Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.
– Jesus (Matthew 11. New Living Translation)
A yoke is a wooden harness holding two oxen together so that they can complete the heavy manual labor they are assigned. It combines two independent beings to a cohesive unit to complete hard work.
The immediate context of these words – the way Jesus was using these phrases as understood by those in his audience – primarily suggests a yoke of a religious nature. A rabbi would have a multitude of certain, specific teachings and practices, and these together would constitute his “yoke.” If a young boy (always a boy. Always a male) wanted to learn from the rabbi, he would be instructed to learn deeply all of the rabbis rules and instructions. And follow them. The young man would pull with the older and all the fellow disciples these burdensome tasks.
We also understand yoke in a broader context. My load to carry. Expectations foisted upon us by social norms, by family, by employees. But mostly by ourselves.
This is how I’m supposed to be. This is what I’m supposed to do.
I’m supposed to save the world.
I’m supposed to be successful.
I’m supposed to hold on to this dream.
I’m supposed to be smarter than I am – or at least he is. I’m supposed to be strong.
I’m NOT supposed to cry.
As a result, we are weary. Overburdened. Crushed.
My burden is light.
Not because Jesus’ teachings are easy. I can’t think that healing the sick, comforting the afflicted, visiting the imprisoned, feeding the hungry, nor clothing the naked is easy. It’s pretty demanding.
But do we need all the other stuff? All the rules, the regulations, the false expectations?
I am humble and gentle at heart.
God is a god of mercy. I’ve often heard this throughout my life. Often from people who were condemning others for not living up to their standards. So I don’t want to press this. I don’t want to burden you with the idea that if you just.
everything would be all right.
Because that’s not the truth.
The truth is, from my experience, Jesus doesn’t care about our expectations for ourselves. He doesn’t sweat our failures. He doesn’t let us down when we let ourselves down.
Take my yoke…