“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30
“A king who dies on a cross must be the king of a rather strange kingdom. Only those who understand the profound paradox of the cross can also understand the whole meaning of Jesus’ assertion: my kingdom is not of this world.”
During his lifetime, Jesus was well known for using parables and paradoxes as teaching tools:
“Whoever finds their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:39)
“The first shall be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:31)
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5: 44)
“Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” (John 8:7)
Moreover, Jesus himself embodied paradox: the Jews anticipated a military leader and instead they got the Prince of Peace. The Son of God became a man, born into the world as a weak and helpless baby. The King of Kings was a servant-leader who washed the feet of his disciples. The sinless man was known for dining with tax collectors, prostitutes, the infirm and many others on the fringes of society.
All this in mind, it seems clear that the kingdom of Christ defies and transcends conventional wisdom. The cross was a method of execution reserved for the worst of criminals–people who the Romans wanted to display as an example and a caution to any who might happen to pass by them.
Yet, this was precisely how Christ died. And it is his death on the cross that brings every other apparent paradox into equilibrium. You see, we are the other side of the paradox, the polar opposite of Christ: we seek our own way; we are sinful, yet throw stones constantly; we harbor grudges against those who wrong us; we insist upon being served instead of serving. It should have been us on the cross, but because Christ went in our place, we are brought from the polar extremes of our sinful nature into relationship with him. Thus it is that when Christ invites us to take his yoke upon ourselves, we can trust that it will not crush us. So we follow our Servant King, taking up our crosses daily and finding our burdens lightened and our souls at rest.