My yoke is easy, and my burden light.
While the image of a yoke was familiar to Jesus’ audience, we modern readers may not be able to relate so easily. A yoke is made for two, like a team of oxen. When oxen are young, they are taught to pull together when hitched to the yoke. When one ox tries to go one way and the other a different way, they experience the pain of pulling against the yoke. The harder they fight it, the worse it gets.
So in one sense, we can say that the yoke punishes and burdens the oxen. But when both are going in the same direction, it actually makes their work easier. Usually one ox takes the lead and sets the direction, while the second ox learns how to follow. As they learn the positive and negative effects of the yoke over time, they discover how beneficial it can be.
This helps us understand Jesus’ saying that being yoked to him lightens our burdens. That’s the way a yoke is supposed to work! It teaches us to let him set the course. It teaches us to follow the One who has yoked himself to us in a covenant of love. We also experience what happens as we try to go our own way. We see how fighting God’s lead causes us pain. As Paul understood in Acts 26:14, by kicking “against the goad” (a tool used to drive oxen), he only hurt himself. But when he followed Jesus, he was far more peaceful—and far more fruitful!
Because we are humans, we are designed to learn through trial and—sometimes painful—error. That may sound harsh, but we can be confident that Jesus is extremely patient. He never stops loving us and trying to lead us. He knows that we will become more docile to his leading as we experience the wonderful effects of following him. He is confident that we will learn.
Yes, Jesus’ yoke is easy—because the One who leads us is walking beside us in the yoke. He shares all of our burdens. He invites us to enter into his rest. All he asks is that we follow his lead.
“Jesus, I want to learn your gentleness and humility as I walk with you. Teach me to move in step with you and your Spirit.”
Word Among Us