A Restful Yoke
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
July 7, 2023, Words By: Esau Oreso, Image By: unknown
My grandfather was a subsistence farmer who used oxen to plow his farm. He had a yoke that his neighbors would occasionally borrow. Sometimes, the neighbors would return the yoke, frustrated that it had not served them well.
I later learned that while my grandfather’s yoke was light, strong, and easily adjustable to fit the oxen, some of his neighbors struggled pairing their oxen to get the best results. Older and younger, stronger and weaker oxen needed to be yoked together to support each other as they plowed. The older, stronger, and experienced oxen would cover for the shortcomings of the younger, weaker, and inexperienced ones.
In our lectionary text today, Jesus extends a gracious invitation to all who are exhausted. He offers rest for those who take his yoke upon themselves and learn from him, for he is “gentle and lowly in heart,” and his yoke is “easy” and his burden is “light.”
In the chapter following this gracious invitation, the Pharisees begin their protracted confrontation with Jesus for failing to observe the law on the Sabbath. Elsewhere, we learn how their legalistic attitudes have become a heavy burden that wore out the people (Matthew 23:4).
In some ways, the Pharisees preferred it that way. They took pride in their ability to meticulously follow the complex, external mandates of the law, and enjoyed the barrier their “righteousness” created between them and the people. But their posture blinded them from seeing the transformative nature of God’s love behind Jesus’ miracles. Had they looked more closely, they too could have experienced the freedom that comes with Jesus’ yoke.
From Jesus’ words in today’s text, we learn three important lessons. Firstly, we see his nature as the owner of an easy yoke, gentle and lowly in heart. This sets him apart from the Pharisees and qualifies him to be the teacher from whom the weary and burdened can learn.
Secondly, the yoke itself is easy and adaptable to fit everyone’s distinct characteristics. Jesus’ character and the nature of his yoke make it easier for the weary and burdened to trust, desire, and be drawn to him.
Thirdly, the burden is light, though it doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles. When we align ourselves with Jesus, we can find rest in his instructions issued with love and intended to provide rest as we live into our true identity.
Life is never easy, however, we can be certain that in Jesus we can find the true rest that only comes from his invitation, not in our own self-sufficiency that often leads to self-pride and frustrations.
Whatever call we discern from God, it is made easier in the light of Jesus’ leading. Like my grandfather’s neighbors, we need a good, strong, and easier yoke, as well as a partner who can work with our weaknesses as we plow together.
In Jesus, we find a strong and perfect partner who is gentle, humble, and intimately understands our weariness and burdens of all kinds. He can transform our weaknesses into strengths, and when he carries the burdens, our plowing becomes restful. With age, I have come to appreciate the depth of Jesus’ gracious invitation and the significance of taking his yoke upon myself and learning from him as a great and perfect partner.
What does taking Jesus’ yoke upon yourself mean for you in your ministry context?
How can we appreciate the graciousness of Jesus’ invitation in taking upon ourselves his yoke and learning from him?