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
The guest speaker at church yesterday spoke about this. A pastor and prophet in his early 80s, he’s been there and done that. He’s seen it and lived it. He talked about how we’re often tied to inferior yokes in this life – depression, addiction, rejection, to name a few – and those produce destruction. Why not be yoked with Jesus instead? Yoked to Jesus. What does that mean?
Yokes, from my extensive perusing of the Little House on the Prairie book series, entail two beast of burden type animals pulling together towards a common goal. I remember Almanzo’s oxen from Farmer Boy (Ruby’s favorite of the series), Star and Bright, and how Almanzo had to train them to pull together and in a straight line. Somehow, methinks hanging in a tandem rig with Jesus would make Jesus the wiser of us two “beasts”. He would patiently guide us onto the right path, drawing us along at times. I like this image, Jesus and I walking a path or pulling a plow in unison. It puts me in mind of the passage in Ecclesiastes talking about how two are better than one, for they can protect each other and keep warm together (Ecclesiastes 4).
Again, I struggled with finding meaning in this passage. Frankly, the idea of any yoke at all sounds oppressive to me. Yokes are for dumb animals who don’t know how to work well with others. They create a harness, with limited movement and directional choices. Hey! Doesn’t a yoke imply we’re all just dumb creatures?!
Wait a minute. Is it possible Jesus is saying, given the chance, we choose poorly every.single.time? If we pick up and put on our own yokes, be it chasing after the perfect body, the perfect man, the perfect job or just perfection in general, we are under the yoke of that belief system. Maybe we’re goal-oriented, and we only pursue noble goals. We strive to be debt-free. We raise our kids with good character and manners straight out of the 1950s (you know, the good old days before Woodstock). These targets and plans, good though they may be, pale in comparison to the great things God has for us. A classic case of good as the enemy of the great.
On second thought, living under Jesus’ yoke doesn’t sound half bad. After all, His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He is humble and gentle at heart, and we will find rest for our souls.