How many Scripture verses can you recite from memory? Perhaps you know a verse or two from Psalm 23 – you know – “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” Or maybe you know the whole Psalm by heart. Or how about this verse from Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom then shall I be afraid?”
When we know Bible verses from memory, they become part of our mental furniture, and they go with us wherever we go. And when we need comfort or strength, there is that verse popping up in our mind.
What about this Scripture for comfort and strength from Matthew 11:28-30.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.”
Many Christians have memorized these verses. These verses are certainly among the most familiar Scriptures to many to us. The words have an overall comforting quality. This passage has comforted me many times. Whenever we’re weary from carrying a heavy load in life, a gentle and humble Jesus will give us rest for our souls, especially when that heavy load is caused by spiritual abuse.
What happens when we start wondering what on earth could Jesus have meant by saying that he’s going to put a yoke on us? How could that be comforting or restful?
Most of us in the part of the world that I come from, probably weren’t raised in situations where oxen needed to be yoked. And yet I know – as you probably know – that the symbolism of a yoke is not freedom. The word “yoke” symbolizes subservience and toiling. The yoke is a metaphor for something oppressive or burdensome, such as feudalism, imperialism, or conscription.1
So how could wearing a yoke comfort us? The word yoke itself means to subjugate. So what could Jesus have meant when he told people that following him would mean letting him put a yoke on us?
I read a story about a man who learned what Jesus’ yoke means. The story goes that on Sunday afternoons he used to go out to a small rural church to teach Sunday School. One time, the church superintendent and he were visiting in the community. They saw an old farmer plowing with a team of oxen. As he saw the team, he was amazed, because one of the animals was a huge ox and the other a tiny bullock. The ox towered over the little bullock that was sharing the work with him. He was puzzled to see a farmer trying to plow with two such unequal animals in the yoke and so he asked about it.
The superintendent said, “I want you to notice something. The large ox is pulling all the weight. That little bullock is being broken in to the yoke, and he is not actually pulling any weight.”
When we wear the yoke that Jesus offers, he is the other part of the team. We’re yoked to Jesus. He’s doing the work. We’re not actually pulling any weight. In the normal yoke, the load is equally distributed between the two that are yoked together, but when we are yoked with Jesus Christ, he bears the load, and we, like the small bullock, who are yoked with him, share in the joy and the accomplishment of the labor but without the burden of the yoke. The tragedy is that some of us have never been broken in to the yoke. When we wear the yoke that Jesus offers, we take him with us wherever we go, no matter what we’re doing, because he is yoked to us, and we are yoked to him. That way of life is ever so much better than going it alone.
How can we submit to Christ’s yoke? The explanation is in the little phrase that Jesus also said: “Learn from me.” It's as though he's saying, "Let me teach you what you need to know. Let me guide you and direct you in your activities. Let me set the direction of your life. And then let me help you get there, one step at a time. Learn from me.”
So, our Scripture offers comfort and strength and hope and encouragement with every word, every phrase, even the bit about having to wear a yoke.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.” Matt 11:28-30
May we trust the Lord, even in the middle of the heavy burden of spiritual abuse and a broken heart. May we grow in awareness that he carries the load for us. He carries us. May we relax our angst into Him, where our healing and the joy of the Lord are to be found.
What Scripture do you carry in your heart and in your mind as mental furniture, so that you depend on it when things get tough?
Leave me a comment.
And remember, you're awesome! May God bless you and hold you in the palm of His hand.
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