The Lord’s Yoke Fits Just Right by Michael Brown for Ask Dr Brown
Most Christians are familiar with these words spoken by Jesus to His disciples: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, KJV). But what, exactly, did He mean when He said, “My yoke is easy”? Is it even true?
After all, elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus calls His disciples to leave everything and follow Him (Luke 14:25-33), to deny themselves and take up the cross (Mark 8:34), assuring them they will suffer as He suffered (Matthew 5:10-12; 10:24-25), and urging everyone to enter through the narrow gate and walk the straight path (Matthew 7:13-14). How is coming under a yoke like this “easy”?
See Also – For My Yoke Is Easy and My Burden Is Light… Step Three >>>
Let’s deal with the meaning of “easy” first. Then we’ll ask the question: How does this apply to us today?
What Does ‘Easy’ Mean in the Greek?
The Greek word used here is chrestos, and in the context of the Lord’s words in Matthew 11, the Louw and Nida lexicon defines it as “pertaining to that which is pleasant or easy, with the implication of suitability — ‘pleasant, easy.’” Even more specifically, the Greek scholar C. L. Spicq explained that chrestos here refers to “a well-conditioned yoke, one that is not rough and does not hurt or chafe the neck.”
And tell the one who bought you with His blood, “Here I am, at your service, Lord. I gladly take Your yoke on my shoulders, knowing that it is made just for me.”
So, Jesus is not saying that following Him is necessarily easy, as if there would be no suffering or hardship or trials or pain for His followers. That will be true in the age to come. But in this age, in the here and now, Jesus was quite clear: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b NIV)
But Jesus is saying at least two things here in the verses that we quoted.
Freedom From Legalism, Self-Righteousness and Self-Condemnation
First, when we truly come to Him we receive rest from the oppressive laws of man and from legalistic religious systems. We can see this from the immediate context, where the verses that follow in the next chapter contrast the ways of Jesus the Messiah with the ways of religious legalism.