An illustration for you today:

I was born with a piece of coal in my hand – filthy, dirty coal.   I held on to it and carried it with me everywhere I went.  Even as a babe, it was with me in my cradle, and when in my mother’s arms.  I never let it go.  As I grew, so did the coal.  Bigger and heavier and dirtier it became.  Yet I continued to carry it with me.  Never once did I consider leaving it behind or getting rid of it in any way.  It was a part of me, in a sense.

As a young teen, I wondered once what would happen if I left it at home when I walked out the door.  Out of mere curiosity I tried it.  But when my foot stepped across the threshold of my door, I found the coal was still with me.  I shrugged and went on.

The coal seemed to grow with me.  By the time I was full grown, the coal was nearly as big as I.  It weighed me down and was becoming burdensome.  It’s filth rubbed off on everything I touched.  I thought more and more of being rid of it.  One day, feeling especially labored by its presence, I determined to leave it behind.  I recalled my attempt as a youth, so decided that I would lock the coal inside a closet in the house, and lock the house door behind me.  Alas, when I turned to leave, I discovered the coal still clung to me.  I heaved it higher on my back, and went on my way.

Years went by.  The coal stood like a bastion between myself and anyone I would have a relationship with.  I got in the way of my work, and prevented me from enjoying any part of life.  It had now grown to twice my size.  Still, I carried it.  My body could not bear the strain much longer, I knew.  The blackened dust was continually filling my lungs, leaving me coughing in fits and unable to breath.  My heart pounded in my chest from the exertion.  My muscles cramped and my joints throbbed with the pain.  Finally I drove to the edge of a cliff, the highest one I could find.  I couldn’t live like this any longer.  I had to be rid of this unbearable weight.   I turned my back to the cliff and let go of the coal.  I held my breath, straining to hear the crash as it hit the ground far below.  But it never came, and I realized with horror that the coal would not fall.  I hung my head and lumbered home, resigned to living with this burden until it would eventually over-take me, and my life would be over.

One day as I walked in the country, gasping for fresh air, back buckling under my now enormous piece of coal, I heard a voice in the distance.  “Come to me,” it said.  Something in it drew me.  I turned toward the voice and trudged on.

“Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened,” the voice said, and a single tear rolled down my face.  I fell to my knees and crawled on.

A third time, I heard the voice, “Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  I collapsed at the crest of a hill, unable to move one inch more.

“Take my yolk upon you and learn from me,” the voice, who was just before me now, spoke.  But I cried, “I cannot bear anymore weight!”

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  

“Oh, to have your burden rather than mine,”  I wept, with my face on the ground.  “But how can I when I have never been able to rid myself of this foul mass?”

“I will deliver you, if you trust me.  It is my gift to you.  You need do nothing save give up your coal to me.  I will take it as my own,” the voice gently coaxed.

Sobbing now, and unable to believe someone would take my burden from me only to carry it himself, I asked, “But why?  Why would you do that?”

And he replied, “Because I love you.”

Slowly I pushed myself up to my hands and knees.  My head hung low.  I couldn’t understand this offer, but I couldn’t continue to live if I did not accept it.  I had not choice but to believe he would do as he said, and take the chance, a leap of faith greater than I knew I had strength for, I pushed the weight from my back, and it fell to the ground.  As I felt freedom for the first time in my life, I rose to my feet.  My body was completely renewed.  I stood tall, stretched my back and reached my arms to the sky.  I felt strength I had never known.  I inhaled deeply of the air free of soot, and opened my eyes.  There before me, suspended high above my filthy load hung a man, severely beaten, bruised and bloodied.  Large nails had been driven through his wrists and his feet and held him to this wooden cross.  A crown made of long, piercing thorns had been pressed onto his head.  Streams of blood flowed down his body and began to drip onto my coal which lay at his feet.  I was horrified that this was the man who had taken my burden, but I could not take it back.   In spite of the scene before me, my soul was being filled with unspeakable peace and even joy.  I knew that it must be from him.

I fell back to me knees, but this time looked up to the man on the cross and thanked him over and over.  Then I said, “You have taken my weight, and given me your peace and joy instead.  What can I do to repay you?”

The man replied, “Your debt cannot be repaid, however, do this for me.  In everything you do or say, do it in my name, Yeshua*, and give thanks to my father, who is God. Love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love the people around you like you love yourself.  If you make this the basis for how you live, you will bring honor to me.”

I bowed my head.  “I understand,” I said, “I will honor you in this way for the rest of my life.”

I looked again at the coal heaped at Yeshua’s feet.  It was covered with his blood, except for one tiny spot.  As a fresh drop of his blood fell to cover it, Yeshua said, “It is finished.”  Then he hung his head and died.  I wept.

Soon some men came to remove his body and bury it.  I followed, not wanting to be far from him, even in death.  I mourned for this man who had taken my own burden and made it is, then covered it with his blood.  I noticed that my burden had followed him into the tomb.  It was buried with him.

I prepared to remain vigilant at his tomb for days.  Waiting for what, I did not know.  I just knew that I could not leave.  But on the third morning after his death, something strange and wonderful happened.  The large stone that stood in front of the grave was rolled away, and Yeshua walked out, alive as ever!  I ran past him into the tomb.  What I expected to find, I don’t know, for Yeshua was not there.  As I turned to go back out, I realized that my blood-covered burden was gone.  Completely vanished.

I knelt at Yeshua’s feet and praised him!  He smiled and gently placed his hand on my head, and said, “No go.  Go into all the world.  Tell everyone about what I have done for you.  I will do the same for them.  And I will always be with you.”

*Yeshua is the original Hebrew name of Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30 (CJB – Complete Jewish Bible) –  “Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 (CJB) – For you have been delivered by grace through trusting, and even this is not your accomplishment but God’s gift.  You were not delivered by your own actions; therefore no one should boast.

1 Peter 2:24 (CJB) – He himself bore our sins in his body on the stake, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness by his wounds you were healed.

John 3:16 (CJB) –  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed.”

Colossians 3:17 (CJB) – That is, everything you do or say, do in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Matthew 22:37-39 (NKJV) – Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) –  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.