From March 12, 2007
Do you ever get tired?
Do you ever find yourself in need of rest?
How can I find rest while following Jesus?
Notice what Jesus doesn’t say.
He doesn’t say, “Come to me, for I have no burden!"
Nor does he say "Come to me, for I don’t make any demands!”
But a yoke involves subjection to a master.
But when Jesus talks of his yoke, the imagery has a positive meaning of good subjection to him.
Paul understood himself to be Christ’s slave (doulos), who is compelled and controlled by his master to do his master’s bidding and to serve his purposes. Most English translations of the Greek NT tend to use the more socially acceptable term “servant” instead of “slave” in translating some 190 words that refer to slavery (because of our collective shame over the history of slavery in the West).
But one of Paul’s most common self-designations is “slave of Christ.”
Paul makes it clear that using the image of slavery to understand one’s relationship with Christ has to do with obedience.
For Paul, the issue is clear: everybody obeys something, and whatever or whomever you obey, you are enslaved to.
In the scripture text I mentioned above, Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon ourselves and he will give us rest.
That sounds like quite a paradox, doesn’t it? To put on a yoke, which symbolizes work or labor, and expect to find rest there.
But the truth of this test is that we find rest when we discover that the yoke’s also on him (29b) Jesus’ generous invitation is to the broken and the burdened. It is grounded in his own gentleness and humility. He was not simply a powerful lord who ruthlessly crushed all opposition, but one who sought the good of others and promised rest for their souls.
What would you think they could pull when yoked together in the same direction?
Most people would guess something like 24,000 lbs, but the answer is 49,000 lbs! The sum is greater than a combination of the parts.
We lay down our burdens, our agendas, and take on God’s yoke, “easy” and “light.” Even though his is a burden, it is easy compared with ours because we are joining Jesus in his work. On the other side of the yoke pulling with us is the powerful and almighty resurrected One, carrying the weight of the world. It feels easier and lighter because of who is helping carry the load.
Christ offers a liberating enslavement. The yoke’s really on him.
The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon once said: “The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on His shoulders. If He bids us carry a burden, He carries it also.”
The yoke’s on us, but the yoke’s really on him.
We find rest when we realize that no one gets tired of a really good yoke.
The New Living Translation of this text says: “For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.”
If I put a flat, uncarved piece of wood on an ox’s neck and use it to pull a cart, very quickly pressure sores will break out on that animal’s neck, and he will be useless.
Can I tell you that Jesus offers each of us a well-fitted yoke, of custom design. He does not call us to the kind of rest that means inactivity or laziness--that would lead to spiritual atrophy. Instead, he promises a burden designed to fit my frame, my individual needs, strengths, and capabilities. The problem so often is that we try to wear a yoke of our own design, or that someone else wants to put on us, rather than the one that Christ has designed for us. When we do that, we get weary, or hurt, and render ourselves useless. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to direct us and put on us the yoke, or labor that he designs for us, not man.