Take the Yoke of Christ

“Come to me, all who labour 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 light.” Mt 11:28-30

There is a tradition which claims that Jesus was a very good yoke maker when He was a carpenter working with His foster father, Joseph. In those days the local farmers would have brought their animals to Jesus and He would have measured them very carefully around the neck and shoulders etc. Then He would build from scratch, using wood, leather and metal, either a single yoke for one animal or a double yoke for a pair. Then the farmer would return with his animals and Jesus would have fitted the yoke and made any final adjustments that were needed.

When Jesus spoke about the people being under “labour” and “heavy laden” He was talking here about the burden which the Pharisees had placed upon them with heavy responsibilities and an endless series of petty regulations, there were not just 10 commandments in the Jewish law, there were 613 commandments. This, Jesus complained about to the crowd in Jerusalem: “the Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach but they do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders {like a yoke}; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” (Mt 23 1-4) Later, we see Peter also complaining to the Pharisees and picking up on Jesus’ use of the term yoke “Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10)

When Jesus spoke to His people telling them to take upon themselves His “yoke” for His was “easy” and His “burden light” (Mt 11:28-30_ Jesus was telling them that it would be through His grace that they would become righteous and not through the burdensome rules of the old law. The yoke of Christ is “easy” and its “burden light” because we shall be saved by Grace through the power of the Holy Spirit. St Paul tells us that we are “justified by faith apart from works of the law”. (Rom 3:28) (Nothing to do with ‘good works’ incidentally) Christ’s burden is also light for us because when He built the yoke which we shall carry He built a double one, one which He himself will share with us. “I am with you always, till the close of age (Mt 28:20) When wearing this yoke, we must walk with Christ at the correct pace, our lives must be orderly and balanced in Him. If we walk too slow we shall not pull our weight, and so not serve God well; if we run too fast we may stumble through pride or neglect. We must simply stay close to Jesus.

Whatever trials or temptations we may face we know that Jesus is always at our side sharing the weight of our heavy load. Jesus did not say that there would be no burden, but that His burden would be a light one. The burden which we must endure is the struggle against the darkness of this world to fight to the end for the glory of God, to remain pure and holy, to keep vigilant, to pray earnestly and long, to be the “light” and the “salt” of this dark and unsavoury world. To defend the Gospel of Christ, to impart grace to others through prayer and sacrificial love for the greater good of all mankind. For those who follow Christ, through His help, these things are not a burden, but a joy, and that is why Christ tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden light.

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