“Come to me -- all of you who are worn out and heavily burdened – and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits well and my burden is light.
If I put a yoke on your shoulders, haven’t I just made your burden heavier? And yet, Jesus claims that when you put his yoke on your shoulders, the weight will be lighter?
How can that be?
Tim Cahill, in his book, Pecked to Death by Ducks, may have stumbled onto the meaning of Jesus’ saying while at the horse track.
Cahill, a founder of Outside magazine, wanders around the world looking for adventure. A few years ago, his travels led him to chariot racing.
How do you train a horse to pull a chariot? Cahill says the trainers yoke up the big, experienced horses to the young, skittish colts. When the race chute snaps open, the older horse will open at a gallop, and the young colt, harnessed beside him, will quickly learn to do the same.
In Jesus’ day, oxen learned to pull in the same way. A young ox was yoked together with an older, well-trained ox. When the master called out instructions, the experienced ox would go or stop, turn left or right, according to command. The younger ox wasn’t pulling the weight. He was just along for the ride.
An old man was trudging down the road with a heavy sack over his shoulder. A pickup pulled over and offered him a ride into town. The cab was full, but he told the man he could hop in the back.
As they drove along, the driver looked in his rearview mirror and noticed the old man was sitting in the back of the truck, but still holding the heavy sack over his shoulder.
The man pulled off the side of the road, got out, and said, “Hey, you silly guy! My truck is already carrying the full weight of your sack. Lay it down. There’s no need for you to be carrying the weight as well."
When we try to carry our own load through life, we will find ourselves exhausted, and sooner or later, we will buckle under the weight.
Jesus invites us to yoke ourselves together with him. This yoke will not weigh us down because he is the one who will be pulling the weight.
But we’re also learning. Jesus says that, yoked beside him, we, too, will learn to be sensitive and responsive to the will of the Master.
And we will find rest for our souls.
(copyright 2012 Marty Kaarre)