Take My Yoke – Learn From Me
©2009 Jerry Hamilton

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.   Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.   For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."   (Matthew 11: 28-30 KJV)

I honestly cannot remember hearing a sermon or a teaching on this verse where the “yoke” was not presented as a load I had to carry, similar to “take up your cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24).   The yoke was my ministry or my calling or my mission and was my responsibility.   It was the burden that I had to carry (cf Gal 8:5).  I have accepted that interpretation of this beautiful and comforting saying of Jesus for over 70 years.

God is so good!   At this stage in my life, He has allowed me to understand this promise – for it is a promise – as Jesus intended it to be understood.

Jesus lived during a period of time on this earth and in His land where this passage would have been immediately and clearly understood by His listeners.   No one who heard him in person would have misunderstood.   Even the youngsters would have grasped the truths in this verse.   We are too modern, sophisticated and urbanized.   Most people today would have little or no idea of the yoke.   It’s part of an egg.  To a woman, it’s a part of a garment.   To a mistakenly taught Christian it’s a drudge, a duty – and sometimes something to be avoided.

What is the yoke Jesus was talking about?    Believe it or not, it has not changed in any significant way since his day.   It is not used as much – at least in our land – but it is still used in exactly the same way in those areas of the Middle East where farming is the normal occupation.

Normally, the animals used for the heavy labor in agriculture are Oxen.   An Ox is really a bull – a typical cattle bull – who is selected for size and castrated when two years old.   In some cases, a ring is placed in the septum between the nostrils and is used for leading.

In use Oxen are paired and controlled as a unit by the yoke.   The picture below illustrates the most common form of the yoke called the “Bow Yoke”.

yoke of oxen

Although an Ox, by himself, is a very strong animal, two oxen working together have more strength than either one acting alone.   It is a case of the sum being more than the parts.   The Oxen not only share the load but the load is lighter for each one because of the sharing.

In normal practice, when pairing a younger animal with an older, more experienced one, the younger is yoked to the left of the older.   The idea here is that the younger animal will mimic the movements and learn from the elder.

“Take my yoke upon you…”

We must realize that we are always yoked.   We are never truly free.   No man is his own master.   The question is “with whom are we yoked”?   Jesus said we cannot serve two masters.   Although He was referring in that immediate context to God or money, it is true throughout.   We will either serve God or Satan.   If we are serving the flesh we are, by context, serving the Devil.

When Jesus invites us to take His yoke, He means to get into the harness with Him – to serve Him.

“…and learn of (from) me…”

In the yoke the younger Ox learns from the elder.   At first he may rebel and try to go left when he should go right or stop when he should go.   In time, however, one of two things will occur.   The younger Ox will either submit to being taught by the elder – or he will become meat for the table.

If we do not learn to submit ourselves to Christ and learn from Him, we will become useless hangers-on in His Kingdom.

“…for my yoke is easy…”

An “easy yoke” is one that is well-fitted, it won’t chafe or bruise.

“…and my burden is light…”

When we are yoked together with the Lord and fully submitted to “learning” from Him, we find the burden we are carrying is very light – much lighter than we thought it would be.   The reason is simple:   He is carrying most of the load!   Just as the older Oxen carries the bulk of the load until the younger one is able to share equally, Jesus takes upon Himself the bulk of the burden – the very load He called us to carry.

All that we can do in our own strength and by our own means is nothing, and will profit nothing, but our ego.   When we are yoked with Jesus, however, all things are possible.    No burden is too heavy.

And what is even more glorious is that when it is all over and done, and we stand before His throne, WE get rewarded for what HE did!   We need to shake off the yoke of self and the flesh and the Devil and willingly submit ourselves to be yoked with Jesus Christ, the Son of God.   Only there, under His yoke, is there true fulfillment and true joy.