Friday, September 16, 2011

An Easy Yoke

Jesus has just revealed that it is God's pleasure to keep things hidden from the wise and the learned, which was most likely a reference to the Pharisees and scribes. Jesus also explained that He is selective about to whom God is revealed.

An Easy Yoke
As we well know, there are many schisms within the body of the Christian church today. Beyond the major Catholic-versus-Protestant divide, there are so many variations and denominations available that Christians can practically customize the message they hear every Sunday (or Saturday) to their individually tailored beliefs. However, there is a Christian sub-culture movement seeking to put the focus back on what Jesus wants instead of what they want. They prefer to identify themselves as Christ-followers instead of Christians, as if “Christian” has been tainted. What might it mean to be a true Christ-follower? We will take a look during this study.

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said:

"Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." NIV

We have three ideas to consider here. First and fast, the bit about taking on Jesus' yoke and learning from Him is exactly what Christ-followers are pursuing. In a sense, they seek to mimic Jesus; everything but the divinity, of course. In that respect, it is a more pure type of Christianity, and something which does not mesh at all with the Religious Right.

Next, let us take a brief moment to consider how Jesus is “gentle and humble in heart.” When preachers cover this verse, they give the requisite reference of how humble Jesus was when He washed His Disciple's feet (John 13:3-17), meanwhile leaving out the less-gentle, less-humble episodes like when Jesus stormed the Temple courtyard with a whip, overturning tables and chasing out the people who provided the animals for God-mandated sacrifices (John 2:12-17).

We should not forget that when Jesus says that He is gentle and humble at heart, He is claiming that God is gentle and humble at heart. However, there are scarce few examples from the Old Testament of God demonstrating how gentle He is, and there are no examples of God being humble there. Instead, you find a God full of harsh wrath, such as the plagues on Egypt, and a God who begins His list of commandments by telling the Israelites how jealous He is, and later ordered death for those who did not choose to worship Him. Last I checked, it was fairly impossible to be both jealous and humble, but, hey, all things are possible with God. Right?

Finally, how about that easy yoke and light burden? Let us take a moment to review the yoke described thus far:

Sure, several of these things are pretty easy, but many of them are anything but an easy yoke or a light burden. It makes Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30 inaccurate at best, and flat out wrong at worst. Perhaps that is why the Gospel of Matthew is the only one claiming that following Jesus would give you rest.

As I have pointed out in other studies, it appears that the author of Matthew has a tendency to aggregate little sayings and deeds which had come to be associated with Jesus; sometimes doing so well, like with the Sermon on the Mount, and other times aggregating poorly, like with the instructions to the Apostles for their first mission. I suspect that this is just another case where we find Matthew's folly. It seems very unlikely that Jesus would have claimed that following Him was easy.


  1. Agreed! The yoke isn't easy at all. How about if you get angry you become a murderer, and if you lust you're an adulterer. That's pretty darn hard!

  2. Yeah, I'm not really sure how anyone could honesty say all of this is easy.

  3. "Matthew's Folly" -- LOL (nice)
    I think your argument against the OT god is weak because Christians would yell, "See, you don't get it. With Jesus comes the dispensation of Grace. God deals differently with people through history. It is not that God changes, but that people change. Besides we can not understand his wisdom."
    Or some bullshit like that.
    Nonetheless, I agree. Lots of folks - Quakers, Shakers, Amish and such claim to follow Jesus. The Holiness movement was/is all about that. And all these blokes do it differently. For as you point out. Their holy books are aggregates of folks with different opinions -- no unifying Holy Spirit, unfortunately.


  4. Yeah Sabio, I've heard that dispensation argument before. I think you have summed it up well with "some bullshit like that." :-)

    You bring up a rather amusing point how even the Christ-followers cannot agree on how to follow Him!

  5. Yes, I think lots of Atheists complain about God's character while Christians role their eyes realizing that the Atheist is just ignorant of their theology (God's working in the world). So if you want to dialogue, knowing that stuff is important. Or having an ear to know when they have a reply you haven't heard.

    But ya got to want to play the theology game == and it is a rather silly game. :-)

  6. When Man (Preachers) are trying to explain God to Man, that is like trying to explain a Space shuttle to a child. God’s ways are not Man’s ways. We want to bring God down to our level. Wait! That is what God did! He came down to earth in Human form as a peace offer to us. And we tend to reject Him. We don’t want you in our lives! We don’t want you in our schools. We don’t even want you in a lot of our churches or synagogues. The first time Jesus came to earth he came as a simple man teaching that God has a substitute for us, a plan that is laid out in the earlier writings if we will just look. A substitute that will take our punishment for us. Wait, you say, I haven’t done anything wrong! Have you ever stolen anything? Even the littlest thing? Have you ever lied, said a curse word, got angry at someone, looked at someone or something with lust? God is pure and will not allow our Sin to be with Him. So, He sent Jesus to be a substitute for us. Yes, His yoke is light, just believe and confess with your mouth that He is who He says he is. His yoke is a lot lighter than alcohol addiction, family fights, marriage issues, and so on.

  7. Thanks for the good will behind your comment Anonymous. You bring up an interesting point about the substitution prophesy factor. Perhaps you will visit again for a post regarding that in a couple weeks?

    I do find it kind of ironic that you say Jesus' yoke is easier than family fights and marriage issues when those issues are exactly what Jesus predicted as consequences of following Him in Matthew 10:21 and Matthew 10:34-36. Are you aware of those verses?

    What I hope you can realize is that being a Christian is not a guarantee against "alcohol addiction, family fights, marriage issues, and so on" any more than not being a Christian will guarantee those issues to occur. If you do not believe me, feel free to ask all of the people at your church what their lives are like and report back what you discover. :-)

  8. Yes, I'm very aware that even when walking with Jesus, we can have trials and tribulation. Not if but when. That is what the letter of James addresses. There are always going to be Trials in life,: Ja 1:2 "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance". Those Tests can even come from God to sharpen us. Those trials could include strife in the Family when a person moves away from another faith to follow Jesus. The early Christians needed encouragement as many who followed the Messiah were ostracized from their Families and friends.
    Re: Jesus yoke, I believe that following Christ and having the hope in Heaven is the principle behind the easy yoke. Another thing to consider is who Jesus is addressing here (Mt 11:30). The Jewish Priests had put a lot of man-made traditions onto the Jewish people. Jesus had many angry words with the Pharisees about the heavy burdens they put onto the people that God never intended. That’s the reason Jesus did many healings on the Sabbath. Also, consider when you read His words, think eternity, not just the 70-100 years we are in this life.

  9. Lorena's comment that Jesus's yoke isn't easy at all would be true if we were *treated* as murderers every time we became angry, but we're not. We're forgiven for everything we've done and everything we *will* do. It's like a 100 year/10 million mile warranty. You can and should still take care of the car, but if it breaks down, no big deal--it's gonna be fixed at no cost to you in the end.

    As for that list, yeah, that looks very intimidating and challenging. But here's a much shorter list that's far superior, just as valid (in fact, more so), and significantly easier to remember:

    1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind
    2. Love your neighbor as yourself

    Everything else is covered with these two simple commands (Matt 22:40). Just love God and others. It will come naturally anyway if you recognize that *you* are loved and forgiven by God. And when you fail--which will happen often--be at peace, knowing that the game is already over, and your team has won.

  10. @Anonymous-Mike
    Thanks for the reply, Mike. So it appears that trials come to us all, regardless of belief. I suspect you would also agree that heaven is not a burden, right? And that the hope of heaven is not a burden? On the contrary, heaven and hope for it revive the spirit, right? If so, then it would seem to follow that the burden Jesus is speaking of pertains only to this life, and only due to the specific consequences for following Jesus, consequences like the ones listed above in this post. Which one of those listed above would you think to be the heaviest burden, and why would you instead call it light?

    I'm not sure of how well versed you are in the Bible, but according to the Old Testament Law, which was dictated by God, there were already many burdens placed on the Jewish people. However, you are absolutely correct that the priests had gone above and beyond the original Law. How much heavier the man-made laws were verses God's Law, I cannot say, because I do not know all of the man-made laws of that time. But I can assure you that God's Law did have some heavy burdens already in place before the priests got their hands on it. Let me know if you would like me to point some out to you, otherwise reading Exodus through Deuteronomy would be good start for you. You can do that quickly with the chapter-by-chapter summaries I have provided on this very blog! :-)

  11. @Ollie Wallflower
    Ah, but on the flip side and in the end, when it comes down to the final Judgement, if someone does not accept Jesus then that forgiveness becomes null and void. And so, someone whose only sin was having lustful or hateful thoughts would be treated like an adulterer or murdered, and denied Salvation. Oh heavy burden!

    I know this is a little hyperbole, but summing everything up in those two verses is like summing Ted Bundy up as being a friendly, quiet neighbor. Details matter, not that you should get bogged down in minutia, but you should read the entire book before being completely satisfied with the summary. That's all.

    For example, it seems difficult to reconcile loving your neighbor as yourself with condemning entire households or towns, or being comfortable with the fact that only a minority of people who have lived, are living, or will ever live are going to make it to heaven.

  12. So a Christian should be advised to follow *your* list--a very controversial, long list of dos and don'ts written from the perspective of a cynic who thinks Christianity is a farce and a pox on humanity--and ignore the simple list given by the very God who will judge them? I *have* read the entire book, and I'm satisfied with the summary. More importantly, though, *God* said to be satisfied with the summary. But you're right in saying that everyone who claims to follow the teachings of Christ should at the very least read the entire book to learn about who it is they're following, and what he has asked them to do. Most have not, sadly. And yet most will read countless novels/news articles/emails in their lifetimes, so it's not a matter of not liking or not being able to read. It's bewildering to me.

    Obviously I disagree with many of the things on your list. But I will agree, to some extent, with this one: "Know and be comfortable with the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people who have lived, are living, and will ever live are destined for eternal damnation." Clearly we are not supposed to be "comfortable" with this (quite the opposite), and you and I have different views on what "damnation" is, but you're right in saying that this is very, very emotionally difficult. I'm not so sure that the "overwhelming majority" of people won't accept salvation, but evidently *most* won't, according to Matt 7, and that's a difficult truth to acknowledge. But if they *really* don't want to accept forgiveness and follow God, then what more can be said or done? They can't--and shouldn't--be forced.

  13. @Ollie Wallflower
    Oh, now, I think you overreach a little on your words! :-) Are you not part of Christianity? Far be it from me to think that you are a pox on humanity, my friend! In fact, if all Christians were like you, I think the world would be a better place!

    You have emphasized how this is my list, but you have paid no regard to how I compiled it. I did not conjure it up out of thin air. I compiled it based on the very words of your Savior, with each listed item associated with a reference for verification.

    I know you have read the Bible, so I was not trying to suggest otherwise. I was instead suggesting that it is a bit disingenuous to recommend to others just follow Matthew 22:36-40 instead of fully considering all of Jesus' words for themselves.

    While we are speaking of Matthew 22:36-40, I think, again, you go a little too far in suggesting that loving the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and loving your neighbor as yourself is all you have to do. Matthew 22:40 says that those principles are what the Law and the Prophets hangs on, or, more in tune with what we would say today, is the foundation of Law and the Prophets. That does not mean that those two precepts are all that God desires of you. For example, which of those precepts would have guided you not to wear clothing woven out of different fabrics, as God forbids in Leviticus 19:19?

    And finally, as a reminder, my perspective of the "overwhelming majority" being condemned comes from verses like Matthew 7:13-14, where Jesus says:

    “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” NIV