“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Could it be that mankind’s burdens of the soul are analogous to the burdens of the beasts of the field, for why would Jesus mention the yoke, when he beckoned us to come to him for rest?
One might wonder about the purpose of the yoke. At first thought, it may seem an added burden to an animal, but it is just the opposite, for its function is to make the burden light. The plow, attached to the oxen without a yoke would be onerous, but when worked by means of a yoke, becomes easier to pull.
What is the nature of this “rest” that Jesus talks about? The writer of Hebrews exhorts the reader to “labor to enter into Christ’s rest”, a seeming paradox; however, rest is not stagnation as in a still lake, but rather entails simultaneous energy and tranquility, as the rushing waters of a river, or the plunging torrents of a waterfall. It connotes physical and mental activity: toil with the plow and the discipline of learning, but where burdens are light and non-oppressive.
And what is the “burden”? It is life itself with its difficulties, to be carried from cradle to grave. During his days on earth, Jesus recognized that men and women took life painfully, and this enigma of how to withstand life’s unpleasant onslaughts is universal.
“Take my yoke and learn from Me,” says Christ. To take Christ’s yoke upon us is likened to an ox, in meekness, subjecting itself to its Master, no longer going its own way; it goes where the yoke is led. An act of total commitment. To learn from Christ is to look at life according to His perspective, teaching and principles. It is to grasp and comprehend His meekness and lowliness of heart, qualities which banish the scourge of a restless spirit.
Christ’s yoke is easy. The gentle Master is also a skilled Carpenter, who fashions the yoke for a perfect fit, to enable us to carry our burdens with strength. Christ’s yoke is his way of alleviating human life, his prescription for a joyful life in the midst of a difficult world.
There are other yokes and teachers that we can subject ourselves to, but Christ claims that it is his yoke and the learning from him that give rest to our souls, where we can plow through the fields of life more efficiently, and with lighter burdens.
Reference: Henry Drummond, Pax Vobiscum, 1890, electronic book courtesy of http://www.Gutenberg.org.
Image: “Landscape with Horse and Oxen Cart”, Painting in the public domain by Philip James de Loutherbourg (1740-181), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.