Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Do you not yet perceive or understand?
A Journal of Mormon Scripture 18 Taking up the yoke may have connections to other things that are taken upon us as well, including the name of Christ, temple covenants, priestly robes, and sacred anointing.
These all reflect a relationship of obedience and service to the Master, who set the example by taking the heaviest yoke of all upon him, including the yoke-like beam of the cross that he carried to Golgotha and the full weight of human sin and misery as he suffered for us. Our yoke is easy, and the burden of the cross we are called to take up Matthew However, his call, while rooted in grace, implies actual effort and work, not belief alone.
It is a call for faithful service, linked to him in sacred covenants most fully expressed in the sacred temple. A review of ancient scripture, early Christian writing, some Jewish perspectives, and modern revelation gives us insights into the richness of meaning that may be associated with taking upon us the yoke of Christ and entering into his rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. The closing verses of Matthew 11 are frequently repeated in sermons and religious writings, but rarely explored in detail.
Yes, follow Christ, for his way is easy. Upon more reflection, we might ask why the way is easy when clearly there is sacrifice and toil involved.
However, that problem can be readily resolved by recognizing that the temporary burdens Christ gives us are far lighter from an eternal perspective than the burden of sin. Indeed, he frees us from the weight of sin and death and brings ultimate joy and victory instead.
We may appreciate the symbolism the yoke provides of humility and obedience. We are called upon to humbly accept not just the burdens and tasks Christ has for us in mortality, but also his guidance as he directs us through the instrument of the yoke. We may recognize that this involves not just yielding to him and carrying the burdens he gives us, but following his example and seeking to be like him in how he served the Father.
Accepting the yoke evokes imagery of willing toil, acceptance of guidance and revelation, and of connection to the authority of the Master.
All this suggests that something more than belief alone is required in taking up the yoke of Christ. That may be a fair perspective to add, but it may not be clearly intended in the scriptures. However, it is true that Christ in his Atonement has carried the greatest burdens imaginable for our sake and taken our burdens upon him.
Ancient yokes were often simple, primarily a single beam borne on the back or neck of the load bearer. Humans in servitude were sometimes connected to a staff or rod that acted like a yoke, so the image of oppression and slavery in the scriptures can be represented with terms like staff, rod, and yoke, as in Isaiah 9: He, the Master, accepted the role of the Servant of all and took upon himself the heaviest, most painful yoke imaginable in a process that included literally bearing a yoke, or rather, the beam of the cross that he carried to Golgotha John That process also included being nailed to that yoke, his shoulders heaving for every painful breath under a weight far greater than the weight of his dying body alone.
On that final yoke, on that cross, he completed the divine work of bearing the burden of all our sins to free us from the weight. And now he gently urges us to take up his light yoke and his light burden and move forward under his guidance, that we might learn of him and enter into his majestic rest enabled by the Atonement.
In the Old Testament, the prophesied role of the Messiah involved not only taking upon his shoulders the government Isaiah 9: And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: Temple rituals, the sacrament taken each week, and the rite of baptism as a symbol of death and resurrection all serve to point our minds toward Christ and his unique, incomprehensibly lone and lonely offering for us as he bore the heaviest yoke and took up the unbearable cross on our behalf, with nails driven into his flesh and the daggers of our guilt driven into his soul.
Yet, as singular as his humble and infinitely painful offering was, he nevertheless calls us to imitate him in a sense when he asks us to take up his yoke and to take up our own cross Matthew Doing so necessarily implies not just humility but sacrifice. How appropriate that the LDS temple would evoke images related to the crucifixion of Christ as personal, even tactile reminders of our covenants to follow him.
Our imitation of Christ will always be pathetically pale and inferior, but we are called nevertheless to follow him by both taking up the yoke and our own cross.
An Early Christian Perspective To introduce the possibility that taking the yoke upon us may have links to sacred rites and teachings, consider how Matthew 11 is applied in an interesting early Christian passage.
Speaking to those caught up in pagan Greek mysteries, the highly respected early Christian Father, Clement of Alexandria c. Protrepticus, a document believed to have been written around adspeaks of true mysteries that should replace heathen rites.
Come, O madman, not leaning on the thyrsus, not crowned with ivy; throw away the mitre, throw away the fawn-skin; come to thy senses. I will show thee the Word, and the mysteries of the Word, expounding them after thine own fashion.Check out our special Holy Thursday podcast with Brant Pitre on the Date of the Last Supper.
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