There’s a Yoke to Be Carried in Following Jesus – Make Sure It’s Jesus’ Yoke, Not Yours

Blog-07-13The Gospel from Wednesday’s Daily Mass contains memorable but often misunderstood lines:

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest … Take my yoke upon you … For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

The most important word in this sentence is the word “my.” Jesus says, my yoke is easy; my burden is light.

What is a yoke? It’s a wooden truss that makes it easier to carry a heavy load by distributing the weight across a wider part of the body or by allowing the weight to be shared by two or more people or animals. In the picture at left, the woman is able to carry the heavy water more easily with the weight distributed across her shoulders rather than in her hands. The load is eased by involving more parts of the body. Yokes are also used to join two animals and help them work together in pulling a load.

What is Jesus saying? First, He is saying that He has a yoke for us. That is, He has a cross for us. Notice that Jesus is not saying that there is no yoke or cross in following Him. There is a cross that He allows, and He allows it for a reason and for a season.

Easy? Jesus says that the cross he has for us is “easy.” The Greek word χρηστὸς (chrestos) is better translated as “well fitting,” “suitable,” or even “useful.” In effect, the Lord is saying that the yoke he has for us is suited to us; it fits us well and has been carefully chosen so as to be useful for us. God knows that we need some crosses in order to grow. He knows what those crosses are. He knows what we can bear and what we are ready for. Yes, His yoke for us fits us well.

But notice again that little word: “my.” The cross or yoke that Jesus has for us is well suited and useful for us. The problem comes when we start adding to that weight with things of our own doing. We put wood on our shoulders that God never put there and never intended for us. We make decisions without asking God. We undertake projects, launch careers, accept promotions, and even enter marriages without ever discerning if God wants this for us. And sure enough, before long our life is complicated and burdensome; we feel pulled in many different directions. But this is not the yoke of Jesus; this is largely the yoke of our own making. Of course it is not easy nor does it fit well, because Jesus didn’t make it.

Don’t blame God; simplify. Be very careful before accepting commitments and making big decisions. Ask God. It may be good, but not for you. It may help others, but destroy you. Seek the Lord’s will. If necessary, seek advice from a spiritually mature person. Consider your state in life; consider the tradeoffs. Balance the call to be generous with the call to proper stewardship of your time, talent, and treasure. Have proper priorities. It is amazing how many people put their career before their vocation. They accept promotions, take on special assignments, and think more about money and advancement than their spouse and children. The burdens increase and the load gets heavy when we don’t ask God or even consider how a proposed course of action might affect the most precious and important things in our lives.

Jesus’ final advice, then, is this: Take my yoke and only my yoke. Forsake all others. Simplify.

So stop “yoking around.” Take only His yoke. If you do, your burdens will be lighter. Jesus says, “Come and learn from me. I will not put heavy burdens on you. I will set your heart on fire with love. And then, whatever I do have for you, will be a pleasure for you to do. Because, what makes the difference is love.” Love lightens every load.

4 Replies to “There’s a Yoke to Be Carried in Following Jesus – Make Sure It’s Jesus’ Yoke, Not Yours”

  1. You are getting towards bedrock here Monsignor, unless I am sadly mistaken in my understanding, in the which I would kindly appreciate your setting me straight. I always defer to the teachings of Jesus, no matter what anyone else says anywhere else in the Bible. I have many, many friends who insist that Paul teaches that the law was nailed to the cross, even though Jesus says that heaven and earth will pass away before we lose even one tittle of the law. I have to comport Paul’s teachings with Jesus, I do not make Jesus’s teachings comport with Paul. Paul to me is like a college professor of advanced learning, if Paul doesn’t keep you up late at night praying that God will teach you what he’s talking about, then in IMHO, you are not reading Paul right, very few people can figure out calculus after the first, or even the twentieth reading, Paul is way past calculus. What I want to say is, I think humans have an erroneous conception of what Jesus is referring to in His use of the term yoke. I think humans have a very ugly picture of what a yoke is and does. I think they picture a yoke on a beast of burden, a slave to the driver with the whip, something that would be a form of punishment or humiliation if it were placed on the neck of a human. But you never see a yoke being used without something else, the reins. Reins are always used in conjunction with a yoke to give guidance. “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:10. When I was a child my father, when we would go to the state fair or an amusement park, he would tie a rope around my belt loop, not to humiliate me, nor as punishment, but for guidance, to keep me safe and to give him peace of mind. I learned responsibility from his yoke and how to stay focused with his reins. The universe is a huge place, Jesus made it for us, He wants us to life in it, He wants us to see it, but He can’t just turn us loose in it. He needs to be there with us, He needs to direct our paths and I for one welcome having His hands always near. Remember, Eve had no yoke or reins and look how quickly disaster struck. And even more than this, I think this is one of the ways Jesus teaches us. He will use words like yoke which to many people is a stumbling block, it turns many people against the Lord, they say see, He is no better than a slave driver, He wants to turn you into a beast of burden, He doesn’t love you, He doesn’t want you to have free will. But when you couple the word yoke with the word reins you see that He is not a slave master and that He really does only have our best interest at heart. He does this so that we learn to love and trust His word. He could have written all this on our hearts, He could have made the Bible as easy to understand as see spot run, but thats not what He wanted. He wants us to discover where He hid His jewels. “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.”Proverbs 25:2. You want to be a king? Then search out the Glory of God in his scriptures. There is nothing ugly about our relationship with the Almighty. I can give another example to illustrate what I mean. Jesus says “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage…” Matthew 24:38 and that is supposed to tell us how it will be just before Jesus returns. I mean when you look at it, it’s not much of a clue, I mean when haven’t people been getting married or eating and drinking? Could you maybe narrow it down a little bit more please? But when you look you see that it is an excellent clue, if you look, and you read the scriptures you see that Jesus has told us all we need to know. “And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.
    And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle.
    And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.
    And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.” This is Genesis 4:19-22. The second son was Jubal, and he was the father of all that play music. 60 years ago if you didn’t have a piano or a fiddle, you didn’t hear music, now everybody is wearing earplugs, music is everywhere. The third brother was good with metal and designing things, wonderful things, magical things. 100 years ago a pocket watch was high tech, today we have satellites and transistors, TV and submarines, smart bombs and medical devices. And then you have the first brother Jabal, tents and cattle, wealth and food. But even more than that, for the cattle diluted the sacrifice. If you had 10,000 head of cattle, it was nothing for you to sacrifice one to atone for your spending yesterday at the brothel. The devil has always tried to minimize what Jesus did on the cross. And that was how it was in the days of Noah, and now you see that it is exactly how it is today. Jesus gave us the clue about the gold, but He told Moses where to find the gold. You are going to have to discover Miss Naamah on your own, I have my own opinions about her though. The word yoke was just a clue, was just a beginning, by itself it even seems harsh. But once you couple it with the word reins, then you see a better picture of a loving Father guiding His son. The Word of God is a stumbling block to those who don’t want to believe, but a gold mine to those who believe Isaiah when he says a precept here and a precept there, search the scriptures, for in them you will find life. Most humans can figure out most other humans in about an hour or less, a half a day with any human is usually plenty, your looking forward to moving on. This is not so with Jesus, a billion years from now we will still be learning things about Jesus, it tickles Him pink when you start looking for Him now, when you start understanding that He is truly is the creator of all that there is and that he loves us more than anything thing else that He ever has made.

  2. Here’s where the trouble starts: discerning what Jesus’s yoke is. Especially for things like career and life’s work. When you have to feed little mouths, it’s easy to get stuck spending your days following the money, ignoring your talents and being burdened by life in general.

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