Mat 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) 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. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
What did Jesus mean when he spoke these words? What was the labor, how are they heavy laden, and rest… rest from what? As far as I'm concerned, these words are not spoken nearly enough to encourage the saints of God. It seems to me, that here in the 21st century, 2000 years after Jesus gave this invitation, all too many of God's children continue in meaningless labor with heavy burdens too great to bear. And when I say this, I am speaking of those who are walking daily in the Christian life. Yes, people are still laboring too much, and excessively burdened. The reason in my view is that the gospel is not properly understood, nor taught in its purity.
I think back to a quote by the theologian D. Martin Lloyd-Jones. He said “that if preachers were not being accused of being too soft on sin, they were not preaching the gospel.” Unfortunately, it is hard to find preachers in this day and time that are being accused of being too soft on sin. In evangelical orthodoxy, one of the main focuses of all preaching is sin. So, how are the saints laboring, and what are they laboring against? Sin!… I would argue that they're not laboring successfully for the most part, but they are laboring to their psychological and spiritual detriment.
I think it's fair to say, that Jesus meant that they were laboring under a legal-constitutional reading and understanding of Scripture. Why do I say that you ask?... By his use of the word yoke. Notice what Peter said in acts 15; (Act 15:10) “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” When Peter was speaking of the yoke that neither the father's nor the current generation was able to bear… He was speaking of the yoke brought on by the legal-constitutional reading of Scripture.
Think about it for a minute, when one looks at the Scripture as a legal constitutional document, it immediately takes on a burden of unbelievable proportions. James stated that if you break one of the commandments you have broken them all. This places a tremendous pressure and burden on the individual to comply with the legal letter of the law. To fulfill this in a legal constitutional way is impossible. I think we can rest assured that God never intended to have the law used in a legal constitutional way… In a way that would allow individuals to establish righteousness. That's why Paul told the Romans that the Jews, were trying to establish their own righteousness by a legal constitutional reading of Scripture and thereby overlooked the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God comes from faith in the grace and mercy of a loving father.