“Come to Me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads,
And I will give you rest.
Place My Yoke over your shoulders, and learn from Me,
Because I am gentle and humble.
Then you will find rest for yourselves
Because My Yoke is easy
And My burden is light.”
A yoke is the old-time wooden collar stretching between two oxen to pull a heavy load. It keeps them in step with each other as they pull together to plow fields for planting. (Now known as rustic wall decor.)
“Yoke” was a term that also applied to a student being taught and trained by a teacher/mentor.
They were “yoked” together.
In day to day practical life, two oxen were ultimately working to provide literal food for people. But in a teacher / student context, the student was being trained through practical daily life to ultimately be able to provide “knowledge or spiritual food”to benefit others.
Jesus used this word picture to describe being connected to Him in a similar way… in a training way, His students would be walking along with Him, learning to be “in step” with Him. To be yoked with Jesus meant that you would be going in the same direction beside Him. Closely. Not out ahead of Him nor lagging behind Him. His student would be in step with Him, lending his/her strengths in doing the work together.
But Jesus, as usual, put a new twist on the old familiar reality.
- He made it a choice for the student to decide, no commanding or forcefulness being required. To “take” His yoke is on our part. He doesn’t put it on us. He offers. He makes Himself available. It’ up to us to respond..
- The typical work in the fields was hard work. Physically taxing. Often prodded, shouted at, and smacked with a stick for not doing the job quickly enough. That would be “normal.”
- Jesus, the Master Teacher, described His “style” of teaching as gentle and humble. The effect would be a sense of rest. [A big, long exhale is appropriate here.] There was a gentleness and strength about His teaching, not force, or harshness, or demandingness. No “headi-ness” or arrogance. Who learns well under that kind of teaching?
- “My Yoke is easy….” A Yoke is still a yoke, heavy and uncomfortable, and still needful in accomplishing the goal. Otherwise, there would just be some poor farmer out there chasing after rogue oxen more interested in who-knows-what. But Jesus’ Yoke will be an asset to the work that is needed, rather than a tool of punishment or cruelty.
- “My burden is light.” Though the work still involves a “burden”…which is rarely a “joy” to carry, Jesus describes it as “light.” Not gone, but not too much to carry. No burden is weightless.
Anything that matters carries weight. But the weight He invites us to carry with Him will be do-able. His Strength will be there, bearing the heaviness we could not bear alone.
As I contemplated these words this morning, a vivid image came to mind. Thinking about what it looks like to share a “yoke” with Jesus, the mental picture that came was of me walking beside Him,
listening, asking questions, and catching glimpses of His Heart in His Words. But instead of a wooden
Yoke between us, His Arm was stretched over my shoulder, as we walked down the path together.
I felt that I could listen to Him all day.