Chapter 3: The Yoke and The Burden

Come unto me, all ye who labor 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: for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Jesus

It may seem like somewhat of a paradox, but an ‘essential’ part of life is having a burden to bear. When speaking to a multitude of people Jesus made, what could be referred to as, an invitation: Come unto me, all ye that labor 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 (Mt.11:28-30). There are several points in this invitation that are worth examining: the yoke, the burden and the offer of rest. One point of interest is that Jesus did not introduce the idea that we bear a yoke in life. Rather, Jesus offers a description of his yoke by saying, My yoke is easy. Another point of interest is Jesus is not offering to eliminate our burden, but he says: My burden is light. The easy yoke and the light burden indicate that both the yoke and the burden are realities connected to being alive. If we are alive then we are bound in a yoke and we carry a burden. The invitation from Jesus is that we will have a yoke that is easy to bear, a burden that is light, and, most importantly, rest in our soul.

The Yoke

The yoke is an instrument that was designed to go across the neck of oxen, mules, or horses to centralize the pulling force of two animals. The yoke unites the two animals, making them a team. The oxen are then harnessed to the object that they are to pull: perhaps a plow or some other farm implement. The idea behind the design of the natural yoke is that it allows for the power of the animals to be harnessed and directed.

Learning to bear the yoke requires training. The most common training method historically was the use of a training ox. The training ox was usually an older, heavier, stronger ox. Training began by yoking the young ox with the trainer ox. Generally, the first response of the younger ox when placed in the yoke was to rebel. It bowed its neck, or try’s to head off its own way. The trainer ox plants its feet and stops the other ox from leaving. The trainee ox can fight, pushing and resisting with all its might until it is exhausted. Once exhausted, the trainer ox then leads the trainee around, under the direction of the one who holds the reins. The process is repeated until the young ox, mule, or horse learns submission.

In Spanish, the word that is used to described a well trained ox, horse, or mule is the word meek (manso). When an animal has learned submission and obedience they are considered meek. In English we would say the animal is broken, meaning their will has been broken and they can take direction. The word meek is more appropriate. The ox that is being trained is not losing its strength, on the contrary, the more the animals are worked in the yoke the stronger they become. Submission to the yoke is about harnessing and directing strength. The yoke is what enables our strength to be combined with the strength of another. The direction of that strength falls to the one who holds the reins.

Jesus said in his invitation, Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart. The yoke is a learning tool. Jesus did not introduce the idea of being in a yoke, instead he described his yoke. Jesus said that his yoke is easy. In the context of this portion of scripture, the yoke could be defined as the will of God. In secular terms, the yoke could be defined as obedience to Truth. Considering that the yoke is designed for two animals, one implication of the invitation made by Jesus, is that he will be the ‘other’ that is in the yoke. This offer represents an idea, the idea that if we are both united with and submitted to the spirit of Truth, then that is an easy yoke to bear. I heard a first hand account from a man that still used oxen to farm regarding the training process. He told of a day that he had taken a young ox out to the field to train him. Most of the day the young ox was fighting against the yoke, and for periods of time the farmer had to stand and wait as the trainer ox held his ground and waited for the young ox to tire. At the end of the day they returned to the barn. The farmer said he took the yoke off and saw there were several sores around the young ox’s neck where the yoke had rubbed the skin raw. The farmer went into the barn to store the yoke and harness, when he returned he saw the older ox had walked over to the younger ox and the older ox was licking the wounds of his young trainee. This is the type of relationship that we can have if we are yoked with the one who is meek and lowly of heart.

There are yokes that are made for one. In our day, the single yoke is most commonly seen in Strong Man competitions. The design of the yoke is the same, it goes across the shoulders and settles around the neck. Extreme weight is placed on either side of the yoke, and the object is to stand up under the yoke and move the weight a measured distance. The yoke works well, allowing the contenders to move incredible amounts of weight. The spiritual parallel for the single yoke would be yoking ourself to our self-will. This is a choice often made unwittingly by many of us. As we mature into responsible adults we become more aware of the burdens in life. We understand the need to bear our burdens, and so we take up the yoke of self: I can do it, I can handle it, I will solve it, I can bear it. The yoke of self-will is not easy. The main reason that the yoke of self-will is hard, is due to the fact that when we bear the single yoke, we are ultimately responsibly for every burden that we bear.

A reality in life is that we approach life without practical experience. Living is learning, and it falls into the category of OJT, on the job training. With every experience we face, we learn something, and with each experience we potentially add a burden. The spiritual lesson of bearing the yoke is to teach us submission. The yoke of self-will, if we mature properly, can teach us humility, but it cannot teach us submission.

Jesus said, My yoke is easy, which implies that his yoke fits us exactly how it should. It is not too loose or too tight. There would be no chafing from the yoke because it is a ‘custom design’. Accepting the idea of God as the creator, the yoke that God created is the yoke that we were created to bear. Following the same line of thought, the yoke of self-will is designed by the inexperienced. This yoke does not fit easily, it will chafe. Through each difficult experience, through each failure or success, we will bear our burdens alone. By its very nature the yoke of self is opposed to submission, and submission is key to finding rest.

The yoke that we bear is a constant education. If we choose the single yoke then we learn about ourself. If we choose the yoke of Truth then we learn about the nature and character of Truth. Jesus said that this yoke teaches us about him. The yoke of Truth will teach us about meekness and humility.

Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, wrote: Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden (Gal. 6:1-5). There are two thoughts expressed by Paul, the first, could be said, falls into the category of the trainer ox licking the wounds of the trainee. Learning submission comes at a cost, but if we are bound to the yoke of Truth we have learned that we all have fallen short at times. It is not our place to condemn, it is our place to help. We cannot remove someone else’s burden, but we can help them bear it temporarily, until they are back on their feet. That is meekness in practice. The second thought is the recognition that we each are accountable for our own actions. The burdens we bear are either light or they are heavy. Paul clarifies this by pointing out that our burdens are the product of our choices. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting (Gal. 6:7-8). Borrowing Paul’s thought and applying it to the subject at hand, the yoke that we choose determines the burden we bear. The yoke of self-will ultimately results in corruption, but the yoke of Truth brings us rest.

The Burden

It would be easy, when speaking about burdens, to focus entirely on the story of Job. The book of Job tells an account of a man under unbearable burdens. In a short period of time Job loses everything: his children, his servants, his livestock, and his health. Given the extreme circumstances of Job’s situation, Job had the unique ability to examine the burdens of life. Job, when answering the critique of one his friends said: Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up (Job 6:2-3). One of Job’s friends was questioning whether Job had not brought this calamity upon himself by living unrighteously. In some situations this could be a ‘fair’ question, however in Job’s case, his experience was unique. Job was being tested by Satan, without cause. God was allowing it to happen because God had confidence in Job’s righteousness. Job, however, did not understand what was happening; consequently, Job had to navigate through the critiques of his friends and question whether or not they were correct. Job examined his heart, searching for a cause. In the previous statement Job expresses the weight of the burden of natural loss, saying: it is heavier than the sand of sea. Under the weight of such a burden, Job felt like there was nothing to say: my words are swallowed up.

Later, Job poses this question: What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? And that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment? (Job 7:17-18). Even in the midst of a terrible experience Job realized that there was a work being accomplished in his life. Job acknowledged that God desires to work with mankind. Job expressed that by saying that God’s heart is with man, and that God wishes to magnify His spirit in men. This work is accomplished through the recognition of the burdens we bear. Each day we acknowledge our burden, it awaits us in the morning, and through the trials of bearing these burdens we become aware of our need for help.

Job then said: I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself? (Job 7:20). Job, in his righteousness, acknowledged that he was not a perfect man. Job understood that his transgressions were a burden that he had to bear. This awareness of personal responsibility is ‘essential’ if we are to accept our need for help. Job understood that, and so he cried out to the Preserver of men.

The definition of ‘sin’ is: to miss the mark. It is a term that is still used in the sport of archery. If the archer misses the target, it is counted as a sin. Spiritually, sin is when we miss the target of righteousness. Sin is when we fail to behave, or when we fail to act by the standard of righteousness. When we choose to do that it is counted as a transgression against our soul. We have knowingly chosen to behave or act in a way that we know is wrong. The scriptures also speak about the burden of our iniquities. Perhaps a simple way of thinking about iniquity, is when we sin in ignorance. We are not consciously choosing to miss the mark, but nevertheless we are missing the mark, and that also introduces burdens into our life. In Psalm 130, the psalmist writes: Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared (Ps. 130:1-4). One thought that this Psalm implies is that iniquity is separated from sin in the eyes of God. Willfully missing the mark is in a different category than missing the mark in ignorance.

Another man that was uniquely qualified to speak about heavy burdens was King David. David wrote about the experiences that made him aware of the burdens he bore, stating: There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long….I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart (Ps. 38:3-6; 8). The process of learning submission falls under the responsibility of the burden. The burden is what breaks our will, and it is the burden that makes us willing to take up the yoke of Truth. David expressed that by saying that his burdens were too heavy for him to bear, and that they had caused him to bow down greatly, and that they had broken him. David was willing to submit to the yoke that could lighten his burden.

On another occasion David wrote: Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved (Ps. 55:22). Given David’s responsibility in life, as a King, his burdens, quite often, came by the hands of his enemies, enemies that sought his life. The beginning of this same Psalm, David pleaded to God: Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication. Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make noise; because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me. My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me (Ps. 55:1-5). This does fall into the category of an extreme example, however this excerpt emphasizes the reality of our burdens. They are too great for us to manage alone. David continued this Psalm by expressing his desire to flee: And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest (Ps. 55:6-8). The sentiment expressed by David is one that we can understand. The desire to be free from our burdens: just let me fly away from this reality and be at rest. Let me go where no one can find me, and I will be at peace. Who among us has not felt this way?

  • The Burden of Today

Being in the yoke of Truth we learn what is our necessary burden to bear. Jesus said that his burden is light, implying that it is manageable. There is a thought that is first shared in the book of Psalms and is repeated in the letter to the Hebrews, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work (Ps.95:7-9). The subject of this thought is summarized in a single word, Today. When this verse is referenced in the letter to the Hebrews, the writer emphasizes the importance of Today. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; while it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation (Heb.3:12-15). Today, is the burden that comes with being in the yoke of Truth. Today is the day to enter in, today is the day to labor, today is the day to journey. The burden is Today. It is not yesterday and it is not tomorrow. It is not the mistakes of the past 10 or 20 or ‘x’ amount of years, nor is it the burdens we see on the horizon 5 or 10 or ‘x’ amount of years in the future. Either of those categories, the past or the future, represent burdens that are too heavy for us to bear.

The way to eliminate the burdens of the past, lighten the burden of the day, and forestall the burdens of the future is through the practice of forgiveness. Initially, it is the forgiveness of our own past errors, or sins. Then, by extension, we are required to forgive others for their transgressions against us. A portion of a prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer, contains this phrase: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors (Mt. 6:12). Jesus went on to explain: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Mt.6:14-15). Forgiveness is ‘essential’ if we are to walk in Truth. So our burden becomes narrowed down to a day, Today. That is a manageable burden, it is the ‘light burden’ referenced by Jesus.


Finally, we must address what is being offered: Rest. Labor is what gives us rest. Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. In the story of creation in the book of Genesis, we read that the universe was created in six days and on the seventh day God rested. This is known as the Sabbath day, a day of rest, a day of ceasing from our own labors. Later, the Sabbath became required by law for the children of Israel. When the Sabbath was established, it represented the principle of ceasing from our own labor. By ceasing from our own labors one could honor God. Just as God rested after his labor of creation, the children of Israel were to observe a day of rest each week, ceasing from their own labors. It was a day meant for reflection and worship, a day to honor God.

In the fourth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews we read: For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, and God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remains that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus(Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoke of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the example of unbelief (Heb. 4:4-11).

To appreciate the day of Rest it is helpful to consider the experience of the children of Israel to better understand the spiritual implication of what it means to enter in to soul Rest. The invitation from Jesus, Take my yoke upon you, ultimately results in finding Rest for our souls. The physical journey of the Children of Israel in the Old Testament is a spiritual allegory for our individual experience in the search for Truth. Beginning as pilgrims, as descendants of Abraham, we read of the children of Israel as pilgrims and strangers in the land of Canaan. Then we read of their descent to the land of Egypt and being led out again, and then of their time in the Wilderness. Finally, we read of their entry into the Promised Land. These are broad strokes covering a very detailed and instructive history, but for the purpose of this point, the broad strokes will suffice. It is a story of labor. It is a story of being led. Jesus began the invitation of the gospel by saying, Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. That appeal speaks to the heart of those who are laboring to find the Truth. This labor produces burdens, the weight of which an individual cannot bear. The heavy laden. A search for Truth forces us to sort through a multitude of ideas. People that are bound up in that process, hear this offer, and it resonates with them. Come to me, I will give you Rest. Rest, in this context, is the result of finding Truth.

Entering in to the Promised Land did not change the law concerning the Sabbath, because physically entering in to the Promised Land did not provide soul rest for the children of Israel. As it says in the epistle to the Hebrews: For if Jesus(Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoke of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his ( Heb. 4:8-10). The rest being discussed in this epistle is targeted towards each individual. ‘Another day’ is the day when each of us decide to take upon us the yoke of Truth. That day is the day when we have truly ceased from our own labors. In the previously mentioned outline of the history of the children of Israel: leaving the Wilderness and being led into the Promised Land, we find a spiritual allegory for the invitation made by Jesus: Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. The rest offered through the yoke was not found in a nation living in a Promise Land; but rather, rest is found by those who submit to the yoke of Truth. That is why David still spoke of another day, Today, the daily task of submission to the yoke of Truth. We find rest when we enter into the yoke. Even though we continue to labor, we have ceased from our own labors. It is not a single yoke of self-will, but it is the yoke of Truth. To put it in terms of the old law, Jesus is the Sabbath. Entering into his life, the Truth, indicates that we have ceased from our own labors.


To briefly summarize, it is the soul that is heavy laden that has an ear for Truth. A soul that is heavy laden will not balk at the idea of a yoke, and that soul will be deeply intrigued by the promise of Rest. Coupled with the invitation comes a description of Truth, which is a description of the Spirit in Jesus, I am meek and lowly in heart (Mt. 11:29). That type of Spirit is easily entreated, and it is that Spirit that we unite ourselves with when take the yoke upon us. The Truth does not overtake us as a conquering foe, reality does that. Truth appeals to the individual. Stepping into the yoke, we are choosing to bind ourselves to Truth, a Spirit both meek and lowly, but it is in the yoke that we find Rest.

The invitation made by Jesus is extended to all those who endeavor to search for Truth. The search itself requires a recognition of the burdens we bear. In fact, it is the recognition that we are overburdened that gives impetus to the search. The solution of taking the yoke provides a method by which to carry our burdens and it defines which burdens we must bear. The yoke and the burden are ‘essential’. It is through choosing the right yoke and understanding which burdens to bear, that we find rest for our soul.

The purpose of this is to provide information about a non-denominational network of home-based churches that can be found in nearly every country of the world. We are imperfect people trying hard to fulfil the plan that God has laid out for each one of us.  We do our best to follow the teachings of the Bible at home, work and in the place of worship. The format and structure are Bible based and very similar to what we read about the early church in Acts and I Corinthians (Acts 1:13 and I Cor 16:19.) Each week we meet in homes for fellowship and worship on Sunday mornings and Bible studies on Wednesday nights. From time to time, we also have larger Gospel services where multiple home-based churches meet together. These meetings serve to strengthen the faith of the believers, and also, help to explain our beliefs to those who are being introduced to our faith for the first time.