Matthew 11:28-30 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Let’s talk about what it means to be partnered with Christ, what it means to be yoked with him. He says here that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Perhaps the word “yoke” is new for you. I’m not talking about the yellow part of an egg. That is y-o-l-k. I’m talking about a piece of farming equipment that helps the animals who are doing the work, accomplish it more effectively. A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull. Here is a picture:
I’m not sure how y’all are processing Jesus comparing us to farm animals, but remember, when He made this invitation to come and be partnered with Him, He was putting Himself in the same category. So, if the King of Kings and Lord of Lords can picture Himself as an Ox, well…This agricultural symbol was what people of that day knew and understood, and it serves as a powerful image to help us understand the benefits of partnering with Christ.
Now listen, y’all. You’re going to be yoked to something. Whether you want to admit it or not, you are going to be tied to something or someone. You might not realize it, but you are going to be connected to something that has pull and persuasion over you as you travel through life. If Jesus isn’t controlling your life, I guarantee something else is.
It might be your work that sets the pace for your life. Perhaps it is the opinion of your friends that controls your path. It might be something destructive like a substance such as drugs or alcohol or another vice like porn, gambling, shopping, or an idol like your phone or social media that has the final word in your life. Maybe you find yourself responsive to the tug and pull of a controlling relationship or internal perfectionistic drive. Maybe your yoke is a result of a political pull or connection with an organization that dictates the parameters for your life? Maybe it is a pattern of sin that keeps you moving in the wrong direction.
How do we know what we are yoked to? Who was Jesus speaking to here? He was speaking to people who were weary and burdened. I think that is where we need to begin if we are going to answer whether we are partnered with Christ or if we are paired up with something else. Are we wearied and burdened? Do we feel like we are spinning our wheels and getting nowhere? Like we are working and pressing and trying and are living without joy or productivity? If that is the way we are living, if that is the overarching theme for our life, if we are oppressed, living under constant heaviness, always feeling like the load is more than we can handle, I think we need to ask ourselves, “Am I truly partnered with Christ?” Because if we were, we wouldn’t say our life is characterized by the weight I just described.
Jesus says He will give us rest. He says His yoke is easy. He says His burden, that which He asks us to do, is light. It is light, not in the sense that it is never difficult or that it is inconsequential, but it is life in that it won’t take joy and peace from us. It will produce life in us, and it will lead to a productive life. The yoke of Jesus is a blessing, not a burden.
Now, this particular passage of Scripture must not be divorced from its context. Why did this subject even come up? Why was Jesus addressing this? He was railing against the oppressive and heavy-handed religion of the Pharisees. They always kept moving the goal line when it came to religion and what made a person righteous. They always kept changing the scorecard. Have you ever played cards with someone who was always changing the rules? It’s annoying, right? It makes it impossible to win.
The Pharisees kept adding things to the law that made it impossible for anyone to want to know God and still have a smile on their face as they attempted to do so. They made it impossible for people who were pursuing God to ever feel good enough, qualified enough, safe enough to claim they were one of God’s own. They kept putting things on people to add to the pressure to perform which has nothing to do with getting right with God. It is what God has done for us through Jesus Christ that makes us right with God and has nothing to do with anything we can try to do.
How do we know if we are yoked to the wrong thing? If we are working and straining and staying anxious about not being good enough or worried that things won’t work out for our benefit, or if we are continually stressed and without strength, peace, joy or hope, we have allowed someone or something else to place a yoke on us that isn’t from God because being yoked with Jesus will transforms our lives into an experience with joy, fulfillment, strength, peace and productivity and not stress, strain, and constant worry.
This text teaches us that we can be partnered with Jesus and as we are, we can expect Him to do the heavy lifting. More than that, we can also anticipate at least three things.
First of all, when we are yoked with Christ, We will be on the right PATH. A yoke doesn’t allow one animal to go in the opposite direction from the other one. A yoke doesn’t allow an animal to go rogue. Where the two animals go, they go together. When we are yoked with Christ, we can be guaranteed to stay moving in the right direction and on the right path.
The Bible calls the path that God has us on, the Path of Righteousness. The word translated as “righteousness” from the Hebrew is the same one that is often translated as “straight.” There is a right way, a morally straight way Christians can live as we follow Jesus, the Shepherd. He will never lead us astray, and following in the groove or path He sets before us will enable us to accomplish His will and to live our best possible life. I want that. I want to live well and to honor God as I do. If that could be said about me at the end of my life, I will have absolutely achieved my life’s greatest success.
God doesn’t force us to follow His path. He gives us a choice as to which road we will take. I do, however, need to remind us all that the choices we make about which road to take in life will have great consequences.
An August 12, 1969 news article from the San Francisco Chronicle read, “The blazing summer heat of the Death Valley area has killed two men and a youth who tried to reach habitation by setting foot across the desert.” Arnold Dobson, Harold Mast Sr., and his son Harold Jr., apparently became stranded in the barren Saline Valley without water. One of the three bodies was found 7 miles from their abandoned car, another 14 miles, and the last 17 miles.
Deputy Red Landergren said, “It looks like they just went the wrong way.” It would seem that they turned in the direction toward a ranch house they had passed 30 miles back. However, just a mile the other way was a grove of willows with a spring. The paths that we take are important because the paths we take have consequences. If we take the wrong path in life and go in the wrong direction it can lead to tragic consequences. If the outcome of life is determined by the paths we take, and it is, then we should take great care in choosing the right paths by being yoked to the One who knows how to lead us in the right direction. (http://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-outlines/74285/the-paths-of-the-righteous-1-of-5/)
It’s easy to go the wrong way, isn’t it? But it is impossible to go the wrong way if you are yoked to Jesus because if you are, you are going to go where He goes. And if you go where He goes, you will never be headed in the wrong direction.
Not only will we stay on the right path if we are yoked to Jesus, but also, we will move at the right pace. If you are yoked with Jesus and He takes off running, you are gonna find yourself running. If He begins to slow the pace or even rest, you are going to do the same. Listen, Jesus doesn’t yoke up with us for His benefit. He offers for us to join Him for our benefit. He doesn’t need to rest. He doesn’t tire from running, but He knows we do. He knows how to help us pace ourselves so that we don’t get discouraged and quit.
He can tell when we need to be challenged, motivated, and encouraged to pick up the pace. He can hear when our breathing gets heavy or our steps become unsteady from fatigue, and He can force us to rest. Listen to how the Message translation puts our text: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
When you are yoked with Jesus, you will avoid burnout. You’ll learn what true rest is. You’ll find you can even rest in your work and rest in your relationships as you rest with Him. You will learn a rhythm for life that enables you to give yourself grace and gives you what you need to be able to extend grace to others.
The passage goes on to say, I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
When you are yoked to something or someone else besides Christ, you will be tied to someone who doesn’t understand how you are wired, who doesn’t know what you were created to do, what you are capable of, or what the plan is for your life. Without Christ, you might be forced to run when you really need to rest. Without Christ, you might be tempted to rest when you really need to be moving in some God-given purpose. It would be like me trying to walk in size 9 shoes when I wear a 7 or me trying to wear a size six when I wear a size ______.
How could I maintain the right pace in shoes that don’t fit me? How could I comfortably run, in clothes that were too small? The same is true for a yoke, a partnership, that isn’t the right fit. Did y’all ever play that crazy game as a kid where your leg was tied to the leg of someone else, and together, you were supposed to run a race? You had to have the right partner, the right fit, in order to make that work. I mean, someone who had already taken a growth spurt couldn’t easily be paired with someone who was in the third grade. Not if you weren’t going to be visiting the ER before the party ended. You need to be yoked with Jesus so you can be paired with someone who knows how to pace your race!
We are warned several times in Scripture to not be over-extended in friendships, in partnerships, with the world. Oh, we know we are to reach out and connect with people who aren’t believers, but we aren’t supposed to go deep in fellowship with people who don’t walk in the light. Why? They are wearing a different yoke. They are running a different race altogether and they are going at the pace that seems right to them. You can’t keep up with them when you are yoked with Jesus because He is moving at a different speed and direction than the speed and direction of the world.
We’re told in Galatians 5:25 to keep in step with the Spirit. This is possible when we stay yoked with Jesus. Life with Jesus is never stagnant. It is always taking us somewhere. As we stay connected to Him, the Holy Spirit does a transforming work in our lives. We are changed from the inside out. Don’t miss out on that. Don’t just live. Live transformed!
We will never become spiritually mature, emotionally mature, relationally mature or complete the plan for our lives by doing our own thing or by going with the flow of the world. It is our partnership with Christ that will help us complete the things God has in mind for us. We can only stay on pace in our personal spiritual race by letting Jesus set the pace.
He does that by helping us understand what our priorities are, so we don’t get bogged down by things that aren’t part of our personal assignment. He does that by counseling us about how best to use our resources so that we don’t get stalled by having to be too focused on working extra to pay off debt. He does that by taking us to Divine appointments where we can be helped and blessed by other people. Truly, when we stay yoked with Jesus, we are kind of along for the ride. As we stay in step with Him, He will take us places we could never go on our own.
And, as we stay in step with Him, it will keep us from getting ahead of Him. Sometimes we struggle to wait on God’s perfect timing in our lives, but if we pray, “Jesus, keep me yoked up with you, don’t let me get ahead of what You have for me, let me move at Your speed at all times,” we’ll make sure that we aren’t the ones trying to lead or make something happen. If you run ahead of Jesus, you will slip out of the yoke and you will be forced to carry the load that is ahead all on your own.
I think we have been cultivated by the pace of the world. We have come to believe that the faster we go, the more we can cram in, the more we can accomplish. Life with Jesus is probably less about accomplishing something and more about becoming something. Accepting an invitation to be yoked with Jesus is accepting an invitation to be changed into the image of Christ and be used of Him to accomplish the kinds of things Jesus did.
Are we people who hear the still small voice of God? Are we people who would change our plans at the last minute because we sense a pull or tug to the left or to the right or because we can take Holy Spirit cues about a change of pace. I understand that the fastest way to get through the grocery store and get back home is to put your head down, look at no one, talk to no one and push your cart as quickly as you can, (I may have tried it a time or two) but what if God had you at the grocery store because He knew someone else was going to be there, someone He wanted you to minister to, but you were in too big of a hurry to notice them? When we don’t pay attention to the Pace Setter, Jesus, we slip out of the yoke and start living according to our own pace which will have us missing the moments God has planned for us.
The final thing I want to mention to you about being partnered or yoked with Jesus and how beneficial it is for us is this: Being yoked with Jesus will enable us to live a productive life. The yoke is used for work. It is used to help a pair of animals be productive. Jesus doesn’t invite us to yoke up with Him and then tell us to just to kick back and relax. He calls us to a life of Kingdom work.
Think about it, though. If you aren’t yoked with Jesus, when you work, you can accomplish what you can accomplish, but if you are yoked with Christ, tethered to His power, you can literally accomplish what God can accomplish. I would say that God is pretty productive, wouldn’t you? He’s certainly no slouch. He says we can take part in His work. We can be involved in the supernatural works of the Kingdom because we have access to His power when we are yoked to Him. When we walk with Him, we have power. When we move in concert with Him, we have power. When we plow in the fields where He is leading us to work, we will have a great and powerful harvest.
Do you find yourself on the right path or have you slipped out of the yoke and taken a wrong turn? You can get back on the right path by being yoked again with Jesus. Get back in the yoke!
Are you moving at the right pace or have you slipped out of the yoke and taken control of when you walk, when you run and when you rest, if you do? Is there a sense of rest in your work or do you fear you might be on the brink of burnout? If you aren’t moving at the right pace, you can yoke yourself again with Jesus and find rest even in your work, even when life seems like it is spinning out of control.
Is your life productive in the ways a Christian disciple’s life should be productive? Is your life bearing fruit or have you slipped out of the yoke and begun to sort of walk aimlessly about? Are you just trying to live to get through each day? If you have lost your sense of purpose, that sense of satisfaction that comes from living a productive Christian life, you can partner up with Jesus again, and access His power to make a true Kingdom impact on the people around you.
Jesus ushered an invitation here in Matthew 11:28-30. The invitation was to come to Him and be yoked to Him. He isn’t going to put a yoke on you. It’s something you would have to desire to submit to. It is an invitation you would have to accept. Just know, you will be partnered or yoked to something or someone. Get on the right path. Live to enjoy the right pace. Live to be a productive disciple because you stay partnered with Christ. Stay in the yoke!