Matthew 11:28-30 English Standard Version (ESV)
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
1) What is the word “yoke” referring to?
2) What is causing Christ’s original audience to be heavy laden?
3) How does Jesus’s yoke give our souls rest?
A trip to www.studylight.org is in order here.
We will get super cozy with this site as we study Scripture together!
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Want to know more about a specific word in a verse?
Click on “Strong’s Interlinear Bible” then click the word you’d like to study. Find super awesome stuff like “origin”, “definition”, and even all the different ways that single word has been translated into English! If you want to be geeky, you can even click the word and hear its original pronunciation – That Is Awesome!
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Click “Study Tools”, then pick a few commentaries to read their scholarly approach, keeping in mind that just because a commentary says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. (just like the internet :-))
The Findings for Original Intent
1) The Greek word translated “yoke” is zygós. A Bible dictionary tells us that it can either mean a literal yoke, like one a pair of oxen would wear, or it can figuratively represent a heavy burden. Obviously, the figurative meaning is the one used here. Further study of the word “yoke” tells us that it was a common Jewish metaphor for the obligation to the service of the law.
2) The Old Testament law was a good thing—given to the people to show God’s character and point out the seriousness of sin. But over the years, the Pharisees had become legalistic, requiring not only adherence to the OT law, but adding on their own made-up rules and traditions, and completely missing God’s heart in the process. Check out a cross-reference, Matthew 23:4: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” The Pharisees were Israel’s teachers, and they were teaching the people only that they could never measure up. What a heavy burden!
3) Christ tells us to come to Him, to take His yoke, and to learn from Him. The phrase “come to me” is used multiple times in the gospels, and is a call to faith in Christ. By trusting Christ for salvation, we take on Christ’s yoke—we begin to follow His commands. Cross-references bring us to 1 John 5:3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” We can cease our striving, we can let go of the burden of perfection; we can find rest for our souls, when we realize that the work of salvation has been done for us! It’s not up to us to be “good enough” in Christ!
Some Applications for Our Everyday Lives
1) The yoke of the Pharisees was one of obligation. Christ’s yoke is one of joyful relief. Feeling heavy guilt with no way to overcome it? Those are lies from the Enemy! The Holy Spirit convicts our hearts while drawing us in to His embrace of love, fueling us with the power we need to honor Him! Praise God for providing a way for us to be saved and have our burden lifted! Identify some guilty lies you’ve been believing and run to the Father of Grace and Truth.
2) Even after we have trusted Christ for salvation, we can fall into the trap of adding to the gospel. We pile extra requirements on ourselves (sometimes due to others’ expectations) that rob us of the rest and joy of knowing we are saved through faith, apart from works. Or it can even look like judging other believers / non-believers according to a personal standard or ideal. This is legalism. Lord, help me rid myself of anything in my life that I am adding to the gospel both for myself and others.
3) Although these verses don’t promise that Jesus will make all of my problems go away, they do promise that I can find rest for my soul when I look to Him. Am I spending more time looking at my problems, my shortcomings, my flaws, my “have-to’s” than I am looking to Jesus and learning from Him? If so, what steps can I take to remedy that? Choose one area and pray over it, deciding to give it wholly to Christ!
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