In Matthew 11:28 when Jesus says, ‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. It seems as if the Lord is calling us into a busyness of idleness.
It is as if Jesus is calling us out of every discomfort and labour. It sounds as if He is calling us to an unending rest, doing nothing whatsoever.
It appears as if when we come to Him, He will give us rest and then asks us to go into doing whatever pleases us.
But the next verse, 29, opens with a different issue.
Take my yoke upon you…
Now someone may ask, “Oops! What a thing is this, master? But sir, you call me into freedom and rest, what are you now talking about?
You’ll not only give me yoke but also a burden? What for? So you have your own burden and yoke? Why then did you ask me to bring mine? Oh my God!
What makes the difference; you collect one and give me another? I thought you talked about rest just now, but what has rest got to do with yoke and burden?
You have kept a yoke so that you can place it on me as soon as I come, is that not it? But Lord why…?”
These are few among the questions people ask after their conversion into Christ. A lot of people may think Christianity is a life of doing as you please.
A lot of people think the freedom Jesus is talking about is equivalent or synonymous to lawlessness. But when they come to face the truth at first they tend to ask, why?
Many people are in Christ now asking the questions above. They are querying the master about the burden He placed on them and the responsibility He has given them.
There is a yoke to bear in Christ. Without this yoke upon us, we are not children of God.
When you come to Christ, He takes off the heavy and afflicting yoke placed on you by the devil and then demands you to put His yoke on your neck.
You see, you can’t be without a yoke. You’ll either choose the devil or you choose Christ. You either make Satan your master or choose Jesus as your Lord. This had to be your own decision.
Literally, yoke is anything that is used to connect two living things, usually on the neck, so that they go in one direction, co-operate and do things together.
When two asses are yoked together, one cannot do anything without the support of the other. They do things in forced unity. There is a force that’s compelling them to stay together, that force is called a yoke.
If they fall, they fall together. If they stand they stand together. One cannot stand while the other falls.
Christ’s yoke is a yoke that is not meant for Him alone. It is meant to be carried by both Christ and His disciples. And by saying disciples I do not mean the twelve, but all that believes in Jesus.
For instance, no ox is powerful that can pull a plough to work on itself. Stumble and fall is imminent on the path of an ox that struggles to carry its yoke alone.
So it is with Christ and His disciples. Christ’s yoke cannot be conveniently borne by either Jesus or any of His believers. It could only be made easy as we jointly and cheerfully carry the gospel yoke with Christ.
We can make progress in the Lord except we are tightly yoked together with Christ. It is the yoke of Christ that will make us remain together with Him.
It is the yoke that will prevent us from going astray. His yoke will prevent us from falling and keep us focused.
Show me a man who is yoked together with Christ and I will show you an obedient, trustworthy, honest, faithful and fruitful Christian. He will never run dry of good virtues because he is connected to the source.
The yoke helps us to learn from Him. It serves as a strong connection between you and Christ. It helps us to cling unto Him and thereby prevent us from responding to every wind and wave of heresies and empty but noisy vessels in this end time.
It prepares us for the heavenly kingdom. A person who does things the way it pleases him, a disobedient fellow, who will never be committed to the Master’s service is a person who has never placed Christ’s yoke upon himself.
Let me show you the picture of what Jesus is saying. He is saying,
“Look, I have a yoke tied around my neck at one end. Now that you have responded to my call, there’s something you need to do to keep us going together, and so that you can learn from me:
look at this yoke which is tied around my neck at one end, pick it up at the other end and place it on your self, just as I have it on me.
This yoke will make you and me one. You will no more do anything on your own except we do it together.
This yoke will make us go in the same direction. Wherever I go you will go and wherever you go I will go. Whatever I do you will do and whatever you do I will do also.
You will not go on a mission without me and I will not go on a mission without you present there.”
That is what Christ is saying. The yoke keeps Christ and his disciples going side by side
I see this as a great privilege for us to have Jesus, God in the flesh, now in His full glory asking you and me, sinners as we are, to be yoked together with Him.
Immortal God asking mortals, mere clay, to be unequally yoked together with Him.
Remember that Apostle Paul warns us never to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. But see what a great offer Jesus is offering us, calling even the foulest offenders and infidels to come and be unequally yoked as one with Him. What a lovely God we have!
Followership and discipleship
The yoke Christ is talking about is discipleship. A disciple is not simply a person who sits and listens to a teacher. He is someone who lives with a teacher and who learns by listening, looking, and living.
Discipleship involved more than enrolling in a school and attending lectures. It means total surrender to the teacher. It meant learning by living.
A yoke is a symbol of followership. It stands for strong connection enabling us to follow Christ step by step. We put on the yoke of Christ to follow Him. We will not be able to learn from the Lord except we have His yoke rightly placed upon us.
When we take His yoke upon ourselves we become His followers, when we learn from Him we become His disciples.
The two, followership and discipleship, must be completed in us. There can never be the second without the first.
First thing is, ‘Take my yoke upon you’. It is after this is done that, ‘and learn of me’ can be possible.
As soon as we come to Christ, we must put on ourselves the yoke and start to follow, and not only to follow but also to learn from Him as we walk all the way.
Do you wonder why some people remain as mere church-goers who never live the life of Christ? Do you wonder why some people seem not to have learnt anything from the Lord though they are being raised in a vicarage, church house?
The major reason is that they have not taken the yoke of Christ upon themselves; so as a result, learning from Him becomes very impossible.
Mary and Martha
The story of Mary and Martha is a good illustration here. Martha could not find it easy to subject herself to learn at the Master’s feet.
Many times, the LORD had visited her but she was always busy. Taking the presence of the Lord for granted was not a big deal to her. She had no pleasure in learning from the great teacher.
She prefers being with food to being with the Saviour. She prefers the kitchen service to the church service. She will rather occupy herself with domestic chores than learning spiritual instructions.
People like Martha are many in these contemporary days. They love the worldly activities more than kingdom programs. They prefer worldly songs more than gospel ones. They’ll rather go clubbing and partying than attending a fellowship of believers.
They will choose to be with television or browse the internet in the stead of being with the Lord. They are easily distracted when God’s word is going on.
They prefer watching football to listening to a godly message for their souls. They substitute reading newspapers for the bible.
They are full of pompous zeal for activities in emptiness. They take their work for God more zealously than their walk with Him.
They are not baked yet they want to feature in every program. They lack the listening ears but possess the talking mouths.
But Mary was such a great woman who had learnt not only to be with Jesus but also to learn at His feet. She had studied the Master step by step to the extent that she understands His visit.
She could discern the right thing to do at the right time, and she had concluded in her heart never to allow anything to distract her from learning from the Lord.
She couldn’t have attained this height in the Lord if she had not taken the yoke of Christ upon herself.
Except You Abide In Me…
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me John 15:4-5 NKJV
The call Jesus calls us is to come and stay, not to come and go. That is what brings about the issue of the yoke in Matt 11:28.
From here we could discover that it is not even the coming that matters but staying in Christ. It is of no use to come and go. God desires everyone to come to Christ but His soul has no pleasure in seeing anyone drawing back.
“Except you abide in me, except you are in me, except you are united with me, unless you are yoked together with me, you can do nothing.
You may come from a Christian family, you may be a church worker, your father may be one of my ministers but, except you …I mean you… are directly connected with me, you are of no use”.
This is a serious issue. It is very disastrous and devastating to keep the Saviour at one side and yourself on the other side without any string attachment.
A branch can never prosper if it’s been disconnected from the vine, just as an electronic appliance, no matter how good and useful it is, is useless if it’s not connected to the socket.
Jesus is not looking for people who cannot be led. He’s not into the ministry of managing on-and-off Christians, people aren’t focused.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”. Luke 9:23
It is very sad to notice many people who claim to have come to Christ are actually not looking for Jesus. Some of them are bread and butter seekers while some are miracle and soothsaying seekers.
On this note, I think preachers must be very careful about the way they handle their messages. We must remember that men shall not always live by bread alone and that miracles don’t establish a soul in God’s kingdom.
It is the undiluted word of God that endures forever in the heart of men. Jesus did not establish church primarily to teach secular prosperity and miracles, but salvation, freedom from sin and flesh, fellowship with God, discipleship etc.
We must be very careful not to become sugar quoted and mealy-mouthed that we forget the real gospel of Christ which is able to save souls.
We must always remember that the devil is a stubborn devil. He will always come to see if we still host the yoke of Jesus upon us or if our neck is empty, open and free for any incoming yoke.
No power of hell can overcome you when you have the yoke of Christ on you but you will make yourself an easy target of the devil when you leave your life disconnected from Jesus.
Now the end of that person that throws away the yoke will be worse than the beginning Matt 12:44. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
…for my yoke is light.
The devil’s yoke is heavy and full of terror, afflictions and troubles. It is meant to weigh the victims down. But the yoke of Christ is light and simple. It has no sorrow in it.
The yoke of Christ is not only easy, it’s also gracious and pleasant. There is nothing in it to hurt but to refresh us.
Christ’s yoke is of love and grace. It’s so helpful and profitable to us.
As you continue in Christ, learning at His feet, you will discover that the yoke of Christ is there for your own good. The devil’s yoke gives sorrow and anguish but the yoke of Christ produces happiness and joy.