The Yoke Of Love

How many of you have tried to carry something that was too heavy? I would say we’ve all done this at some point, both naturally and spiritually. Even if we’re able to lift something, we’ll quickly grow weary if it’s too heavy. We may not always be able to see it spiritually, but we have to be careful not to pick things up that are a burden! If we’re always spiritually exhausted, then something is wrong. Jesus addressed this in a well-known passage of scripture saying,

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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” (Matthew 11:28-30)

As we walk with Jesus, we should never feel weighed down. He said His burden is light! This week, I want to share some thoughts with you about what that actually looks like.

We should always be careful to avoid isolating particular scriptures when we read the word of God. Especially if it’s something we may have read or heard often, we may skim over a verse thinking we know exactly what it means and miss what the Lord is saying.

The context of this particular passage of Scripture is important! Right before the above verses, Jesus said,

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:25-27)

Right after Jesus makes these statements, he and his disciples went into a grainfield on the Sabbath and picked some grains of wheat to eat. This was against the Rabbinical law and the religious leaders were absolutely incensed. His response to them is powerful:

He said, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:3-8)

Religion condemns the guiltless, but Jesus came to liberate the guilty. This idea of the breaking of the yoke clearly has spiritual application as Jesus accused the religious leaders of “burdening” the people with “loads” they themselves couldn’t bear. He said in Matthew 23:2-4,

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”

In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders had twisted the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and made it absolutely impossible to keep what God had said. The above exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees in the grainfields is a picture of that. Jesus and the disciples weren’t breaking the law of God, but the law of man! The application of religion had become a yoke on God’s people. For that reason, the people bore the weight of trying to do something they never could and then carried the weight of condemnation when they weren’t good enough.

Jesus came to break the weight of their religious burden and set His people free. He came to bear the weight of our imperfections on the cross. He is the Word of God and He said, “my yoke is easy.” What’s so interesting about Jesus’ statement, though, is that a yoke would never have been voluntary. As Jesus pointed out, the religious leaders “laid” a burden on the people. The people didn’t choose it. Throughout the Bible, yokes represented slavery. No one would choose slavery! However, Jesus told us to “take” His yoke. That’s because it’s not a burden, but a choice to be united. This would have been a strange thought to the listener though, wouldn’t it? Who would choose to be yoked? Who would choose to surrender independence? The only answer is love. 1 John 5:3-5 says,

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Even as we keep His Word, we’re never under a burden. We overcome by faith and then keep His commandments out of love. It only works by love and that’s what it is to walk with Jesus. We do have to submit to the yoke of His Word, but that yoke joins us to Him. It’s the lightest burden in the world because He carries the weight of everything we can’t. In Matthew 11:25-27, Jesus talked about how God reveals His truths to children. Why? We can’t take the yoke of Jesus in our own strength or wisdom. We join ourselves to Him in faith, with childlike trust, and He removes every burden from our shoulder and breaks every yoke of slavery. The requirements are simply to come in faith, to take His yoke upon us as we surrender to His word, and to learn from Him.

Psalm 81:6-8 says,

“I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket. In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me!"

God said, “O Israel, if you would but listen to me.” That’s God’s cry throughout the entire Word of God and that’s what Jesus echoes when He asks us to “learn from Him.” If we will just listen and obey the Word of God, there is no weight of religion or condemnation. There is no weight of fear or uncertainty. He has already borne every weight we weren’t created to bear!

If you’ve felt weighed down, I want to encourage you, today: It’s not the burden of Jesus. If you aren’t saved, you will carry the weight of your own sin, but Jesus died to set us free. Isaiah 53:4 says,

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”

You may have tried to carry your own salvation or calling, which is exactly what the religious leaders did, but that’s a weight no human being has ever been able to carry. That’s why the Father sent Jesus! In Him, we find rest for our souls. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. If we join ourselves to Him in childlike trust, we are free.

Psalms 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

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