I am having difficulty reconciling a tension that I see in the teachings of Jesus.

In Matthew 11:28--30 Jesus tells us

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

(all verses herein have been taken from NRSV). However, in Luke 9:23 Jesus also tells us

23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Similarly, in Luke 14:25--33 Jesus tells us the cost of discipleship

25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

So on one hand, Jesus' yoke is easy and his burden his light. On the other hand, we are also given the serious and austere command to take up our cross--which is very heavy. In Romans 8:17, even Paul seems to suggest that we need to share in Christ's sufferings

17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

In Mere Christianity, Lewis suggests that this tension is reconciled by devoting every aspect of our life to God, but this interpretation doesn't seem obvious to me. It seems like there should be an easier, more apparent way of reconciling these passages. If the Bible is God's word (as I believe it is), then why isn't easier to understand?

I have searched this forum, and have been unable to find any answers that directly address the tension to which I am referring.

I would be very grateful to anyone who can shed some light on this matter.

  • 1
    Welcome to the website. It is not for me to specify, exactly, but your question - if focused on a single, particular text - may be either more suitable, or may be also suitable, for the other site on Stack Exchange - Bible Hermeneutics.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 7, 2019 at 14:11
  • Thank you very much for the suggestion. I may cross-list it there, if possible. Jun 7, 2019 at 14:17
  • To answer this question would take too long. I spent a good six or seven years wrestling with this very question. It is important. I found my answer piece by piece reading "The Normal Christian Life" by Watchman Nee, "Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret", The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer, "Practicing the Presence of Christ" by Brother Lawrence, and by memorizing the Sermon on the Mount, especially the section on the Golden Rule. Matthew 5-7 was what finally opened my eyes. Bearing the cross is hard until it becomes easy. Jul 7, 2019 at 22:24

2 Answers 2


Apparently, your question should be in the form of : what do X denomination think about the doctrine of Y. Then a worthy of the said denomination would come up and say he had the chops to understand your question, and knows where to find it in the teachings of the denomination you referred to because he belonged to it, and had paid his dues , spent the required amount of time and energy to do so. He would then trot out the required citations, and there would be no dispute: he has only pointed you to the resource, which is the official, authorised view of that denomination. It's a bit like wiki, but the duplication of posts is more, because a Google search would not be as fruitful here as it would be in wiki , say for a topic like grace, which is the opposite of works, which has puzzled you, because grace would be listed as grace in wiki, but would be tagged as free salvation , easy yoke, here. In other words, common headings versus personalised, variegated headings.

Let's forget about the difficulties the site has in labeling the sections, as well as the limits of denominational doctrines in answering your questions. Let's work out the problem by first studying what the text meant to its writer in his time, and what it means for us today. We can then check it with how the topic is clarified by other passages dealing with the same issues.

It's no puzzle that the Christian life is a difficult one, and intentionally so. The goal is to live it so that when done well, can cause people to wonder how it was possible. And conclude the obvious, that God had been involved with what He desired His creatures to do.

John 3:1Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”


Joshua 2:11When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

The same people who witnessed the demonstrations thus were also motivated to turn and become followers of God.

This leads us to believe that God wants us to live difficult lives so that when He protects us, people are turned to follow God. That is why Jesus required His followers to pick up crosses every day. And that is why He Himself did it every day, when He confronted the religious leaders.

Now to explore why Jesus taught that His burden was light. Notice an interesting feature in the teachings where the requirements asked of believers were very difficult. The bold formatting is mine:

Luke 14:25Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29“Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31“Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32“Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33“So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.


Matthew 19:3Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” 4And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? 6“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” 7They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” 8He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” 11 But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.

In both these instances, the instruction is to make a sacrifice: give up all your possessions, do not marry. But a way out is also provided: make terms of peace, excuse yourself from not marrying, because you have not been given the gift of celibacy.

Does that mean that those who do not give up their possessions or do not marry will receive different rewards? Or that they will not be saved? Or that they will be saved any way?

We have to understand that sometimes, obedience is limited by circumstances. The thief on the cross may have been willing to make all the required sacrifices, but couldn't because of the circumstances. However, he was still promised the reward of going to heaven. No pressure. Thus making the burden light.

From this, we can conclude that being willing to make the sacrifices when the circumstances allowed, is the criterion for salvation. And when the understanding of the purpose of picking up crosses is reached, believers are often given the privilege of sharing in Christ's ministry, entering the kingdom of God, by God making it EASY to make the sacrifice. This is also why the burden is light. God does the heavy lifting.

This is why He said that what is impossible for man is possible with God:

Matthew 19:23And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

This last topic is very large in itself, probably requiring a separate thread, and not asked by you, and would throw up information that may distract from the topic at hand, so I hope that by avoiding it, and sticking to the material provided, I DID give the answer for the question you DID ask.

All Scripture from the NASB

  • Heh, thanks for pointing out how off topic the question is!
    – Peter Turner
    Nov 4, 2019 at 22:12

Thank you for your question, I think it is actually a good question to put ourselves into. About what Jesus's teaching is all about, and how can we live out our life that is glorifying to God. As I reflect my life upon it, I came to a simple thought that I hope that may help you.

I think we must come to understand our purpose in life. In this world that full of darkness and lawlessness, for what reason we live in this world, and to understand that Jesus has been giving encouragement and promises that comforts us, in trials, in difficulties, in persecutions and so on. To grow in Jesus Christ also means that we must allow ourselves to be exposed to the storm of life, trials and challenges.

Christian, or to say, disciples of Jesus Christ, are those who follow Jesus' teaching. Our only purpose in life is to fulfill God's Will and his purposes.

In Luke 9:23,

23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

The daily cross represents trials and challenges in our lives, explicitly talking about the trials we face when we are doing God's Will. Jesus came and gave us Salvation, a gift of eternal life, and he has given commands to us that, as his disciples, we must do the same, the share the gospel to the world. Many unbelievers will come and try to give a hard time to those who shares gospel. Why? Simply because the Satan is deceiving the people, that Satan doesn't want the truth to be shared.

In these trials and temptation that Satan has led us into, I would explain in one situation to make a clearer picture of what I meant:

Say you have come to a church, and stayed here for several months. You join the Sunday Service even the Fellowship. And you enjoyed it, because you just sits there alone and enjoy all the programme that has been prepared by other people.

So one fine day, the pastor approach you and invited you to take up a serving position in the church. The next thing you realised is that you are sitting in a meeting, and the committee are discussing about the programme of the coming fellowship. One way or another, you started to find out that some of the people who serves in the church are less "friendly" as you expected. Some are even having very tight tension among other people who serves. You started to realised that, the relationship between men in the church are broken. Sooner or later, the trouble maker came to you and started to squeeze you and give pressure to you in your serving. And you were stressed about it, and told the pastor that you decided not to serve anymore.

Story Ends

The trouble maker I mentioned could be a pastor, a church leader, or someone who have high position, or anyone you men in your serving. I have been to many churches and see many cases, where there are always some people who have their pride inside, and doesn't allow those who were less superior that him/her to do decision or even say anything in a church serving.

These people, the "trouble makers" are one of the trials that we, as the disciples of Jesus face everyday. There is no way to avoid it, I believe God has placed different kind of people surrounding us, to test us, to give us chance to grow. And to share the gospel of those who have broken relationship with God.

And the daily cross means that, in our daily life. We must deny ourselves, get off the pride in ourselves, and in exchange, we focus on Jesus in our prayers and devotional time, to renew ourselves. Because we have trials to face.

But take courage, as Jesus said in Luke 28,

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

When you have taken the cross and serve Jesus, you come to realise that: Serving People is Difficult!

And this moment, Jesus asked us to come to Him. Those who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, meaning that we are stressed and find no way in dealing the problems on our own. Neither can we just kick the Trouble Maker out of the church, or try hard to rebuke him at what he has done wrong. But one thing we can do is:

To surrender to our God.

Because at the end of the day, all the things that we do, we only participate it, and in partnership with God.

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:8-10

You see, God has already prepare everything for us, the work has done by God, in all many different ministry. God have entrusted us the work to us, and we do it not because we are trying to earn our salvation, we do it solely because we as Christian, love our God.

And in love, that we embrace ourselves in serving Him, because of the comforts and promises that Jesus has been given to us. Through love, we face difficult people; through love we share gospel to the people; That although we face trials and grows weary, but surely we will find rest and fin way in our All-Loving God, our Almighty God, Jesus Christ, Our Savior.

As Christian, we must be clear on what is our purpose. To proclaim the gospel in all nation. Understanding the challenges in this world at the End Time. And hold fast onto the hope and promises that God has given to us through the word of God. The bible is where you find your direction, and pray to listen to God for His guidance.

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