Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light. - Vs 28-30 (NLT)
You're probably familiar with the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. But have you ever heard of the Great Invitation? Well, you'll find it in the verses above. It's one of the most overlooked of the three "Greats" in the Scriptures. Maybe it's because it uses a farming metaphor that most of us can't relate to. Or maybe it's because we've determined it is just talking about salvation. But the more I read it and study it, the Great Invitation is one of the most powerful statements about spiritual growth and formation in the entire Bible. It goes hand in hand with the Great Commandment – to love God and to love others – and the Great Commission – to make disciples. In fact, without the Great Invitation, keeping the other two will be impossible. It provides the foundation on which to build a simple, yet vibrant spiritual growth strategy.
In this passage, Jesus is offering an invitation with two parts. The first is an invitation to the lost. He is addressing all those who are weary, worn out and burdened down by a religious system that is based on rule-keeping and self-righteousness. The average Jewish peasant was living a life burdened with the legalism imposed on them by the Pharisees. There were literally hundreds upon hundreds of laws they were required to keep – most of them man-made, not God-ordained. Their righteousness was based on their ability to keep up. Their standing with God was dependent on their strict adherence to rules that were impossible to keep. So they were beaten down, tired, and staggering under the load of guilt and shame that came with their failure. So Jesus invites them to come to Him. He extends a personal invitation to have a relationship with Him. And He offers them rest. Jesus offers them a new way into a relationship with God – through Him. It is not burdensome or wearying. It's restful. Jesus extends to them the Good News of the Gospel.
But there's a second part to this invitation. And I think it is the part that most often gets overlooked. Once Jesus has invited us into a relationship with Him, He issues a command. He says, "Take My yoke upon you." This is a critical next-step that most of us refuse to take. We refuse to get into the yoke with Jesus. We accept His invitation to rest, but we balk at the idea of the yoke. Maybe it's because we don't fully understand it. Maybe it's because it sounds like too much work. But either way, we miss out. Because Jesus tells us to get into the yoke in order that we might learn from Him. To get in the yoke was a common phrase in Jesus day. It was used by rabbis and teachers when referring to their disciples or followers. You were invited by a rabbi to yoke with him and so learn from him. It was a common farming term that all understood. When a farmer wanted to train up a new oxen to plow in the yoke, he would take a young calf and place him in a yoke next to a "veteran" ox. In this relationship, the young ox would learn from the "master." He would learn to submit to the older ox's leadership and direction. He would learn the ways of the plow. He would learn to die to his own way of life and to live his life with a new sense of purpose. Prior to getting in the yoke, the young ox lived a life that was his own. He ate when he wanted to eat. He slept when he wanted to sleep. He had no responsibilities or cares. But once in the yoke, his life changed. He now had work to do. He had a purpose for living. His existence took on new meaning and his world no longer revolved around him. He was walking and working alongside his mentor – learning the way of the yoke. Sure, it was work, but it was easy as long as he did it the master's way.
That is the relationship Jesus longs for with each of us. He wants us to get in the yoke next to Him. He has work for us to do. He has a plan for our lives and a purpose for our existence, but we will never know it or experience it outside of the yoke. Yet, many of us refuse to get in the yoke with Him. Or perhaps we never knew we were supposed to get in the yoke with Him. But it's never too late to get in the yoke. He calls us daily to join Him and learn from Him. It is in the yoke that true discipleship takes place. It is in the yoke that we learn to live like Jesus lived. It is in the yoke that we develop the desire to love God and others. It is in the yoke that we develop a passion for the lost and a commitment to make disciples. The yoke trains us, equips us, empowers us, and inspires us for service.
• Being in the yoke is … worship
- You are living a life of obedience and, which is worshipful
- You are living a life of dependence, which is worshipful
- You are glorifying God, which is worshipful
Being in the yoke requires that you … connect
- First, you must connect to Christ
- But ultimately, being in the yoke connects you to other believers
- You become part of the body of Christ through your connection to Christ
Being in the yoke is where you learn, which means you … grow
- You can’t help but learn in the yoke
- Jesus says, “learn from Me”
- The purpose of the yoke is discipleship
Being in the yoke will require you to … serve
- You are in the yoke to do God’s work according to His will
- Jesus came to serve, not be served
- He is still serving today and He wants us to serve alongside Him
Being in the yoke is the message we model and … share
- When we live our life in the yoke with Jesus, we are modeling what it means to be His disciple
- We don’t just share the good news, we live it out
- Jesus told us to “make disciples”
- We cannot effectively “make” what we don’t understand or have not experienced
The yoke is about a discipleship/apprenticeship relationship in which we learn from Jesus… …How to be a shepherd …How to be a leader …How to be a son of God …How to be a good soldier …How to be a citizen …How to be a priest …How to be a prophet …How to be an advocate …How to be a reconciler …How to be a steward …How to be an encourager …How to be a servant …How to be an evangelist …How to be a sacrifice …How to be a healer …How to be a fruit bearer …How to be a worshiper …How to be a teacher …How to be a student
These are produced out of a relationship with Christ. They are the fruits of Christ-likeness. We are becoming what He is – which is at the heart of sanctification. It all begins with the Great Invitation, Christ’s gracious offer of life, rest, and relationship with Him. If someone does not accept His invitation, which includes an offer of salvation and a life of sanctification, the other two commands are impossible to keep. Outside of the yoke, fulfillment of the Great Commission and keeping of the Great Commandment are impossible. A journey of spiritual growth must begin in the yoke. Maturity in Christ is essentially growth in Christ-likeness. That is the by-product of a life lived in the yoke, where a disciple learns from the Master Himself.
Father, thank You for the yoke. May I increasingly find myself more at home there than at any other place. I want to learn from Jesus Himself as I work alongside Him. I want to experience the rest He offers in the midst of a life of service to Him and for Him. Give us a greater desire to live in the yoke with Jesus.. Amen