A yoke is simply a beam of wood which may be used by humans, or tethered to an animal, often an ox, or a pair of animals, to help carry a weight.
The first yoke I ever saw in use was in a southern province of rural China. A farmer was carrying two containers of water which hung from a beam of wood, a yoke, across his shoulders. I was fascinated to see how expertly he maneuvered with the yoke. Also, in that same region, I saw oxen, alone and in pairs, yoked with a beam of wood for farming tasks.
Have you ever worn a yoke? I did once and, not being accustomed to it, found it very uncomfortable for caring a burden. But I’m reliably informed, once you get used to it, a yoke makes life easier. The purpose of a yoke is to make a burden easier to carry, so with domestic tasks and when farming, clearly, a yoke makes work easier.
John Climacus, seventh century monk and abbot of Saint Catherine’s monastery on Mt Sinai, wrote in The Ladder of Divine Ascent (Step 25 – On Humility) “‘Learn of Me,’ Jesus said; that is, not from an angel, not from a man, not from a book, but ‘from Me,’ that is, from My dwelling within you, from My illumination and action within you, for ‘I am gentle and meek of heart’ in thought and spirit, and your souls will find rest from conflicts and relief from evil thoughts.”
What can we learn from Jesus Christ? We learn the work of pursuing the Kingdom of God in this life. The Gospel of Matthew summarizes this burden and work in the words of the Beatitudes (Mt. 5). Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we pray for the coming of the Kingdom – “Thy/Your will be done.” So the Beatitudes are our yoke! Imagine putting on a yoke as you listen to the Beatitudes.
I invite you to listen to the Holy Spirit and choose one of these beatitudes at this time. Remember the beatitude. Be yoked to it. Practise this beatitude as you follow Christ and seek the Kingdom in this life.