Yoke and Unburden

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 97; 147:12-20, Proverbs 7:1-27, 1 John 5:13-21, Matthew 11:25-30


A yoke, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks for working together.” When Jesus began his ministry, the people of Israel were still yoked to the Mosaic law and its heavy-handed application. Not only was this law burdensome on its own, the leaders had come to use it as a tool for oppressing the poor and the downtrodden.

When Jesus told his disciples, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” he was inviting them to hitch themselves instead to the divine love of God he brought to earth. Instead of being tethered to an unyielding law that dragged them along mercilessly to the inevitable grave, they could be partnered with forgiveness and mercy.

Note that Jesus did not offer to unyoke them entirely. Ultimately we are all yoked to something, and that something helps determine the direction we travel and how heavy our burden. What are you yoked to? Maybe it’s a career that drags you along at breakneck pace. Or maybe it’s an addiction that grows heavier and heavier with each step. It could be something as beautiful as a family, but even that can take us where we’d rather not be, and the burden can be heavy. If we are yoked to self-interest, the burden may seem light but pivoting on only one point leads us to travel a tight and pointless circle.

Whatever you’re yoked to, do you like the direction it pulls you? Does the burden it places on you wear you down or build you up? When we yoke ourselves to Christ, he will steer us toward faith, but never force us. A gentle tug of conscience is all that’s needed to pull us back on the path.

No matter what ties us down, Christ offers something better. We can still have a career and a family and many other pleasant and meaningful things in our lives, but Christ will guide us through them, rather than let them steer us. We’re all tilling the same field; how we’re yoked determines whether it is killing or sustaining us.

Comfort: Following Jesus does not limit us, but frees us.

Challenge:  Meditate on what you are yoked to. As yourself whether it’s the right thing.

Prayer: God of hope, I will follow where you lead me. Amen.

Discussion: What are you yoked to? Is it something you should free yourself from?

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