The Yoke of Christ by Rocky Fleming
“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 (ESV)
What a beautiful invitation Jesus gives to us in this passage. Just reading it takes my thoughts and perspective to a place of joy, hope, and relief. Even so, when we voluntarily take on the yoke of Christ, which is a choice we must make, those things promised in it becomes more than just a perspective. The things He promises are real. Indeed, Jesus meets those needs in us and for us.
Contrary to so many promises by leaders who are formed by the world’s ways that develops them, only Jesus focuses on our internal core needs as our biggest need. These needs are out of sight of another human and are rarely considered, much less able to be remedied by them. The problem lies with our inability to consider what drives a person; those internal conflicts that are out of sight and going on in our life. Some people can clearly see a need for the things promised, by looking at their own turmoil and “harassments,” as Jesus described it. But only Jesus can provide for those needs within us. It is an aspect of our “God need,” in that He speaks to the needs within our core being. Jesus offers to provide for those needs when we remove the illusion that these hidden needs can be met by this world’s provisions. It requires that we get into His yoke so that He can lead us with how to navigate our life … with Him.
What kind of yoke does Jesus use as a metaphor for describing close proximity with Him? I at one time imagined it was like my grandfather who would yoke his mule to a plow and direct him with the harness. I thought that Jesus would be directing me in this type of yoke. There could be some similarities with that style of yoke. But most people understand the yoke in Jesus’ day was for two animals that walked side-by-side. This would give us a picture that Jesus invites us to be in the yoke with Him, where He does the heavy pulling while we learn from Him, much like a younger animal would learn from the older, experienced one that walked beside him. It could be described as “on the job training,” so to speak. Either way we are led to believe that by Jesus’ invitation (Come), He offers us help (Take), while He teaches us how to navigate life (Learn), so that we can find peace in our souls (Rest).
Why do so many people not understand that these internal needs cannot be met by the solutions of the world? It is because the Deceiver has blinded us with counterfeits and distractions that promises us that what we need can be found in this world. Oh sure, when we are full of food, shelter, playthings and a big bank account, we think we have no need for what Jesus offers us, and the Deceiver has won his argument. But strip those props away from our life and watch how quickly we see the needs Jesus promises to be our core needs. But it’s not just when wealth is found that the emptiness is seen. It is also when we’ve paid a great price to gather it, and we are still empty.
I think of the embattled people of Ukraine, as I watch refugees streaming to neighboring countries to find protection from a tyrant who is surely under Satan’s yoke. Oh yes. Satan has a yoke as well. He yokes us to all forms of addictions whether it be porn, alcohol and drugs, materialism, pride, or power. His yoke yokes us to his ways and his ways of getting things done. It yokes us to his narcissistic value system, his personality and what he deems important. Though he may deceive us with a few “successes’ along the way, he also yokes us to his bitter outcome, as it takes us down with him. Though an evil tyrant in Russia who follows him may be getting his way for the moment with his vulnerable, weaker neighbor, his end will surely come, and he will eat the bitter fruit of what he has produced. It is only a matter of time. This is where the yoke of Satan leads us.
In a similar way all humans are or were at one time spiritual “refugees” living our lives in quiet desperation. Though we may not look the part on the outside, someone not yoked to Christ has an inevitable eternal demise walking beside them. Though its presence is overshadowed by illusions of success or an attitude that things will turn out ok and I don’t want to talk about it, it will not turn out ok. If we live in the yoke of Satan, we will share his bitter end.
On the other hand, being yoked to Jesus yokes us to Christ’s help in this life and the one to come. Though His yoke may lead us through dangers and maybe even death as we journey with Him, it will always lead us safely home with Him. Only He can assure us that things will work out ok, for he has secured it for us. So, what is better, to choose a yoke that leads to death or one that leads to life? Life is the yoke Jesus invites us to. Death is the yoke Satan leads us to. Which yoke do you choose?