In 1 John 5:3-4 John makes what seems, on the face of it, to be a
ridiculous claim: the commands of God are not burdensome.
What? Has John
not read the Old Testament, with its 613 commandments? Was he not there
for the Sermon on the Mount, complete with Jesus’ proclamation that his
followers are required to be perfect, just as their father in heaven is
perfect? As if those laws weren’t burdensome enough, we could add all
of the self-imposed Christian commandments, like the kinds of movies we
allow ourselves to watch (maybe a swear word or two is okay, but nudity
isn’t), the cars we drive (we like nice things as much as the next
person, but we don’t want to be showy, do we?), or even the expressions
on our faces (we want to be cheerful, to show people what a good life
Christ has given us). We are burdened…perhaps more than anyone.
The idea that God’s commandments are not burdensome seems to
diametrically oppose our experience: to us, they feel super burdensome.
And yet, we do have Jesus offer of an easy yoke and a lightened
burden. He does promise rest. But how does that work? How do the
obviously burdensome commandments of life become not burdensome? How is
it that Jesus’ yoke is easy when he is the one asking us to be perfect?
The answer, though incredibly profound, is actually quite simple.
Though the commandments are indeed burdensome, that burden has been laid
on the shoulders of another. Jesus Christ, who demands that we be
perfect, achieves perfection in our place. Jesus Christ, the culmination
of the Old Testament story, fulfills the Old Testament laws. That same
weight that threatens to break our backs actually did crush our savior.
The weights that we bear every day are simply aftershocks of our human
attempts to save ourselves. The weights we feel are a phantom; they’ve
already been taken to the cross, carried up the Via Dolorosa on Christ’s
back. We are free. We are, in Christ, unburdened.
This is true today, and every day.