WHERE DID ALL THE OTHER STUFF COME FROM?
It saddens me to see how far the church has fallen away from Jesus’ call to His “disciples”. His entire mandate was wrapped up in four words – “Follow me” – that’s what they were, followers of Jesus – and “Make disciples” – that’s what they were to do, make more followers. So where do all the other things in the church come from; things like bowing to an altar, carrying a Bible on a cushion, wearing fancy clothes, chanting and genuflecting, elevating people to superior positions with fancy titles, and so on, just to name a few.
Jesus, in fact, had to battle His disciples because they were constantly bickering about who would be the greatest among them. “Servants,” He insisted, “are the greatest. Really great people are those who can stoop to the lowest level and lift people up, not those with titles who swagger around giving orders.”
Jesus used a term which was understandable to the people of his day but foreign to us, He said, “Take my yoke and learn from me.” We will better understand what He meant if we go right back to the ancient Hebrew script, called Paleo Hebrew, which preceded the modern Hebrew script
The Israelites wrote in pictures which eventually formed the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The Hebrew name for God is El, sometimes written in the plural as Elohim. The pictures forming the word el were an ox head, denoting strength, for the letter aleph, and a shepherd’s staff, denoting authority, for the letter lamed. Their understanding of God was one who had strength and authority – the Mighty One.
A yoke – ol in Hebrew, was called “the staff of the shoulder”. A young ox was yoked with an experienced ox, by a “staff” in order to teach the younger ox to submit to the yoke. The imagery is the same as the concept of God, the ox and the staff.
A disciple, then is one who yoked with Jesus, the experienced “ox”, who teaches the inexperienced “ox” by association. A rabbi’s yoke was his way of interpreting the Torah, the five books of Moses on which the rest of the Bible is based, and the way he lived it out in everyday life. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Why? Because He was a son. He did not have to work hard to impress His Father. He invited people to return to the Father and He made the way possible by dealing with our sin.
To be in Jesus’ yoke is to learn to think and act like Him, being “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). It’s not about keeping rules or following rituals. It’s about being a son or daughter of God, reflecting Him by the way we live. So where did all this other stuff come from?