends. Even religious burdens. Again, that’s part of the context here in Matthew 11: people weighed down with thinking they’re never doing enough. 

So many people live with an underlying low-level, or maybe even high-level, sense of guilt or shame over things done in the past, over failure to do certain things in the present, over non-confidence in the future. If you weren’t feeling burdened already, maybe now you are. But that’s the point. Burdens in this world are real and heavy.

As a simple reminder, Jesus told us this would be the case so we shouldn’t be surprised. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation.” That’s a promise. Then he goes on to say, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” So that’s the good news. But here’s the bad news: you will have trials. 

So anyone who is surprised by ongoing trials that don’t go away is not reading the Bible. Jesus told us we would have tribulations and trials. We live in a fallen world. We’re not perfect people. Nobody else is perfect. The world isn’t perfect. We will all have tribulation and the burdens will be heavy. 

Now we’re about to come to the good news. I promise, we’re about to get there. But I do want to pause here and point out that the Bible doesn’t gloss over the bad news. The Bible is not some fairy tale book that pretends everything is great in this world, that life is stress-free, that there’s always a neat and tidy bow on everything. No. The Bible is making clear that life in this fallen world is hard. It’s a mess on many days. And not just life, but faith in a fallen world is hard, burdens are real, painful and heavy to bear. 

Jesus’ yoke is easy.

So now, here’s the good news that I pray you will hear and see and live in this today. This is why I wanted to share this passage with you today. When faith is hard and burdens are heavy, Jesus’ yoke is easy. Some of you are already thinking, “Well, that sounds like fantasy. How is that possible? What does that even mean?” 

Starting in verse 28, Jesus is  saying, “Take my yoke upon you…” He is using imagery of oxen who are yoked together for the purpose of carrying weight. Sometimes farmers would take a weaker ox and put him in a yoke with a stronger ox. Then the strong ox can carry the load and the weak ox can learn to follow and trust the stronger ox.

Let me share  an illustration I gave at camp. Everyone in the camp was split into recreation teams and one of the team names was “Join ‘The Rock’ Johnson Team.” So I said to them, “Imagine getting into a yoke with this guy. You’re not going to say, “Rock, I got this. I’ll carry us.”  You’re going to say, “Rock, I’m going to let you take the lead on this one.” 

That’s the picture Jesus is giving here, except Jesus is infinitely greater, infinitely strong than “The Rock” Johnson. We’re talking Jesus here—God in the flesh. The one who spoke and the world came into being. The one who upholds the universe by the word of his power. The one who is saying to you, “I’m inviting you to get in the yoke with me and I will carry your load.” Jesus is not saying, “Hey, let’s do this 50-50 arrangement. I’ll pull my part, you pull yours. I’ll help you, you help me.” No, Jesus doesn’t need your help. He’s God. Jesus is saying, “I will carry this weight with you and for you.” 

In other words, you can’t carry it on your own. Faith is hard; you can’t do it on your own. Burdens in this world are heavy; you can’t carry them on your own. So Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden. Get in the yoke with me.” Even this picture is not perfect because when you get in the yoke with Jesus, when you unite your life with him and you go all in with Jesus, he doesn’t just come beside you. Jesus comes to live inside you.

Listen to Colossians 1:27–29: “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” 

Do you see this? Paul is toiling. He’s struggling. Another time Paul uses this word ‘toil’ is in 2 Corinthians 11 when he talks about being imprisoned and beaten with rods, often near death, stoned, shipwrecked three times, in danger from rivers and robbers, in danger from Jewish people and Gentile people, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, “in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, and cold and exposure.” 

Paul is saying, “Faith is hard. If my burdens are heavy, I’m toiling. I’m struggling.” How? “With all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” With all his energy inside me. Don’t miss this.  The yoke is easy for you when you have Jesus’ supernatural power in you. It is life changing to realize this. The yoke isn’t easy because the way is easy. We’ve already seen that. The way is hard. Life and faith in a fallen world is hard. But everything changes when you come into the yoke with Jesus and realize you don’t have to do it on your own. You’re in the yoke with Jesus, but Jesus isn’t just beside you. Jesus inside you. 

So many professing Christians don’t realize that when you put your faith in Jesus, something wonderful happens. When you put your faith in Jesus, God forgives you of all your sin, and…. So there’s an ‘and’ here. He doesn’t just forgive you of all your sin. God forgive you of all your sin and he fills you with his Spirit. God put his Holy Spirit inside of you to comfort you (John 14,) to strengthen you (Philippians 4), to give you wisdom whenever you need it (James 1 and 3), to give you victory over temptation (Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 10), to help you with doubts and questions  you struggle with. Just read entire Bible books like Job and Habakkuk that are filled with questions. Jesus empowers you to share the gospel and make disciples of all the nations (Acts 1 and 2). 

In other words, you don’t have to fight the fight of faith on your own. Jesus is in you to fight for you. You don’t have to carry burdens alone. Jesus is in you, for you, saying at every moment, “Cast your cares on me because I do care for you. I care for you so much that I put my Holy Spirit inside you. I don’t just comfort you; I put the Comforter inside you. I don’t just give you wisdom; I put the Spirit of wisdom inside you. I don’t just give you help; I put the Helper inside you. I don’t just give you guidance; I put the Guide in you. I put my strength in you. I put my hope in you.” Jesus does not guarantee that the way will get easier in this world, but he does guarantee you will have power that is beyond this world, no matter what this world brings.

His burden is light.

If you’ll trust Jesus—if you’ll step into the yoke with him—the way will be hard but his yoke is easy and his burden is light. We just looked at the commands of Jesus being hard. So if I, if you, if we get in the yoke with Jesus to follow his commands, how is that a light burden? That’s a great question and it leads us to another verse later in the Bible—1 John 5:3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” Based on this verse, I want you to see why Jesus’ commands are not a burden. Think about this with me. You’ve got to see this. Jesus’ commands would be a heavy burden to us if one of two things were true—or if both of these things were true. 

First, Jesus’ commands would be a heavy burden is you couldn’t carry that burden. If I gave you 500 pounds of weight and said, “Hold this over your head for the next hour,” that would be a heavy burden for you. Why? Because you wouldn’t be able to do it. 

Jesus gives you supernatural power to carry out his commands. We’ve already covered this when it comes to being in the yoke with Jesus. One reason the burden is light is because you can actually carry them all by the power of Jesus inside you. You can be pure in this world. You can share the gospel with this world. You can say no to sin. You can endure through suffering, because the one who conquered all sin and Satan and death itself is living in you. That makes this burden light. 

So follow this. The second reason that Jesus’ commands would be a heavy burden is if you didn’t want to obey them. So even if you can, if you don’t want to it’s still a burden. I asked this at camp: “How many of you teenagers know what it’s like to receive a command from your parents to do something around the house that feels like a burden to you?” Across the room, 100% of them have experienced that. And the reality is, 100% of all of us have also. We’ve all been told to do something we don’t want to do and it feels like a burden when that happens. 

So in a similar way, if Jesus gives you commands that you don’t want to do, then that will feel like a burden to you. But this is where 1 John 5 is so, so, so important. Follow this. The commandments of Jesus are not a burden. Why? Because God is love. When we realize God is love, then we will realize his commands are light. They’re not a burden. The burden is light for you when you realize how lovely Jesus is and how much he loves you. That’s when the burden will be light. 

Let me illustrate this by telling you about my relationship with the most beautiful woman in the world—my wife. I want you to imagine her standing up here next to me right now. I told her I would not embarrass her by bringing her up here and making her stand here while I say the things I’m about to say. But just imagine her right here. I remember the first time I ever saw her. I was a rising junior in high school, she was a rising senior in high school. She came to our church the week before our summer camp and I remember seeing her across the room. I even remember what she was wearing. That Sunday, the friend who invited her to church invited her to come to camp—and she came. That week at camp, she met Jesus and her life was totally changed. And she also met me which was nowhere near as important as meeting Jesus, but pretty important to me. 

I was afraid to talk to her. I never had a girlfriend. Didn’t know how to talk to girls. She graciously took the initiative to talk to me and I fell for her. We started dating soon thereafter, but then I blew it. I got busy with other things, then talking on the phone and trying to get together with her felt like a burden. So I broke up with her. Biggest mistake of my life. I was so dumb. But once I realized my mistake, I realized how lovely she was and how much I wanted to be with her. I started flirting with her in every way I could think of to get her back. I would do anything she wanted me to do. 

I remember there was one particular church youth event we were at. We were having pizza, because that’s what you have at every youth event known to man. I don’t even know how it happened, but she dared me to eat a whole large Papa John’s pizza. I was like, “Okay!” So I just started downing this thing. I brought the box back to her, totally embarrassed. I was like, “Look, I did it.” For some reason that impressed her. I don’t know why. But I remember in that moment, my stomach was heavy but the burden was not heavy. It was light. As long as she was smiling, it didn’t matter what was in my stomach. 

So that began a process where finally I won her over and we started dating. For the next four years, through college, I would plan dates. I would write letters. This was before you could text or send an email. I used these things called pens and paper, wrote letter and sent them to her. I would give her gifts. We would hang out. And you know what? None of that was a heavy burden to me. Then eventually I asked her to marry me. Here’s a picture from our wedding day.

I stood with her in the front of a church and we yoked our lives with each other. Talk about major commitment! We were committing our lives to each other, including everything until we die. You know what? It was not a heavy burden. For the last 24 years, I’ve still planned dates, given gifts, written poems. None of that’s a burden to me. Do you know why? Because my wife is lovely. She’s beautiful and she loves me. And I love the way she loves me. There’s like a whole song about that. Marriage is not a heavy burden—it’s light. Why? Because my wife is lovely, she loves me and I love her. It’s not like, “Uh, I’ve got to write a poem. Ah, what do I do? Let me try to churn one out.” No!

So now, let’s make the parallel for a moment here. Imagine now, not Heather standing next to me, but Jesus standing right next to me right now. As soon as I imagine this, I think, “Okay, my wife is great. But Jesus? He’s infinitely greater than she is. My wife is lovely. But Jesus? He is love. He defines love. He’s perfect love, in a way that my wife—as great as she is—could never be, not even close. He’s God and he loves me. He made me. He formed me in my mother’s womb. He knows me inside and out, which means he knows what is best for me, far better than I can ever know. So when he tells me to do something, when I realize how lovely he is and how much he loves me, I don’t hear what he’s telling me to do as a heavy burden. “Oh, I have to do this?” No. I want to do this. This changes everything.

Too many professing Christians, including many of you today, view Christianity as a list of burdensome commands to follow. Do this. Avoid that. Flee this. Do that. You don’t really want to do many of those commands. They feel like burdens to you: be pure, stop doing this or that in this world, read the Bible, get up and pray, fast, give sacrificially. You think, “I guess I should do them because I’m supposed to. I don’t want to go to hell.” That is not biblical Christianity. That is cultural Christianity and it is leaving so many of you completely empty, apathetic and emotionless in your faith. It’s leaving you with a faith that feels like a burden to you. 

This passage today is calling you and me to wake up and see how lovely Jesus is. He’s infinitely better than anyone or anything—than everyone and everything—in this world put together. He loves you so much. Let this soak in right where you are sitting. He made you. He formed you. He knows you inside and out, which means he knows what is best for you. So when he tells you to do something, open your eyes and realize how lovely he is. 

Frankly, some of you—and I mean this in the kindest way possible—are like dumb David Platt, breaking up with the most beautiful girl in the world. Not to compare Jesus to a teenage crush, but some of you are going through your lives with Jesus and his Word right in front of you, but you’re totally missing it. You’re apathetic and indifferent toward him. You come to church with your arms figuratively—maybe even literally—crossed, emotionless, doing this religious routine on Sundays here or there, but you desperately need to open your eyes and see the one who’s in front of you, who’s speaking to your heart right now. The God who is love loves you. If you would realize how lovely he is and how much he loves you, then you will realize it’s not a burden to obey him—it is a blessing. 

It’s not a burden for me to talk to my wife. No. I want to talk to my wife. It’s not a heavy burden to pray. You’ll want to pray. You get to talk to God, who hears your prayers and responds to your prayers in his power, in his wisdom, in his love for you. 

I couldn’t wait to get a letter from Heather. Why? Because I’m in a love relationship with her. It’s not like you have to read the Word. You’ll want to read it because you’re in a love relationship with God. He speaks to you. You’ll want to know what he says. And not just read it; you’ll want to memorize it, soak it in and apply it to your life.

To be clear, this world does not love you. This world is giving you a million messages all week long that are trying to pull you away from this relationship with God, promising that’s going to be good for you. It’s not. No, you’re made for a relationship with the one who made you. So when you hear this world saying, “Hoard money for yourself,” or, “Live your life for yourself,” or, “Pursue sexual immorality in this way or that way,” and Jesus is saying, “Pursue purity. Give sacrificially. Live radically.” That doesn’t sound like a burden to you, because you’re radically in love with the one who is supremely lovely and who loves you like nobody else ever could. 

This changes everything about the Christian life and I’m convinced many Christians are totally missing it. The burden of being with Jesus, following Jesus, is light. Why? Because he’s infinitely lovely and he loves you infinitely. So do you see it now? When faith is hard and burdens are heavy, Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light. That is breathtaking, life-changing truth, if you’ll receive it. 

Let’s make the connection here with where we landed last week—the stories of martyrs, men, women and teenagers who gave their lives for their faith. Many of you thought, “I don’t know if I could do that. I don’t know if I could look in the eyes of my family or friends and be willingly burned at the stake. Talk about hard faith and a heavy burden. How could they do that?”

Here’s how. They were in the yoke with Jesus, no matter what it cost, because they knew that the reward was worth it. They were not content to be cultural Christians. They were actually in the yoke with Christ. And just as Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane said, “Not my will but yours be done. You’re worthy of my life,” these martyrs said, “Not my will but yours be done. You’re worthy of my life.” 

I pray that God will raise up a church full of teenagers and adults who are willing to say, “Jesus, no matter what it means, I’m in the yoke with you, all the way. I know the way will be hard and the burdens will be heavy.” 

Know that this yoke will be easy, because the supernatural power of Jesus will be in you. Know this burden will be light, because he is lovely and he loves you so much.

Observation: What does the passage say?

1) Read Matthew 11:28-30 aloud as a group. Let group members share observations. Try not to move into interpretation of the passage or application of what you read quite yet. Simply share what you observe.

  • What do you think, sense, or feel when you see or hear Jesus’ words in verse 28?
  • What does Jesus promise you in verse 29 and what do you have to do to receive the promise?
  • What stands out to you in verse 30? What do you think Jesus means by His yoke and burden?
  • How would you summarize Matthew 11:28-30 in your own words?

Interpretation: What does the passage mean?

1) Why did John the Baptist come to doubt whether Jesus was the Messiah? (See Matthew 11:2-3) What is the significance of John’s doubt? How does doubt work in the context of a proper Christian life?

2) Why does Jesus want us to come to Him (Matthew 11:28)? Does Jesus offer us a life without toil or trouble after we come to Him? (See John 16:33) What are some tribulations we face? How does Jesus provide us rest?

3) How does Jesus take our burden when we take His yoke upon us (Matthew 11:29)? What can we learn from or about Jesus that can ease our burden? What does Jesus mean when he offers rest for our souls in this world and in the next?

4) How can Jesus’ yoke be easy (Matthew 11:30), if the path (way) is hard? (See Matthew 7:13-14; 10:16-18; 21-23; 38-39) How are we privy to Jesus’ supernatural power and how does the Spirit strengthen us? (For further study, see John 14, Philippians 4, James 1 and 3, Romans 8, and 1 Corinthians 10) How does relying on Jesus make the yoke easy even when the way is hard?

Application: How can we apply this passage to our lives?

1) In our humanness, doubts are a part of everyone’s faith journey.

  • When have difficult situations caused you to doubt or fear?
  • When have unmet expectations led you to question God?
  • When has limited perception of God and His Word made you prone to wander away from Him? 
  • When does your faith become so hard that it feels like a burden?

2) The yoke is easy for you when you have Jesus’ supernatural power in you.

  • Where are you relying on self or others alone to carry your burdens?
  • How can you rely more on Jesus?
  • What challenges do you have right now that you need to submit to Jesus, for which your Church Group can pray?

3) The burden is light for you when you realize how lovely Jesus is and how much He loves you.

  • When have you concretely felt the love of Jesus in your life?
  • How does Jesus’ love for you lighten your load?
  • Considering who Jesus is and what He’s done for you, how can following His way not be a burden for you, but be easy for you?
  • With whom can you share Jesus’ love this week, so they too can get on the path to be relieved of the burdens of life that can trap us?

When faith is hard and burdens are heavy, Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light.

  • Faith can be hard – doubt can be a part of our faith journey when we encounter difficult situations, unmet expectations, and when our limited perception clouds our judgment.
  • Jesus’ yoke is easy, and his way is hard. His burden is light upon us, but when taking His path, our burdens can be heavy.
  • The yoke is easy for you when you have Jesus’ supernatural power in you.
  • Jesus doesn’t guarantee that the way will get easier in this world, but He does guarantee you will have power that is beyond this world…if you’ll trust in Him.
  • The burden is light for you when you realize how lovely Jesus is and how much He loves you.

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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