Matthews 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Throughout the scriptures Jesus regularly invited people to come to Him, which is the first of His three commands leading to rest. Second we will experience rest for our souls as we also obey Jesus’ command to:
2. TAKE MY YOKE (upon you)
At first these seems like a strange thing to say, even counter productive, given the fact that we are already weary and burdened. The last thing we need is one more thing to carry, yet Jesus is not calling us to add one more thing, this is a call of exchange. A yoke was a harness used to connect a pair of oxen, hence a pair of connected oxen was typically called a yoke of oxen. Jesus was using this metaphorically, referring to submission to the teacher, in New Testament times the phrase, “to take the yoke of” was used by rabbi’s to refer to becoming a submitted pupil of a teacher. It is used six times in the New Testament, the word has two dominant figurative ideas. First the yoke of rules and religion, this is mans yoke. Acts 15 spells out the yoke of following rules and a religious system to be accepted by God: – “After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Acts 15:7-11. This is the way many people have been taught, they try to relate to God, through rules and religion. But this is not the “my yoke” that Jesus speaks of, He was referring to the second, the yoke of relationship. Jesus said that His yoke is easy and I think that this is in part due to the fact that His yoke is “well fitted.” Only His yoke fits the need, only His way works. Rules and religion will never fit the need, because our need is for a personal relationship, that longing in your heart is for Love not legalism. At our core we all want to be wanted, and religion reminds us that if we do this and that, if we work harder, if we measure up, then may be then we will be accepted. Relationship doesn’t focus on doing but being, its not about working but walking together, its not about a list its about life together. Religion always restricts, it binds us to the bondage of trying to achieve, instead relationship reaches out, it grabs us by the hand, meeting us where we are, but not leaving us there. Religion is always that hill you can never quite surmount, your always part way, always looking up at the next obstacle and how far you still have to go. Relationship removes the obstacle, it calls us to stand together on its highest peak looking out. Religion always focuses on the failures, relationship on the freedom we have through forgiveness. Yahweh’s yoke is easy compared to the man made religious yokes, His burden is light compared to the burden of human effort. This is the invitation, to trade in your yoke of rules and regulations for one of relationship, where you get to trade your “I have to” for “I get to.” Jesus said MY Yoke, only as we take up HIS yoke do we find rest for our souls. So which yoke have you been under, Jesus’ or man’s? For we access all that God has for us through our choices. His yoke pictures three things:
● Connection, this is the “Be with Me.” Yokes are made for two, not one, we were not meant to go through life living apart from God. How much of our sin stems from solo living? Trying on our own instead of living with The Lord? Today much of Christianity consists of going it alone only and only calling on God when we get stuck. We resort to calling on God only if we have to, it reminds me of the famous phrase from Corrie ten boom who so eloquently asked is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire? We may think we are independent but in truth we are all connected to something, and without Christ we become tethered to trying instead of trusting. Christ’s yoke fits well, it is lighter than the one we’ve been pulling by ourselves. So let me ask you what are you connected to is it Jesus?
● Direction this is the “Follow Me.” The idea and whole point of a yoke is the forward motion of the two connected together. A yoke is not a picture of prison but rather of progress. May people have lives that are spiraling out of control going backwards or at best going no where because without the leading of Christ its just chaos. Yet here is the challenge to being yoked to Jesus, you can’t go your own way anymore. We submit to follow Him and His direction for our life. So let me ask you who are you follow is it Jesus?
● Cooperation this is the “Work with Me.” To be yoked together means that we cooperate with Him and His work. Before we come to Jesus, we are living for this side of eternity, but when we become yoked to Him, we are joined to His work where we discover that our lives can make an eternal impact. So let me ask you, are you working with or against God? Rest is the result of obedience and we are either resting in Him or wrestling with Him. The fatal mistake of most believers is to seek to bear life’s load alone. The secret to rest for the soul is found in casting off the yoke of self for one with the Savior. Third we will experience rest for our souls as we also obey Jesus’ command to:
3. LEARN FROM ME
We are to learn from the Lord, but the great question is are you open to learning? All of us are ignorant, until we willingly submit to learn from the Lord. When we come and take up His yoke, the process of learning begins. The first thing we learn is gentleness, this is not weakness but strength under control. Religion can be cold and harsh, but Jesus describes Himself as gentle. He invites us to come with our cares and concerns, to pour out our deepest, darkest fears. 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” He is not harsh with our hurts, but gentle, He understands our pain for He knows what it is to hurt, but He also has the strength to heal. What we need to learn most is that He wants to love us. Second we learn humility, this is selflessness. Often religion is rude, and what we experience is anger and arrogance. Our humble Savior cares, it was the hungry, the hurting and the lost that were drawn to Jesus because He cared for them and met their needs. The Lord longs to teach us how to cast off the blinders of selfishness, to see like the Savior. You see to look at the lost through the Lords eyes is to trade our wants for weeping.
One day a man went by to see a farmer who was plowing his field with a team of oxen. The man noticed that one of the animals was seemingly a little bigger than the other so he asked him about it. The response from the farmer was very interesting. He said that the big animal was an older animal that was well trained and the smaller one was a young animal that was new to the yoke. The man went on to inquire as to why he put them together and this is the answer that He got,
“Well you see, it’s like this. That older ox is the best ox that I have ever had; he knows his way around the field. The reason I put the younger one with him is so the older, more knowledgeable ox could teach him how to plow. If I never put them together the younger one would never learn. By himself the younger ox would pull himself to death, but together he learns to cooperate with and rest in the strength of the older ox.” Does your life feel like the ox whose pulling himself to death? True rest is found in obedience to Jesus’ commands. COME to Me, TAKE My yoke upon you, LEARN from Me. Today you are invited to rest in the Redeemer, will you come?