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The Easy Yoke

All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 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. Matthew 11:27-30.

Jesus was a rabbi (Matthew 26:49; Mark 9:5, 10:51; John 1:38; 3:2 etc etc). He was, of course, much more than a rabbi and certainly he was unlike any rabbi who had come before him or would come after him, but he was nonetheless a rabbi and was treated as such. And every rabbi had his “yoke” which his disciples would “take upon themselves” in order to be his disciples. The “yoke” was the way of life that any particular rabbi prescribed as the way of fulfilling the Torah — God’s law. (Incidentally, this opens up a proper understanding of Matthew 5:17 — “Do not think I have come to abolish the law. No, I have come to fulfil it.”) The “yoke” was the sum total of all that the rabbi “bound” and “loosed” — all, that is, that he declared forbidden or permitted in accordance with his understanding of the Torah (see Matthew 18:18).

And Jesus is here saying two things. First, that “yokes” other than his make people “weary and burdened” … all other ways of life that seek to fulfil God’s law are oppressive and difficult. But that his “yoke” — the way of life that he taught and modelled and that, according to him, meets all God’s requirements — is easy and light.

What is this “yoke”? The preceding verse makes it clear. It is the yoke of sonship as opposed to the yoke of slavery. And the life of a son is indeed easy compared with the life of a slave. There is still the need for obedience … the need to do the Father’s will; but, for a son, obedience springs from love not the threat of punishment. This is the light burden of which Jesus speaks. As the Son, he delighted to do his Father’s will, and now he makes me a son too so that I too might delight to do the Father’s will. As Paul tells the Galatians: “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4.6-7).

Abba Father, let me be
Yours and yours alone.
May my will for ever be
evermore Your own.
Never let my heart grow cold,
never let me go.
Abba Father, let me be
Yours and Yours alone.

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