“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.” (Matthew 11:29-30 NKJV).
A call to be a follower of Jesus Christ is not a call to a yoke-free life, but a call to exchange a grievous yoke and heavy burden of Sin and Satan for an easy yoke and light burden of Christ.
Through the disobedience of the first man, we all were made sinners, sold as slaves to Sin and Satan, struggling and fainting under the grievous yoke and heavy burden of Sin and Satan (Rom. 5:12, 19).
The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world not just to die for our sins, but to also deliver us from the tyranny or dominion of Sin and Satan.
The Lord Jesus calls to all, saying, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NKJV).
When you come to the Lord Jesus Christ in humility, repentance and faith in His finished work; you are set free from the grievous yoke and heavy burden of Sin and Satan. The born-again believers are no longer under the yoke, bondage, tyranny or dominion of Sin and Satan. They are no longer slaves to Sin and Satan.
The Scripture aptly presents and establishes this truth!
“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14 NKJV).
“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36 NKJV).
“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal. 5:13 NKJV).
As a born-again believer, you have been completely and permanently set free from the yoke, bondage, dominion or slavery of Sin and Satan.
What then is left for you to do?
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1 NKJV).
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Jam. 4:7 NKJV).
Paul also instructs in Romans 6:
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (NKJV).
Unlike the devil who forces his grievous yoke and heavy burden on us, our loving Jesus Christ is gentle and lowly in heart and so He does not force His easy yoke and light burden on any believer. It is therefore the responsibility of every believer to voluntarily, willingly and gladly take upon him the yoke of Christ.
The Lord Jesus said, “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.” (Matt. 11:29-30 NKJV).
It is taking up the yoke of Jesus Christ willingly and joyfully that distinguishes a disciple of Christ from a mere believer or a church-goer.
A true disciple of Christ is a born-again believer who has willingly and joyfully yielded his neck under the yoke of Christ to learn from Christ, to follow Christ closely, to walk in the footsteps of Christ, and to wholly conform to Christ in everything, even in suffering and death, if need be.
The disciples of Christ are simply yoke-fellows with Christ!
What does the yoke of Christ imply?
How does one take upon himself the yoke of Christ?
Are there any rewards or blessings in taking upon you the yoke of Christ, or in bearing the burden of Christ?
We shall examine these questions and search the Scriptures to find answers to them in the first and second part of this piece.
Literally, a yoke is a crossbar with two U-shaped pieces that encircle the necks of a pair of oxen or other draft animals working together (the American Heritage Dict.).
In the Bible, yoke is used as an emblem or symbolic expression of several things.
First, yoke serves as an emblem of bondage or slavery.
God said to the children of Israel, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves; I have broken the bands of your yoke and made you walk upright.” (Lev. 26:13 NKJV).
While in Egypt, the children of Israel were under the oppressive and grievous yoke of Pharaoh until God broke the bands of their yoke and set them free. Similarly, all of us were born under the oppressive and grievous yoke of Sin and Satan. If you have not experienced the new birth through faith in Jesus Christ, you are still under the grievous yoke of Sin and Satan.
Second, yoke represents the punishment of sin.
Jeremiah laments, “The yoke of my transgressions was bound; they were woven together by His hands, and thrust upon my neck. He made my strength fail; the Lord delivered me into the hands of those whom I am not able to withstand.” (Lam. 1:14 NKJV).
Third, yoke serves as a symbol of trials or afflictions.
The Scripture says: “It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth.” (Lam. 3:27 NKJV).
Yoke also serves as an emblem of the Mosaic Law, the Jewish rites and ceremonies which were exceedingly burdensome to the Jews.
Paul sternly rebuked the sect of the Pharisees who believed but insisted that the Gentiles believers should also be circumcised and taught to keep the Law of Moses, saying: “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15:10 NKJV).
Paul also admonishes the Gentiles believers in Galatia in Galatians 5:
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.
3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.
4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (NKJV).
The yoke of Christ is symbolic of both the instructions and afflictions of Jesus Christ. A believer who takes upon himself the yoke of Christ has made a life-long commitment to be Christ’s disciple.
Taking upon you the yoke of Christ implies total submission or yielding to the will, teachings and authority of Jesus Christ. It also implies willingness to share in the sufferings of Christ, to endure trials, tribulations or persecutions for the sake of Christ without murmuring or complaining.
When the early disciples took upon themselves the yoke of Christ, they left all things to follow Christ everywhere He went. They relinquished to the Lord Jesus Christ their will, authority, rights and privileges. They ceased to care and live for themselves but for Christ. One of them, Peter, boldly said to Jesus, “See, we have left all and followed You.” (Mark 10:28 NKJV).
When you are still self-willed, self-driven and self-centered, pursuing your personal agenda, dreams and ambitions, and seeking for selfish pleasures and profits; you have not taken upon you the yoke of Christ.
When you are not denying, ignoring, neglecting, or forgetting yourself daily, taking up your cross daily and following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ; you are obviously not a yoke-fellow with Christ.
Apostle Paul, a man who had taken upon himself the yoke of Christ, expresses his desire, pursuit and mindset this way: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Philip. 3:10 NKJV).
When you also become a yoke-fellow with Christ, you will pursue revelation knowledge of Christ above anything else and you will embrace with joy any suffering or persecution that comes your way for the sake of Christ (Rom. 5:3-4, 8:17-18).
When the early apostles of Jesus Christ were imprisoned and beaten for the sake of Christ, they were glad that they were privileged to partake in Christ’s sufferings.
The Scripture records in Acts 5:
40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (NKJV).
Beloved, you cannot take upon you the yoke of Christ and still refuse to partake in the sufferings of Christ.
The Scripture affirms: “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philip. 1:29 NKJV).
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” (1 Pet. 2:21 NKJV).
You cannot truly be yoked together with the Lord Jesus Christ, learning from the Lord, following and walking in the footsteps of the Lord and yet evade or escape suffering for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:14).
Jesus frankly warns His early yoke-fellows in John 15:
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.
19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (NKJV).
Friend, as a yoke-fellow with Christ, you must brace up for suffering or persecution for the sake of your relationship with Christ and love, devotion or commitment to the Kingdom of God and preaching, publishing, and spreading the Gospel of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 4:1-2).
Are there any rewards for taking upon you the yoke of Christ?
Find out in the second part of this piece!
Prayer: My Dear Lord Jesus Christ, today, I willingly take upon me today Your easy yoke and light burden. Help me to learn from You and walk in Your footsteps daily, in Jesus’ name. Amen.