“Take my yoke upon you…”
The yoke is offered instead of labor with a heavy load. But how is the yoke rest-giving? Hard labor was the result of the curse on the ground. The man was not cursed nor is work a curse.
The Lord offers his answer to the hardness of labor. He offers a type of rest. But this is not a rest from labor. This shows that God was not interested in punishing men with hard labor. He put a condition in place to lead men back to God.
Men have tried to minimize the difficulty of labor over the millennia. Mostly by making others do it. Now we are turning to robots for menial tasks.
But Jesus addresses the issue directly. Being heavy laden sounds like an animal with all that can be placed on its back. How is a yoke better?
The yoke is designed for the individual animal. An ill-fitting yoke is useless. The yoke was made to lessen the effort or maybe enhance the ability of the animal. In either case, the hardness of the labor is reduced. The animal moves in a normal way doing useful work.
Jesus embraced life. He did his work without excessive labor. His ‘yoke’ is his method. He advises us to “learn of me”. He wants us to take on his method of working. He describes himself as “meek and lowly in heart”. What does he mean?
First, he is not proud. He has nothing to prove. Jesus is not known for his ego. He is always matching God’s will to people’s needs. He is careful not to fall into the traps that ensnare men. He follows a wisdom unknown or at least unused by men. His simple heartfelt response to human need with God’s power makes faith and love a continuous reality in his method of working.
How does the ‘yoke’ help “being heavy laden”? Carrying a heavy load is a different kind of work. ‘This stuff must be moved to there as quickly and cheaply as possible.’ Jesus is not interested in this type of work. He is not interested in ‘stuff’. He criticizes the accumulation of wealth as a waste of time and effort.
He implies that carrying a heavy load is voluntary. What kind of load-carrying are we doing voluntarily?
Guilt. God does not make us feel guilty. Sin does. Accumulated sin creates heavy guilt. Jesus offers real forgiveness as relief for that very real guilt. He recommends reconciliation between people to fix broken relationship guilt.
Responsibility. Heaviness comes from shouldering too much responsibility. Some things are beyond your control. Many live with guilt for what happened to those under their care. Or maybe they didn’t take enough responsibility when the should have. This, too, can create a heavy burden.
Happenstance. “If only I had left earlier. I meant to.” “Why was I there at that time?” Vague guilt over uncontrollable events plague some of us.
Wasted time. A realization of time ill-spent can add weight to your burden.
Rash actions. Ill-considered or panic reactions can leave a heaviness behind. “I knew it was wrong (stupid/dangerous/wasteful), yet I did it without thinking.”
All of the resulting heaviness, Jesus offers to remove and replace with “his yoke”. The yoke allows the responsibility of the immediate. Under a yoke, there is no consideration of the past. The heaviness of past actions or non-actions is gone. Only the activity of the moment is important.
“Learn of me.” See how Jesus lives. Does he carry burdens of the past? How does he handle responsibility? He works as a son to a good and wise father. His work is therefore valuable and his time is never wasted. His efforts are maximized by God. He recommends “his yoke” and claims it will give soul-rest.
How can it give this? The burden is mostly on God. Jesus takes only the human responsibility of the moment. He is also aware of all external forces. They are under the control of God so he doesn’t worry about them. This is how he can say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus wants to return us to the work as it was at first. Think of Adam naming the animals. Did he think: ‘Oh, there are so many. Will my names be right? How long will this take?’ No, he had none of these thoughts. As each animal came under his consideration, he named it. His work was valuable and a pleasure to do. God approved and the names stuck. God made them; man named them. God had given the man wisdom and he let him use it.
So we see that work is not a punishment. The yoke is the cure for heaviness of heart. The yoke is designed individually for each one. The yoke enables effective and valuable work. God wishes to remove all the heavy burdens we have accumulated leaving our burden ‘light’. Remember that God takes all responsibility for you. The burden of ‘you’ is on him as well. Let us continually follow his words: “Learn of me…”