“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 11:28-30)
“My yoke is easy, and my burden light” ……
While the image of a yoke was familiar to Jesus’ audience, we modern readers may not be able to relate to a yoke and how it works. A yoke is made for two, like a team of oxen. When oxen are young, they are taught to pull together when hitched to a yoke. When one ox tries to go one way and the other a different way, they experience the pain of pulling against the yoke. The harder they fight it, the worse it gets. Have you ever felt that way? I most certainly have ….
In a sense, the yoke punishes and burdens them. But when both are going in the same direction, the yoke actually makes their work much easier. Usually one ox is in the lead, setting the direction, and the second ox learns how to follow. Over time they learn the positive and negative effects of the yoke, until practice makes perfect ….
This helps us understand Jesus’ saying that being yoked to Him lightens our burdens. That’s the way a yoke is supposed to work! It teaches us to let the “lead ox” set the course. It teaches us to follow the One who is walking beside us. We experience what happens as we try to go our own way. We see how fighting God’s lead causes us pain …
As Paul understood in (Acts 26:14), by “kicking against the goad” (a tool used to drive oxen), he only hurt himself. But when he followed Jesus, he was far more peaceful – and far more fruitful. The battle still fierce at times, but he never need struggle alone for God is with us …..
Because we are humans, we are designed to learn through trial and (sometimes painful) error. That may sound harsh, but we can be confident that Jesus is extremely patient. He never stops loving us and trying to lead us. He knows that we will become more docile to His leading as we experience the wonderful effects of following Him. He is confident that we will learn, and my prayer today is that of Job: “though He slay me — yet, will I trust Him …..
Yes, Jesus’ yoke is easy – because the One who leads us is walking beside us in the yoke. He shares all of our burdens. He invites us to enter into His rest. All He asks is that we follow His lead and stop trying to pull against the yoke and do things on our own ….
When Jesus says, “Come to me, and I will give you rest,” He is inviting us to relax in His presence. He’s saying, “Come to Me, and be undisturbed for a few minutes. Let Me relieve you for a time of the heavy loads you carry. Bask in the stillness and quiet you find in Me. Allow Me to free you from the things that bind you or weigh you down. Come, experience the peace I want to give you.” It’s an invitation to unwind and be refreshed in ways that surpass any human means or understanding ….
Jesus promises to give you rest: rest from the never-ending juggling act of nurturing a family, from the responsibilities of being a single parent, from holding down a full time job; rest from the demands of school and community service; from the burden of addiction; rest from the pain of sickness, infirmities and afflictions, rest from tormenting memories, from the guilt, shame, sorrows and griefs, or caring for an ailing child or parent. Rest … The concept of a rest, a peace that surpasses all understanding, that overshadows all cares and concerns. Rest …..
Sitting with Jesus is not a burden, a duty that wastes valuable time, or a obligatorily restrictive yoke to a loving-but-distant God. What a privilege it is to sit at His feet. Jesus’ “burden” is light: It’s the burden of carrying His love around. It’s the burden of forsaking all to share His all encompassing Love and infinite mercy that compels us. Where is the burden when viewed through the lens of His sacrifice for us?
In conclusion, I challenge you to come into His presence today. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. Fix your attention on Jesus. Spend some time worshipping Him; maybe by playing some prayerful worship music, and simply talk quietly with Him. “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry.” (Psalm 34:15)
Ask questions, surrender the difficult things to Him, and give Him time and space to speak to you about what’s on His heart. Yes, His heart. When you yield your heart to better know His, in essence you surrender to His will and restful restoration shall follow. Receive the rest He offers you. Even if the only time you can find is in the car on your way to work in the morning, that’s all right. Just don’t close your eyes! Pray, pray, “pray without ceasing” ….
Jesus’ yoke is not an uncomfortable harness that shackles us into hard labor. It’s a bond that unites us with Him in love. Learn to hear and recognize His voice as He speaks to you today. He will teach you how. God knows your situation. He is as concerned for you as He was for the Israelites in Egypt. Let Him direct your steps. Trust His intentions and His love for you. Trust that His grace is sufficient for whatever need you have this day. Won’t you just take a deep breath right now, exhale out the persistent stress pressing in; just sit a few minutes right now and breathe in His presence, feel Him embracing you ….. now, simply thank Him …..
Jesus, I will follow You. I want to learn Your gentleness and humility as I walk with You. Teach me to move in unison with You and Your Holy Spirit. Through Jesus’ I pray, Amen