A couple weeks ago I was reading in Matthew 11 —  very familiar verses, where Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” These are some of those verses you’ve heard over and over again, but sometimes you stop to think a little bit more about it, and suddenly the Lord opens up a fresh revelation for you.

My first revelation came from the discovery that (far from being a farm girl, this was new for me) the yoke was a double harness in which two animals pulled together. Often, one harness was larger and meant for the stronger, more experienced animal, while the smaller was used for the animal being trained. That’ll preach. We can try to grab hold of some really big yoke and start tugging away, or we can give the big load to Jesus, and just pull the weight we’re meant to. We don’t take off every responsibility and do whatever we want — we are yoked to Jesus, working with Him, living the way He would live, doing what we see Him doing.

After this, the Lord helped me to think about comparing yokes, and gave me a few thoughts. There is a yoke that this world would like for you to burden yourself with, and then there is the easy, light yoke of Jesus.  Examples:

1. Hospitality

  • The (Southern American) worldly yoke — everything is perfectly neat and tidy, you go over and above to the point of stressing yourself out, and you work to the point of exhaustion in order to ‘entertain’ your guests — which perhaps means you never enjoy them.
  • Jesus’ yoke — you welcome people into your home, with kindness and graciousness, and you take care of them.

2. Clothing

  • World – you have to have the newest, latest fashions, styles, colours and trends. If you’re female, it’s a good idea to show off your assets to the best of your ability in order to make yourself as attractive as possible, no matter the cost. Spend in excess to look good.
  • Jesus – Dress in moderation. Buy clothes that will last you a while, don’t spend all your money just to stay on top of the latest trends.

3. Food

  • World – either starve yourself in order to be super skinny and look “good” OR cook too much at every meal and end up throwing some away, spend time going over the top on cooking extravagant meals, OR let food be your comfort when nothing else will.
  • Jesus – Eat reasonably, eat sensibly, eat healthily.

Obviously, the basic principle that emerges from thinking about Jesus’ yoke is to do things in moderation, with gentleness, with humility. The list of course goes on to what car you might choose to drive, what house you might live in, and on and on.  At this point I thought, “next subject.” But (if you remember the scene from Hitch where Albert says that after showing Hitch his dance moves), perhaps you might need to listen to the teacher a little longer before you think you’ve got it covered.

Not long before this lesson, a pastor visiting from Taiwan had spoken a word of encouragement to me. You love to serve the Lord. You love to work and carry a burden for the Lord. But you need to take the time to find out which burden you are supposed to carry. Great, I thought. Before I start committing myself to lots of new things now that I have free time after setting down my PhD, I will consult the Lord and seek His wisdom for which burdens I’m meant to pick up.

However, a week or two later, some circumstances led me to begin taking on a concern, a worry which began to burden my soul and make me feel heavy, even gloomy for a while. When I finally brought this to the Lord, and began to consider it with — not a ‘worldly’ perspective but a “what does Jesus’ yoke look like?” perspective, the Lord brought it to my attention that, far from using discernment to take on the burden of which tasks He wanted me to do, I had taken on the burden of concern, and of worry, which is perhaps even more important for me to give over to the Lord than anything else.

What you’re doing will take up your time and your talents, but what you’re worrying about will take up your heart, and your mind, and tug them away from faith, and hope, and the love of God. Cast your cares on the Lord, for He cares for you. (I Peter 5:7)

For every yoke we have, we have Jesus, the stronger of the two of us, who can pull the weight, and help us to see how to navigate the challenge. And the yokes that we place on our hearts, and perhaps the most important ones to submit to Him.

The sermon in a nutshell: Get hitched to Jesus! He’ll carry the weight, and show you how to walk it out, whatever ‘it’ may be.