I have to admit that a “yoke” is not something I would willingly want to put on myself. Yokes are created for controlling animals; they are restrictive and harnessing. Imagining myself in a yoke feels oppressive and humiliating and conjures images of medieval criminals bound in the stocks and pillory.
Yet Jesus calls us to, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). He goes on to say that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.
I didn’t understand this passage until recently when I discovered the true purpose of a yoke. Training yokes were put on young, immature oxen when they were learning how to plough fields. They would be yoked to an older, wiser ox who would actually pull most of the weight and carry the bulk of the burden because they would know how to pace themselves and handle the load while ploughing the whole field. Otherwise, the young ox would tire themselves out by trying to rush on ahead and carry it all themselves.
When Jesus invites us to add His yoke into our lives, He is telling us that we don’t have to do it all by ourselves. We can release our burdens, cares, and worries onto Him. We don’t have to rush on ahead or tire ourselves by striving for perfection. Instead, we can find rest for our weary souls and be met with the gentleness of a loving Savior.