Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
In verse 28 we learned God saves us, makes us right with Him, and gives us the assurance we are saved. We rest, confident we will go to Heaven when we die.
In verse 29 Jesus begins leading us on the trail to another kind of rest, inner peace and tranquility. This is the rest found in freedom from worry and anxiety.
The first rest, assurance of salvation, is given at salvation. The second rest, no worry, is found in Christian living as the goal of a grand spiritual treasure hunt.
Treasure hunts call for a treasure map. Verses 28-29 yield three clues, all being commands from Jesus. The first command, “Come,” leads us to the correct starting point. We enter into relationship with Jesus, settling the issue of eternity.
The second clue is, “Take my yoke,” emphasizing duty. The third clue is, “Learn of me,” pinpointing discipleship. This lesson focuses on the second clue.
Matt. 11:29a (Holman) “All of you, take up my yoke. . .”
Being a carpenter, Jesus may have made yokes for oxen. His imagery came from a sight commonly seen on farms. For centuries yokes have been instruments whereby a farmer subjugates oxen, harnessing their awesome energy to help plow.
With a yoke, the farmer bends the ox’s will, brings it under control, and guides it to useful work. A yoked oxen lowers its head and pushes its shoulders into the yoke, enabling the plow to break through the most stubborn sod. It is easy to see why the word “yoke” became, in daily parlance, a symbol of subjection.
Christ’s meaning in our text is obvious. His metaphor calls His followers to live submitted to Him. We are to yield our lives to Him totally, nothing held back.
When saved, we are given rest, confidence we will go to Heaven when we die. This rest of assurance is not meant to tempt us to sit on our laurels, to bask proudly in the glow of cockiness. We are to exit our easy chairs and take action.
Stand up. Get harnessed with Jesus. Saddle up. There is much work to do. Salvation has behavioral implications. We’ll don a crown for our heads someday.
Till then we have a yoke for our shoulders, duties we are asked to accept voluntarily. Jesus’ yoke we “take.” It is not forced on us. Christ assumes our love for Him will cause us to willfully and gladly submit to all He commands us.
Everlastingly safe in Jesus, we enjoy rest. But take time to look around. Many others need to be blessed. God invites us to labor with Him, helping them.
Our text, though voiced as a command, is a tender wooing from Jesus. Not wanting to work alone, He invites us to draw near Him, beckoning, “Let’s do this together.” Even our Master’s commands evidenced His desire to romance us.
When two are hitched in the same yoke, they belong to each other. Jesus’ yoke is His loving way of pulling us closer to Him than we ever dreamed possible.
Sweet, interactive relationship with Jesus marks every phase of the Christian life. It begins in love, and continues therein. Jesus’ yoke is pleasant.
A yoke shared with someone we love and who radically loves us, plus is stronger than we are, is good. In some ways it would not feel like a yoke at all.
The Creator wants frail creatures to go where He goes, walking step by step with Him, and serve where He serves, working shoulder to shoulder with Him.
Despite this amazing invitation, we retain the awful freedom to say no, and unfortunately often exercise it. Many oxen have refused to lower their heads and yield to a yoke. When they rear the head and become stiff-necked, the yoke grates on their shoulders, galling and blistering them. We’re free to be chafed by our sin.
Rest in Jesus entails not absence of labor, but work accepted to bless God and others, work that recoils to bless us. Christ’s rest is the enablement to do acts releasing us from sin’s chaos and tyranny, and its painful devastation in our lives.
We were not saved to live as we like. Our salvation consists of a series of acceptances. We receive His conviction, His pardon, His salvation, His rest.
We also accept His will. The issue is no longer what I choose, but what He chooses for me. We surrender to His yoke unconditionally. This attitude marked my heart when it was young and still tender before God. At 15 I wanted the yoke, and gladly surrendered unconditionally to do whatever God wanted me to do.
After this, I sought to serve Jesus in any church capacity I was asked to fill. I sang in a quartet and the church choir, helped the janitor on Saturday, preached revivals, etc. Not till 17 did I sense a specific call to full-time vocational ministry.
The order in which these kinds of events occur is significant. Unconditional surrender from us has to precede a specific call from God to us. Before we can do anything pleasing to Jesus we have to be willing to do everything for Him. Following Christ is serious business. Taking His yoke is not a matter for trifling.
We are freed from sin not to do as we please. “Lord Jesus, help me in what I am about to say.” It hurts me to mention some use grace as an excuse to sin.
Moving from grace to license is Satan’s logic; grace to duty is God’s way. We are to live our lives not like wild horses or boars, but as subdued, trained oxen.
God loves us. Desiring only our best interest, He wants us to enjoy rest. First, He desires for us to enjoy the rest of assurance, being confident we will go to Heaven. Second, He wants us to enjoy a rest of freedom from worry and anxiety.
We heartily concur with God in both these issues. We also long for rest with regard to eternity, and for rest that brings us peace of mind and tranquility of heart. The crux is, will we try to chart our own course, or will we accept our text as the treasure map showing us how to have these two vital rests?
I urge us to examine what Jesus did, how He found rest. We would be wise to imitate Him, to put our hand to the same plow, to take the same yoke He took.
Do what Jesus did. He yielded to a yoke of submission to His Father. Jesus did not live to please Himself (RM 15:3). For you, me, and the Father, He cried with agony of soul in Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Yours, be done” (LK 22:42).
The rest from worry we find as we draw closer to Christ results in sweeter delights, but the path leads through duties. “Yoke” and “cross” carry connotations of unpleasant events. The road to our reward of rest winds through discomfort.
The path to rest leads through vexing difficulties, maybe bodily suffering, leaving our comfort zone, sacrificing self-centered desires, personal dreams, and wishes. The pain may be big or small, public or private, but always dogs our way.
As we pursue Godly delights, the journey is tough, but for each duty we do, new delights spring up around it. We enjoy these pleasures until it is time to take another step on the pilgrimage. These delights can become our new comfort zone, pleasures we have to move past to find a new duty, and a better cluster of delights.
Christian living is not for the faint of heart, but is rewarding. Given the unspeakable privilege of being yoked with Jesus, we join Him in plowing needy, unplanted fields of the world. With Him we drop precious seed. At the end, at harvest, we will look behind us to see long furrows of successful, beautiful crops.
Our Master said, “Take my yoke upon you.” His truly is a wonderful yoke. My dad often says, “Jesus is the best boss I ever served.” Amen. I agree.