When we read the Bible it is important to understand that it was written during a particular time period, to a certain people group, and within a certain culture. The Bible is still for us today and the Truth within transcends time and culture, but we still need to read the Bible through the lens of its historical context if we want to understand it fully.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “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.”
When we read the word yoke, most of us would think of a wooden beam that connects two animals together, like oxen, in order to pull some sort of heavy load or wagon. While this is one definition of a yoke, this is not the yoke Jesus was talking about in this passage.
During Jesus’ time the Jewish religious leaders were called rabbis. These rabbis were the best of the best—the cream of the crop. In Hebrew culture, becoming a rabbi was every boy’s dream job. If you made the cut after years and years of study, hard work, education, and memorization you could become a rabbi. If you didn't make the cut, you would take part in the family trade or family business.
If you became a rabbi you were allowed to begin to teach others about God and the written and oral Hebrew traditions. The student would become a teacher. The rabbis were able to choose the people they wanted to teach. When asking someone to become a disciple, the rabbis would say something like, “Come follow me.” The students the rabbis chose were then called disciples.
Matthew 4:19-20, “Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him.”
The disciples Jesus chose and asked to follow Him in Matthew 4 were fishermen. They were in the family business of fishing. They hadn't made the cut to become rabbis or disciples, but Jesus still chose them! This is why they dropped their nets and everything else they were doing and left their lives and livelihood to follow Jesus. Their dreams had come true, they didn't have to be fishermen any longer, they could become disciples of a rabbi!
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Once a rabbi chose some people, they would have their own specialty teaching or focus to pass on to their followers, their disciples. This specialty teaching of a rabbi was called a yoke.
In Matthew 11 Jesus told us to learn from Him and take on His yoke, His specialty teaching, and then we would find rest for our souls. Jesus offers ALL who follow Him the gift of peace and rest for your whole person- spirit, soul, and body.
Are you worn out, stressed, exhausted, or tired? Or are you content, at peace, and rested? The answer to that question will tell you whether you're carrying the yoke of Jesus, your own yoke, or someone else’s yoke.
If you've been with Jesus and been taught by Jesus, then you will look and act like Jesus. Luke 6:40 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”
We can be like our Teacher. We can be like Jesus. A teacher can not force the student, the disciple, to learn. We have the choice to learn and to obey. We have the choice to do something with what we are taught by Jesus. Jesus' yoke, His specialty teaching, was peace and rest for our souls. We can live life in a pain filled world and still look like Jesus!
If a peace filled life seems out of reach or unattainable, then I would love to chat with you sometime. Peace is available and it is wonderful! Remember, Jesus chose fishermen to be His followers. So you don't have to be anything special in your eyes or in other people’s eyes in order to follow Jesus and be chosen by Him. You are already special in His eyes, and He is saying to you today, “Come follow Me!”
Shake the earth!