The day in which we live is full of daily difficulties and stresses, with many putting heavy burdens on people. It was so in New Testament times as well. Here's what Jesus said about the religious elites of His day:
2“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger (Matthew 23:2-4).
The Lord Jesus came to deliver men from the burden of sin and the stress of this world system. He said:
28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Why does Jesus talk about finding rest by bearing His yoke? What is a yoke? Oxen were paired with a neck brace called a yoke over their necks, ensuring the oxen were pulling their equal weight in plowing the ground. When Jesus walked this earth in human form, the religious Pharisees taught about submission to the yoke of the Law, but the ordinary people found that all their additions to the Law of God were a heavy burden. Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light (v. 30). William Barclay, in his New Testament commentary, The Daily Study Bible, writes about the meaning of the word easy (my yoke is easy):
“The word easy is in Greek chrēstos, which can mean well-fitting. Ox yokes were made of wood; the ox was brought, and the measurements were taken. The yoke was then roughed out, and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on. The yoke was carefully adjusted so that it would fit well, and not gall [make sore by rubbing] the neck of the patient beast. The yoke was tailor-made to fit the ox.
There is a legend that Jesus made the best ox-yokes in all Galilee and that from all over the country, men came to him to buy the best yokes that skill could make. In those days, as now, shops had their signs above the door; and it has been suggested that the sign above the door of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth may well have been: “My yokes fit well.” It may well be that Jesus is here using a picture from the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth where he worked throughout the silent years. Jesus says, “My yoke fits well.” What he means is: “The life I give you is not a burden to gall you; your task is made to measure to fit you. Whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly.
The Lord Jesus said that coming to Him meant finding rest in our souls. What are things burdening you right now? Are they things of men that are heavy on you? Our age seems to be a time when we are to throw off every weight that God has not put on us and come to Christ and find rest to our souls.
Prayer: Father, I come to you today and ask that you will help me cast all my burdens upon you, Lord, for you care for my soul: "Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved" (Isaiah 55:22). Keith Thomas