“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.”
Matthew 11:29 (NIV)
How often I’ve read these words, and rested easy in their offer of comfort and rest. On Sunday, I learned that a dear friend, a woman younger than I, had suddenly lost her younger brother. No details of his death were given, only that he was suddenly gone from family and friends. From my friend, his sister.
Without thought for where I was, the tears came quickly in rivulets on my cheeks. My sorrow for her great because I knew how much she loved her brother and her family. Their pain must be excruciating — I know the suddenness of loss and it strikes a blow to our hearts and minds like none other.
Wanting to send her a card, I searched for one yesterday that said the right thing. It’s hard to know what the right thing is, and I couldn’t find one with the right verse of Scripture. So I settled for the one that conveyed my thoughts. The verse above is the one I will write in as my gift to help traverse this time of pain.
I came home and searched my list of favorite verses for this one. I began to think on the words and only one gave me pause during this reading. The word “yoke.” Do people today understand that word? We certainly don’t see oxen yoked together pulling a burden much heavier than they. Nor do we see people walking around carrying buckets of water using a yoke to balance the two. So, what would another translation say.
The New Century Version is much simpler and doesn’t mention the word “yoke:” “Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives.“
And then I looked at the verse in The Message: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” The Message wording covers both verses 29 and 30, which gives a broader view of what Jesus meant when he spoke these words.
And yet, what is it I want to convey to my friend? I want to say that she can lay everything her heart is bearing
, all that which feels like a burden, yes, like a yoke across her shoulders. Yokes were meant to make a burden easier to manage. In the IVP New Testament Commentary
for the Gospel of Matthew, we find:
“They will find Jesus’ yoke light because he is a Master who will care for them (Mt 11:29). Jesus’ yoke is not lighter because he demands less (5:20), but because he bears more of the load with us (23:4).”
How clearly we can now see what the words “[t]ake my yoke upon you” equate to: Jesus will share that load, that pain we suffer, the grief in our hearts. He will be there to bolster that load so that for us it seems lighter through our allowing him to share our load. Such beauty, such comfort, such relief are found in this verse from Matthew. Walking with Jesus each day makes every load lighter.
Q4U: What does this verse from Matthew say to you? I’d love to get some discussion going.