I found out the other day that a yoke was a metaphor for one person’s subjection to another, as well as a common metaphor in Judaism for the law. When Jesus spoke the invitation to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him, He meant we should submit to His leadership and authority. The Scribes and Pharisees had given burdens of religious legalism to the people that were causing too much crushing of their spirits. Jesus, however promised to be gentle and kind to them, making the way of pleasing God the Father an obtainable goal which would not be beyond them.
There are various ways of expressing the decision to submit to the leadership of Jesus. We can say that we accept Him as Saviour and Lord in every part of our lives. We can say that we want Him to be our king and we will be His servants. We will obey His commands. We will surrender all to Him. The hymn says, ‘All to Jesus I surrender. All to Him I freely give’.
In my experience, there are many who have submitted to legalistic yokes and are being crushed in their spirits. If only they could recognise that it is happening to them. More often, they conclude that there is something wrong with them and feel huge guilt, fear and condemnation. How Jesus longs for them to come to Him and find rest for their souls.
I have also realised that I’m capable of imposing legalistic burdens on myself. I’ve been attempting to undo this and set myself free. It causes unnecessary stress and anxiety. I’m learning to give myself permission to break some of my own rules. An example of this is the huge guilt of throwing away food that has passed its date to be eaten safely. Perhaps this is the result of being born soon after World War 2 when food was still being rationed. This guilt extends to wasting anything on my dinner plate and having to throw it away.
‘Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden’, says Jesus. ‘Find rest for your souls’. If we don’t intentionally pursue this rest for our souls in Jesus, we run the danger of becoming pressurised by others or our own harsh, perfectionist standards, and of becoming too anxious about how we will cope with life.
Just before we went to America in December to spend a week teaching and ministering, I sent an email explaining that we were only bringing hand luggage and were restricted in the liquids we packed for the trip. I was worried about having to buy sun tan lotion and hair shampoo. Also, would we be able to do some laundry before embarking on our holiday cruise?
Back came an email from our lovely hosts for the week, “Don’t worry about a thing”. How reassuring that was, and it impacted me as a word from the Lord. Didn’t He say that to us? “Don’t be anxious about tomorrow”, and “Seek first the kingdom of God”. (Matthew 6:33-34). Can you imagine Jesus ever getting anxious and stressed out about such little things? ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary’ (Luke 10:41-42, CEV).
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You that You told us to come to You and follow Your way. I want to give up my own ways and submit to Yours. I want to find rest for my soul in You. Be Lord and King over my life. Amen.
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