Theme: Under the Yoke: Work and Companionship
From this week’s lessons we see that Christ’s call to discipleship is described as a yoke that is both easy and light because Jesus is a kind and gentle Master.
Scripture: Matthew 11:28-30
Yesterday we looked at the first important element of a yoke. Today we study the other two.
2. Work. The yoke placed upon the shoulders of a farm animal enables it to work. The yoke of Christ, placed upon the shoulders of His followers, undoubtedly also has a similar purpose in their lives. It means that we are hitched to His team or enlisted in His service. We are soldiers in His army, builders of His temple, evangelists for His gospel, ambassadors of His kingdom.
This explains why Jesus was so willing to link a person’s salvation to whether he or she performed in His service, as in the stories of the wise and foolish virgins, the men who had been given talents, and the division of the sheep and the goats. Those stories trouble some people, because they seem to be saying that salvation depends upon works—whether people are alert and waiting for Jesus when He returns, whether they use the talents He has given, whether they feed the hungry, give drinks to the thirsty, receive strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick, or visit those who were in prison—and not upon their simple faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. Salvation by works is a false gospel, as all true Christians know. These people would probably call these parables false teaching if they were not the words of Jesus Himself, found in Scripture.
But, of course, these stories are not teaching a false gospel. The point of the parables is merely whether a person belongs to Christ or not, which means whether he or she has taken on Christ’s yoke. If a person has taken on Christ’s yoke, which he does when he believes on Christ (there is no separating the two), he will work for Christ. And conversely, if he does not work for Christ, he clearly has not taken on Christ’s yoke and has not believed on Him or come to know Him savingly. Notice also that it is not a question of how much we are able to do for Christ. In the story of the talents one man earned five talents, another only two. Both were saved. The question is whether a person has taken on the yoke. It is whether we are working for Christ or not.
3. Companionship. The third element in the image of a yoke is companionship, which is another way of saying that there are also others in Christ’s school. It is possible to have a yoke for just one animal, as the yoke for the “one-horse sleigh.” But yokes generally fit over the head of two animals so that the load is distributed and the pull balanced. I am glad that it is like this in Christ’s school. The work is often hard; the hours are long. Many hands make the work light.
And there may be this thought too. When Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me” He may have been saying that the yoke is His in the sense that a yoke is a farmer’s and that He needs to place it upon our shoulders. But it may also be that the yoke is His in the sense that He is wearing it Himself and is calling us to take our place beside Him for the work to be done. In view of the Bible’s teaching elsewhere, I think this is the correct idea. We are “God’s fellow workers,” after all (1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1). Jesus did promise to go with us “to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). We are working with Christ, and there is no load for us that He Himself does not pull.
What is the second element of being under Christ’s yoke? How does it help us to understand correctly the teaching of Jesus’ parables?
What is the third element of Christ’s yoke?
What are the two ways to view the idea of companionship?
Application: Review the three elements of being under Christ’s yoke. How will you specifically apply them?