The Yoke of Freedom
TEXT: Matthew 11:28-30
TOPIC: The Yoke of Freedom
Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point, Alabama
March 12, 2006
Please take your Bible and open to Matthew 11. We are going to read one of the great paradoxical passages of Scripture found in the Bible, Matthew 11:28-30.
Matthew 11:28-30, NKJV
28“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
I want to share with you this morning a message I’ve entitled “The Yoke of Freedom.” We usually do not associate freedom with a yoke. For those who may not understand the biblical use of the word yoke, let me explain.
A yoke usually consisted of a wooden frame placed on the backs of animals such as oxen, cows or donkeys, to make them pull in tandem. The simplest yokes consisted of a rope or wood which when placed around the animals’ neck would subject them to the control of their master.
The word is most often used in the Bible to refer to slavery, bondage or hardship.
For example, following the death of King Solomon, you may remember how the leaders of Judah came together to request of the new King, Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, for a more lenient rule. I Kings 12:4 says, “Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.” And in verse 11, we read, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’ ” This heavy yoke of dictatorship eventually divided the nation of Israel into two Kingdoms, the Northern Kingdom known as Israel and the Southern Kingdom known as Judah.
Another example of how the concept of a yoke was used in that day can be found in Jeremiah’s prophecy which included a strong warning that all nations would be made subject to King Nebuchadnezzar and the people of Babylon.
Jeremiah 27:2, ‘Make for yourselves bonds and yokes, and put them on your neck, and Jeremiah 27:9-11, ‘Therefore do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers, or your sorcerers, who speak to you, saying, “You shall not serve the king of Babylon.” 10‘For they prophesy a lie to you, to remove you far from your land; and I will drive you out, and you will perish. 11‘But the nations that bring their necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let them remain in their own land,’ says the Lord, ‘and they shall till it and dwell in it.’ ” ’ ”
So it must have been shocking for the Jews to hear Jesus say “take my yoke upon you.” The very mention of the word brought horrible thoughts of bondage and slavery.
The very One who came to set us free invites us first to put our necks in His yoke! To complicate matters further He also promises “rest” for those who bare His yoke! Once again we are confronted with a paradox. What Jesus offers seems to be a contradiction in terms. How can we possibly find rest by being strapped to a yoke and harness?
I’ll tell you how. Now listen to what I am about to tell you. When Jesus spoke of a yoke He was referring to a relationship—a relationship in which two would walk side by side, in the same direction, covering the same ground, overcoming the same obstacles, traveling at the same speed, working in tandem, together.
Now think for a moment what our Lord is really saying. By inviting us to submit to His yoke, He is in essence inviting us to come alongside Him, to join Him in what He is doing. He is inviting us to experience the yoke of His freedom.
Very quickly this morning, I want you to see how the yoke of freedom Jesus offers is a good deal you can’t afford to refuse.
I. THE YOKE OF FREEDOM MEANS THE LORD HIMSELF WILL SHARE OUR BURDENS
When our Lord offers to share His yoke with us, He promises to always share our burdens of life. I’ve always loved 1 Peter 5:7 that says, “Casting all your anxieties upon Him for He cares for you.”
I’ve also loved the promise Jesus later made to His disciples when He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
Many of you have heard or read the famous poem entitled, Footprints in the Sand by Mary Stevenson. It has been a blessing for many. She captures well the promise of our Lord to share our burdens.
Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from anguish,
sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints,
so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“The years when you have seen only one set of footprints,
my child, is when I carried you.”
The Yoke of Freedom means the Lord Himself will share our burdens. But notice also,
II. THE YOKE OF FREEDOM MEANS THE LORD HIMSELF WILL GUIDE US
When the Lord Jesus invites us to “take His yoke upon us,” He is really offering to guide us throughout life! What a glorious thought! What better guide in life could one have?
You see, whenever two animals were yoked together using the same yoke, one of the animals was always designated as the lead animal. It had the assignment of being the primary burden carrier.
Our Lord Jesus is offering to lead us as long as we are properly yoked together with Him. As long as we are in submission to His Lordship, we allow Him to lead the way, bearing for us the bulk of the burden. In this way, we experience the joy of His yoke, the ease of His yoke, the yoke of freedom.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
There is joy inexpressible knowing that Christ sees around each corner of life. Since He is eternal in nature, He is not limited by time. He is present here with us, but He is also in the future before us.
The Bible says that “he neither slumbers nor sleeps.” That’s why He promises we can find rest for our souls when we take His yoke upon us. There is an assurance that is eternal knowing that our Lord is in control of every situation no matter what the circumstances or odds.
III. THE YOKE OF FREEDOM MEANS THE LORD HIMSELF WILL FREE US
Jesus said, “if the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed,”
When Thomas Jefferson penned the words to the Declaration of Independence, he had on his mind the freedom of the thirteen original colonies. He was thinking of the kind of freedom that would allow his people to govern themselves, freedom from the oppression of English rule and tyranny. The desire for national independence inspired Patrick Henry to shout that immortal phrase, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” And many did die and many continue to die for our nation’s freedom. Freedom is rarely free.
But when our Lord Jesus died, He died not for national freedom for a people, but for spiritual freedom for all!
It is said that as President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the document that set the slaves free, that Mr. Lincoln, took the pen in his hand and slowly but firmly wrote his name realizing that his signature would set free men that had been held in slavery for decades, said simply, “That will do.”
And our Lord Jesus, hanging from an old rugged tree, said slowly but firmly, “It is finished.” As He hung His head in death, His death set at liberty the entire human race from the slavery of sin and death!
Some of you are searching for your own kind of freedom. You think being free means no one can tell you what to do any longer. Children want to be free from the control of their parents. Students want to be free from the control of their teachers. Spouses want to be free from the responsibility of marriage. Employees want to be free from the control of their job.
Now listen….Jesus tells us to know true freedom, we must come to know Him, to experience Him, to fully surrender to His leading, His guiding and His freedom.
Searching for your own source of freedom will only lead to frustration. Coming to Christ, trusting His control, His yoke, brings true freedom. By submitting yourself to the yoke of Christ today, you ensure yourself the freedom of Christ tomorrow.