Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Jesus, here, uses the term “yoke” to signify two ideas at once. Yokes, of course, were a literal object set on two oxen, which paired them together for the work ahead of them. The practice of farmers in Jesus’ day was to yoke together an older, more mature ox with a younger, less mature ox. The point was that, by experience, the younger ox would learn from the more mature ox how to do the work the farmer required of them. The pair of oxen would work together until the younger one “learned the ropes” and could be used as the mature ox for a new pairing. It’s one picture of discipleship.
That image was also used metaphorically by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day in order to convey allegiance to a master teacher—of whose disciple you were. A “yoke” was meant to convey a particular school of thought that a master teacher had initiated or begun, and to indicate that you were a disciple of that school. So Jesus, here, is signaling that He is a Master of a new school of thought about how to live the spiritual life, and that He is the mature ox to whom we are yoked, in thought and deed.
Jesus invites us to become yoked to Him, to take our place as the younger ox in the work of the kingdom. He calls us to come to Him, to take the yoke of His teaching on our shoulders and to learn from Him. And what are we to learn? Under His tutelage we will learn from Him a simple truth: “I am gentle and humble in heart.” He doesn’t just intend that we learn that He is this way, but because we are yoked to Him, He wants us to learn that His kingdom is this way—gentle and humble—and that, by our submission, He is making us this way, too. It is the humble, gentle soul that is childlike, and these are the only ones that can access the door of His heart and gain entry into all the things He’s hidden for us there.
In His heart is where all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge lie, so we have to have a heart like His if we are to gain access. We must be as humble and gentle as He is, and it is by learning from Him that we become like Him. This is grace.