Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I'll Take a Yoke, Please

Matthew 11:28-30:

Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

This passage had come up in a book we are reading and discussing in my Sunday school class. I wanted to take a more in depth look at the passage, mainly digging into the original greek. Then also just looking up information on yoking oxen. (Side note, I stayed at the Oxen Yoke in N. Conway the first year that I ran Mt. Washington.) I found some interesting points for myself and felt like sharing. So let me say first, I'm no theologian. But then nobody probably thought that. Below is just what I found in looking at the definitions of the original greek and just what struck me about this passage. In addition, my last blog was largely a preface for this one. My blog is just me sharing my view of the world. It's a mix of all that is me. I'm a little concerned what some may think of this posting saying, “I've read some of your blog, you're not exactly religious or saintly.” You'd be right in that assessment I think. I claim neither “religiousness” or “sainthood.” I claim that God might like me and I find him intriguing. I'd say we hang out.(Mark 2:15-17) So I think I've said enough on that and on with my thoughts on the passage.

In the greek, “labor” meant work until worn out or exhausted and “heavy laden” meant overloaded or causing someone to literally be weighed down(1). The noun related to this word means a burden, or freight, which must be carried by the individual. I find it interesting that Jesus invites people who are exhausted from laboring and overloaded or weighed down to come toss on a yoke. A yoke is of course a large wooden bar used to link to animals, generally oxen, to pull a plow or trailer. So Jesus was basically saying, if you're exhausted and need a rest, come pull a plow with me? Well kind of.

I had heard sometime when I was young about how oxen are yoked together and trained. Of course now there is the internet, so I looked up yoke and training oxen. Here is some information I found. Two oxen yoked together can pull more than double the combined weight two single oxen could pull.(2) Also one method to train oxen is to put an ox that knows how to pull and work with one that doesn't.(3) The trained ox will teach the untrained ox. All common knowledge to most anyone during Jesus' time. Jesus wasn't offering to make the difficulty of life, or the work the life requires, magically disappear. He offered for us to stop straining on our own and get in his yoke to pull together. Jesus offered to teach us how to do the difficult and hard, “learn from me.” Jesus further described himself as meek and humble. The greek word for meek means a blend of gentleness and strength. It carried the idea of demonstrating power without undue harshness or gentleness without compromising.(1) The “rest” has a meaning of rest that comes after completing a task.(1) It is not a promise of unearned ease, but that of reward from doing the work, accomplishment. I kind of like that. Back to the information I found online, oxen work better when they are compatible; similar size, strength, and temperament.(3) If they're not, it is especially uncomfortable for the trained ox. On a personal note, I'm glad Jesus was meek and humble enough to be yoked with a wild, undersize, and unruly ox as myself.

Finally in the last verse, the word “for” is better translated because.(1) We find rest for our soul in being yoke to God, “because his burden is easy and light.” The greek word for easy more directly means useful or well-fitted. God's yoke is well-fitted. So back once more to my internet findings. Several papers talked about how important it was to fit a yoke correctly. That meant that a yoke really should be customized for specific oxen for the best fit. Otherwise the oxen would pull inefficiently or get sores and bruises. Jesus basically said his yoke will fit properly so the load is light. Again with the greek, the word for light carried a figurative meaning of easily managed or unburdensome.(1)

This study was on my mind as I ran out in the mountains at Longbottom on Sunday. I believe running is one of the things God has made me to do. I hope to get in his yoke and learn. I'm sure I am tough to be yoked to, but God invited so I assume he is up for the challenge. Plus I could use a better yoke than the one I've been using.


  1. THANK YOU. I was also searching to learn more about oxen and yokes for my own Sunday school class...I teach the 15-year-olds. This was so perfect. I appreciate being able to look through what you found and what you thought about it. I am uplifted and inspired by your faith and especially your attitude that "well, God invited so I assume he's up for the challenge." Thank you so much. I hope you don't mind if I quote you on that :)
    ~LDS Girl

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for your comment as it is quite encouraging to me. I often feel a bit abnormal, but thankful that God is willing to work with unique ones. Feel free to use anything that may be useful. I am glad to know something I may have shared was helpful to someone in any way.
    Regards, Mtn. Goat

  3. I am reviewing this blog post again in prep for another Sunday school lesson. Thanks again!! This is the lesson I'm teaching this time, in case you are interested in seeing how I'm using your material.
    ~ LDS Girl

  4. Thanks for your thoughts and pulling this together. I've just recently been studying this phrase and actually came across your blog because of that awesome picture you have within this post. Great insights. Thank you for taking the time to post this.