Read Matthew 11 at Bible Gateway.
Mat 11 outline:
Mat 11:1-15, John sends messengers to Jesus/ Jesus teaches concerning John
Mat 11:16-19, This generation like offended children/ wisdom justified by her works
Mat 11:20-24, Woe to the cities who did not repent at Jesus’ preaching + mighty works
Mat 11:25-27, The Father has hidden His wisdom from the wise/ the Son reveals the Father to those He choses
Mat 11:28-30, Come to Me, and I will give you rest, for My yoke + burden is easy + light
We saw that most of Mat 11 makes a chiastic structure with Mat 10 (the chapter divisions were added later, without regard for the divisions of the Spirit). However, the next structure picks up right where that one left off:
Mat 11:25-12:14 chiastic structure:
1a) Mat 11:25-27, The Father’s wisdom hidden from the wise and prudent;
1b) Mat 11:28, Come to Me, and I will give you rest;
1c) Mat 11:29a, Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me;
central axis) Mat 11:29b, For I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls;
2c) Mat 11:30, For My yoke is easy and My burden is light;
2b) Mat 12:1-13, What is lawful on the Sabbath;
2a) Mat 12:14, The Pharisees plotted against Him, to destroy Him.
What is the yoke of Jesus?
Webster’s defines a yoke as “a wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks for working together.”
When we take His yoke upon us, we become one of the two working together. Who is the second? Jesus Himself. His yoke yokes us together with Him, and now we can do the work easily, since He is pulling with us and bearing with us. We are not alone.
Another thing about a yoke. It restricts freedom of movement. When two are yoked together, they must walk together. An ox in a yoke just can’t go off on his own and do his own thing. He goes where his partner ox goes. He works the work his partner ox is working. It is the same with us – when we bear His light and easy yoke, it restricts our freedom of movement. We must walk together with Jesus, not going off and doing our own thing. We walk His walk and work His work and do what He is doing.
I think Scripture gives us further evidence to help us identify what is meant by His yoke:
“Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.” 1 Kin 12:4
The men of Israel were addressing King Rehoboam, about the yoke which his father King Solomon had put upon them, to serve him. So we see that obeying the king, because his requirements were many or difficult, caused a heavy yoke to be laid on the necks of these men.
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” Mat 23:1-4
The Pharisees likewise bound a heavy yoke on men’s shoulders, and as they sat in Moses’ seat, i.e. took Moses’ authority upon themselves (whether God gave it to them or no). This hard service was expressed in observing many and difficult requirements according to men, traditions of elders, given as commandments.
You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. Deu 4:2
God intended His commandments to be kept. You will not find in the Hebrew scriptures the concept that the Law of God set a bar so high that it was impossible to for men to reach. His commandments are Ten (the rest of Torah explaining what keeping the Ten means), and they were not to be added to or subtracted from, so that men might keep them.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 1 Joh 5:3
The heavy yoke the men of Israel complained of, the burdensome yoke of the Pharisees – those were yokes of men. The light and easy yoke of Jesus is not burdensome, expressed in the simple commandments of God. When we come to Him, we find rest for our souls, for His yoke is easy, and His burden is light!
For further reading:
matthew 11, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence (2012)
matthew 11, elijah who is to come (2011)
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