“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
I’ve always loved this verse.
I often hear people quote this, or a little part of it, and then talk about casting their burden down at Jesus feet. I’ve done that myself. But although Jesus is the ‘taker of burdens, that’s only part of what he’s saying here. Really his invitation here is to ‘take up’. It’s an invitation to partner with him. To become his ‘yoke-fellow’. And to learn from him.
‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me’
Jesus gives the the imagery of oxen, yoked together in partnership to pull a plough. Jesus used allegories that were relevant to the people’s own experience and daily lives to explain or clarify the concepts that He was teaching. I love this image he uses of the yoke.
As I’m sure you know, a yoke is a bar or frame by which two working animals are joined for working together. When yoked together, the two oxen have to go in the same direction and be united in their work.
Jesus invites us to yoke ourselves to him, and learn from him. We have a clear invitation from Jesus to ‘take up’ his yoke and partner with him.
Often the loads were very heavy and the animals exerted all their strength to pull the loads. The yokes would have chafed against their shoulders, often producing sores. Jesus’ yoke, though, is easy, and His burden is light.
When we partner with Jesus, he shoulders the burden and we simply follow his lead. We don’t need to struggle to ‘do our bit’. I know I’m so often one of those people who feels ‘I must do this. I’d better do that’ Jesus never did or said anything unless The Father told him to.
He says ‘learn from me’.
Very often, to train younger oxen, the farmer would have put a younger animal into the yoke with a more experienced one. The older, more experienced ox would take the lead and the young one would learn by example.
We can ask Him to teach us and he will:
Psalms 86:11 ESV
“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”
Psalms 25:4-5 ESV
“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”
John 16:13 ESV
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
May we learn to lay down our own yokes (I need to learn to stop picking mine back up again!) and just keep in step with Jesus. Our will yoke-fellow. Our gracious, loving Teacher, who doesn’t beat and whip, but gently chides when we get out of step and leads by example. His burden is light and his yoke is easy.