Jesus spoke words of hope to the frantically busy and chronically tired:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I’ve always found these verses so full of hope. Just reading them makes me feel more rested. And yet recently I noticed a little catch in the promise: ‘take my yoke upon you.’
In Jesus’ day, farmers used oxen as the engine power for their ploughs. Typically, they linked two oxen with a yoke—a wooden beam fastened on their necks—keeping them the same distance apart as they walked together.
Being constrained in a yoke hardly sounds restful, and yet, Jesus addresses his words to those who were weary and burdened. To people who weren’t ‘yoked’ to him, Jesus could justifiably ask: ‘how is that working out for you?’ Jesus knew that it wasn’t a choice of his yoke or no yoke at all.
We can’t help ourselves. Whether it’s being ensnared with steep mortgage repayments, corporate ladder climbing, relational dependence, or task-oriented box ticking, we step into one ‘yoke’ or another. Just because we can choose, it doesn’t make us free.
Jesus knew there is no ‘yoke-free-zone’ so he invited people to be yoked to him rather than to something else. Only as we commit to walking with Jesus can we learn from him who humbly and gently leads us into rest for our souls. Only as we share his wooden crossbeam on our necks will we find our way to expansive, good living. That may feel like a curb on our independence, but it’s a choice we must make if we want to be truly free.