yoked oxen
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus extends an invitation to “all you who are weary and burdened.” In today’s culture we have a great disdain for being weary or burdened. We have an idea in our nation that we should be happy all the time. We take to heart the claim in the Declaration of Independence that we have the inalienable right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We take to heart the McDonald’s ad that we deserve a break today—and in our minds it is not just a break that we deserve; we deserve happiness immediately; we deserve to feel good all the time; we deserve to have life go our way.

So we spend a lot of time, money, and energy chasing happiness. In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson points out,

“We try to get it through entertainment. We pay someone to make jokes, tell stories, perform dramatic actions, sing songs. We buy the vitality of another’s imagination to divert and enliven our own poor lives. The enormous entertainment industry in our land is a sign of the depletion of joy in our culture. Society is a bored, gluttonous king employing a court jester to divert it after an overindulgent meal. But that kind of joy never penetrates our lives, never changes our basic constitution. The effects are extremely temporary—a few minutes, a few hours, a few days at most. When we run out of money, the joy trickles away.” (p. 92-93)

Our culture puts great value on being happy and “having it all.” But Jesus seems to put value on our weariness and on our burdenedness. Larry Crabb explains why in his book, Fully Alive:

“When the reality of emptiness and brokenness brings us low, we must wait, aware that we are unable to manage our way to satisfaction through the blessings available in this world and unable to heal our wounds in a deep, lasting way that frees us to love as men and women. As we sink into the depths of distress and defeat, we are confronted with only two options: give up on life or seek God for life. Our misery becomes an agonizing opportunity to ‘earnestly seek’ God.” (p. 209).

At the point of our “emptiness” (“weary and burdened”), Jesus invites us to come to Him, not with the promise of happiness, but with the promise of rest for our soul.

Interestingly, the promise of rest for our soul is bound together with putting on His yoke.

We clamor for liberty, but Jesus calls us to put on a yoke—His yoke—with the promise that it is in wearing His yoke that we find rest for our soul.

Here’s what we need to know about this, which the farmers of Jesus’ day already knew: The best way to train a young oxen was to yoke it alongside an older, experienced ox. Then, as the farmer went about his normal work, giving directions to those two oxen, the younger would gradually learn to do what he was supposed to do while yoked to the older. Sure, at first it may have been a bit awkward. The two walked down the road together. The younger one noticed a bit of clover off to the side, and he turned to the right to go over and get it. But he was jerked back into place by the older and stronger ox who stayed on the road and kept walking straight ahead as the master had directed. When the farmer commanded the team to stop, the older one stopped at once, but the younger stumbled to a halt only because he could not keep walking while his partner stood still. When they were commanded to turn right, the younger tried to turn left but got pulled back on course by the experienced partner. In the beginning it was awkward. He ended up with some bruises and tired muscles. But gradually he learned, and as he learned the going got easier, and the burden became lighter.

In The Message Bible, Eugene Peterson offers this translation of Matthew 11:29: “Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.”

I want to learn to remember when I am weary and burdened not to clamor for a “fix” of happiness but to take up Christ’s invitation to come to Him and to take on His yoke so as to learn from Him His “unforced rhythms of grace.”



  1. Kelli Randolph says :

    Yes!! Fantastic, PT!

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