(Guest post by Nick Welford)
What do you think of most during a day? What thoughts capture your mind when you are otherwise unoccupied? Whatever it is there’s a good chance that is what you are yoked to, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Matthew 11: 28-30 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
I love the imagery that Jesus conjures here. A yoke (as pictured) is a device that holds two or more oxen together while they pull their plough. The interesting thing is that an older more experienced Ox would be yoked to a young rookie. When the youngest got a bit carried away and tried to speed off and finish the job more quickly, the older Ox would pull him back in line, keeping the plough straight. When the young Ox got tired, the strength and experience of the old Ox would keep him on track. Why was this so important? Because one day the young Ox would become an old Ox himself, and on that day, when he’d learned all there was to know about ploughing a field, he would be yoked to a young rookie Ox.
In Jesus day a yoke was also another name of an interpretation of the scriptures. One Rabbi might read the Old Testament and conclude that sacrifice was the most important thing, his yoke would be sacrifice, another Rabbi might conclude love was the main message, and his yoke would be love. What is interesting is that Jesus claims His yoke is easy, but isn’t this the same Jesus that bids daily take up our crosses? That tells us to gain life we must lose ours? Hardly seems like the easiest of yokes does it? How can Jesus justify calling His yoke easy?
The key, I think, comes when we compare Jesus yoke to all the other yokes around Him. All the other yokes will let you down, none of the other yokes can cope with you! If you yoke yourself to a teaching or a theory what happens when you get headstrong? When you make a mistake? An ideal cannot forgive you, it cannot pick you up, dust you off and walk the road with you. In short words cannot teach you to plough. Yoke yourself to Jesus though, and he will teach you how to live.
In our day and age we may not yoke ourselves to Rabbi’s teachings, but the world provides plenty of other ideals to attract our devotion. Consumerism, individualism, money, sex, power. All of these and more bid for our loyalty, and yoke ourselves we do. But when we stumble and fall these things have no compassion, no pity. They cannot love us, or provide for us. All they can do is spit in our faces and laugh at us, and we take it all, thinking that is all there is to life. Yoke ourselves to Jesus though, and He will pick us up every time we fall, He will give us rest from the constant demands of the things we use to yoke ourselves to. Yoke ourselves to Jesus and He will teach us to be more like Him, so we can show others too.