Take My Yoke                  

A Devotional Snapshot


by God's Little Boy
© MakeshiftDarkroom.com 2015
Posted 1/14/15


At the time of Christ, young men who wanted to enter the ministry as a rabbi had a very long and arduous yoke of preparation and training. It first began with the earliest childhood education. From ages 5-10 Jewish boys were taught to memorize the Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy). Then from ages 10-14 they memorized the rest of the "Tanakh" (Joshua to Malachi). At this time they also learned rhetorical debate through questions and answers - answering questions with questions. If, after completing this stage of education, the boy was an average or below average student and not particularly diligent in study he could end his education and learn his father's trade (which most did). But if a student was exceptionally bright and very diligent with a desire to go further he could continue to the next stage of education to become a scribe or a rabbi. This right was reserved for only the top students. This next stage of intensified higher learning was from age 15-30 and was only under the personal discipleship of an established rabbi. This Jewish system of education was grueling and only the cream of the crop, the best of the best made it through to become scribes and rabbis.

The Jewish rabbis did not seek out their "talmidim" (disciples). Rabbis were few in number and highly honored as prestigious members of society; they would not go to people, but people were expected to go to them. There were many determined young men who sought to become a rabbi's disciple which involved a very close relationship - closer than that of parents. Each would-be "talmid" chose a Rabbi he wanted to learn under and set out to win his favor in becoming his disciple. If a rabbi saw promise in a particular prospect he would put him through stringent testing to see if he was qualified and then make certain he was in agreement with his school of interpretation of the "Torah". If the student was approved in the eyes of the rabbi he was told "take my yoke upon you" - very few realized this privilege; it was the chance of a lifetime. The rabbi demanded full honors from his student and the disciple was required to leave father and mother and all aspects of community to follow his rabbi everywhere continually. The talmid who failed to excel under the rabbis training as he approached the distractions of the marrying age was disapproved and told by his rabbi to go home and return to his fathers trade. At this point many were disqualified under rigid and inflexible rabbinic scrutiny. This entire system being so closely influenced by the Jewish mind-set and economy of law was exceedingly stringent and demanding.

It is interesting to note that with Jesus came a different economy of grace with regards to his school of discipleship. Have you begun to see the contrast? First of all, Jesus did not call the cream of the crop, but the common and the ignorant and unlearned. He calls "the things that are not."

"For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

Four qualifying adjectives in this passage are striking: foolish, weak, base, despised.

This, no doubt, had a remarkable influence upon Peter and John and explains why they left their nets straightway. They heard him speak like none other, they saw his wisdom, his authority. He was preaching to the multitudes and in the presence of the scribes and pharisees, and yet he called them! Jesus said, "follow me." and to all of his disciples he said, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;" but he added something else – "for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30) "It's OK you simple, rough, and unschooled fisherman; you can follow me. My yoke is an easy one." It is also interesting to note that they did not choose to pursue him, but he chose them. "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you" (John 15:16a). He took them by surprise when he came to them. Ordination is from above; it is not of earthly origin. It is not of human choice or selection or determination. Jesus being the true rabbi of honor bestowed the honor of free grace upon his disciples in choosing them.

His school of learning was not one of academic excellence or achievement, but it was the school of faith conducted in the classroom of adversity, amidst persecutions, storms, necessities, and impossibilities. It was the school of hard knocks, where failures can teach you more than successes, where wounds bring healing, and death bring new life.

Perhaps the most remarkable contrast of all was that after the disciples failed and forsook him at the cross, Jesus restored them. Perhaps it was Peter's Jewish mind that concluded, "I go afishing" and the others also said, "we also go with thee." Thinking themselves unworthy, they returned to their fathers trade as all other 2nd rate disciples did. When Jesus went to them again and restored them this must have had a transforming effect on their understanding of the grace and mercy of his easy yoke - for Peter especially, who denied him three times. This was made to order by the will of God that he might come to know, by experience, the exceeding riches of grace. "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." (Romans 11:29) "For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." (Malachi 3:6) and "A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. (Isaiah 42:3)

When Jesus tells his disciples to "take my yoke" it means something else than what is commonly understood. Though Jesus requires commitment and dedication from his disciples, there is no limit to the depths of compassion that flow from his heart toward all of our inadequacies. In his yoke we find rest as we follow.





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