December 31, 2012

Totally Biblically Yoked

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.” Matthew 11:25-30
Study Notes:
Immediately we see an invitation from Jesus and imperatives connected to it ask us to do things in this passage that jump out at us. Jesus asks us to “come”, “take” and to “learn”.

Pharisees always said it was a labor of doing and works based on the Law, Jesus is telling the people listening to him that it is not works. He literally is telling them to “come” to Him. He is telling them to come to salvation through Him. Salvation is not found in the tradition of the fathers but rather it is found in Him alone.

Part of coming to Jesus is trusting Jesus. It seems his invitation is directed specifically to those that are tired from doing works or searching. Under the yoke of the Pharisees that Jesus was referring to here in context, that is exactly what had happened. People of Jesus’ time had been beat down under the Law. It isn’t what you can do to earn salvation, it is what or who you accept. In this case it is Jesus himself, hence the invitation to himself.

The next imperative is "take." This is more than just responding to an invitation. It is a volitional act to take something offered.  It is when we take what Jesus has offered that we get rest from chasing the works and legalism of the world. Since we no longer need to chase after a never-ending string of things to do to gain salvation, we can then rest. What we are truly accepting here is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is accepting  the fact that Jesus died according to Scripture, was buried and rose again the third day in accordance with Scripture (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We are also taking His Spirit, the Holy Spirit upon us. We are taking His teaching.

A yoke is a long wooden beam with two recessed areas on the underside to fit over the necks of a pair of draft animals, usually oxen, to harness them together to pull ploughs or some other load. (1 Samuel 6:7) Yokes for humans were also used. These were simple beams or poles carried across the shoulders with a load attached to each end. With them, people were able to carry heavy loads. (Jeremiah 27:2; 28:10, 13) From its association with burdens and labour, the yoke is often used in the Bible to symbolize domination and control. When Jesus says to take his he is saying two things.

First, Jesus is asking us to become disciples because his path to salvation is vastly easier than forever chasing senseless dead-ending man-made rules. It is also the ideas used by farmers to train young bulls by using the older experienced ones. The farmers would yoke a young bull with an older experience one to (1) have the older stronger one pull the bulk of the load and (2) teach the young bull the proper way to do things by example. It is just another way of saying, “come to me, I will disciple you” in an agricultural society. Hence, to take up Jesus’ yoke simply means to become his disciple.

Interestingly, Paul even alludes to this concept in Philippians 4:3 when referring to other disciples in the Gospel that are saved in Jesus Christ: Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

This, however, requires more than just giving mental recognition to his teachings. It requires actions in harmony with them—doing the work he did and living the way he lived. (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21) It requires willing submission to his authority and to those to whom he delegates authority. (Ephesians 5:21; Hebrews 13:17) It means becoming a dedicated, baptized Christian, accepting all the privileges and responsibilities that come with this.

The implication of taking the yoke makes one realize that they are not a slave to an unwanted labor but rather a willing participant that has made a choice to follow Jesus by taking Him up on His offer which is for eternal life.

An interesting application for the term yoke can be parlayed into the idea of being "totally yoked" or like the title for this post...Biblically Yoked. This is a play on the idea of being totally yoked in today's slang. To be totally yoked in today's vernacular means to actually be very strong or well built. It is a term I hear often around the gym when I lift. I see a real useful bridge here from Jesus' usage in Matthew 11 that can bridge Jesus' time into the youth and young adults of today. If we use the principle I just mentioned and then use it to describe someone as Biblically Yoked, we would be saying that a Biblically Yoked person is a person that is well built and strong in the Bible and attached firmly to Jesus Christ. A clever and useful modernizing of an old idea. I also see the idea of mentoring in this also for anyone that has the time to draw out the subtleties. You know...the stronger we get in the Bible and with Jesus, the lighter the yoke gets...

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