I’ve never worn a physical yoke but I have carried intangible ones that were very real. When Jesus talks about yokes in this passage from Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30, he uses an agricultural image people in his crowd knew. A yoke is a heavy piece of wood used to connect two oxen side-by-side at the shoulders. Yokes were used in specific circumstances. One of the oxen would be experienced and well trained. They knew how to pull a plow or a heavy load. The other oxen in the yoke would be inexperienced. They were young and new to plowing. They wouldn’t know what’s expected of them. By teaming up an experienced ox with one who needs help, the farmer could plow their field and train their oxen at the same time. The oxen would do the hard work to prepare the field for planting, together. The old soil and plants from the year before would be plowed over and turned up. The new soil, once fertilized and filled with seeds, would grow a delicious crop. Without a yoke, the inexperienced oxen could never create a crop that would feed others. The yoke made that ox a creature that gives life.
As a baptized Christian, you are yoked. You might not feel it, physically, but you are connected to Jesus right now. As Shelley Best writes, “Through faith, we are partnered with Jesus and taught how to balance and maneuver what is at hand, with the help of one who transforms our deepest desires into passion for God’s just and merciful reign in the world.*” The gift of faith connects us to the One who knows us better than we know ourselves. We are bound to a Jesus who helps us to live in sync with him. This work isn’t easy. This work challenges who we are and what we know. And this work can feel like our trust in God is growing or fading or both, at the same time. There will be times when the heavy load we’re pulling feels like it’s impossible to carry on our own. But we are not alone. We are connected with Jesus. And we need to “trust Jesus to help us carry our load and find rest.”
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 5th Sunday After Pentecost, 7/9/2017.