Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
The concept of a yoke is likely lost on many people in urban society today. It was like a harness made of wood that would be placed on an animal or pair of animals so that they could pull a plow, wagon, or some other heavy load.
Jesus offers to take our burden from us. The heavy weight from worry that we carry on our shoulders needs to be lifted. God has promised that He will never give us more than we can handle but that burden is not meant to be carried by us. When Jesus carries the burden for us, of course there is never more than we can bear.
In place of our heavy yoke, Jesus offers us His yoke. His yoke is light. Rather than stress and worry He offers us peace and comfort.
Jesus is gentle with us. Some believe that the Christian life is burdensome with rules that are meant to take away the fun of life. Instead they are meant to allow us to experience the best that life has to offer and to have joy. Jesus wants the best for us and would never place an undue burden upon us.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Jesus taught a lot about forgiveness. He said that we are not to forgive seven times but 77 times or seventy times seven. Jesus told us not to retaliate when someone strikes us but to turn the other cheek.
Of course Jesus set the example for forgiveness when dying on the cross. He asked for forgiveness for those who had persecuted Him and crucified Him.
In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus teaches us how to pray. We are told to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” To pray this prayer means to be forgiven in the way that we forgive others.
If we are unwilling to forgive others, we have no right to ask God to forgive us. God has forgiven us of all of our sins. We have no right to hold something over someone who has done us wrong.
Of course not only did Jesus set the example of forgiveness, He made forgiveness possible in the first place. Without Jesus’ death and resurrection we have no right to ask for forgiveness. But because of it we need to follow Jesus’ example and forgive others even when it is hard to do so.
In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
When we think of Christ, we most often think of His love, compassion, and forgiveness. All of these are important characteristics of Jesus. But we need to remember that these are only one side of Him.
There is such a thing as righteous anger and it is on display in the temple as Jesus drives away the money changers and salespeople. Jesus does not operate on raw emotion however. What He does is grounded in thought and truth.
Jesus is passionate about things, just like we are. While we may be passionate about music or sports, Jesus was passionate about doing what was right. When Jesus saw the temple sacrifices being turned into a money making scheme, He had to act to stop the wrongdoing.
When we think of Jesus or the attributes of God we need to remember that there is balance. While there is forgiveness there is also justice. Where there is mercy there is also vengeance.
While these characteristics may sound negative we must not put a human spin on things. Our justice is often incomplete or self serving. Our anger is usually not righteous. In Jesus they are displayed perfectly and in balance with all of His other characteristics.
“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
The innocence of Christ is not an earth shattering concept for the Christian as we believe that Jesus lived a sinless life. What is remarkable is that even those who were opposed to Him recognized that He was an innocent man.
After betraying Jesus, Judas Iscariot realized that he had sinned in betraying an innocent man. The chief priests and the elders did not argue with Judas to convince him that he was doing the right thing or convince him of Jesus’ guilt because they too knew that He was innocent.
When Pontius Pilate questioned Jesus he returned and said that he found no law that Jesus had broken. His wife sent him a message instructing him not to “have anything to do with that innocent man.”
In the end Pilate gave in to the desires of the mob and handed Jesus over to them. Before he did so however, he washed his hands and declared that he was innocent of Jesus’ blood, signifying that Jesus was indeed an innocent man and he would not be held responsible for His death.
We are capable of living lives that are exemplary enough that our friends will defend us no matter what the circumstances. It is another thing entirely to live such an exemplary life that even those who are opposed to us recognize the kind of life that we live even if they don’t like it. This was the innocence of Jesus.
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
When we think of the righteousness of Christ, probably the first thing that comes to mind is the sinlessness of Jesus. That is, after all, the reason that Christ is righteous.
Jesus’ sinlessness is important and a major part of Christian theology. What we don’t think about is how Christ’s righteousness is given to us. As the verse above says, “my righteous servant will justify many.” To justify is to make right.
Righteousness is something that God is able to transfer or give as He chooses. Genesis 15:6 tells us that this comes by faith. “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”
Today, we receive righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ and we receive grace, which is the righteousness of Christ. Grace can easily be remembered as the acronym God’s Righteousness At Christ’s Expense.
Because Jesus was righteous, we too can be righteous through our belief in Him. We are unable of living a sinless life but Jesus did it for us and paid the penalty that we deserved instead.