The Kindly Yoke

"Come to me, all ye that labouring and burdened, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart: and you will find your souls refreshed; My yoke is kindly, and My burden light"
(Matt. 11:28-30 James Moffatt Translation).

There could hardly be a more appealing invitation to Christian discipleship than the one presented above. Jesus Christ is inviting us to enter into a most rewarding relationship with Himself. It is clear that the 'yoke' of discipleship was never intended to be an oppressive thing. Rather, it was to be one of 'refreshment' in the service of Him who is "gentle and humble in heart." The 'burden' that one thus assumes is spoken of as 'light' and set in contrast to the burdensome condition in which most find themselves.

Regardless of our circumstances, there is an area in which all mankind can be spoken of as 'laboring and burdened', and that is in the matter of sin. Young or old, rich or poor, we are all held firmly in the grip of sin. Sin is a great equalizer. As the Scriptures say, "There is none righteous" (Romans 3:10).

There are those who take issue with this precept, however. They view themselves as relatively good and resent the label of 'sinner'. This resentment stems from a misunderstanding of what sin is. The basic meaning of the Greek hamartia, translated sin, is "a missing of the mark." (Expository Dictionary of N. T. Words -- Vine) The Bible explains that our parents Adam and Eve were created free of sin, but they became sinners when they disobeyed God. It was only after they entered into the state of sin and were condemned to death that they began to bring forth children. Thus the life they imparted to their children was dying life with inbred sinfulness. Because they had 'missed the mark' of God's righteousness set for them, they could only generate a quality of life that fell short of God's standard. For this reason, all their descendants "come short of the glory of God" (Gen. 3:1-20; Rom. 3:23).

A Ray of Hope

These events that changed the human condition are documented in Gen. 3 and expanded upon throughout the remainder of the Bible. By sinning, Adam and Eve not only lost their precious relationship with God as children made in His image, but also they lost it for their offspring. The sin of a sinner overpowers that person's merit or character as an individual. Even the most noble of the procreated children of Adam suffer the consequences of his wilfulness. Note how the Apostle described this in Rom. 5:12: "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" -- NIV

Were it not for God's intervention in this matter, mankind would remain forever subject to sin and death. But God offered hope when He promised the coming of a 'seed' that would 'crush completely' the serpent, Satan (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:10). Deliverance from bondage to sin had to wait the coming of the One appointed by God to accomplish this crushing. Godly men and women of former times looked for and patiently awaited the One anointed of God. Until His arrival, the details of His life could not be completely understood. The promises of God began to come into focus with the birth of Jesus Christ. His coming brought light and understanding upon that which previously had been only dimly perceived. He proved to be "the light of the world" and the One who would give His own righteous life to atone for the sin of Adam and for our sins (John 8:12; Matt. 20:28). The Apostle Paul explained in Rom. 5:18-19 how the sacrificed life of Jesus affected the tragic results of Adam's disobedience. "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." -- NIV

Though Jesus Christ died unmarried and childless, He is the "last Adam" or father of all of the human family who believe (1 Cor. 15:45). The life that He offered to God on behalf of mankind was no ordinary one. He was originally with God in heaven and through Him were all things created (John 1:1; Co. 1:15-17). He willingly divested Himself of His heavenly glory with His Father, and was born of the Jewish virgin, Mary (Luke 1:26-35). This miraculous act of God enabled Jesus to be born without any taint of Adamic sin and condemnation. He lived a life of faithfulness despite repeated temptations and attacks by Satan to compromise His integrity (Luke 4:1-13). It was this obedient sin-free life that He offered in sacrifice as "the lamb of God" (John 1:29). God accepted His sinless offering as a propitiatory sacrifice covering over the indebtedness of Adam's sin which brought upon him and all men alienation from God, condemnation, and death. -- Heb 2:17

The Son a Heavenly Priest

God resurrected this holy One and exalted Him to heaven, from which place at God's right hand He administers the benefits of His sacrifice. He is a priest of God on behalf of all who come unto God through Him (Acts 2:22-36; Heb. 2:17; 6:20-7:1). The apostle wrote in John 3:16-17 that God's gift of His Son for the life of the world was prompted by love. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him." -- NIV

This gift was a costly one for both the Father and the Son. The Father surrendered His Son to the wrath of those who hated Him. The very ones to whom the Son willingly submitted for humiliation, reproach, and unjust treatment were of those whom Jesus was sent to save. And just as we enter into the pain and suffering of those we love, so the Father entered into the pain and suffering of His beloved Son. It is good for us to reflect on this Divine love. Only when we come to appreciate God's love for us can we gratefully respond in kind. Love begets love; and God's love for us begets love for Him and His children. "Herein is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. We love Him, because He first loved us." -- 1 John 4, 10, 11, 19

Redemption, Justification, Regeneration

It is important to understand how we appropriate God's gracious gift of forgiveness of sin and justification to life. The simple means by which we gain this reconciliation with Him is by believing -- having faith in God's promise of reconciliation. There is no work by which we can be declared righteous except the work of faith. This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent" (John 6:29). The apostle Paul is similarly emphatic in Romans 3:22, 24): "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." -- NIV

During His earthly ministry Jesus declared the good news, the gospel of salvation through faith. And following His death and resurrection, He commissioned His followers to be His witnesses "to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). His disciples soon came to be called Christians, and new believers were baptized in His name (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 2:38). Just as Jesus warmly invited those to whom He preached to come to Him, so His disciples have urged people to come to Jesus and accept the kindly yoke of discipleship. They are nurtured and nourished for everlasting life through His teachings. In John 6:35, 40 Jesus identified Himself: "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty... For My Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day." -- NIV

Repentance and Heart Baptism Essential

It is through our faith in Jesus Christ as the Father's means of salvation that we become "born of God" (1 John 5:1). We need not be confused by the phrase "born again." It simply means that a regeneration has taken place in our lives due to faith in Jesus Christ. Once a person sees himself as God sees him and realizes that he needs redemption from sin and death, he experiences a conviction of sin and a desire to be cleansed, to turn away from what is bad. This change of heart is called repentance, and is a prerequisite to baptism (Acts 2:38). Those who voluntarily undertake the process of the baptism of their wills into the will of God are promised the gift of God's Holy Spirit. Without this spiritual re-birth one cannot enter the kingdom of God. The words of Jesus on this are in John 3:3, 5: "I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,... born of water and the Spirit..." -- NIV

Those who accept the 'yoke' of discipleship and the 'burden' of responsibility as Christians will never be over-burdened. Christians are not under law but under grace and privilege (Rom. 6:14). The basic motivation for all works of faith is love; and a labor of love is not burdensome. If our hearts are full of love for God and man we will not do those things that are unloving (Rom. 13:8-10). We need, therefore, to grow in love. To this end we need to give attention t the Bible as a source of invaluable counsel and insight. Association with other believers is important to the necessary cultivation of affection for the family of God

In our walk of faith we are comforted by the hope of everlasting life which God has promised. We can be sure that the one who invited us to shoulder the 'kindly' yoke will never abandon us. He is alive to plead for us before the throne of God (Heb. 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2). When only two or three of His followers met together He promises to be in their midst (Matt. 18:20). As we learn from Him and live as He would have us live, we will experience joy and satisfaction. To be sure, there will be difficulties, but they will be seen, when rightly viewed, as challenges to our life of faith. Everlasting life awaits those who accept His invitation to discipleship and continue to worship God in spirit through the truths regarding His Son. -- John 4:24-25

Consider now His loving invitation if you have not already learned of God's great gift, and believed on Him in your heart.