In Jesus’ day, “yoke” had a double meaning in the rabbinical sense. First, A rabbi’s yoke was his doctrine or system of biblical interpretation. Common variances between the Jewish yoke of doctrine included which laws were most important, how strict “resting” on the sabbath was implemented (rules to make sure the law of sabbath wasn’t broken), and the rules for following a specific rabbi (prayer rituals, pilgrimages, etc. that would make up the rabbi’s school or discipleship process). All this was that rabbi’s “yoke” of teaching.
Jesus said His yoke was easy – it did not create a hard-to-follow process to be His disciple.
For example, Jesus often got up before his disciples and went off to pray, whether near the sea of Galilea or across the small Kidron Valley at the Mt. of Olives. As the sun came up, the disciples would go and find Him. This was not unusual for rabbinical teaching, but then consider what Jesus taught through that process… He made comments about seeking and finding Him, that He (or His Father) was never far off or hard to find; these comments were teaching within the context of His yoke, namely the disciples coming to find Jesus, staying close to Jesus, that Jesus was easy to find, that to seek Him was to seek the Father, etc.
The second meaning was and is allegorical. It was the training of beasts of burden by yoking an untrained or younger animal to a trained mature one so that the untrained one learns from the trained one to walk a straight row and follow the direction of the yoke man. Jesus is saying that to take His yoke upon us is an easy burden – He gives direction and carries the burden wherever He leads!
His turn of phrase “take My yoke upon you and learn from Me” is a genius reference tying these two uses of yoke together – doctrinal teaching of a rabbi and taking on the yoke of a fellow-burden bearer. These were not foreign concepts then, but taking it upon us alludes to both simultaneously, and as such identifies Christ as the burden-bearer in His doctrine of teaching! We have rest specifically because Jesus bears the burden for the work He calls us to and leads us in!!!
Wow, right??!!?!? Beautiful, brilliant Jesus. His Gospel is as simple as we need it to be (I’ll give you rest), and as complex, as we can handle (understanding it in context and implication in original culture and language).
Ultimately, our job is to come to Him, receive His direction, let Him bear the burden of the load for all life requires, and walk with Him for the rest in our life. He really is Our Rest, not JUST the Giver of rest from circumstances.
So, maybe choose to rest in Him as you share burdens only He can carry and work only He can accomplish.