The Yoke’s On You

         The Lord Jesus promises us an easy yoke. Think about that. The existence of an easy yoke implies the existence of its opposite—a difficult yoke, which no one really wants but many already have.

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         “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 11:29-30]

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            Rather than the counterfeit taskmasters we are used to or the dry, empty instruction of lifeless hirelings that do nothing for our hungry souls, the Lord identifies Himself as a gentle and humble teacher with a guaranteed promise.

         He promises a light burden instead of heavy and hard to carry burdens and bleak servitude. He promises an easy yoke, signifying His teaching in the service of God instead of the scribal standard that never satisfies the soul. And He attempts to convince us to trust Him regarding His promises and our discipleship under His authority, that our hearts may be fulfilled and satisfied, and that we find the refreshing we seek.

          His intention is to remove us from the fruitless instruction of others (“learn from Me”) and bless us with the spiritual rest and refreshing we need and desire.

         He wants to take us back through the fog of countless incomplete and incorrect teachings and teachers to the beginning, to the foundation, to the well—to the answer. He quotes Jeremiah:

         Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.” [Jeremiah 6:16]     

         There is another word in the original languages closely associated with the one used for yoke in the above narrative, and is used with reference to a yoked pair. It relates to a rough wooden yoke built for two farm animals standing side by side with their heads yoked together at the neck to work in tandem.

          Could it be the Lord is also telling us to be yoked together with Him as in the above? If so, He has already placed Himself in one side of the yoke and is asking each of us to place ourselves in the other side. By this, He would also be saying He will never ask us to do what He is not doing.

         Consider the implications of this arrangement—whatever the Lord may propose to do will instantly involve us doing it as well. He refers to it as His yoke, not ours. Yet, even in that, once we are yoked together He cannot force us to go along. We must make the choice to work with Him BESIDE Him. And because it’s an easy yoke, He will always consider a pace we can handle.

         This is completely indicative of why Abraham was credited with righteousness. When he entered into covenant with the Lord, as pairing up with Him in a yoke, Abraham committed himself to work alongside the Lord and do whatever was required for the rest of his life. This is the commitment a real Christian makes.

         Are we following the Lord within this arrangement? Yes, certainly. Though He is not geographically in front, He still leads, that is, until we learn to work with Him. At that point following Him becomes natural and second nature.

         This is what the farm animals do. When a pair of animals is first teamed up they must learn to work together. It takes time and effort to synchronize themselves one with the other, and is much harder than it may appear. The two may fight and pull against each other in the beginning, and maybe even buck. And since the driver following behind wants strong and stout animals it is that much harder to get them on the same page.

         For each animal, the arrangement is unnatural. It is difficult enough to be strapped to a plow but to be yoked to another animal as well and be expected to work is next to impossible. The physical strictures are beyond uncomfortable. The entire arrangement demands revolt, which includes yet another brutal cruelty—the callous commands of the driver holding the reins.

         How can these two independent farm animals with minds and instincts of their own make such an unnatural set-up work? What if one lags? What if one is trying to set a stronger pace than the other can handle? What if one becomes obstinate like a stubborn mule and refuses to conform? Eventually one becomes the leader and the other follows along until the two arrive at a united and steady pace.

         This can take quite a while. The driver must drive the team but also have enough patience to make it work. A good team is hard to put together, but once successful, a lot more work can be accomplished with a yoked team than with two singles.

         Consider the pastoral scene before us two thousand years ago. The Lord Jesus was teaching disciples very familiar with the particulars of the illustration. These were rural and semi-rural men, most of whom made a living with their hands. They were in sight of the grainfields of Galilee and likely an existing team of yoked draft cattle working a field. The men would understand the spiritual significance of the Lord’s teaching by seeing the scene right before them.

         Imagine, then, those in another rabbi’s school, or one animal in a tandem yoke. The Lord says any other teacher is essentially a mere hireling who has certainly not entered into a committed discipleship covenant with the student, and that a single draft animal in a tandem yoke meant for two is meaningless. In a spiritual sense, a single unyoked worker can certainly appear to work, but without the Lord can actually get nothing done:

         “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” [John 15:4-5]

         Now, considering the implications in the above passage, note in the following verse how the Lord perfectly modeled both the vine and branches figure and the yoke illustration:

         Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” [John 5:19]

         This is a perfect picture of the Father and Son being yoked together. The Father and Son, however, are not separate in the sense that two farm animals are separate, yet the two separate farms animals yoked together actually become one in an effectual sense regarding the work they accomplish. They pull together with the same exact strength walking at the same exact pace. They learn to work together so perfectly they instantly anticipate the other’s moves and make adjustments. If one animal suffers a misstep or an injury the other compensates for it. The two become a team working as one.

         And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs [Mark 6:7]

         Interesting, huh?

         Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. [Luke 10:1]

         As a tandem team of farm animals, so were these disciples. They were learning to work together.

         The yoke teaching is thus:

         (1) The Father and Son are yoked perfectly together.

         (2) Each disciple individually must be yoked together with the Lord (Who is Father and Son).

         (3) One disciple must be paired with another.

         (4) Each pair must learn to work with each other pair.

         The Lord was so successful in making all this unity happen He was able to gather 120 devoted disciples together in the upper room for the Holy Spirit outpouring of Pentecost! That’s not sixty pairs, though, but a single unit composed of 120 individuals. Each one of these were yoked with the Lord which made the yoking together of all possible.

         It was the Lord Jesus, by His Holy Spirit, who provided the spiritual connective. This is also why the single fire which was manifested as the visible presence of God in the upper room separated into 120 parts, was distributed, and rested upon each disciple. This could not have happened if the 120 were not in spiritual unity.

         This unity was so perfectly formed that the 120 functioned as a single ovum given life by the Spirit of God from which the entire Body of Christ would miraculously grow over the next 20 centuries. How did this happen and why does it rarely happen in comparison with all “Christian” expressions?

         The key is in the apostle Peter’s address to the gathering crowd drawn together by the spectacle. Everyone in the upper room had already obeyed the directive later given by Peter or he would not have told the crowd to do something they had not already done.

         Peter explained the prophecy of Joel and He identified the Lord as the Messiah and told them of His death and resurrection. He then revealed the yoking process designed to bind the people of God together:

         “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

         Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” [Acts 2:36-38]

         This is the secret. This is the answer. This is the easy yoke.

         “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” [Acts 2:39-40]

         A great many in the crowd did exactly that, which then continued the process of cell division and growth. By the end of the day the 120 had been multiplied to become 25 times as large!

         So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. [Acts 2:41] [1]

         May your joy be full.

         © 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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Posted on February 7, 2014, in Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Great teaching, RJ. I kind of grinned when I thought of you and me yoked together in the unity that is Christ while transcending our differences. Easy? Only when God is in it and He leads as opposed to you or me leading.

    I pray you have recovered from your recent health challenges.

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    • Thank you, Sharon, very much. Tell George I said hi. Yeah, the idea of the worldwide community of the Lord all connected together somehow like a massive chainmail garment made of wooden yokes is quite the picture. Or like a bunch of living stones making up the temple of God, or… Such a picture goes pretty far past pew sharers and your basic church membership.

      And the only way it works anyway is because of what you said—the Lord Jesus being the Leader. That’s why Christianity overall is so fractured and inharmonious—too many leaders taking the Lord’s place.

      Thanks for your prayers, getting better.

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  2. Thank you, R.J., for this in-depth look at what it means to have our burdens lightened with the yoke of Jesus. I also like Eugene Peterson’s rendition of that verse in “The Message”–“Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Grace, peace, and love to you, brother.

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    • Awesome comment, Derrick. Thank you. Once more we have the counter intuitive nature of living for God. Getting strapped into a yoke portends the opposite of what the Lord taught according to our natural minds. But spiritually, bondage in His yoke is not bondage at all but FREEDOM. We must trade in the bad yoke for the Lord’s, and drive off happy. Amen.

      I’m not much of a fan of “The Message,” but that particular quote sounds pretty good to me. I hope you’re doing well shining a light out left. Be blessed, Bro.

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  3. Thank you for this teaching, RJ. One might wonder about the purpose of the yoke. At first thought, it may seem an added burden to an animal, but it is just the opposite, for its function is to make the burden light. The plow, attached to the oxen without a yoke would be onerous, but when worked by means of a yoke, becomes easier to pull. There are other yokes and teachers that we can subject ourselves to, but Christ claims that it is his yoke and the learning from him that give rest to our souls, where we can plow through the fields of life more efficiently, and with lighter burdens. I claim Christ’s claims to be the absolute truth.

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    • Amen Dee. Thank you for adding a great comment to the discussion. May we all get the big idea and dump the wrong yokes, and take His yoke upon us if we have not already. It truly is easy, and the burden He asks us to carry really is light. He always helps us with the heavy lifting and never leaves us to do it ourselves. The Lord Jesus and each believer is a team of productivity and efficiency to the nth degree, both in the here and now and for eternity. I stand with you and agree that the Lord is the Truth, the only Truth, and the absolute Truth. Blessings to you!

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  4. RJ,

    Thanks for a very interesting study on working together and the many aspects that it involves. I especially appreciated your comments on the Father and the Son being yoked together as well. I had never thought of that aspect before. Lord bless you!

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    • Thank you, Rob. Yes, the Lord was consistently talking about coming in the Father’s Name to do the Father’s work, and that He only did that which was according to His Father’s will, etc. I made it a point, though, to say the relationship between Father and Son was not the same as that of two working side by side, but as two working in such perfect unity that it should become obvious there is no actual separation.

      The Son is the Living Word spoken by the Father and is as much God as the Father is God. As opposed to most western understandings and theological intellectually-based explanations, the New Covenant writings actually speak of God not being three but being One (as in the Old Covenant writings) manifesting Himself in three principle ways to do three different forms of work. In this we have God doing the work of the Father, God doing the work of the Son, and God doing the work of the Holy Spirit all at the same time.

      Though it may boggle the mind, we must understand that it is simply not all that difficult to boggle a human mind. For example, there are intelligent human beings on this planet that are so intelligent most people could never understand what those people understand. Picture Forrest Gump at a Mensa conference.

      Imagine then, how it must be with reference to God’s intelligence compared to our own and our own ability or inability to grasp spiritual realities. That’s why we must often learn by direct revelation from God.

      Suffice it to say that God became a Man but He remained God ruling His creation. And instead of creating man-made artificial constructs on the makeup of God that can be easily refuted, it is correct to attempt to see God as He really is though somewhat hard to perceive. By entering into a perfect working relationship with the Father, the Son showed us how it is done right before our eyes in a perfectly understandable manner.

      Be blessed.

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  5. Thank you Susan! Blessings to you.

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