“28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
As I was listening to someone sing verses 29 and 30, I really began to think about what those words were saying. I wanted to know something. How could a yoke that is normally bulky and heavy and used to pull burdens be comfortable? How could a burden which is just that—a burden be light and easy to carry? Was Jesus speaking figuratively? Did he mean that our loads of responsibility and trials would seem not so difficult and weighty on our hearts because we ask Him to help us? Did He mean that when we would remember what He did for us—dying on the cross, accepting unjust punishment, taking the blame for what He didn’t do, listened to forgive those who mocked Him—our present circumstances would pale in comparison? When I tried to find cross references for these verses, it appeared that this statement is recorded only in Matthew. The closest similarity was found in John 7:37 and 38 where Jesus says,
"If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly will (shall) flow rivers of living water.”John 4:14 that was stated before helps to further explain this:
“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”In this verse, Jesus did not mean that we would never be physically thirsty, but that we would be satisfied—our spirit would be satisfied and completed by the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would be all we really need. Perhaps comparing this to the yoke and burden passage will help reveal the meaning. We know Jesus did not mean we would no longer have to physically carry heavy burdens—because that is a part of life and living. What he could mean is our spirit-internally we wouldn’t have to be plagued by worry and grief about overwhelming responsibilities and challenges. Jesus wanted us to realize that He wants to help us carry these loads, He wants us to share them with Him so He can take care of the brunt of the load. Part of the definition for yoke in the Concordance also said to balance. This would again imply: Jesus taking off some of the pressure from the burden we have.
The Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible brings out another meaning. It said, “In New Testament times the phrase, take the yoke of, was used by Jewish rabbis to mean, ‘Become the pupil of a certain teacher’. In this case, Jesus also may have been encouraging His followers to learn from Him-the gentle, wise teacher of useful advice/commands.
I will end this study with verses that I started with, but this time it will be copied from the Amplified Bible.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. (I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.) Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quite) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good-not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant) and My burden is light and easy to be borne.”
If these verses are referring to Jesus as our teacher and us as students, Jesus is a great teacher who doesn’t give out assignments that are impossible to finish, nor is He arrogant, but listens to us.