Take My Yoke Upon You

by Rich Dixon on November 13, 2009

“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.” [Matthew 11: 28-30]

scripture_closeup_0_previewWhat do you think Jesus wants you to do?

I’m not thinking of specific choices like whether to have pizza or turkey for lunch (I don’t think He cares). But in terms of overall life choices and directions, what do you think He wants? There are probably a lot of answers to that question, but I’m thinking of one right now that I’ll bet nobody else mentioned.

I think He wants me to quit. (It’s okay if you’re surprised.)

The scripture above is one of the most well-known passages in the bible. It’s a source of comfort to folks who are buried under the weight of illness, despair, and impossible expectations. But it’s even more comforting when we understand the historical context.

A Rabbi’s “yoke” was his teaching, interpretation, and application of the Torah. A student or disciple who followed the Rabbi took on his yoke, meaning the sum of requirements for fulfilling the Law as taught by that particular Rabbi. The symbolism is clear; a teacher’s yoke represented the obligations and sacrifices—the “burdens”–required of his followers.

Jesus makes a related reference when He says of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” [Matthew 23:4]

When Jesus claims that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, He’s setting us free from the legalism, the man-made rules, and the cultural expectations that “experts” are so quick to impose. He’s telling us that following Him doesn’t involve a complicated theological code and a long list of difficult requirements.

His “yoke” is much simpler and easier. He wants us to stop all of that nonsense and focus on Him and the things He values.

Jesus wants me to quit so much of the harmful, irrelevant striving that imprisons me behind self-constructed walls of failure. He asks me to stop:

  • struggling to earn the forgiveness He offers by grace.
  • stumbling under the weight of regret and shame.
  • trying to conform to cultural expectations about behavior and relationships.
  • worrying about money, appearance, and status.
  • dragging around a misguided sense of guilt over sins for which He already atoned.

Every one of us carries the scars of an imperfect past. Perhaps it’s an addiction, or unwise choices, or abuse inflicted by someone else. Perhaps it’s your own fault or maybe it’s not. Our enemy tells us that we have to cling to the pain, seek revenge, or live in fear and guilt.

And Jesus says, “Quit.”

If you’re suffering under these kinds of burdens, listen again to Jesus’ simple invitation. Imagine Him standing before you with hands extended in love. Hear His words spoken softly in a voice of perfect compassion, “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.”

He’s the God of a new beginning. You’re free to stop pretending and hiding in your self-imposed jail, because God knows about every moment of your past. He loves you so much that He sent Jesus to shatter the prison walls. You’re free to rest.

When Jesus was asked to state the most important commandment, the first word He uttered was, “Love.”

That’s His yoke. That’s what He wants you to learn as you walk in His footsteps.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. [Galatians 5:1]

What’s Jesus asking you to quit right now?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie ReidNo Gravatar July 30, 2010 at 7:37 am

I have always heard this passage being related to oxen and working side by side with Jesus. Something I read this morning in a devotional from Hungry Hearts brought this verse to mind and I wondered if there was a different application. So I ‘googled’ it :) and I was led to your page. I love it! I will definitely continue to read your writings. Thank you!!

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Rich DixonNo Gravatar August 1, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Hi Jamie–Glad you stopped by. This fresh understanding of “yoke” reminds me to look carefully and deeply when trying to understand the bible. So much more to learn.

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Brian KarcherNo Gravatar October 14, 2011 at 8:00 am

Hi Rich, I too “googled” for teachings about “yoke” and this verse. I was stunned to find your thoughts, which match mine extremely well. After 24 years of dictating truth through Bible study and being under the yoke of pious activity, one word kept coming to me this year: “Stop.” I truly believe God wants us to stop and be free in Him. Life is really so much easier now, and I actually see that I’m able to influence many times more people for Christ by doing less activity… Your brief thoughts have deeply impacted me today, thank you.

Reply

Karen WoodsNo Gravatar April 13, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Dear Rich,

Thank you, thank you. Wonderful information! I like that you said that we should focus on Him. All through the KJV we are reminded to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, our minds, and our souls.

God bless you!

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