By Pastor Vinnie Cappetta
"The Yoke of Christ"
Ever been to the county fair to the area where they do the ox-pulling competition? Teams of yoked animals pull weighted sledges for distance or against a time clock. It's particular to New England and stretches back at least to the middle of the 19th century. I happened to sit next to someone who seemed to know a great deal about the sport. She told me that one ox is always more experienced than the other and the less experienced one will follow the lead of the experienced one. I immediately thought of how Jesus instructs us to yoke up with him… “Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest. Matthew 11:29 CEV
Bonhoeffer elaborates on this theme, “God is a God who bears. The son of God bore flesh, he bore the cross, he bore our sins, thus making atonement for us. In the same way his followers are also called upon to bear, and that is precisely what it means to be a Christian. Just as Christ maintained his communion with the father by his endurance, so his followers are to maintain their communion with Christ by their endurance. We can of course shake off the burden which is laid upon us, but only find that we have a still heavier burden to carry –– a yoke of our own choosing, the yoke of our self. But Jesus invites all who travail and are heavy laden to throw off their own yolk and take his yoke upon them — and his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. The yoke and the burden of Christ are his cross. To go one's way under the sign of the cross is not misery and desperation but peace and refreshment for the soul, it is the highest joy. Then we do not walk under our self-made laws and burdens, but under the yoke of him who knows us and who walks under the yoke with us. We are certain of his nearness and communion. It is he whom the disciple finds as he lifts up his cross. —from A Testament to Freedom, pg. 315
As each of us yokes up with Christ and we continue to gather together as yoked up individuals, we will find that we are able to bear more and more because we bear it together one with another and with Christ. As we bear under the yoke, we find that we are participating in harvesting the fields that are “white unto harvest,” we are pointing people to Jesus and his coming kingdom. What could be more important than that?