What great excitement there has been in our nation as we have celebrated the Platinum Jubilee of our queen in the UK! The thanksgiving service held at St. Paul’s Cathedral was a moving occasion. As I watched the people entering the cathedral, I wondered what the lesser-known ones had done to earn their coveted invitation. I’m sure not many of them would ignore the invitation or forget to send an acceptance.
The invitation Jesus gives is not for a selected number of people. It is for everyone who will accept it because they recognise it is personally for them. These ancient words about a yoke, weariness, burdens, and rest are extremely relevant for today. At the time of Jesus a wooden yoke was used between a pair of oxen to keep them walking together when ploughing a field. If the animals kept in step, the yoke would not chafe their shoulders.
The yoke of which Jesus was speaking was the law – a religious yoke forced on people by the Pharisees. The ten commandments given to Israel by Moses was the law to be obeyed. However, the Pharisees had added over six hundred minor commandments to the law, which the people were expected to follow meticulously. Jesus was offering His followers a different kind of yoke from these commandments of the Pharisees, which they found impossible to obey. He offered them obedience and loyalty to Himself, which would free them from the burden and weariness of false religion.
Jesus said, “Come to me.” To accept His invitation is to come into His presence and relinquish your burdens in exchange for His comfort, His peace, and His love. ‘Come ‘is a word often used in the Bible in the sense of an invitation. Once accepted, the invitation of Jesus is liberating. No-one will ever be turned away. So, listen for His still small voice calling you by name. “Come to me and I will give you rest,” Jesus is calling. His call is most clearly heard when you come to the end of yourself, recognising your great need of the only One who has power to bring healing and freedom into your life. Leave behind your regrets and mistakes. There’s no need to wait. Bring Him your sorrows and trade them for the joy He gives.
Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you.” Jesus doesn’t promise His followers a life of ease and pleasure. Sorrow, sadness, and hard times are part of all of our lives. However, He does assure us that His yoke is easy, and that He is always close to us. He expects us to share our burdens with Him, and to cast them upon Him. Sometimes we carry heavy burdens because we want to be in control of our lives, and we fear surrendering completely to His good and perfect will. The yoke doesn’t fit if we live in deliberate sin or have bitterness in our hearts because we refuse to forgive someone who has wronged us. Neither does it fit if we are more bent on pleasing people than pleasing and obeying Jesus. Keeping alongside Jesus, being yoked to Him, is the secret of a life of inner peace and the source of freedom from debilitating worry and anxiety. When we take His yoke in exchange for our burdens, we find we are living the kind of life He wants us to live, and we are free to serve Him, not for any reward, but simply because we love Him.
Jesus calls us to learn from Him. He describes Himself as ‘Gentle and humble in heart.’ This is His chosen description of Himself. He promises that, as we learn from Him, we will find rest for our souls. We will find deep inner peace and freedom and a sense of being at ease with ourselves. He calls us to be like Him. As His followers, we are called to be His witnesses and to tell our stories to those who are lost without Him. I long for the heart of Jesus and recognise that I have a long way to go. My encouragement lies in the fact that I cannot make my heart gentle and humble. It is the divine work of the Holy Spirit to whom I surrender. Nevertheless, I can truly say that the best way to live life in all its fullness is to be yoked to Jesus.
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