Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus! (Week 4)

“Take the Yoke of Jesus!”

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus is inviting each of us to come to Him, all of us who are tired simply from the strain of living everyday life in a fallen world and burned out on carrying what other people have placed on our shoulders, and He will give us rest. But how are we to find rest for our souls as Jesus promised? Jesus teaches us very specifically, but there are three things I want us to learn from the specific way Jesus is commanding.

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen for the commands found in Matthew 11:28-30, “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.”[1]

 

Take My Yoke

 

There are 2 commands (called ‘imperatives’) in our passage (Matthew 11:28-30) and they are both found in verse 29. Today we will emphasize the first, “Take My yoke upon you…” and next week we will focus on the second, “…and learn from Me…” (Mt 11:29a, b, emphasis added). Both are essential to understanding Jesus’ invitation and promise. If you want to experience the rest of God, then we have to understand what we are being invited to do.

 

Interesting enough the invitation to “Come to Me” (Mt. 11:28a) is being used in the adverbial form, which means that the invitation to come is modifying the indicative verb of “I will give you rest.” Simply, the giving of Jesus’ rest is found in coming to Him. As we saw last week, Jesus is that rest. That is the triumphant teaching of Jesus’ words in this next passage, Matthew 12:8, when Jesus declares, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath”[2] and in the commentary of Jesus’ teaching on sabbath in Hebrews 4:1-16, “For we who have believed enter that rest.”[3] Not to get ahead of myself, but entering into the rest of God is through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

To start the conversation, allow me to share this illustration with you:

A teacher read to her class the text, “My yoke is easy.”

“Who can tell me what a yoke is?” she asked.

A boy said, “A yoke is something they put on the necks of animals.”

Then the teacher asked, “What is the yoke God puts on us?”

A little girl said, “It is God putting His arms around our necks.”[4]

 

With this image in mind, let’s now begin to learn the ‘how’ of Jesus’ rest: Jesus is commanding us to take His yoke upon ourselves. Jesus uses the Greek verb αἴρω in this sentence as a plural 2nd person imperative in the active tense and aorist voice.[5] In this context, BDAG states that the word means, “to lift up and move from one place to another; to take/carry (along).”[6]

 

Jesus is literally telling us that in order to have rest from the weariness of living life in a broken and fallen world and in order to be delivered from the heavy load that others have put on our shoulders, that we must actively take on ourselves His yoke. This action, combined with the imperative of “learn from Me” is the way to rest. While eternal rest is available through the grace of faith, experiencing rest (abundance in this life) is through the grace of faithfulness; hence, the yoke as a living image of a grace-based relationship with God through Jesus Christ.[7]

 

What is the yoke of Jesus and will understanding this will we better understand what Jesus is inviting us to in this command? I believe so, it did for me. A lot! The Greek word for yoke is ζυγός (zygos) and it is only found six times in the NT. Five times it is translated “yoke” (Mt 11:29, 30; Acts 15:10; Gal 5:1; and 1 Tim 6:1) and once as “scales” (Rev 6:5) in the NASB. As we will discover, the NT usage of this word is grounded in its OT usage. In the OT, the word “yoke” is translated from five different Hebrew words and in the NASB is found 54 times.[8]

 

There is three-fold understanding of the “yoke” of Jesus as He commands us to take on ourselves in Matthew 11:28-30: 1) cultural-historical, specifically an agricultural metaphor; 2) cultural,-religious, specifically a Jewish metaphor; and 3) with an understanding of the implications of both 1 & 2, as a “conceptual metaphor” calling people into Christian discipleship.[9]

 

 

Yoke as Agricultural Imagery

 

Jesus was talking to a Jewish audience whose livelihoods depended on their abilities to work the ground. Jesus often spoke in well-known and easily understood cultural references because His audience intuitively understood them. As we all know, a picture speaks a thousand words. Check this picture out.

 

Figure 1 below is a drawing capturing the historical context of how an ancient Israelite would have seen the yoke as a 6-day-a-week reality of their lives in community.[10] Jesus is capturing this picture with his invitation to come to Him and his command to take His yoke upon ourselves.

Figure 1: Plowing: “A Yoke of Oxen”

 

Listen to Ralph Gower share the historical reality of Jesus’ day with some insightful comments,

 

The plough itself was made of two wooden beams, jointed T-fashion. The horizontal stroke of the T formed the handle for guidance, and the spiked end was to break the surface of the ground. The vertical section of the T was attached to the yoke that went over the necks of the animals. The yoke itself was simply a rough beam tied across the necks of a pair of animals and held in place by two vertical sticks that came down each side of the neck and tied beneath (see Jeremiah 28:13). The law forbade a mixture of animals such as ox and donkey (see Deuteronomy 22:10), presumably because there would be an unequal pull that might cause suffering for the weaker animal.[11]

 

Tony Stoltzfus in his book on conversational prayer makes an insightful comment,

 

According to tradition, Jesus in his role as a tekton (Greek for carpenter or builder) made yokes and ploughs. Each yoke had to be custom-fitted to each animal. As one yoke-build notes: ‘Yokes for oxen are like shoes for children. One size does not fit all. A young team may need as many as five or six yokes before it reaches maturity. A well-fitted yoke will allow an ox team to pull to its full potential. A poor fitted yoke will cause discomfort, could injure the oxen, and will not allow the team to pull to its full potential.’[12]
 
 

Figure 2: A picture of a yoke as discussed by Stoltzfus.[13]

 

But, what is the full potential of an oxen team? In John 15, Jesus said in another conceptual metaphor based on a different agricultural image, that with Him we can do more than we can imagine, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.”[14]

 

Just like in the vine and branch imagery, the yoke imagery puts Jesus in the dominant position to do great things in us and through our lives.[15] Janet Pope describes the power of the yoke, “Typically a young, untrained ox is yoked with an older, trained ox. The younger learns from the older. If a trained ox can pull 5,000 pounds and an untrained ox can pull 2,000 pounds, together they can pull 10,000 pounds—much more than the sum of the two. Over time, the untrained ox becomes trained and the two begin to walk in-step with each other. Then they can pull 15,000 pounds.”[16]

 

Apart from Jesus, you may be able to do a little bit in this life, but nothing of eternal value. But in the yoke of Jesus you can pull over seven times more.[17]

 

 

Yoke as a Vivid Old Testament Symbol

 

“Because the yoke was such a common agricultural implement, it became a vivid symbol with many nuances” in the Jewish mindset.[18] Jesus was unapologetically trying to reach a Jewish audience so He engaged existing metaphors.[19] Let’s not be confused then by how His language and imagery speaks directly to his target audience.

 

What would an every-day good religious Jewish person familiar with the Old Testament (the Jewish scriptures, Torah), living in first-century Palestine, have heard when Jesus invited them to take His yoke on them? The agricultural imagery would have already been grafted into this second image: the OT usage of the yoke as covenant faithfulness to the Torah (the commandment of God to His chosen people) as contrasted with apostasy through worship of pagan gods and foreign idols.[20]

 

Charles Tyer explains the depth of the yoke imagery to the Jewish religious mind,

 

The yoke concept within the Hebrew literary traditions is strongly related to the idea of the Sovereignty Covenant. God laid his yoke on his people. His people either bore the yoke (an obedient, proper relationship) or broke off the yoke (a relationship of rebellion). God’s people might choose to attempt to wear the yokes of other gods, which was the same as throwing off the yoke of Israel’s god. Obviously, one could not wear two yokes at the same time. The wearing of the yoke as viewed in Hebrew scripture was the outward sign of an inward relationship. Thus one might bring the offerings and do all of the things of religion and still not be bearing the yoke in terms of attitudes and relationships. Hebrew scriptures can thus view the bearing of the yoke of God’s sovereignty as joy, honor, and privilege rather than tragedy, hardship, and sorrow.[21]

 

God is passionate about upholding His covenant with His people as we read in Jeremiah 2:20, “For long ago I broke your yoke and tore off your bonds; But you said, ‘I will not serve!’ For on every high hill and under every green tree you have lain down as a harlot.” He continues in Jeremiah 5:5-6, “‘I will go to the great and will speak to them, for they know the way of the Lord and ordinance of their God.’ But they too, with one accord, have broken the yoke and burst the bonds. Therefore a lion from the forest will slay them, a wolf of the deserts will destroy them, a leopard is watching their cities. Everyone who goes out of them will be torn in pieces, because their transgressions are many, their apostasies are numerous.”[22]

 

Dramatically, God commands Jeremiah to prophetically take on Himself the yoke of Israel’s apostasy to Babylon. Listen to a few verses of Jeremiah 27:1-22, “Thus says the Lord to me—’Make for yourself bonds and yokes and put them on your neck.’” Soon after God declares of His promised deliverance and rescue of His chosen people for the glory of His name, “I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.”[23]

 

The people of Israel knew the imagery of the yoke. Listen to Jewish rabbis from these Jewish documents. In the Babylonian Talmud and the Mishnah, Berakhot 2:2 states, “So that one should first accept upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven and afterwards accept the yoke of the commandments.”[24]

 

Also from the Mishnah, Pirke Abott 3:5, “R. Neḥunia b. ha-Kanah said: Every one who receives upon him the yoke of Torah, they remove from him the yoke of the kingdom and the yoke of worldly occupation. And every one who breaks off from him the yoke of Torah, they lay upon him the yoke of the kingdom and the yoke of worldly occupation.”[25]

 

We should not forget that the context of Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 11:25-30 is Jesus renouncing the Jewish cities that He has preached to for their apostasy in Matthew 11:20-24. This connection to the concept of the yoke as God’s sovereign rule over His chosen people should not be lost nor ignored. This is essential to our understanding of Matthew 11:28-30 and its application to our lives and the ministry of the gospel through the local church. Jesus usage not only aligns with the OT usage, but also the Jewish understanding of the yoke.

 

 

Yoke as Invitation to Christian Discipleship

 

As already introduced, Jesus is using ‘yoke’ as a conceptual metaphor, a teaching device, to invite you into the fullness of what it means to be Christian disciple. This is a call to Christian discipleship as we saw overtly in verse 28 and as we will continue to see as Jesus commands us learn from Him.[26] In using the word “yoke” Jesus is recognizing His audience’s preexisting understanding that goes beyond the literal usage of the word alone. A yoke imagines the following: 1) a working tool for greater productivity in farming by being united with one stronger and more experienced than you and 2) to submission to God’s authority and way of life.

 

The invitation to take Jesus’ yoke was a direct invitation by a Jewish rabbi to a Jewish audience to take off the yoke of the legalistic observation of Torah, which was the heavy burden that the religious rulers of Second Temple Judaism had placed firmly on the shoulders of these Jewish people. That is why Jesus invited those are “weary and heavy-laden” in Matthew 11:28. This is what this text means to its original audience and in intended usage. As Neil Anderson said in Victory over the Darkness, “the context is the yoke of legalism.”[27]

 

Jesus is explicitly commanding His Jewish audience to put down the Torah (Law) and put Him on (grace). Jesus is inviting the Jewish people into a new covenant of relationship with the Father, which is why He describes Himself  as “gentle and humble in heart.” He is contrasting His grace-yoke with the Father as compared to the heavy-yoke of works-based religious observance. Jesus is inviting His hearers to a grace-filled relationship with God through Himself, enabled through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

 

This was not missed by the Apostle Paul who continues this conversation very overtly in Galatians 5:1-4, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”[28]

 

Nor was this lost on the Apostle Peter who said during the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:7-11,

 

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”[29]

 

Nor was this missed by the Apostolic Fathers, the earliest of Christian leaders who had contact with the apostles. These Apostolic Fathers left some evidence of how they viewed the yoke of Jesus Christ. Below are the two earliest non-canonical sources of the early church. In the Didache 6:2 states, “If you can bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect, but if you cannot, do what you can.”[30] While 1 Clement 16:17 asks, “Ye see, dearly beloved, what is the pattern that hath been given unto us; for, if the Lord was thus lowly of mind, what should we do, who through Him have been brought under the yoke of His grace?”[31] It would be a future study to discuss all the commentary on theses sayings of the earliest church leaders, outside of the Bible. But it is enough for us to know 19 centuries later, that this saying of Jesus has inspired Christians to a faithful life of Christian discipleship, not just a faith decision for Christ.[32]

 

Application of the Yoke Imagery

 

For most of us independent American types, the yoke imagery does not work for us in partnership with the concept of rest. Jesus’ teaching is counterintuitive, which is a fancy way of saying, “This is not common sense!” Is Jesus saying that you have to do some work to have rest?  But salvation is a no-work agreement as Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”[33] And that is 100% true! So, what is Jesus saying?

 

Listen to Jeremy Treat, from a 2014 Gospel Coalition article about God’s grace,

 

If it’s “all about grace” then clearly it’s not about effort. Or so it seems. But, as Dallas Willard once said, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.” Christians therefore, should work hard, strive, and toil—but we do so not for grace but from grace. Because of the gospel we are motivated not by guilt but by gratitude. And the gospel is the greatest motivating power in the world, propelling followers of Christ to love their neighbor, do justice, and share the gospel. Philippians 2:12-13 describes this type of grace-driven effort: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”[34] (italics his)

 

To help us close the gap on this seeming paradox of Jesus’ simultaneous invitation to find rest and command to take His yoke upon you, listen to Christian psychologist Dr. Bill Gaultiere’s insight on the actual usage of the yoke as would best help us understand Jesus’ intent,

 

The yoke that Jesus is referring to is a heavy wooden harness that fits over the shoulders of two oxen. It’s used to attach them, neck to neck, and hitch up them up to a plow that they are to pull across a field to prepare it for planting a crop. First, the ox needs to be “broken in.” To train a young ox wise farmers are careful not to pair it with another young ox or an ox that’s been poorly trained. Young oxen might be strong and energetic, but they don’t know how to wear the yoke and they don’t know how to pull the plow. They jerk and strain to try to get out of the yoke. They charge forward to rush to the end of the job, chaffing their necks and choking themselves. Or they try to wander off to graze in a meadow. But if you take a young ox and pair it with a mixture ox who has been well-trained then it learns. The lead ox shows the younger how to wear the yoke loosely and lightly. It pulls the brunt of the weight of the plow and leads the younger one to pull the plow and steady, step-by-step, straight ahead – without getting bruised or worn out. Jesus is the mature ox we need.[35] (italics his)

 

Utilizing the historical context and with the promise of Jesus’ promise in John 10:10 to give us abundant life and fullness of joy in mind, Stoltzfus speculates into the command of Jesus,

 

When Jesus the master craftsman said ‘my yoke is easy,’ memories flooded back to him of his time in the woodshop: carving the curved opening in the yoke to fit around each animal’s neck, sanding it down carefully so that it would not rub any spot raw or hurt the animal. When he asks you to, ‘take my yoke upon you,’ he means the one he custom-made just for you and him. It’s designed to preserve you from unnecessary pain and let you reach your full potential. Just as yokes were made to join the pulling power of two animals, his yoke is meant to join your strength to his and let the two of you to pull together.[36]

 

Allow me to conclude with Janet Pope’s concluding thoughts about the yoke of Jesus,

Burnout doesn’t come from working too hard for God. It comes from working ALONE for God. Working side-by-side with Jesus gives us rest IN our work, not rest FROM our work. We want to be yoked with Jesus because the load IS too heavy to carry alone. We don’t need to trivialize the burdens of this world. They are real and ever-present. If the load isn’t heavy, a yoke isn’t needed. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The yoke of Jesus is easy and his burden is light precisely because that yoke connects us to the One who has overcome the world.[37]

You are invited if you do not know Jesus to come to Him and find rest. You are commanded to put on His yoke and learn from Him to find rest for your soul. There is a once and for all-time decision that must be made, but there is also a lifestyle of faithfulness that must be decided every morning you wake up and throughout your day. Put down all the other yokes you are carrying, and take up your Cross and follow Jesus![38]

 

Are you working hard, but doing it alone?

 

Are you weary and under a heavy load?

 

Then put on your shoulders the yoke of grace. There is only room for one…
 
 
Rest Week 4:  Listen to it here
 
 

Footnotes:

——————————————————————————————————————–
 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:28–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament. In this case, it is Jeremiah 6:16 which is relevant to today’s teaching, but will be further discussed in the future.

 

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 12:8.

 

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Heb 4:3.

 

[4] Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 1507.

[5] All word searches are from Logos 8 Bible Software. “The aorist verb tense is used by the writer to present the action of a verb as a “snapshot” event. The verb’s action is portrayed simply and in summary fashion without respect to any process. In the indicative mood, the aorist usually denotes past time, while an aorist participle usually refers to antecedent time with respect to the main verb. Outside the indicative and the participle, the aorist does not indicate time” (Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology [Lexham Press, 2013; 2013].”

 

[6] “lit. w. obj. acc. σταυρόν Mt 16:24; 27:32; Mk 8:34; 15:21; Lk 9:23. ζυγόν (La 3:27) Mt 11:29. τινὰ ἐπὶ χειρῶν 4:6; Lk 4:11 (both Ps 90:12). Pass. Mk 2:3. αἴ. τι εἰς ὁδόν take someth. along for the journey 6:8; Lk 9:3, cp. 22:36. Of a gambler’s winnings Mk 15:24.—Fig. δόξαν ἐφʼ ἑαυτὸν αἴ. claim honor for oneself B 19:3” (William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 28).

 

[7] Cf. Matthew 7:24-27. Both of these teachings of Jesus indicate that simply being with Him is not enough to experience His promised abundant life (John 10:10). It is not enough to be yoked with Jesus, but you must learn from Him. It is not enough to hear the teachings of Jesus, you must do them. While putting your faith in Jesus is an act of grace toward you, it cannot be seen from a reductionist-gospel point of view as only that. Grace is not only a salvific action of God to secure a person in His inheritance, but an empowered lifestyle of apprenticeship with Jesus, where grace is the active power of enabling the life of faith. A life that bears the fruit to God’s grace testifies to the new nature of the tree by grace (Matthew 7:15-23 is the context for Jesus’ illustrative Matthew 7:24-27 parable). I will develop this teaching on God’s grace throughout this sermon and in next week’s sermon.

[8] “Literally, the wooden bar that allowed two (or more) draft animals to be coupled so that they might effectively work together (Nm 19:2; 1 Kgs 19:19; Jb 1:3). In addition to this literal usage, the Bible frequently uses the term metaphorically to refer to work or bondage (Gn 27:40). The yoke of bondage was applied not only by foreign oppressors, but often by Israel’s own kings as well (2 Kgs 12:4–14; 2 Chr 10:4–14). In prophetic writings, the yoke of bondage was generally associated with divine judgment (Lam 1:14), so that deliverance was represented as God breaking the yoke that had enslaved Israel (Is 9:4; 10:27; 14:25; 58:6; Jer 2:20; 5:5). The yoke of bondage figured prominently in Jeremiah’s contest with Hananiah concerning Judah’s imminent release from Babylonian captivity (Jer 27:8–11; 28:1–17)” (Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Yoke,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988], 2173).

[9]Conceptual metaphor refers to the way we use a concrete term or idea to communicate abstract ideas. If we marry ourselves to the concrete (“literal”) meaning of words, we’re going to miss the point the writer was angling for in many cases. If I use the word “Vegas” and all you think of is latitude and longitude, you’re not following my meaning. Biblical words can carry a lot of freight that transcends their concrete sense. Inspiration didn’t immunize language from doing what it does” (Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition. [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015], 387).

 

[10] 1000 Bible Images. Stuttgart, Germany: German Bible Society, 2009. Further insights about the yoke will be developed when exegeting Mt 11:30, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Scriptures that speak to this historical reality of Jewish culture are Deut 22:10; 1 Sam 14:14; 1 Kings 19:19; Job 1:3; and Luke 14:19.

 

[11] Ralph Gower, The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times Student Edition (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2000), 74-75. Beyond the scope of this study, but illustrative to the power of a conceptual metaphor, Gower continues, “The regulation prohibiting partnership between believers and unbelievers in 2 Corinthians 6:14 (“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers”) was not simply exclusivist; it was made out of the knowledge of the suffering that could be caused” (75).

 

[12] Tony Stoltzfus with Kathy Stoltzfus and Sarah Herring, Questions for Jesus: Conversational Prayer Around Your Deepest Desires (Redding, CA: Coach22 Bookstore LLC, 2013), 68. The quote within the quote was footnoted, “Tiller’s Tech Guide – Building An Ox Yoke”. All italics are original to the author.

 

[13] Picture from https://briarcroft.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/lenten-meditation-resting-in-the-yoke/ (accessed January 25, 2019).

 

[14] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 15:5, 16a.

 

[15] Discussion about the role of the Holy Spirit to do this will come in the sermon on Mt 11:30.

 

[16] Janet Pope, “A Yoke? What’s that all about?” (November 20, 2013) http://www.janetpope.org/a-yoke-whats-that-all-about/ (accessed January 26, 2019).

 

[17] Not to be weird about numbers, but seven is the number of completion and the number of rest. Regardless, it is the goal of our lives to be able to say as Jesus said in John 17:4, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”

 

[18] The quotes continues, “Sometimes it was used to describe oppression and servitude, politically (Gen. 27:40; Lev. 26:13; 1 Kgs. 12:4–14 = 2 Chr. 10:4–14; Isa. 58:6, 9; Jer. 28:1–14) and religiously (Acts 15:10; Gal. 5:1; 1 Tim. 6:1). Lam. 1:14 employs the figure to describe the negative results of sin. The figure of humans yoked usually represents an unhealthy relationship (2 Cor. 6:14; cf. Ps. 106:28)” (W. E. Nunnally, “Yoke,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000], 1404).

 

[19] As Jesus said in Matthew 15:24, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” See whole story for context, Mt. 15:21-28.

 

[20] The Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible expresses this larger understanding of the yoke imagery, “Even more striking is Jeremiah’s use of the term as a metaphor for God’s authority, probably as expressed in the covenant and the word of God (Jer. 2:20; 5:5). Jesus’ shorthand use of the term in Matt. 11:28–30 refers to the rabbinic concepts of ‘the yoke of the kingdom of heaven/Torah/commandments’ (cf. m. Ber. 2:2, 5; b. Sanh. 94b; Sir. 6:24–30; Pss. Sol. 7:9)” (W. E. Nunnally, “Yoke,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000], 1404).

 

[21] Charles L. Tyer, “Yoke,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1026.

 

[22] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Je 2:20; 5:5–6.

 

[23] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Je 27:2; 28:2.

 

[24] Jacob Neusner, The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary, vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 82. Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 5.

[25] Robert Henry Charles, ed., Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), 699. Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 679.

 

[26] The roots of biblical discipleship go deep into the fertile soil of God’s calling. That calling is expressed in the pattern of divine initiative and human response that constitutes the heart of the biblical concept of covenant, manifested in the recurrent promise, “I will be your God, and you shall be my people.” That call from Yahweh is reiterated in the call of Jesus, when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). God has called his people to represent him on the earth, to be with him in every circumstance of life, to be transformed in personal character to be like him. That calling is at the heart of biblical discipleship, both in the Old and New Testaments” (Michael J. Wilkins, “Disciple, Discipleship,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996], 175).

 

[27] Neil T. Anderson, Victory over the Darkness, 10th Anniversary Edition Updated and Expanded (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2000), audiobook reference at 1:11.40.

 

[28] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ga 5:1–4.

 

[29] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ac 15:7–11.

[30] Kurt Niederwimmer and Harold W. Attridge, The Didache: A Commentary, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998), 120.

[31] Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 64.

 

[32] “Although discipleship was a voluntary initiative with other types of master-disciple relationships in the first century, with Jesus the initiative lay with his call (Matt. 4:19; 9:9; Mark 1:17; 2:14; cf. Luke 5:10–11, 27–28) and his choice (John 15:16) of those who would be his disciples. The response to the call involves recognition and belief in Jesus’ identity (John 2:11; 6:68–69), obedience to his summons (Mark 1:18, 20), and counting the cost of full allegiance to him (Matt. 19:23–30; Luke 14:25–28). His call is the beginning of something new; it means losing one’s old life (Matt. 10:34–37; Luke 9:23–25) and finding new life in the family of God through obeying the will of the Father (Matt. 12:46–50)” (Michael J. Wilkins, “Disciple, Discipleship,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996], 176).

[33] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Eph 2:8–9.

 

[34] Jeremy Treat, “Grace is Not a Thing” (May 29, 2014).  https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/grace-is-not-a-thing/, last accessed January 24, 2019. A parallel thought from Paul is found in his words in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” God’s rhythm of rest is not just a 6:1 ration of work to rest, it is resting in your work. In this fallen world, it takes work to truly rest in the Lord. To build the boundaries in your life and to not live your life in 24/7 connectivity and productivity.

[35] Bill Gaultier, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke: Rhythms of Grace to De-Stress and Live Empowered (Irvine, CA: Soul Shepherding, Inc., 2016), 7. Gaultier was a long-time apprentice to Dallas Willard and this book, along with the work of John Ortberg, is the best work I have found building upon the ground-breaking work of Dallas Willard. Before his death and after reading the first draft of this book, it is reported that Dallas Willard said to Gaultier, “This is groundbreaking! Pastors and others will come under this teaching and develop aspects of it in their own ministry” (1). I am finding that statement very true. Combined with the essential works of Dallas Willard, this book has shaped my thinking on the applications of Mt 11:28-30 more than any other resources.

[36] Tony Stoltzfus with Kathy Stoltzfus and Sarah Herring, Questions for Jesus: Conversational Prayer Around Your Deepest Desires (Redding, CA: Coach22 Bookstore LLC, 2013), 68. For additional support of this thought process, Richard Myers explained, “Yokes had to be shaped and fitted carefully. Many parts were made of wood, so the carpenter Jesus had to know well how to design, make, and use them (Mark 6:3)” (Richard Myers. Images from The Temple Dictionary of the Bible [Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012]).

[37] Janet Pope, “A Yoke? What’s that all about?” (November 20, 2013) http://www.janetpope.org/a-yoke-whats-that-all-about/ (accessed January 26, 2019).

[38] I will further establish the connection between the yoke and the cross in a future sermon. The implications on the call to Christian discipleship are essential to our application to both discipleship and ministry.


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