Wearing the Surprising Yoke of Christ

This invitation is among Jesus’ most famous words (Mt 11:28-30):

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

YokeTillers International put out a document on how to build a yoke (in case you were looking for a wood shop project).  They noted that a typical wooden yoke might weigh 50-60 pounds, certainly more than I’d care to carry in a backpack each day but hardly problematic to a team of animals who might weigh a couple tons collectively.

That got me to thinking about the yoke Jesus offers.

He says that it will not feel burdensome. He also says that wearing it will be a form of learning.

Here is where the image surprises.

Yoke-talk was common-place among first-century rabbis. It spoke of whose rule one was living out, whose Torah-interpretation one was holding, whose “way” one was walking.  Typically, potential students might approach a teacher under whom they desired to learn.  Some sort of “application” would take place, with testing and gauging of whether this student was suitable for this master.  Jesus splits from the standard operating procedures immediately by putting out a call of invitation, particularly to those whose current yokes are crushing them. To the wearied and the worn, a restful yoke awaits.

How can it be so?

I mean, Jesus is the same one who called his followers to “be holy, as God is holy”. He told them that they would need to pursue a higher form of righteousness than the minutia-minded Sinai-sticklers of their day, so we can safely conclude that he was not speaking of slack standards or halfway holiness.

Perhaps the clue lies in the imagery of the yoke.

Yoke-Jesus-Matthew-11-28-30-300x225Picture it.

See the metaphor: View the farm, hear the livestock, assess the fields to work.

Imagine it.

Place yourself there: Smell the dirt, breathe the air, feel the weight of a yoke.

At this moment, where is Jesus?

If there is a yoke and we are wearing it, then it seems easy enough to assess our spot in the sketch. We are the beast of burden, ready to plow under the watch of a master. Simple enough.

But where is Jesus?

That seems easy too.

I mean, if he’s the owner of the yoke, then he is the farmer, intent on training us to be obedient and useful to himself.  Every facet of that metaphor works for standard Christian teaching.

However, I cannot help but wonder if we’re missing a key–a very key–detail.

Farmer with working elephant. IndiaYears ago, my wife and I spent time in southeast Asia. At a number of spots, we encountered elephants: We rode some, we fed some, we visited reserves and protection programs.  We also witnessed elephants being used as work-animals. Be assured, you can get some stuff done with an elephant! Who needs horsepower when you’ve got elephant power and a trunk?!

One of the trainers said that when they’re working with a new elephant, they match him up with their best elephant. The rookie gets yoked alongside the expert. He gets mastered; he gets discipled.

And that is what I think we’re missing when we read Matthew 11.

It makes all kinds of sense to see Jesus as the yoke-owning, beast-breaking farmer.

Perhaps it makes all kinds of more sense to see Jesus as the yoke-sharing, way-walking beast beside us.

He straps us to himself and shows us how to walk.  Like stubborn elephants, we pull against and jostle with the yoke and the partner. And like the steady guide, he holds the line, graciously allowing us to learn and adjust. When pride breaks and rebellion subsides, we discover that we can sync our strides to this steady companion.

And in that moment of coordination and partnership, we discover that we don’t even notice the yoke upon us.  The load is shared, and truth be told, he is bearing the weight so completely that our portion merits no mention.  Beyond that, we begin to realize that a life of satisfying fruitfulness has begun.

Welcome to the life of the disciple!

China Changing

Having taken the overnight train for this specific route, THIS ARTICLE was fairly impressive.  My take?  If you’re visiting China anytime in the future (especially after 2012) with money to spare, your travel experience will be like cheating, in the same way as one of my mid-60’s friends says that his degree in the pre-computer age should be worth more than his kids’ degrees.

And on the topic of daring Chinese engineering ventures, THIS BRIDGE would qualify as well.

Fatima Al-Mutairi (13/28)

This is from the latest issue of “The Voice of the Martyrs”.  If  you don’t subscribe to this free publication, you could.  Guaranteed, it will open your eyes.

Below is the content of one page…

In August, a Muslim cleric and member of Saudi Arabia’s Commission of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice killed his sister, 26-year-old Fatima Al-Mutairi, after she proclaimed her faith in Christ to her family in Buraydah, Saudi Arabia.  Fatima’s fellowship with other believers was mainly limited to internet forums and phone correspondence.  From VOMC contacts: “As part of her testimony to the family, she proclaimed that the way of Christ is the most pure and most holy way of all.  After sharing with her family, she found her brother in her room with her laptop open before him.  Her laptop contained notes about her spiritual journey, which he was searching in order to find more evidence against her.  Her brother locked her in the room for four hours, during which time she wrote a final letter on the internet.  Fatima was killed soon thereafter.”

Her poem…

“And We for the Sake of Christ All Things Bear”
Fatima Al-Mutairi

May the Lord Jesus guide you, Oh Muslims
And enlighten your hearts that you might love others
The forum does not revile the Master of the prophets
It is for the display of truth, and for you it was revealed
This is the truth which you do not know
What we profess are the words of the Master of the prophets
We do not worship the cross, and we are not possessed
We worship the Lord Jesus, the Light of the worlds

We left Mohammed, and we do not follow in his path
We followed Jesus Christ, the Clear Truth
Truly, we love our homeland, and we are not traitors
We take pride that we are Saudi citizens
How could we betray our homeland, our dear people?
How could we, when for death—for Saudi Arabia—we stand ready?
The homeland of my grandfathers, their glories, and odes—for it I am writing
And we say, “We are proud, proud, proud to be Saudis”
We chose our way, the way of the rightly guided
And every man is free to choose any religion
Be content to leave us to ourselves to be believers in Jesus
Let us live in grace before our time comes
There are tears on my cheek, and Oh! The heart is sad

To those who become Christians, how you are so cruel!
And the Messiah says, “Blessed are the Persecuted”
And we for the sake of Christ all things bear
What is it to you that we are infidels?
You do not enter our graves, and if with us buried
Enough—your swords do not concern me, not evil nor disgrace
Your threats do not trouble me, and we are not afraid
And by God, I am unto death a Christian—verily
I cry for what passed by, of a sad life

I was far from the Lord Jesus for many years
Oh History record!  And bear witness, Oh Witnesses!
We are Christians—in the path of Christ we tread
Take from me this word, and note it well
You see, Jesus is my Lord, and He is the Best of protectors
I advise you to pity yourself, to clap your hands in mourning
See your look of ugly hatred
Man is brother to man, Oh learned ones
Where is the humanity, the love, and where are you?
As to my last words, I pray to the Lord of the worlds
Jesus the Messiah, the Light of Clear Guidance
That He change nations, and set the scales of justice aright
And that He spread Love among you, Oh Muslims


If you know someone who might be inspired by this, it’s also be made into a video here.

Loaning Cash and Winning Rice

I just loaned out some money to a lady in Cameroon and some more to a guy in Cambodia.

Many of you are already aware of this site (www.kiva.org), but if you’re not, you’re officially overdue to get informed.  Their little standard invitation email that you can send to friends goes like this…

I wanted to let you know about Kiva (www.kiva.org), a non-profit that allows you to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur in the developing world.

You choose who to lend to – whether a baker in Afghanistan, a goat herder in Uganda, a farmer in Peru, a restaurateur in Cambodia, or a tailor in Iraq – and as they repay their loan, you get your money back.  It�s a powerful and sustainable way to empower someone right now to lift themselves out of poverty.

So now you know.

A friend put me on to another site as well.

Two nights ago, with barely sleeping baby on my shoulder, I earned over 1000 grains of rice, 10 grains at a time, for people in developing nations by answering trivia questions about our world.  So go forth, be smart, and feed people… www.freerice.com.  And explore the site some too.  On it is some intriguing information.  For example, did you know that my very own Canadian government has thus far declined to follow the lead of several European nations to give at 0.7% of its annual wealth to the developing nations.  Trust the Scandinavian countries to leave us in their nordic dust.

If you care to send a “spurring” letter to our own government, they are waiting to be found and sent right from the site.

That’s it.  Over and out.



This morning I was reading a few news articles about Christians in Iraq…

Iraqi Leaders Indifferent to “Endangered” Christians

Iraq: Christians Live in Fear of Death Squads

Christians in Iraq Targeted for Persecution

Two simple thoughts came to my mind as I read…

  1. Be grateful for where you are.
  2. Since you’re there, give yourself to prayer and acts of obedience.