In the eleventh chapter of Matthew Jesus invites followers to take upon themselves his yoke. That they might learn of Him. That they might discover, surprisingly, the lightness of the burden.
The burden referred to is the life ethic developed by Him in the Sermon on the Mount. It is one of service, generosity, patience, free from judgment or retaliation, strengthened in prayer, fasting and honest religious exercise. It is sincere and guileless. It attests to a heavenly citizenship, although civic duties are to be honoured as a testimony.
A Jewish audience had been trained to look for temporal well-being as a consequence of adherence to the Law. Jesus could not guarantee this. But He could guarantee the abiding attention, love and ultimate victory flowing from the Father. He spoke of God as Father. He spoke with authority. Unprecedented.
He described himself as meek and lowly. The perfect leader rubbing shoulders in the task with His followers. Let us remember that meekness suggests controlled strength and not some sort of frailty or timidity. This was also a man who could captivate the crowds in public address or berate the authorities for their inconsistency or calm the tempest with a word.
He drew men to Him by His kindness, candour and sterling features. The connection seemed natural, not strained. The yoke-fellow so attracted would soon discover Who was bearing the lion’s share of the load. The job got done.
I am reminded of a passage in Isaiah where God the Father also attributes meekness to Himself:
15For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.