No, I did not forget punctuation in the headline. I’m not advising Jesus to put a saddle on a horse as if we’re in some Western movie about to head out to wrangle some cattle, like, “Saddle up, Jesus!” Nor did I use incorrect or insufficient words, as in “Sidle up next to Jesus.” No, I meant exactly what I wrote because I think many of us are guilty of wanting to do just that – throw a saddle on Jesus’ back. Allow me to explain.
In Matthew 11: 25-30, Jesus calls out to “all who labor and are heavy laden” to come to him, which is all of us. We are all bidden by the Lord of Creation to “come” to him and “find rest for [our] souls.” It’s really an amazing offer; but, there’s a caveat – that we must take Jesus’ yoke upon ourselves and learn from him. He does promise, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light;” but, the implication seems to be that we shoulder some of the burden. It’s been said about this concept of the “easy” yoke that it means the yoke is fit to us to make wearing it as comfortable as it can be. The other element here is the yoke, which is intended to bring two animals together to help (or force) them to work together in unison. The good news for us is that when we submit to Jesus’ yoke, we are not just yoked by him, but we are yoked with him, and, as the strong one, he bears the majority of the burden. This is not to say we have to work in order to be saved, so please don’t misunderstand me. The burden(s) being borne here can be taken as life in general, and the work of the kingdom more specifically (which can mean missions, church planting, serving in church, God-centered parenting, etc.). Jesus certainly cares about both.
Here’s the part though where want to “saddle up Jesus.” Rather than submitting to His yoke, we’d rather throw a saddle on him and just sit back, relax, and “let go and let God.” Or, even more telling of our desire to be at ease and in control, we also want to put a bit in His mouth and turn him wherever we wish. If we’re really honest, we’d prefer to saddle Jesus than to be yoked with him. In our pride and desire for comfort, we’d prefer a method of getting through life where Jesus does all the burden-bearing while we get all the benefits of health, wealth and prosperity in this life, and eternal bliss in the next.
However, this contradicts not only this passage of Scripture, but also many others. For example, Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” James 2:26 says, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 also says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
This is the great paradox Matthew 11: finding rest in labor. The key is to make sure we are truly learning from Jesus how to both work and rest His way. We can do many “Christian” things in our own strength … until our strength fails (which it will). We can do a lot of nothing and say we’re “resting in the Lord” and yet fail to what God intended for us to do. The tension between work and rest can only be resolved by knowing and resting in Jesus and working, yoked along side the one who is both stronger and wiser. The only way to know Jesus is to be with Him in prayer and reading the Bible (and not just what He wants from us – commands, rules, etc. – but knowing His character). In summary, we all need to read our Bibles more and look for not only the “what,” but the “who.” This is the only way we can rest and work simultaneously.