Chrestos – The Easy Yoke

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

 (Matthew 11:30)

We live in a culture of overload.

Alarm clocks go off, phones ring, emails and texts pile up.  Get the kids up, ferry them to school, head for work – meetings, to-do lists, reminders, interruptions.  No time for lunch.  Back to pick up the kids and drop them off at piano, soccer or tutoring.  A quick stop at Arby’s, homework for you as well as your children.  Then you’re supposed to prepare a Sunday School lesson, bake cookies for the church bake sale, and write the email to remind your small group about this Friday’s meeting.

Then it starts over again.

No wonder it sounds so inviting when Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. . . My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28, 30).

“My yoke is easy.”

Does that mean that following Jesus always flows without complications?  Is it a “snap” to follow Him?

No one has to tell you that the life of faith often includes steep climbs, hauling loads that seem heavy.

So exactly what is Jesus offering here?

When He claims that His yoke is “easy,” He uses the word chrēstos.  It only appears seven times in the New Testament, and it can cover a surprising range of meanings.

Sometimes it was used to describe things.  In that case, it usually meant “useful, suitable for the job, well-adapted for its purpose.”

In Luke 5:39, the Lord commented, “No one, after drinking old wine wishes for new, for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’ ”(NASB).  People are reluctant to adopt something new, even if it comes from Jesus, because they are satisfied with the familiar.  And the old wine was suitable for their desires.

The word can also refer to customs or behavior.  1 Corinthians 15:33 declares, “Bad company corrupts good morals.”  The accepted patterns of upright behavior serve us well, and it is a great loss when others influence us to drop those standards.

Most of the time, however, chrēstos was used to describe persons.  A chrēstos person is more than just useful; he or she is kind, gracious, or morally good.

God is the prime example of chr tos.

  • When Jesus told His disciples to love their enemies, he pointed to the Father as the pattern.  When we do good, expecting nothing in return, we will “be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35).
  • God not only does good to evil people, He holds back the judgment that they deserve so that they can have the opportunity to turn to Him.  Romans 2:4 points out that God’s kindness is intended to lead them to repentance.
  • All Christians have the chance to experience the goodness of God for themselves.  Peter tells us to desire the milk of the Word, “now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:3 NIV).

Because God is chrēstos, He asks us to display that same character quality.  And in Ephesians 4:33, he links it with other attributes that help us define it more clearly.

  • Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

So what is Christ saying in Matthew 11 when He claims that His yoke is “easy”?

He does link that statement with the phrase “My load is light.”  And the word light does mean “the opposite of heavy, not difficult to carry.”  At least Christ’s loads were light compared to the massive burdens that the Pharisees were trying to attach to their followers.  They didn’t even live up to their own demands (Matthew 23:4); it was just too hard!

Remember that the yoke and the load are not the same thing.  You place a yoke on the neck of an ox so that you can attach a load.  The yoke isn’t the heavy load; it’s the means by which the ox can pull a load.

So Jesus is actually making a promise that covers two things.  First, He will give you a yoke that is perfectly suited for you.  It is custom-fitted, precisely adapted to fit you and to enable you to do all that He plans to ask from you.  Second, he will regulate the loads that He asks you to haul.  And because He is kind and good, you can know that He never gives you a burden that doesn’t pass through His hands of love.

As 1 Corinthians 10:13 points out, “No temptation (or trial) has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

Christ’s yoke may not always feel easy, but you can be confident that it was lovingly fitted by a kind Hand who knows exactly what He’s doing.

© Ezra Project 2019