The Yoke That’s Easy
Jesus said that his yoke was easy; that his burden was light.
What exactly does that mean?
From a simple perspective, we understand a yoke to be a means to harness a draft animal in order to pull a load. Therefore, an easy yoke, one with a light burden, would be something that was not hard to do. This means that the things Jesus expects from his followers are not difficult or burdensome.
However, we can gain a deeper understanding of his words when we consider it from a historical perspective. Back in Jesus’ day, the learned Rabbi’s would study the scriptures. They did not see them as a definitive, fixed set of rules, but rather as an open-ended document that needed to be explored and interpreted. A Rabbi’s interpretation of what the scriptures said, of what should be allowed and what should be prohibited was called his yoke.
When Jesus made his proclamation about his yoke, his hearers would connect it with the Rabbi’s practice (recall that Jesus was often called Rabbi by his followers and admirers). So when Jesus said that his yoke was easy and his burden light, he was letting it be known that he allowed many more things than he prohibited. He didn’t want his followers weighed down with a long list of don’ts, of heavy burdensome requirements, but instead he wanted them to be free to focus on him—and not a bunch of rules.
Some people read the Bible as a rigid law book of hard laws and unyielding rules. Instead, they should be interpreting it like the Rabbis, making an easy yoke as Jesus advocated.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.