“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
What is more restful than snoozing with a little one, fresh from the womb laying on our chest?
But whenever I hear this quote of Jesus, I picture two animals, usually oxen, straining together with a plow behind them.
And this visual makes it hard to hear the rest of the verse. How can that hard work give us a place of rest?
The yoke itself is heavy, but necessary for accomplishing the task. But the quality of the yoke or tool can make a difference in the work.
Have you ever tried to cut fabric with a dull scissors? Or slice bread with a dull knife? Or paint with a roller not suited to the texture of the wall?
The yoke is important to how much energy the animal expends to do the task.
The yoke the Jewish leaders laid on the people was layers and layers of laws and rules. While many of the common people looked forward to the Messiah, the customs and foundations overburdened and discouraged them.
Sacrifices cut into their already meager existence.
“Clean” was determined by not doing some tasks that were part of daily life.
Strict enforcement of Sabbath rules were strait jackets rather than restful practice.
As Jesus explained how His ministry was a fulfillment of John the Baptist’s work, Jesus demonstrated a release from disease, hunger, and spiritual darkness. His loving acts, and gentle compassion introduced a new style of yoke.
A yoke that connected the people to God the Father.
A yoke that led to intimacy with God through Jesus.
The promise of rest.
The yoke is still there, not as a burden, but as a foundation to base our lives on, the tool that helps us
cut out the excess,
slice into useable portions,
effectively refresh the dingy old ways,
lets us rest on the Father’s lap.
I need the yoke to guide my days, but Jesus is the yoke and He is gentle and humble.
Rather than rule after rule, his instruction is “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30,31
As we begin Advent, take this yoke, this foundation, as you prepare your heart for welcoming Jesus into the world.