What’s the Difference Between Jesus and the Lawyers?

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Jesus said, “Woe to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers” (Luke 11:46).

How is Jesus different from that? (Be careful.)

Does he give us no burden to bear? That is not the difference. He does give us a burden to bear.

Is it a lighter burden? The question is ambiguous. Does it mean: Is the burden objectively lighter? Or does it mean: Though objectively heavier, is the burden experienced as lighter?

The latter. The difference between Jesus and the lawyers is that he gives us a heavier burden to bear, and then gives us his own blood-bought strength to bear it. So much so that we experience the burden as light. The lawyers “do not touch the burdens with one of [their] fingers.” Jesus wields his omnipotence to carry the one he gives.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)

There is a burden. And there is a yoke. What is it? The cross. “If anyone would come after me, let him . . . take up his cross daily” (Luke 9:23). He loads us down with the expectation that we must die to all self-saving, and all self-satisfying. Christ alone will be our savior, and our satisfaction.

There is nothing heavier. And nothing lighter. Heavier if he is only duty. Lighter if he is our delight. Lighter if we love him. Heavier if we don’t.

This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)

Not burdensome! Why? Because when we are born again we trust him to carry. Faith is the victory that overcomes the lure to save ourselves and satisfy ourselves with the world (1 John 5:4). By faith we look to the great burden-bearer for all the strength we need.

Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. (Isaiah 46:4)

The lawyers load and lift not a finger to help. Jesus loads and carries us to the end.