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September 10, 2007

“TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU, AND LEARN OF ME”

by Professor Robert J. Barth

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30)

Immediately after Jesus invites us to “come unto” Him when we are heavy laden with burdens, He commands us to take His yoke upon ourselves. Now, wait a minute! Jesus is God, the Creator and Sustainer of all creation, and He asks us to take up His yoke!? Then He promises that we will find rest for our souls (mind, will, and emotions)!?

Taking on Jesus’ yoke would seem to add more burdens to our existing load. So Jesus must be telling us there is a different way to look at our situation. He must be telling us that the ways of the kingdom of God are very different than the ways of the world.

The key to understanding what Jesus is commanding is being in covenant relationship with Jesus. You must first “come unto” Him (Matthew 11:28), surrender your life, and willingly join yourself with Jesus, the “author and finisher of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). The word “take” means to pick up or put on oneself. We must receive and be willing to put on Jesus, i.e. His yoke, which means dying to self. We must first be “yoked” with Jesus before we will experience the rest and peace that Jesus promises.

Jesus helped people understand the ways of the kingdom of God by using analogies to their existing way of life. Everyone knew what it meant for one animal to be yoked with another to pull a burden. Jesus was telling the people that they did not have to carry their burdens alone, but that they could be “yoked” with Him. After entering into a relationship with Jesus by believing that He is the Messiah, He was telling the people He would teach them the ways of the kingdom of God. They were to “learn of me [Jesus]” and experience the power and freedom of living a meek and surrendered life.

Our burdens are often the result of focusing upon the things of this world rather than the things of God. In this command Jesus is telling us to STOP and THINK about priorities. Jesus promised, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things [earthly needs] shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

A single ox can pull a load, but when joined with another ox, the two can pull more than what they could both pull separately. It is also true that there must be a lead ox in a pair of oxen yoked together. If we surrender and yoke ourselves with Jesus, He will be the lead, and we will “learn of” Him. He will teach us what it means to be strong in meekness and to be powerful in humility for it will be His power and strength that will work through us. The phrase “learn of me” can also be interpreted “experience with me.”

As we are yoked with Jesus we will experience the power of God and the direction of His leading.

The Apostle Paul described in his letter to the Corinthians the dichotomy of being weak in himself but strong in Jesus.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (II Coritnthians 12:10)

For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. (II Corinthians 13:4)

The promise of being yoked with Jesus is finding or experiencing “rest unto your souls.”  Rest is like the relaxing of a rope that have been drawn tight. It is cessation from emotional toil or labor.

The rest promised is unto your soul. It is a mental and emotional rest that can only come from God. It is having complete confidence that God’s Word is true and that He is able to perform all His promises. It is knowing, without any doubt, who we are in Christ and the authority we have through Christ to manifest the ways of the kingdom of God on the earth.

Jesus said that His yoke was “easy” and His burden was “light.” When we surrender and come under Jesus’ yoke, the pulling will be “easy” and the load will be “light.” When we enter into covenant relationship with Jesus what He asks us to do is not a heavy burden. In fact, it is a joy because His commands are for our benefit! Plus, it is a joy to express love to Jesus in response to His ultimate sacrifice for us. The fruit of keeping our mind stayed upon Jesus and His Word will be the blessings and promises of God, which include provision, protection, power, and peace.

The Apostle John described the victory and joy of this love relationship with Jesus this way:

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous [heavy or burdensome]. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. (I John 5:1-6)

By the command “take my yoke upon you” Jesus is asking us to surrender to Him and allow Him to lead us. He wants us to keep the eternal perspective and to manifest the “righteous, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17) of the kingdom of God in our lives each day.

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About the Author

Professor Robert J. Barth
A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S. 1976), Professor Robert J. Barth received his Juris Doctor from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1979. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University in 1986. From 1986 to 1995, Professor Barth was associated with Regent University School of Law in several capacities, including assistant dean for academic and student affairs, and editor of the Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. He has written several articles, and as the director for academic programs, he has authored Oak Brook College’s book, Renewing Your Mind as You Study Law.

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