LEARN FROM ME
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 (Matt. 11:28-30).
These are some of simplest, most profound and most misunderstood of Jesus’ words. To understand them from His perspective and according to His intention, we must go back in time to first century Israel.
Only those who live under an oppressive religious system would understand what it was like to be under the yoke of Judaism in Jesus’ day. Perhaps modern-day orthodox Jews, for example, might understand what it felt like to have every action regulated by a religious prescription and all their activities hemmed in by rituals and then, on top of that, to have religious “police” watching every move. It was like have a religious KGB everywhere.
Jesus called His people, not simply those who bore the burdens of everyday life in Israel but those who were tired of carrying the burden of trying to please God by doing the right thing when the “right thing” was a burden too heavy to carry, rest. They had long ago lost the meaning of being in a covenant relationship with the God who loved them and who taught them how to live so that they could enjoy fellowship with Him and with their fellow Jews.
Their great religious teachers had, over the centuries, added interpretations and laws to protect them from “misunderstanding” and “breaking” God’s laws until the whole religious system was top-heavy with petty rules which completely obscured the way of life God intended. He wanted them to show the nations around them that the God they worshipped was compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. Instead, they groaned under the oppressive rules they had to observe as well as the Roman government’s oppressive occupation of their beloved land.
Jesus addressed those who were thoroughly sick of their religion. He offered them His “yoke” – a new way to understand what God meant by His teachings in the Torah, not burdensome rules but a way of life that would set them free from the burden of their fear, guilt and shame. To wear a rabbi’s yoke meant to learn from him by association as a young, inexperienced ox would learn to pull a plough by being yoked with an older, trained and experienced ox.
The second step in becoming and being a disciple of Jesus is to accept Jesus’ yoke, to believe and put His teachings into practice by being in close association with Him, listening, observing learning and doing what He taught.
To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8:31-32)
Firstly, we must ask: Free from what? Of course, Jesus came to set us free from the burden of sin. He took the punishment for our sin to set us free from our guilt and from the power that sin has over us. He gave us His Holy Spirit to live within us as His personal presence with us. The Holy Spirit continually represents and reveals Jesus to us, reminding us of His teaching, empowering and teaching us how to live.
Secondly, Jesus’ yoke replaces all other yokes; religious yokes, denominational yokes, political yokes, or whatever association we have with any system that brings us into bondage. That does not mean that we are free to do as we please. The freedom Jesus offers us is freedom from the worst kind of slavery – slavery to ourselves and the ravages of selfish and greedy living.
Did you notice how He summed up His own disposition – “gentle and humble in heart”? Living selfishly makes us slaves to ourselves and alienates us from the people around us. When we take Jesus’ yoke and learn to live like He did, gentle and humble, compassionate and merciful, our hearts will be at rest as we are no longer tormented by the pangs of conscience and experience the peace of God that guards our hearts and minds.
Life is a journey. When we stubbornly refuse to follow God’s way, we get lost in the wilderness of the world’s ways and we will perish there without the nourishment and water of God’s Word. Jesus calls us to follow Him. He knows where He is going and He knows where He will take us if we follow Him. He said that He is the way to the Father. If we accept His yoke, His way of living – generously and unselfishly – we will experience His rest, living without guilt or fear in the confidence of the perfect love of the Father.
However, there is a warning I must issue at this stage. Jesus’ yoke demands an all-or-nothing commitment to Him. No disciple was ever permitted to pick and choose what he would follow and what he would ignore. When he accepted a rabbi’s yoke, he accepted it in total. He could not change or omit any part of it. If he did, he was immediately disqualified.
Do you remember Jesus’ saying?
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matt. 16:24).
Whoever does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27).
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!
ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3, eBook 978-4828-0511-6
My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.
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