‘Take my yoke upon you … For my yoke is easy’ (Matt. 11:29, 30). ‘Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple’ (Luke 14:27).
A yoke usually joins two things, persons, animals. A yoke may have a bucket at each end, the burden on the carrier’s shoulder; or it may rest on the necks of two oxen, the burden suspended between the mid-point of the yoke. In the case of persons, the figure is to share a burden as two oxen under a common yoke.
Sometimes we are enjoined to cast all our care upon the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) but in the context of Matthew 11:29 Jesus means that the burdens of our life should be brought to Him where we share them with Him. There we find rest unto our souls. We still have the burden and with it Jesus’ yoke—but the yoke is easy and the burden light. The key to this paradoxical teaching is to ‘learn from me’ the meekness He had.
The ‘meek’ are the blessed ‘for they shall inherit the earth.’ Some suggest the burdens were the legalistic demands of the Scribes enforced upon common people. The Old Testament ritual system was indeed described by Peter at the Jerusalem conference as ‘a yoke on the neck of the [new, Gentiles] disciples that neither our fathers [Jews] nor we have been able to bear’ (Acts 15:10).
To take up this end of our yoke with Christ, in the sense of entering into the ‘fellowship of his suffering, being made conformable unto his death’ is no different essentially from bearing each his own cross as we follow Christ. More specifically, to bear each his own cross means first, to enter into suffering because we are Christ’s, i.e. suffering brought on specifically because we have taken His name and second, to accept the sufferings that Providence sends our way meekly, without bitterness.
Categories: Church Life