The word ” yoke” appears in the Bible in quite a few instances and the two most well known verses are “My Yoke is easy” in the words of Jesus and “Do not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever”; especially when it comes to dating or marriage. These verses used to frequently feature in our Sunday sermons or bible study sessions, but little did I realise that I never knew the actual meaning of the word “Yoke”.
Growing up, I assumed that it meant, “to be one with” or “mixed with”. Very recently I had this beautiful revelation of the actual reference of this word from one of Dr. Charles Stanley’s sermons. Oh! Have I mentioned that I always look up to him as my spiritual grandpa in Christ. His In touch ministry and powerful teaching of life principles through the word of God, laid the foundation to my growth in Christ. I highly recommend you to tune into his daily podcasts…
So coming back to the point,
What is a Yoke?
We all know that Jesus taught in parables and figurative comparison to what people could relate to in their daily life. He used the illustration of seeds, vineyards, farming, harvesting and many other terms related to their occupation to expound a spiritual message. One such example was a Yoke! A yoke is a wooden bar that was used to bind two animals or oxens together in the agricultural field to enable them to move together in the same pace and plough the land.
Those days, a carpenter’s skill was credited by the quality of yoke he could make. The carpenters put a lot of thought and skill to ensure that the yoke was strong enough for the animals to remain united in the same direction and to withstand the stresses and strains of pulling a plow through the soil, at the same time it had to be light enough so the oxen is not exhausted by carrying the weight of the yoke.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Mathew 11:28-30
With this in mind, the entire perspective with which we understand this verse changes!
In this verse, Jesus is literally asking us to “Take up His Yoke” and join Him as a partner to walk with Him by our side, who will be our companion to guide us in the right direction in the will of God and to be equal partners to help us complete and fulfil what we have been created for. In our daily Christian walk with Christ, He expects us to be “spiritually yoked with Him”. To be spiritually yoked with Him to me is to be completely and constantly dependent on Him for what I am and where I go and how I do, what I do.
In the next line, He says, “Learn from Me”. This immediately painted a beautiful picture of a person turning and fixing his eyes on Jesus as he walked hand in hand with Him along a sea shore, depending fully on Jesus along every step that he took to reach the heavenly destination.
If His Yoke is easy; why does our Yoke feel heavy?
Sometimes we overburden ourselves with so many worries, cares and concerns about our future, our finances, our inheritance, our career goals etc and invest so much of our energy in planning for this uncertain, ever changing, fast paced world. In our daily life, we all have responsibilities and expectations that our family, our workplace, our relationships or our society expects us to fulfil. Many a times we find ourselves carrying more than what we can bear on our shoulders and end up feeling stressed, frustrated, pressurised, inadequate or have a constant need to strive and stretch. This ultimately makes us loose sight of what our real calling and purpose for life! We live in a generation where most physical and mental health issues are directly linked to the stress that people handle today.
What causes us to lose track of our purpose? Your yoke will feel heavy and burdened if you are unequally yoked in a relationship with a person who doesn’t share the values you believe in or if you are yoked with this world and it’s materialistic pressures.
Bringing back the picture I was trying to paint in your mind, what does the man walking with Jesus, see and learn from Him as He fixes his eyes on Him through the journey? What is the Character of Jesus and what is His nature? What can we learn from Him each day? The verse answers that in the next line by emphasising that He is gentle and humble in heart. That reminds me of the list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit,,.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, gentleness, faith, meekness, temperance, faithfulness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires – Galatians 5:22-24
If we are walking closely with Christ, the burdens of the world are ideally not our burdens. Our definition of success, achievement and of a fulfilled life is very different from the way the people of the world define it today. It’s not about competing with one another, proving that you are better, amassing wealth, and dedicating your life to have more and living a self centred materialistic lifestyle like everybody else.
When we stand before God, the houses you bought, the cars you own, the degrees you hold, the accolades that you achieved or the heights of success you reach may not really matter at all. The acts of kindness that you showed, the humility that you displayed, the hungry that you fed, the people that you clothed, the lonely that you comforted, the healing words that you spoke to build someone up, the patient sacrifices that you made for the sake of others, the moments that you silently endured unfairness in meekness, the offences that you let go off, the moments that you held strong in faith even when it wasn’t easy, the sins that you gave up on, the moments of true repentance, your acts as peacemakers, every moment that you practised self control, every soul that you prayed for, every soul that you shared the true love of Jesus to, every life that you touched and every person that you uplifted, every tear that you wiped off, your patient compassion and empathy displayed in actions for those around you is what will really matter before God!
I know that anyone who loves Jesus and who’s heart longs to please Him everyday is constantly desiring to live in His likeliness..
What is it to be truly Yoked with Jesus?
But does all of this sound easy to live by on a consistent basis? I have to be plain honest in saying that personally, there have been many instances where I have felt overburdened by the very thought that I am unable to fully live in a way that reflects Christ everyday. In introspection, I end up feeling like I fail Jesus almost everyday when I lose my temper, when I am impatient, when I am self seeking, when I disobey, when I lash out at my loved ones, when I procrastinate spending time with the Lord, when I lack in faith, when I am rude to someone, when I am sometimes led by my emotions rather than the voice of God, or when I don’t prioritise to go out of the way and extent help to someone else. The truth is, Yes we all might feel like we fail God; but the precious reminder that “we are not under the law of self- righteousness” is what makes our yoke light and free from the overbearing burden to do it on our own.
The burdensome yoke of self-righteousness is in legalistic law-keeping. No amount of law-keeping, can bridge the gap between our sinfulness and God’s holiness. Rather, We have to remind ourselves everyday that we are not our own; we have been bought with a price. The price is the precious blood of Jesus that was shed on our behalf as a remission for all our shortcomings. We are not called to live by our circumstances, our emotions or our own works but to live by faith and conviction that it is already finished on our behalf on the cross!
Remember that when you are partnering with Jesus in His Yoke; everything becomes easy because of the faith that you are not alone in it, rather He has borne your burdens on your behalf. The moment you decide to partner with Him and take up His yoke, you realise that He is the one who has already won all your battles, the one who expects you to simply cast all your cares and worries and burdens on Him; for He cares for you. You can just blindly depend on your strong partner(Jesus) in the yoke, to carry you through life’s Ups and downs even when you slip and fall, even when you feel weak or stumble. We are co- heirs in christ’s righteousness through the blood of Jesus and have already been justified in faith through His loving sacrifice to fulfil the law on our behalf on the cross! Oh what a reassurance of an unconditionally loving redeemer who forgives us, makes up for all our weakness, accepts us, moulds us in His likeliness and finally justifies us before our Father in Heaven!
Furthermore, to make it even more easy, we have the Holy Spirit who is our constant help and source of supernatural power living within us to constantly intercede for us and mould us each day into the likeliness of Jesus. Life deeply rooted in faith in His unfailing love, forgiveness and the finished work on the cross is much lighter and easy than striving to live a self-righteous life by trying to make ourselves acceptable before God by our own works.
However, We still continue to walk in love, patience, long suffering, kindness, gentleness, meekness and self control; but the difference lies in what drives us to live like Jesus; It is the true love that we have for Him and not merely done as good works to be accepted by Him.
My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Ultimately, the core message boils down to one character that Jesus is clearly emphasising in the verse. It is the one character that rids you of your self-dependence and rids you of your inherent need to depend on your own efforts to try and have everything figured out in life. The one life changing character that we all need is “Humility”. Humility is the most important virtue to learn from Christ. A humble heart gives you a realistic sense of conviction of our inadequacies rather than assuming to be right in our own eyes, makes it easy for us to come in terms with the fact that none of us can be perfect on our own and opens doors for complete dependence in Jesus for our spiritual strength and to enjoy a victorious Christian walk!
Well, How can I conclude without bringing you right back to the beautiful picture we have been painting in our hearts through this entire post. Visualising this heart touching poem is one of my favourite ways to deeply understand what it is for a man to walk hand in hand with Jesus…
What else can we ask for, than to trust Jesus’s love and assurance that there’s nothing in life we cannot handle together when we are walking with Him. I pray and encourage you to let go of whatever is burdening you and be yoked with our loving Father, Jesus.
Let Him carry you through with ease:)
Warms hugs and prayers,