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What is the Yoke? | Q&A

Drawing of oxen with yoke

Question:

What does it mean in Matthew 11:28-30 by “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”? What yoke? What burden?

Answer:

A yoke is a brace that a pair or pairs of oxen bear when secured to a cart or plow.  This ancient tool has long been a picture of submission to and service for an authority (Gen 27:40, 1 Ki 12:4).  Matthew 11:28-30 is the closing statement to a sobering rebuke that the Lord issued to the cities of Galilee (vv 20-27).  No other cities on earth had been given the kind of proximity and privilege that had been given to cities like Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. These cities had heard and seen marvelous words and works: the deliverance of the demon possessed, the Sermon on the mount, the feeding of over five thousand people from five loaves and two fish.  Yet, the inhabitants of these cities chose not to submit to Christ’s Lordship but persisted in unbelief and a mere outward observance of the Law. Such a choice could only result in damnation (vv 21-24). In verse 28 the Lord issued a personal plea to the individuals of these cities calling on them to trust themselves to His authority, forsaking all others. Under His authority they would find true freedom and blessing (compare Jn 8:31-36) that could not be obtained through the Law of Moses (Acts 13:38-41, Acts 15:10, Gal 5:1). 

These events and admonitions have important applications for us. Since the yoke is a means of restraint and control, it has no application to the Lord. We do not share a yoke with Him. Rather this is a yoke which is from Him for us. The contrast is that His yoke founded on grace is not at all like the grievous yoke of the law (Acts 15:10). We find rest for our souls when we submit to his authority. 

Finally, there is a burden. But, again, it is not like the burden the Jew experienced of endless ritual observances. We have been brought into liberty. The fellowship and worship elaborated in the New Testament, especially in the Pauline epistles, describe the blessedness of being brought near (Eph 1:6) individually and collectively (Heb 10:19). Our service is one of having the privilege to declare to the world that Christ has come, been put to death for our sins, is risen, and is coming again to receive us to glory. If we are called upon to suffer, it is with the hope of receiving the due reward of our service that cannot fade (1 Pet 1:6,7; 4:12,13). 

By Roy Touzeau

Roy Touzeau is a regular teacher at Grace and Truth Gathering in Portland, Oregon where he has been faithfully attending since 1981. He was instrumental in founding Principles in Focus, an annual biblically focused retreat for young people. Roy and his wife Pamela have been married for forty-nine years and enjoy visiting their children and grandchildren and studying God’s creation using Roy’s eight-inch telescope.

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