Yoked to Christ

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:29

I generally do not find the image of a yoke enticing, and connotations of the term in scripture tend to be negative:  subjugation of Israel by various other nations and of the Israelites by Solomon and Rehoboam; Israel’s weight of guilt (La 1); and legalistic requirements of Judaizers (Acts 15, Ga 5). But Christ invites us to take His yoke and even links it to rest.

A possible interpretation is that we are under the headship, direction, and teaching of Jesus—one who surpasses Solomon in wisdom—rather than being left to wander and pursue vain ends.  What a learning opportunity!  Earlier in the chapter Jesus said that the Father is known only by the Son and those to whom the Son reveals Him, indicating one aspect of our learning is receiving that revelation through the Word, Spirit, and teaching in Christ’s church.

Jesus’ standing as the paragon of true humility and loving kindness encourages us, the slow and fitful learners.  ”A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out” (Is 42:3, reference suggested by D.A. Carson).  And humility, which for us includes recognition of our utterly hopeless position absent God’s mercy and Christ’s work, is the first lesson we must learn from Him.  (“Unless you become like children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Mt 18:3) Such an attitude is necessary for entering the kingdom and then for learning and sharing further spiritual truths.  Such an attitude, moreover, ultimately gives rest for our souls (here Jesus quotes Jeremiah 6:16, which notes that by walking in the “good way” Israel could find that rest) rather than endless striving.  We have confidence that as we are yoked to Christ, he will never leave us nor forsake us; nothing can separate us.   Because we know how the story of this life ends, we need not quiver as we turn the pages.  “Take heart, I have overcome the world.”  A restful yoke indeed.
~Nick Wonder

The Paradox in Christ

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30
“A king who dies on a cross must be the king of a rather strange kingdom.  Only those who understand the profound paradox of the cross can also understand the whole meaning of Jesus’ assertion:  my kingdom is not of this world.”
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer

During his lifetime, Jesus was well known for using parables and paradoxes as teaching tools:

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:39)
“The first shall be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:31)
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5: 44)
“Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” (John 8:7)
Moreover, Jesus himself embodied paradox: the Jews anticipated a military leader and instead they got the Prince of Peace.  The Son of God became a man, born into the world as a weak and helpless baby.  The King of Kings was a servant-leader who washed the feet of his disciples.  The sinless man was known for dining with tax collectors, prostitutes, the infirm and many others on the fringes of society.
All this in mind, it seems clear that the kingdom of Christ defies and transcends conventional wisdom.  The cross was a method of execution reserved for the worst of criminals–people who the Romans wanted to display as an example and a caution to any who might happen to pass by them.
Yet, this was precisely how Christ died.  And it is his death on the cross that brings every other apparent paradox into equilibrium.  You see, we are the other side of the paradox, the polar opposite of Christ: we seek our own way; we are sinful, yet throw stones constantly; we harbor grudges against those who wrong us; we insist upon being served instead of serving.  It should have been us on the cross, but because Christ went in our place, we are brought from the polar extremes of our sinful nature into relationship with him.  Thus it is that when Christ invites us to take his yoke upon ourselves, we can trust that it will not crush us.  So we follow our Servant King, taking up our crosses daily and finding our burdens lightened and our souls at rest.
~Nate Gibson

Take Upon the Yoke

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will
find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:29

Take my yoke upon you.

To take upon a yoke seems to war against our very impression of what it means to be able to rest. Will not a yoke weigh down and burden us immensely? A yoke implies the weight of work yet to be done. How, then, can a yoke provide any sense of rest? Even in issuing this counterintuitive call, Christ spoke with complete calm and sincerity…He knew His offer was
truth, deep truth.

Learn from me.

How could we learn from Christ but to put on the yoke He bore? His yoke, one of suffering spurred by pure communion with, and delight in, God.

For I am gentle.

We stand with that yoke upon our shoulders, kept up by the knowledge that Christ will always bear the yoke for us. His offer is not a transferral of weight to our shoulders, but an invitation
to participate in the plow, work, and harvest.

And humble in heart.

To invite another to know oneself as Christ offered Himself to His disciples took a depth of humility born only of surety of relationship.

And you will find rest for your souls.

What is this promise? Not rest for a weary eye, but rest for a soul otherwise besieged by the unblinking eye of the world. Christ’s yoke is easy, but not in the manner we anticipate. The lightness of it is a direct result of the certainty Christ had in His relationship with God. Lent is that opportunity to experience learning, gentleness, humility, and rest alongside Christ as He rests in the fullness of God’s promise for us. ~Ben Gibson