What’s the meaning of Jesus’ statement that His yoke is easy and burden is light (Matthew 11:30)?
The key to understanding what Jesus is teaching is knowing what He means by “yoke”. In Jesus day, to take on the “yoke of the Rabbi” meant that the disciple would make their Rabbi’s interpretation of the Scriptures their own. We often think about the yoke as something used on animals to keep them together while plowing a field or pulling a heavy load, but that’s not what Jesus is talking about at all.
Jesus’ “yoke” is His interpretation of the Scriptures. And when He says it’s “light” we can contrast this to what Jesus says about the other Rabbis’ yokes – “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Matthew 23:4
The clear point is there’s something very different about Jesus’ view of the Scriptures than that of the Teachers of the Law. The difference is the Gospel of God’s grace. The difference is that Jesus bore the heavy burden on our behalf, so for us, His burden is light.
This is the exact opposite of the legalistic religious view of the Scriptures. And the two views are incompatible – they cannot both be accurate. There are many “and/both” teachings in Scripture, but this is not one of them. Our relationship with God is determined by either how well we keep the law or by our placing our faith in Jesus. It’s either/or, there’s no middle ground.
Paul is quite clear about this in Galatians 2:16 – “Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. I would encourage you to read the entire letter Paul wrote to the Galatians as he makes this point in multiple ways. He even says that if you choose to try and be made right with God by keeping the law you nullify the cross.
So, where does that leave us? If Jesus says His interpretation of the Scriptures is easy for us and the burden is light, this must mean it’s easy to understand and implement. And when we live under His view of the Scriptures our burden will be light. This then begs the question, does your interpretation fit this description? If not, then you have a view of the Bible that’s contrary to Jesus view. I don’t know about you, but I want Jesus’ interpretation – why would I settle for anything less?
Let’s talk about it (reply below) –
Does your current interpretation of Scripture align with Jesus’ description (yoke)? If so, talk about how it’s easy and light for you. If not, how does your view differ?
One thought on “A Rabbi’s Yoke”
Thanks for your post. Another key difference between Jesus and other rabbis is . . .they were teaching their followers to pile up “the commandments of men” AKA “oral Torah” (later the Talmud) on TOP of the actual Torah of God, which makes for a tremendous burden.