It is ironic to consider that Jesus required more than the legalistic Pharisees and yet His way was easier. How could this be? The Pharisees required the performance of certain things without giving consideration to whether these external actions were motivated by hearts given over to God. They were more concerned with external actions than they were with the inner attitude of the heart.
Jesus required more than external actions. He required that these external actions be motivated by changed hearts. Paradoxically, this requires more, but is easier. It is not an oppressive and burdensome thing. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Why are His commandments not burdensome? Because we obey them in love. A song from a few years ago entitled “He Ain’t Heavy; He’s My Brother” comes near to expressing the thought. I’ve got to carry my fallen brother, but it doesn’t seem like such a burden because of the relationship we have. If I were given the choice of carrying around a 10-pound sack of potatoes or my 30-pound grandson through an amusement park for 6 hours, I would surely choose my grandson. Although he is heavier and demands more care and attention, he seems lighter because of my love and affection for him.
When we serve Christ out of a sense of legalistic duty, we torment our consciences. But when we serve Him out of a “faith that worketh by love”(Galatians 5:6), we enjoy the service. The problem of the Pharisees was that they trusted in themselves and not in God. This is precisely what led Christ to give the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke18:9-14). Our righteousness must look beyond the self-righteousness of the Pharisees if we are going to enter the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).
God requires service out of faith and heartfelt motivation and not out of meritorious works alone (Deuteronomy 30:12-14; Matthew 22:37; Luke 11:39-52). The Jews had perverted faith and served the law out of works only. Not only will “faith only” not save; neither will “works only.” Micah 6:6-8 demonstrates that God requires more than external works of obedience. “Works only” brings death (Galatians 3:12). To live by faith, obedient faith, brings rest and life. Truly, His yoke is easy and His burden is light because we love Him so (Matthew 11:28-30).