My Yoke Is Easy My Burden Is Light
During a recent visit to western New York, I laced up my running shoes and joyfully revisited its pastoral landscapes. I scanned the vast, piercing blue horizon to behold farm after farm of crops growing slowly under the attentive eye of the Almighty.
I didnt see any oxen on the farms as the miles unfolded, but I started pondering a fitting word from Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light .
Like me, youve probably read this passage many timesbut can we agree that this teaching is confounding? Why did Jesus say his yoke is easy and his burden is light?
Is There A Difference In Meaning In Different Nations
The york has various symbolic meanings for different nations. In some ancient cultures, such as Italy, it was traditional to force a defeated enemy to pass under a yoke made of spears or arrows to humiliate them or remove blood guilt.
Some other cultures have also used the yoke as a metaphor for something oppressive or burdensome, such as imperialism, feudalism, conscription, etc. Thats why we find expressions like the Norman Yoke , the Turkish Yoke, and the Tatar Yoke.
Another use of the term yoke refers to the state of being linked together by a contract or marriage. This is also where the word yoga comes from, as in connecting with the divine.
What Was The Heavy Yoke He Was Referring To
In the Mosaic law there were over 600 laws that Jews were required to follow. On top of these laws that were so numerous hardly anyone could keep them straight, the Pharisees and Sadducees added extra little tid-bits that made it even harder to follow.
The ironic thing was that not even the Pharisees and Sadducees could keep up with all of them. They were the religious professionals of the day. They couldnt fulfill all of the duties and extra-curricular duties that were lined out, yet required the average Jew to be held to a standard way above their own. When a person could not meet the criteria for something, the Pharisees came down on them.
One example is the Passover, families would travel many miles and even days to come to the temple for Passover. Depending on the distance of travel some would bring their sacrifice with them, while others would look for a sacrificial animal once they arrived in Jerusalem.
This is where we come to Jesus telling the Pharisees that they were making His Fathers house a den of thieves. You see, after carrying their animal with them through their travels, they would be told it was unacceptable, and they had to purchase one of their animals at an expensive rate. Or if a person was getting one from there once they arrived, they had to pay the high prices. This ticked Jesus off obviously, since he proceeded to flip over tables, and drive them out with whips. But, this is another story for another time.
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The Easy And Light Yoke
Now Jesus proceeds to defy the Pharisees yet again, by saying that His yoke is easy and His burden is light? Why? Because he took the entirety of the 600 plus Mosaic laws, and all of the extras that the religious professionals had added in, and summed it up into 2 commandments.
What were they?
He tells us in Matthew 22:40
On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.
The burden was no longer to maintain 600 plus laws and all the extras, but to love God with all your heart, your souls and your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Do these and you will fulfill all the others.
Righteousness is no longer established by rules and regulations. It is now established through relationship. Relationship first and foremost with God, then relationship with ourselves, and finally our relationship with others. We are commanded to love others as we love ourself. If we do not love ourself as God loves us, how then will well effectively love others. This trifecta of love is the established order of the new kingdom.
Following Jesus is so simple, and thats what makes it difficult for some people. The yoke of coming to God is easy. His requirement is easy. The difficult part is the spiritual formation process. Sharing in His sufferings, as Paul encourages us, is part of that spiritual maturation/formation process. .
Never Again Submit To A Yoke Of Slavery
Id heard this before but could not pinpoint which verse it belonged to.
That evening, I asked for prayer to hear Gods voice more clearly. I often struggle with hearing His voice above my own, or worse, the enemys voice. But I could hear Him clearly now, and He kept repeating the same phrase.
Never again submit to a yoke of slavery
I opened my bible and started searching for the rest of this mystery verse. I landed on Galatians 5:1:
For freedom Christ has set us free stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
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Jesus Invites Us To Take His Yoke Upon Us And Learn Of Him
Read and discuss Matthew 11:2830.
What does it mean to labour and heavy laden? . What are some examples of burdens we bear in this life? How can the Lord give rest from these burdens?
What is a yoke? What does it mean to take Christs yoke upon us?
If you are using the video presentation Come unto Me, show the first part of it now. Stop the video when President Howard W. Hunter has finished speaking.
The Lord states, My yoke is easy, and my burden is light . In what sense is the Saviors yoke easy? Why do some people think that the Lords teachings are too restrictive? How does obeying and serving the Lord make our burdens light?
The Weight Of The Law
To understand our Lords invitation, we must understand that those to whom He was speaking were crushed beneath the weight of the Mosaic Law. Our Lord addressed those who numbered themselves among the disciples of Moses and who were the disciples of the Pharisees. Neither Moses nor the Pharisees could give rest from the pressing burden or offer release from the oppressive load that the Law brought. Christ, recognizing that there was no other course to rest and peace than that to be found through submission to Himself, came to invite people out of their old discipleship to a new one.
The Law was given by Moses , and because the Pharisees considered themselves the Laws official interpreters, they promoted themselves as authorities in Israel. We read, in Matthew 23:2, that Christ referred to these teachers of the Law and the Pharisees as men who sit in Moses seat. Claiming the authority of Moses as interpreters and teachers of the Law, they demanded that all in Israel who submitted to Moses also submit to them, and that individuals in Israel recognize themselves not only as disciples of Moses but also of the Pharisees.
Our Lord looked at a nation under a heavy burden, a burden that the Pharisees made no effort to lift from those who were crushed beneath its load. And He came to say, Come to me . . . and I will give you rest.
Elements Of The World
Writing to this diverse group, Paul spoke of everyone being in bondage under the elements of the world until God delivers us from those enslaving thoughts and actions through Christs sacrifice for our sins. Is it accurate to interpret elements of the world to mean the law of God?
No! Paul never referred to the commandments as elements of the world. Nor did God inspire any other writer of Scripture to refer to His laws in this way. Said another way, nowhere does the Bible call Gods law, or the laws God gave through Moses, worldly.
Instead, biblical references to the world mean the system governed and influenced by Satan. We need look no further than within this same letter to see what Paul meant: But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world .
What Does The Word Meek Mean In The Bible
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The word meek in Greek is praüs which means gentle. Christ spoke of Himself saying:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls .
Jesus tells us in this verse to take His yoke. A yoke is a tool that links two oxen in order to pull a plow. If we connect ourselves to Jesus, then it is Him who gives us the strength to walk in His way of meekness. All we have to do is abide in Him, submitting to His will, and then He does this work for us and in us. This is clear as the following verse states, For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. It was the meek and gentle nature of Christ, despite how He was treated, that demonstrated His character of love.
The Hebrew equivalent of praüs is anaw, or ani, which means poor, afflicted, and humble. The word is also used of Moses, who was very meek . This word also appears in other areas of the Old Testament as it states that the blessings God has been promised for His meek people .
Meekness is the attitude of heart and mind that prepares the way for sanctification. If we are meek, then we are teachable. A meek and quiet spirit is very valuable to God . Thus, it is something His followers ought to seek after . It is also a fruit of the Holy Spirit .
In His service,
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Take My Yoke Upon You
We can be very thankful that an innermost rest is available, and that Jesus tells us the way to it. Take my yoke upon you What is His yoke? We only need to think of the constraining harness used to keep oxen moving according to the farmers will. When I am bearing Jesus yoke, I cant go my own way, but must submit to a higher will. How does that bring me real rest in my soul?
Learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart. What a teacher! He who knows exactly what it is like to live in an ungodly world, with a body and soul that is subject to moods and many temptations. With the tendency to judge matters according to what I think and feel at any given time and to react accordingly. He invites us to learn from Him, He who is gentle and lowly in heart.
There, under the yoke of Jesus, I understand that when God is really in control of my life and I submit myself to His will, I find rest. Any protestations about the others, and/or the treatment I receive by them or lifes circumstances must cease. He is leading my life now, and I am learning to be thankful for all things, as it is His perfect will for me. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
Galatians 5 And The Yoke Of Bondage
Now that weve examined the preceding passages in the book of Galatians where Paul spoke of bondage, we have the background to understand what Paul meant when he said to these members of the Church: Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage . To the Christians who were previously gentiles, he was saying, Dont go back to the worldly ways you practiced prior to being called by God. To the Christians of Jewish background who thought they could earn salvation by obedience to Gods law, he was saying, Dont hold onto that mistaken view. We are saved by Gods grace.
Both groups held incorrect ideas and both represented being entangled again with the bondage of misguided thinking. Galatians 5 shows that spiritual liberty comes from knowing the truth. Keeping Gods commandments is not bondage. Even though keeping Gods law cannot earn us salvation, God clearly expects us to keep His law after weve been forgiven for breaking it. As Paul told the Romans, The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good . This was Pauls consistent teaching in all of his letters, including here in Galatians 5.
About the Author
Cecil Maranville is a minister of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He worked for many years with the responses to questions our readers send to this website and is now retired.
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Jesus Declares That He Is Lord Of The Sabbath
What did the Pharisees do when they saw Jesus disciples pick corn on the Sabbath? What did the Lord teach as he responded to their accusation?
What did Jesus mean when he said, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice? How can we use this principle to guide our Sabbath activities?
What did Jesus teach about the purpose of the Sabbath when he healed the man with the withered hand and the woman bound by an infirmity? What did he teach about the Sabbath in ? What can we do on the Sabbath day to glorify God? How can keeping the Sabbath day holy make our burdens light and bring us rest?
What Does It Mean To Be Unequally Yoked
Answer: In the scripture you reference, Paul is using the analogy of animals unequally yoked or put together to make a point concerning our associations with other humans. The verse in question is in chapter 6 of 2Corinthians. Interesting, this is the only place in the KJV New Testament where the word yoked is used.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and lawlessness have in common? And what fellowship does light have with darkness? And what union does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever?
Paul is drawing his analogy from the Old Testament prohibition against yoking an ox with a donkey . Related to this verse is Leviticus 19:19 which warns of breeding differing kinds of livestock.
Animals that were yoked had a piece of wood used to connect them, each with their own collar, so that their combined abilities could more easily perform a particular task. Oxen, horses, donkeys, and mules paired in this fashion were good for pulling a load, plowing a field and so on. Farmers knew that it was not wise to unequally yoke animals togethers.
The context of Paul’s admonition is the relationship of believers with unbelievers. Its most obvious application would be within the confines of marriage.
Jesus tells us that we can avoid or lessen being unequally yoked together if we “. . . learn from me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest for your souls” .
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Take My Yoke Upon Youfor My Yoke Is Easy And My Burden Is Lightmatthew 1: 28
The unmistakable stirring in my heart to say yes to Jesus came at an unexpected time in my life. Growing up in church, I thought I knew what it meant to be a Christian. I had memorized John 3:16, after all. So now as I sat in the associate pastors office at my friends church, new feelings surfaced.
As the pastor spoke, I knew I needed to make a change. He explained the love of Christ in a way unlike what Id heard before. And when he asked if I wanted to be saved, I accepted. Then, while walking out the front double doors, my friend asked, So, how do you feel?
I remember the sensation well. In fact, I dont think Ill ever forget it. It felt like a physical weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I felt somehow lightened.
Before becoming a Christ-follower, I always thought the decision would bring with it a hefty set of rules. I thought more would be expected of me, and if I couldnt carry the load well, Id be tossed aside.
And while picking up our cross may seem like Jesus is asking us to carry a heavy load, the opposite is actually true. When we walk with Jesus we will face challenges. But with Him by our side, what appears to be a burden is supernaturally made easy.
Looking at the context and meaning of this verse, we can better understand the gift Jesus offers by sharing His yoke. We can learn how to experience the light burden and easy yoke of Jesus.
A Prayer For Taking The Yoke Of Jesus
Thank you that your yoke is easy and your burden is light. Thank you that you promise to give the worried, the hurried, the pressured, and stressed out – rest and peace for our souls – if we’ll just come before you. Thank you that you already know all that concerns us, and you care. Were so grateful for your reminder that we don’t have to carry it all on our own. Forgive us for the times that weve tried to fix things in our own power, for not taking the time to rest, or coming to you first with our needs and burdens. Thank you for the refreshing that comes from your Spirit, filling us with joy, covering us with a shield, leading us forward with hope. Equip us to be those who take notice of others who seem weary and burdened too. Help us to slow down, to take the time, to point others to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Kristine Brown is the author of the book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out Gods Plan , and the companion devotional for teen girls. For more resources from author Kristine, including prayers and mini-studies to help you become more than yourself through Gods Word, visit her website, kristinebrown.net. You can also connect with her on .
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