The Purpose Of the Yoke

In the days of long ago, before farmers had tractors to do the work, donkeys, horses, or oxen were used to plow the fields.  A wooden crossbeam, called a yoke, would be attached across the neck of the animal with reins that the farmer would hold to guide the animal in the right direction.  The farmer held a plow and together with the plow and the yoked animal, straight rows would be furrowed, ready to then plant the seeds for the desired crop.  While the yoked animal assisted greatly with the task at hand, it was only the skill of the farmer that could guide the animal to keep the rows straight.

I was thinking about the yoke earlier this week as I was reading in Matthew 11:28-30, “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.'”

This passage, upon first reading, can seem anything but helping to ease a burden.  We picture a yoke as onerous and vexing.  Why would anyone want to wear one?

If we concentrate merely upon the yoke, then yes, we get a picture that is oppressive and troublesome to even think about.  The yoke definitely does not paint a pretty picture in our minds.  Good news!  It’s not about the yoke; it’s all about the farmer.  It’s the farmer who has the skill to guide the animal in the right direction.  In the above illustration; again, it’s not about the yoke, but about Jesus who guides us with every step we take.  As the verse reminds us, Jesus teaches us the right way to go.  He is gentle in His guiding and He uses everything in the fields of life to instruct us in His ways, and His ways are full of beauty.

If all we do is focus on the yoke, the difficulties of life that we face, then we will fail to pay attention to the One who instructs us into all truth, guiding us along the furrows of untamed soil, that we may reap crops of joy and peace and courage.  The yoke is merely an instrument that our perfect Teacher uses to keep us close to Him so that we may feel His tugging here and His guiding to the right or the left there.

Without Him, we will be all over the fields of life, making senseless tracks that lead to destruction. However, with Him, we are always pointed in the right direction that promises fruits of goodness for all our days.

In our passage, the phrase “let me teach you,” is also translated “learn of me.”  You see, as we become familiar to the guiding of the One who holds the reins, then we sense His gentle touch, we recognize His words of encouragement.  As we learn His ways, what happens then?  Trust grows.  Faith grows.  Therefore, joy in the midst of any unfurrowed field, grows, too.  Why?  Because our faith is in the One who holds the reins. We trust that He indeed knows the way we should go.  Therefore, in gladness, we bear the yoke, and take off with His leading into the fields of uncertainty, at last realizing that He always knows the most wonderful way in which we should go.

Imitating

Isn’t it sweet to watch a little child do his or her best to imitate someone they admire?  A little boy may smear shaving cream all over his face with pretenses of shaving.  He wants to be like his Dad.  A little girl is excited to get hold of her mother’s lipstick.  She wants to be like Mom.  Pupils may be inspired by a certain teacher.  They want to study harder, to be like the one from whom they have learned so much.  All though life we meet people, get to know them, and perhaps, if there is something in their lives that we admire, we find ourselves wishing that we could be like that person.

Imitation is said to be the greatest compliment.  To try and emulate someone we hold in high regard and appreciate is a normal human characteristic.  Jesus had something to say about imitation in Matthew 10:25.  He was speaking with  His disciples when He said, “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher.”   In this instance, Jesus was speaking about Himself and of those who learn from Him.  To anyone who knows Jesus and seeks to be like Him, that person is a disciple of Jesus.  To become more and more like Jesus will bring joy and peace to our lives.  To become like Jesus will cause us to want to be a better person tomorrow than what we are today.  There is no higher goal than to be like Jesus.

When we first come to know Jesus, we’re a mere babe in Christ.  We try to imitate Him.  We want to grow into a mature Christian.  We want to talk like Jesus, to make godly decisions, to behave like Jesus.  There will be days of good imitation, and there will be days when Jesus is unrecognizable in our lives.  We all make mistakes.  Sometimes we are even deliberate in turning away from our teacher, Jesus.  We decide that we know best. How blessed we are to have His promise of forgiveness when we sincerely ask Him and determine to strive not to repeat the offense.

There are two things to be said about Jesus and His students: those who forget His teaching are those who grow in personal misery; those who focus on His teaching are those who grow in personal joy.  There is no in-between. Those who remain faithful and diligent followers of the teachings of Jesus are those who maintain the peace of Jesus in the midst of turmoil.  Those who follow His teachings are those who are given the wisdom of God, a holy discernment in matters of this world, and blessings from our heavenly Father that are far beyond anything this world measures as valuable.

The things of this world will pass away.  Things of God live on for eternity.  Let’s keep Jesus as our number one teacher.  Peace in the midst of hurt, holy direction in the midst of worry, and joy of heart in the middle of all life’s turmoil, will belong to every student who seeks to imitate the greatest teacher; Jesus, who said to His students in Matthew 11:29,

“Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”   What a promise from our teacher!