The Gentle Yoke (Matthew 5:5; 11:28-30)


“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise indicated).
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Gentleness or meekness is not just a quality that Jesus demands of us. It is an element of His holiness. He calls us to be meek or gentle as He is.

In Matthew 5:5, Jesus told His disciples that the gentle would inherit the earth. As we saw in a recent post, He was quoting Psalm 37, where God promises that those blessed by Him would inherit the land. In Matthew 11:28, He promises that those who come to Him and receive His yoke will obtain rest.

Farmers still use yokes to join animals together for agricultural work. Here is a yoked pair of oxen from Wisconsin. Photo by Anna from Eagle, WI, USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The rest Jesus offers is not a lack of activity. “Take My yoke upon you,” He said. A yoke joined two animals for work on a farm. Two bulls or oxen would be yoked together to pull a plow. The animals were not taking a nap. They were working, but the yoke enabled them to work together so that the job would be easier and more efficient. (Of course, this actually helped the farmer most, since he would have to plow a field all by himself if nobody had found a way to get livestock involved.)

Throughout the Old Testament, a yoke symbolized submission, servitude, and oppression. However, Jesus offers a different yoke. It still involves submission to His will. However, submission to Jesus brings rest and peace instead of oppression. We take His yoke upon us because He is gentle and humble in heart. The burden He offers us is light. The alternative to His yoke is a heavy burden:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Satan’s yoke brings death and condemnation. Jesus offers life. The rest Jesus offers removes our guilt and anxiety. It brings us joy, peace, and a sense of purpose. Instead of encouraging passive inactivity, it inspires us to actively and assertively do His will and the work He has set before us.

Jesus’ rest equals refuge. He offers us protection. We can run to Him in all of our trials.

Photo by Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

His rest replaces the rules of rigid religious legalism. Many people seek peace with God by observing rituals and following rules and regulations. Jesus summarized all of the rules in two commandments: love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). Instead of trying to keep track of all the rules others have demanded you to follow, you merely have to ask: “Am I loving God through this? Am I loving my neighbor?”

Finally, Jesus’ rest brings redemption and forgiveness. We no longer carry the weight of our sin. At the cross, Jesus has removed the yoke of our sin from us. Now, He places His yoke upon us and encourages us to follow Him, free and forgiven.

Jesus’ gentle guidance also shows how we should treat others. He offers us His yoke. He shows us His example of gentleness. As He deals gently with us, He shows us what our gentleness—through which we shall inherit the earth—looks like. As we receive His yoke, He sends us forth to plow the fields of the world with the rest, refuge, liberty, redemption, and forgiveness He provides.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Jesus has offered us rest in Him. Let us go forth and share that rest with others who are weary and heavy-laden with the burdens of life.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the rest You offer us through Your Son, Jesus Christ. We come before you weary and heavy-laden. We ask you to remove any spirit of heaviness from us and place Your yoke upon us. Send us forth to share Your peace and rest with those around us who are burdened with the cares of life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How do you experience the rest Jesus offers? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.


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