In a flash, God could have made an ark for Noah and his family. But He didn’t.
Instead, God instructed Noah to build it. Noah spent decades building that boat. It was grueling work. Cutting trees. Hauling lumber. Making sure that every piece fit together just right. Not only did he work with his hands, Noah found time to preach righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). It was a sacrifice. But oh, how it paid off!
Working for the Lord is a blessing that cascades down on one’s family. When Noah and his family finally finished the ark, they entered it. Then they rested from their labors, safe from the storms outside. How ironic that this Old Testament hero, who spent so many years in hard labor, was named Noah. In Hebrew his name means “rest.”
Like Noah, we are called to build the ark of God — not a boat but a church. A place where people can enter and be safe from the storms of life. A place of refuge where hurting souls find peace. A place of safety. A place of rest.
Jesus could have stayed on earth. He could have taken the good news to the Roman Empire. He could have evangelized the whole world all by Himself. But He didn’t. Instead, He gave us the privilege of being co-workers in the field with Him. Like Noah, we share in the joy of saving souls.
Jesus told His disciples, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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” (Matthew 11:28-30). Let’s look at this passage in greater detail.
Yokes aren’t common today, as they were in Jesus’ time. So what does “Take My yoke upon you” mean?
A yoke was a wooden bar that fastened two oxen together so they could plow or pull a heavy weight. It enabled them to walk side by side, plowing through the fields. Imagine an ox without a yoke on its neck. It would go this way and that way — wherever it felt like going. It may even stop and sleep for a few hours. An ox without a yoke might try to be productive, but its efforts would be chaotic.
To reap a harvest, the ground must be plowed evenly so that seed can be planted and bear fruit. In this way, we understand Jesus’ meaning in Matthew 11. A yoke is a symbol of our subjection, direction, and work with Him.
Just as Noah “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9), we should yoke to Jesus in His labor in the field of ministry. If we want to experience closeness with God in our lives, we go where He is. Jesus can always be found in the field of labor for others. His yoke is the privilege of being so closely connected with Him that He is right by our side.
Learn of Me.
What did Jesus mean by “Learn of Me”? Learn what?
As said previously, an ox with no yoke is virtually useless. Jesus’ yoke restrains our direction in life. When yoked to Jesus in the field of labor, we learn His ways, His character. Where He plows, we plow. When He turns left, we turn left. When He moves forward, we move forward. When He stops and waits, we do too. Yoked with Him, we learn to become one with Him, and then the harvest comes.
We see the irony in these words. The yoke is used for work, but Jesus said that with His yoke “You will find rest for your souls.” Not the rest of indolence and ease, but the peace of knowing we are building the church of God, a refuge of safety in the last days.
Strong as an ox
It has been said the late Paul Anderson was the strongest man who ever lived. An Olympic champion, Paul left professional weightlifting to pursue his real passion: Christian ministry. In the early 1960s, he began touring the United States doing exhibitions and preaching.
As a child, I saw Paul at a Christian academy in Florida. A table was set in the middle of the gymnasium, and a couple dozen people from the audience were told to sit on top of it. Paul disappeared underneath it. And then, to our wonder, he hoisted the table up off the ground, people and all. Paul had the strength of an ox.
Imagine being yoked with Paul Anderson. Imagine the strongest man in the world at your side to help you. You could say, “I’m not afraid of any weight, so long as I have Paul helping me.”
The good news is, we have Someone much stronger to help us so we don’t shoulder the burden of the Lord’s work alone: The all-mighty Son of God is by our side. He is our resurrected Lord: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). He has all the power we will ever need and is eager to help us. We just need to take His yoke, subjecting ourselves to His direction and work. When we do, we will have more strength than we could ever imagine. And rest!