THE RABBI’S YOKE IN A NUTSHELL
Jesus’ yoke was not conveniently recorded for us in one chapter in the gospels. We have to piece it together from His story because the gospels are the story of a living, breathing, dynamic, vibrant person who taught His yoke by telling as well as by showing and doing as He went from place to place among the people. However, fortunately for us, Matthew gathered some of Jesus’ teaching together into a section we call “The Sermon on the Mount.”
Some people think that the Sermon on the Mount is just a set of rules and, if they follow them, they will be acceptable to God. “I live by the Sermon on the Mount,” they say. What they don’t understand is that the Sermon of the Mount is actually a description of what people who follow Jesus should be like.
No one can just slavishly follow what Jesus taught because He was talking about the disposition and behaviour of people who have been supernaturally “born” into the kingdom of God. No one can enter God’s kingdom without first being made alive by the Holy Spirit. No one can follow and imitate Jesus without His Spirit in them. It takes a partnership between people who trust in Jesus, not in their own “good works” and the Holy Spirit, to understand and wear Jesus’ yoke.
Jesus began His teaching by telling His disciples how they could be really happy. True disciples are happy people and happy people are those who choose to do the right thing. In very simple terms, doing the right thing means being more concerned about looking after the needs of other people than satisfying our own needs and wants and that’s when we experience real happiness.
Matthew 5:3-12 is a summary of what kingdom people do to be happy. Jesus used an interesting way of teaching. He gave His disciples three simple prescriptions for true happiness:
- People who are humble enough to forget about themselves, who are not puffed up with their own importance, (“blessed are the poor in spirit”), and those who submit themselves to God’s authority (“blessed are the meek”), by identifying with others who are suffering (“blessed are those who mourn”), will be happy people because they understand how God’s kingdom works (“theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, and “they shall inherit the earth”).
- People who are kind to others because they want to do the right thing (“blessed are the merciful”), those who show mercy to people who don’t deserve mercy because God has been kind to them, will be truly happy people. God will make sure that their needs are always supplied (“for they shall be filled”), and they will know what God is really like (“for they shall see God”) because they do more to help other people than is expected of them (“blessed are the pure in heart”).
- People who help others to make peace with God (“blessed are the peacemakers”) because they show that they are God’s children (“for they will be called children of God”), and who are hated and maligned for helping others in need (“for righteousness’ sake”), just because they are disciples of Jesus, (“blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you because of me”), are happy people and are in good company because the prophets were also persecuted for doing the right thing (“for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”).
Now let’s put it all together. Disciples who are yoked with Jesus care more about helping others than about taking care of their own needs. They sit with those who mourn to comfort and support them. They are generous towards people in need, They do more than is expected of them and, when people criticise them for doing good and insult and persecute them for being followers of Jesus, they rejoice because they are part of the kingdom of God and they are in good company.
Can you see now that being a follower of Jesus is much more than attending church, reading the Bible, and giving money to the church? It’s about having a changed heart and being like Jesus in the way you treat other people. It’s about being humble, generous and merciful because that’s the right thing to do even when people in the world hate you for it. Then you will be a truly happy person.
Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!
Watch this space. My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), companion volume to Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master, will soon be on the bookshelves.