Posts Tagged ‘yokes’

“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.”

In our Scripture this morning, Jesus is talking about yokes. Now, we know about animal yokes. And, for instance, Paul talks about not being unequally yoked with this in mind. But in this passage Jesus is talking about human yokes – one’s that go across your shoulders to carry heavy things. Here is a modern day example:


A yoke something like this is described in Jeremiah 27:2, where it says, “make yourselves straps and yoke-bars and put them on your neck.”

A yoke is often used metaphorically to speak of being in subjection to someone – in Jeremiah it refers to being subjected to the Babylonian empire. And in the New Testament it is used to refer to slavery (1 Timothy 6:1).

Now let’s look at our verses.

1. Many of us are weary from our yokes, carrying heavy burdens

Jesus talks of “all who labor and are heavy laden.” The first word “labor” has to do with hard work and also the weariness that comes from it. The second word can also be translated as “burdened.” So the image is of a person with a yoke on, but the load is really heavy and it takes a lot of work just to move around. Think of the two buckets in our picture as bigger and loaded down with heavy rocks.

Jesus is certainly talking here about the traditions of the elders which the Pharisees added to the Law, or God’s will. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 23:4, where he says, “they tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear and lay them on people’s shoulders.” These are rules about how far you can walk on a Sabbath, rules about healing on the Sabbath and on and on (see the stories that come right after our verses). You name the activity in life and there were rules for it; lots of them. Rules, rules, rules. Rules that went beyond the Law of Moses, but you had to follow them to be accepted.

Well, Jesus rejected these traditions of the Elders (Matthew 15:6). He doesn’t load us down with a host of human rules; things that go beyond God’s will for our lives.

Maybe you are carrying a yoke today of human rules and expectations that are not God’s will for you. Maybe church rules about how to dress or how to worship that go beyond Scripture, churches are good at making up extra rules. Or maybe expectations for your life that others impose on you that have nothing to do with what God has called you to do.

And you are here this morning and you are tired of it. You are tired of being subjected to carrying this heavy burden around. Jesus is talking to you today in this passage!

There are other yokes and burdens, and I would just mention also the yoke of slavery to Sin (John 8:34; Romans 6:16-20). This is where we live our lives apart from God’s will, doing our own will, going along with the world and our friends. But sin once chosen becomes our master. It comes to control us and take over and it begins to ruin our lives – because sin brings misery and then death.

And you are here this morning and you are tired of the burdens of sin – the shame, the guilt. You are tired of disappointing and hurting others and hurting God – but you can’t break free.

You too have a yoke on, And maybe you are tired of it this morning; you are worn out. Well, Jesus is talking to you this morning in our passage!

Well, whatever yoke we may be carrying this morning –

2. Jesus invites each one of us to take up his yoke

I say each one of us, because he says, “Come to me all” who labor and are heavy laden. That’s all of us.

And he says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” In the Old Testament, the Law was seen as a yoke that the people of God bore as they did God’s will (Jeremiah 2:20; 5:5). But here Jesus offers his teaching as the yoke to put on our shoulders – which is the correct interpretation of the Law, or God’s will. As he says in the verses just before ours, the Father has revealed all things to him. And this is what he teaches us.

And so to take on Jesus’ yoke is to live your life according to what he teaches. Not doing more than this by adding on extra human rules, or taking away from it so that we are walking in sin. It is to live according to just what Jesus teaches. We become disciples of Jesus. The word “learn” here is from the same word as the word “disciple.” We become students of Jesus. We study his teaching and example and we do what he says and models for us.

When we take on Jesus’ yoke –

3. Jesus will give us rest for our souls

Why will we find rest? Because of who Jesus is – v. 29 – “for I am gentle and lowly in heart.” The first word “gentle” is really meek or lowly. The second word can also be translated as humble in heart. Jesus is not a slave driver. Indeed, he himself came and walked this earth as a servant. And he knows that being in charge means serving others, not lording it over them (Matthew 20:25-28).

We will also find rest because, as he says in v. 30 – “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” “Easy” is better translated as “comfortable” or a yoke that fits just right. “Light” has to do with having little weight.

Now none of this means that following Jesus can’t be hard – there is still a yoke and a burden; there are hard things to do and you can suffer for it. But in comparison to being weighed down under slavery to sin or human traditions it is a comfortable yoke and a light weight. It is God’s will for our life. It is not less than this so that you are living in sin, and it is not more than this so that you are carrying the burdens of human rules. It is simply God’s will, perfectly revealed in Jesus.

And this is the gift promised by Jesus here – rest, v. 28 – “and I will give you rest.” v. 29 – “and you will find rest for your souls.” Rest here means the cessation of toilsome labor from carrying really heavy weights that we are not meant to bear. It means peace, wholeness and well-being – which comes from following Jesus. (Jeremiah 6:16). It means we have this deep in our hearts and souls. And it is connected to the Sabbath rest and how this foreshadows the rest we will have when the kingdom comes in its fullness. (Again, see the stories on the Sabbath that follow our text.)

I invite you this morning to come to Jesus and find this rest for yourselves . . .

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