I have to confess, the term “yoke” always mystified me as a kid. My mind immediately jumped to an image of an egg. Which lead to the even more troubling image of Christ cracking an egg over my head saying, “Take my yolk upon you”
But, to understand this allusion, we’ve got to understand the metaphor. So just so we’re clear, the yoke we’re talking about is a crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of animals, like oxen, and attached to a plow or cart that is pulled. To take this allusion in context, yokes were often used on humans and were a symbol of bondage and slavery.
So lets read the passage again,
“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to you. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
So where is Christ in this image? Is He the driver; steering the cart? Or is He in the yoke with you? Is he both?
Society would tell us that Christ is the cart driver and we are the ones pulling the heavy cart. He is steering us and will correct us when we get off course. But, we have to do the hard work. That’s a terribly distorted view obedience; a burdensome harness, thrown over one poor beast. The
As many of you know, the heart of any healthy relationship is listening. If we take “Obedience” back to its Latin roots, it literally means, “to listen.” Obedience is a relationship where those involved genuinely listen and respond to one another. Obedience is listening. Obedience is about relationship; relationships that go much deeper than just following commands.
The heart of Jesus’ message in this passage is relationship. He says: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” You’ve been carrying your heavy load by yourself for far too long. And you’re not getting anywhere. Maybe you’re discouraged, beaten, bruised, and maybe even ready to give up all together. Maybe it’s time to ask for help and yoke up.
Yokes, are designed for multiples. Taking on another’s yoke means beginning a relationship. So when Christ invites us to take His yoke upon us, He is inviting us into relationship with Him. Instead of barking orders from driver’s seat, Christ is working under the yoke with me. He is beside me, helping to bear the load. Taking on His yoke means, admitting we can’t make it on our own. This is the only requirement. He reveals himself the lowly and the meek, and hides Himself from the prideful. Jesus says it straight up,
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:5)
That’s not what society is teaching us though. We are taught that, the harder I work, and the more I do, the better off I’ll be. And at face value, there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But, the implications of making it on our own are far greater than just, hard work. It promotes an individualist worldview, where relationships only serve our agendas. Taking on Christ’s yoke, means admitting that we can’t make it on our own. It means humbling ourselves and getting comfortable with our shortcomings.
The best part of all is that God loves you despite all of your shortcomings. Look at the prayer Jesus offers in verse 25,
“You have revealed Your truths to the lowly and the ignorant, the children and the crippled, the lame and the mute. You have hidden wisdom from those who pride themselves on being so wise and learned. You did this, simply, because it pleased You.” (Matthew 11:25-27)
It pleases God to reveal himself to those who the world calls weak. We sang it this morning in our opening hymn. God, “You use the weak to lead the strong.” God will use YOU. And all it takes is admitting you can’t make it on your own.
So what is the yoke? Jesus says it’s light and easy. But, last time I checked, obedience wasn’t all that easy. What it comes down to trust. When someone I respect and admire asks me to do something I don’t understand, I trust that they have my best interest in mind. Wether it’s my wife, my boss, a family member, or God, I trust that they aren’t going to screw me over. I trust that they are looking out for me. Taking Jesus’ yoke upon ourselves, means believing that when the going gets tough, God is still going to be there. It means trusting that when God asks us to do something that seems insane, He is going to take care of us.
Look at these examples:
“Abraham, leave your home and your family. I’ll tell you where you’re going later.”
“David, take this stone and kill that giant.”
“Paul, just keep preaching until they kill you. And even when you’re bloody and bruised, count it all joy.”
God’s ways are many things. But, easy and light don’t seem to be His style. With everything God calls us to, there is a cost. And sometimes it feels as if God isn’t doing His part and we’re all on our own. The money runs out, the car breaks down, relationships fall apart. We begin to think,
“Maybe I miss-understood?” I thought this was going to be easy. What if it wasn’t really God and I’m just crazy. I’m on my own.”
And this is Jesus’ yoke. Even in the midst of disaster, we can trust that He is right there beside us. He has a plan.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
We struggle with Christ’s yoke because it’s easy and light. It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t fit us like our old yoke did. So we quickly give it up in exchange for what we’ve always known. And then all of us who have taken back our yokes lie awake at night and worry just like everyone else. We live just like everyone else because, “God couldn’t actually think that I could go there or do that.” That’s for the priests and the missionaries, not normal everyday Christians like me.
But, God doesn’t want the professionals whose faith lives in the shadow of their pride. He wants the lowly and the meek. He wants you. Trust that He will not abandon you. And instead of anxiety you’ll find peace. God’s got your back. It’s time to yoke up.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11)
Please join me in prayer:
Father, inspire us to step out in faith. Encourage us that even as we venture into unchartered territory, You are there. Keep our faith strong as the world tells us we’re doing it wrong. God we pray for this community, that it would be filled with people who don’t have it all together; that in our meekness, your Spirit would guide us. God you move in mysterious ways. Help us to know that it’s alright. Amen.