Summary: Bearing the yoke of Jesus relieves us of our burdeons.
Tension, stress, overwork, exhaustion, fatigue, worn out, long-hours, no rest, sound familiar? This may sound like your daily work routine or it may sound like your struggle searching for the truth and answers to unsolved questions. This is what you find when you try to tackle every problem without help. This is what you find when you look to yourself for answers that aren’t there. Today’s message is one much more hopeful than that. It’s a message of relief that Jesus gives when we rely on Him for our strength and our peace. It’s a message about taking the yoke of Jesus willingly, walking through life side by side with Him and following the leadership that He gives us daily.
James Botts once relayed this story about a farmer plowing his field with a team of Oxen. The man noticed that one of the animals was seemingly a little bigger than the other so he asked him about it. The response from the farmer was very interesting. He said that the big animal was an older animal that was well trained and the smaller one was a young animal that was new to the yoke. The man went on to inquire as to why he put them together and this is the answer that He got, “Well you see, it’s like this. That older ox is the best ox that I’ve ever had; he knows his way around the field. The reason I put the younger one with him is so the that the older, more knowledgeable ox could teach him how to plow. If I never put them together the younger one would never learn. By himself the younger ox would pull himself to death, but together he learns to cooperate with and rest in the strength of the older ox.” (James Botts, “Rest for the Stressed”, http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=49844&libronix=1)
In the gospel message today, Jesus talks about carrying our burdens and giving us rest. He uses the idea of a yoke to accomplish this. My father grew up on a farm and always enjoyed explaining how they plowed the field with teams of horses when he was little. As time went on, they eventually bought tractors and used them to do the heavy work. But the stories of using animals to work seems like a difficult life to this city boy. When I think of a yoke, I think of hard, manual labor. But instead of work, Jesus refers to a yoke as providing relief. How can such a difficult farming tool be used to reduce the weight of the burdens we bear today?
Jesus loved to use the ordinary things in the world to explain more difficult concepts. It was common for Him to use symbols from agriculture to explain His ministry. Today is no different. Using the example of a common yoke, he has a message for us today. He wants us to takes His yoke and submit to His lead. He will bear the weight of our burdens
The yoke keeps us on the same path
For those of you not familiar with a yoke and how it’s used, look at the cover of your bulletin. The yoke is that piece of wood attached between the two people. It’s used to attach two animals together to allow tools such as plows to be pulled by a team. Ox and horses are often used for this purpose. The two animals work much more effectively than one could because they’re able to pool their strength and pull in the same direction. They can work together to pull loads that one animal could not handle alone.
The yoke makes the connection between the two ox so that they work together toward a common goal. They can’t stray far from each other because the yoke restricts where they can travel. You have to follow the same path. The experienced is always there to share with the inexperienced. One of the things Jesus tells us to do in verse 28, is to come to him. Come to him to share in His yoke. He wants us to cooperate together and walk through life together.
Just as a yoke keeps a team in synch with the work, Jesus wants us to follow the same path and go in the same direction as Him. We can’t go our own way. We have to allow ourselves to follow His lead. The yoke of Jesus shows us which way to go and how to lead our lives. Through His actions, He directs our path.
The yoke allows us to submit to Jesus’ Lead
Being yoked to Jesus allows Him to direct our path. But, it also stands for submission to Him as a teacher and leader.
A strong young athlete was wadding waist deep in the shallow part of a recreational lake. Unknowingly he stepped off an underwater ledge and plunged fifteen feet beneath the surface of the water. After several seconds he bobbed to the top of the water flailing his arms and gasping for breath. The lifeguard attentively watched the situation from a nearby bank. A friend of the struggling young athlete grabbed the lifeguard by the arm and cried out, "Bob can’t swim, you’ve got to help him." The lifeguard continued to watch the struggling swimmer, but remained unmoved as Bob continued kicking and splashing wildly. The young man’s friend furiously yelled at the lifeguard, "If you won’t go after him, I will." Calmly but firmly the lifeguard said, "No one can help him yet. I’ll help him when he’s ready for my help." After a couple more minutes the young athlete stopped his struggles. As his body became limp, the patient lifeguard suddenly dove into the water, swam out to the young man, and brought him to shore for a successful rescue. Later the friend asked the lifeguard, "Why did you wait so long to help my friend." The lifeguard responded, "As long as Bob was trying to save himself there was nothing I could do for him. If I swam out to him he would have grabbed me and pulled me under with him. Only when he was weak, exhausted and had given up was I able to save him." (Todd Hudnall, “How to Find Spiritual Rest”, http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=42730&libronix=1)