Matthew 11:28-30 says, 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.
Have you ever sung the wrong words to a song and not known it? When my son was four, I heard him singing “Friend of God”. His version went like this:
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of Ga-aahd
I am a friend of God
He calls me Fred.
The real lyric there is friend. He calls me friend.
My son thought he knew the song, but he had gotten it wrong. His version really didn’t even make sense. Why would God call everyone Fred?
We’ve done this with certain scriptures. We put in a meaning of what we think it is, or what we’ve heard it might mean and run with it.
The above verse is quoted a lot. For years I heard people explain the word yoke as a yoke for Oxen. But when you read it in context, it doesn’t make sense. The previous verse said Jesus was going to give us rest. He was going to take our burdens. Why would he load us down if he had just freed us up?
In Jesus’ day, a rabbi’s teaching was called his yoke.
Everyone in Jesus’ day who heard this knew exactly what he was saying. We however, have lost the meaning in translation. We don’t have a name for what people teach. They are just… teachings.
Jesus was a rabbi. His teaching, or yoke, was a line of thought and belief about the law and the scriptures. These yokes had most things in common, but could vary, like our denominations today. Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians all believe in the Bible, each just defines a few things differently.
Following Christ is never a burden. It does however bring responsibility in the way we should live. When we follow his yoke in our lives, we love God and love others. We will be obedient, and forgiving. We will be humble, and gentle and bear with one another in love.
When we apply Jesus’ teaching and worldview to our lives, we are his followers. A yoke is not something only to be found in your heart. If it is not lived out, it isn’t really a yoke at all.
It’s just something you heard and thought was really cool.