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Matthew 11

Chapter Eleven:

Vs. 28-30:  In Matthew 16:24, Christ says that we should take up our cross daily and follow him.  One has only to read of Christ’s literal taking up of his own physical cross to see what a dreadful image of suffering he is using in this phrase.  Yet here, he also says that his yoke is easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:28-30), which seems to contradict the spirit of the phrase “taking up the cross.”  Nevertheless, I believe the two metaphors can be reconciled.

There is one way that the metaphor of taking up the cross daily applies to believers and unbelievers alike.  Because of the fall in Eden, life is hard for all, often full of drudgery, fear, pain, sickness, and death.  In that sense, everyone has a cross to bear.  I think Christ is saying that believers should not shun whatever necessary toils or trials come our way, but rather that we should actively engage them and follow him (i.e. trust him, obey him, imitate the example he left for us of how to endure suffering faithfully).  If we do this, I believe our burdens will be made lighter by the love of God than they would have been otherwise.  This may be part of what Christ means by saying that his burden is light.  But I also believe that Christ’s burden is light because all that he asks of us is, by its nature, suited to make us truly joyful and fulfilled.  The only true joy is in loving God and in loving others as we love ourselves.  He made us that way.  God does not want us to suffer, but even our suffering turns to wisdom, growth, and goodness eventually in his hands.  Satan, on the other hand, while promising an easier and more enjoyable life, actually binds us in unbearably heavy yokes: pride, despair, inordinate and unsatisfiable desires for money, pleasure, fame, and power.[1]

There is a second application of the metaphor of taking up the cross daily, and this second application only fits believers.  Taking up the cross is not just an emblem of suffering; it is an emblem of death, and in Christ’s case, it is an emblem of self-sacrifice.  In this sense, a believer takes up his cross whenever he sacrifices the offered pleasure inherent in temptation.  Satan calls this pleasure “life” and “goodness,” but once a believer makes a sacrifice of such unlawful pleasure, he realizes the paradoxical truth of Christ’s saying: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).  Here too, the yoke of Christ is easy, although it may not seem so before one accepts it.  For an alcoholic, giving up drink may seem like giving up life itself, but life under the horrible yoke of alcohol is intolerable, whereas life under the yoke of Christ is a blessing.  See also notes on Matthew 19:19.


[1] See notes on Isaiah 57:10.

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7 Responses to “Matthew 11”

  1. […] have updated my Bible commentary to include notes on Matthew 11, attempting to reconcile the two seemingly contradictory views of Christian life as a cross (i.e., […]

  2. Ashley said

    Thanks for this post. It’s very timely for me, as lately I’ve been making a collection of seeming paradoxes of Christianity, for use as a future Bible study or sermon series. These tensions are part of what makes Christianity so rich and so real. There’s no sugar-coating in Jesus’s teaching. Following him is simultaneously a cross of self-sacrifice yet also an easy yoke. Thanks for your thoughts on these passages. I’ll add this topic to my list of beautiful Christian “paradoxes.”

  3. […] have updated my Bible commentary to include notes on Matthew 11, attempting to reconcile the two seemingly contradictory views of Christian life as a cross (i.e., […]

  4. […] [1] See notes on Matthew 11:28-30. […]

  5. […] [1] See notes on Matthew 11:28-30. […]

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