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That Was Easy!

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Perhaps you have seen one of several humorous television commercials by Staples, the office supply store chain. In most of the commercials, someone is having a business supply or organizational problem. Suddenly, a store employee pulls out an "easy button," pushes it and the particular problem is instantly resolved!

The announcer then says, "that was easy!"—implying if you go to Staples, your office supply problems will be effortlessly solved. The "easy button" commercials are effective because they appeal to people's natural desire to find simpler ways to handle problems.

So, wouldn't it be nice if there were some kind of "easy button" to handle life's difficulties and challenges? If you encountered a quandary or predicament such as a financial, marriage, child rearing or employment problem, you simply pressed the button and immediately it was taken care of.

Well, as you and I know, there is no such fanciful device. But, Jesus Christ describes something that is easy. In Matthew 11:29-30 He declares, "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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (emphasis added throughout).

Now, probably when some people read this "easy yoke" passage, they feel somewhat skeptical. They may categorize this statement of Jesus with others such as "turning the other cheek" or "loving your enemies." To many people, these assertions don't seem, well, practical. Certainly they are wonderful, idealistic aspirations, but to put them into practice seems to be a different story!

But is Jesus' "easy yoke" statement truly unrealistic and impractical? Is it unworkable and unfeasible in today's world? Just what exactly did Jesus mean when He said "My yoke is easy and My burden is light"?

What's a Yoke?

Let's discuss this passage by first asking another question: Just what is a yoke? The Complete Word Study—New Testament explains that "yoke" comes from the Greek word zugos meaning "a coupling or servitude." Webster's Dictionary describes "yoke" as a bow of wood by which two draft animals are united at the neck.

So, two oxen, horses, mules or similar animals are coupled together in a wooden collar or yoke. The animals are trained to combine their strength as a team, to pull heavy loads and accomplish various farm or ranch tasks.

Jesus talks about His yoke—meaning He is working at accomplishing a task or performing a mission. He invites us to join with Him in His work. We are to be "hitched up" with Him, to labor together, pursuing identical goals.

Additionally, He said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me…" Those "yoked" with Christ are in a position to really get to know Him. In fact, they have a personal relationship with Him.

Next, in Matthew 11:30, Jesus says, "For My yoke is easy…" Just what does He mean? Strong's Exhaustive Concordance explains that the word easy comes from the Greek word salloo, meaning better, easy, good, gracious and kind.

Additionally, in verse 30 Jesus says: "My burden is light." The Geneva Bible Translation Notes explains that geresh is the Greek word rendered "light," meaning it "may easily be carried." Why is Christ's burden "light" and His yoke "easy"? The answer is certainly not in pressing a whimsical, Staples-like "easy button." Rather, Jesus offers an easier, less-burdensome way to live compared to another way that is, by far, more arduous and grueling.

Again, why is Christ's yoke "easy"? Because a person is yoked with Jesus Christ Himself, while conversely sinners are yoked as slaves to the world and its satanic, malevolent ways.

In Galatians 5:1 the apostle Paul says, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."

So, on the one hand there is Christ's yoke, while in contrast there is a "yoke of bondage." It is a way of slavery, oppression and tyranny of sin and the rule of the devil, the results of which are heartaches, sadness, grief, suffering and death.

Satan's "yoke of bondage" and Christ's "easy yoke" of humility are poles apart in purpose and results. One is of the flesh while the other is of the Spirit (Galatians 5:17). So Jesus invites all who are weighed down by the burdens of this world to heed His call. In Matthew 11:28 He says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Now does this word easy mean that, when teaming up with Jesus in His yoke, a Christian's life will be carefree, tranquil and effortless? Does a "light" burden mean that Christ's disciples will not experience hardships or trials? Does an "easy" yoke mean security from conflicts, stresses, troubles and difficulties?

The obvious answer is no. I don't have to tell you that it is a challenge being a Christian! But, compared to godlessness and to paying the penalties for sin, Christ's yoke is an "easy" one.

With Whom Would We Rather Be Yoked?

As we are well aware, many brethren endure and suffer stressful difficulties. In the face of rigorous trials, however, there is a serious question for each of us. With whom would we rather be yoked: Christ or the devil?

When we are afflicted with sickness, physical pain or distress, with whom would we rather be yoked? When we are struggling with tension and strain on the job or in our family, with whom would we rather be yoked? When we have lost a loved one, when our friends or family have abandoned us, when our health is failing, when any number of other trials, large or small come our way, with whom would we rather be yoked?

And, now, an even larger question: With whom are we now yoked? What choices are we currently making? Which way are we now choosing? As followers of Christ, we are to be yoked with Him in a life of cooperation, submission, compliance, faith and trust—of developing godly character. We are to be yoked with Him through obedience to His commandments (Psalm 119:172).

Examples of Endurance

The Scriptures give plentiful examples of godly men and women who, while "in harness" with Christ, endured great pressure, tension and trouble. We can read about the mistreatment and troubles endured by Noah, Moses, Joseph, Daniel, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and many others, including the apostles of Christ.

The book of Hebrews describes many of these God-fearing people. They endured much, as they too were yoked with God, in a world yoked with Satan. "Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented" (Hebrews 11:36-37).

Then it talks about Jesus Christ, who, being yoked with the Father, provided the perfect example for us: "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin" (Hebrews 12:2-4).

Just as Jesus and other men and women of faith, we, too, being "yoked" with Christ, can be called on to bear significant burdens. As Luke 14:27 says: "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple."

Indeed, Jesus' "easy yoke" and "light burden" requires sacrifice. A cross must be carried to be a disciple of Christ. In Acts 14:22 Paul exhorted the disciples "to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.'"

Paul echoes what Christ said about His yoke being "easy" as compared to the bondage of the world's way. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17).

So, the "easy yoke," this "light affliction," is for but a short time—from God's point of view—but, it brings wonderful splendor later on. It is described here in this superb passage: "And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.

"These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world" (1 Peter 1:5-7, New Living Translation).

While we undergo and endure trials, we should not give up! As Jude 24 says, God "is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy."

So we must forsake all to be yoked with Christ. How do we do this? By zealously maintaining a personal relationship with Him through regular and diligent prayer, Bible study and occasional fasting. To be yoked with Christ, we must love God, be involved in the work of the Church, love our brethren, forgive others and seek forgiveness from God when we sin.

If we do this, God promises good things now and life eternal to come. God guarantees that He will not let us down, but will hear us and will be close to us. "Cast your burden on the Lord and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved" (Psalm 55:22).

Jesus Christ doesn't offer us a Staples-like "easy button," but He offers us something much better! He invites us to be "yoked" with Him—to go to work with Him! With Him we can accomplish the task and perform the mission of preaching the gospel and developing holy, righteous character.

Jesus Christ's yoke is easy compared to the hard yoke of bondage offered by the world. So, if we choose Christ's way, we will be able to declare at His second coming, as the Staple's announcer proclaims, "That was easy!" UN