If you have been following my blog, you know that I am doing a series on fear taken from my most recent devotional book: No More Fear. I begin each post with a Scripture passage. As you read the one I've included today, you may wonder what in the world it has to do with gentleness. I'm a firm believer that we can't understand verses from the Bible unless we understand their context, so please bear with me, and you will see what I mean.
Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles, because they hadn’t repented of their sins and turned to God. “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you.
“And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.”
At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!
“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
—Matthew 11:20–30 (NLT)
When you began reading today’s Scripture passage, you must have thought, What in the world does this have to do with gentleness? I mean, Jesus is severely reprimanding these people from Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum because they did not repent of their sins when he did amazing things among them. He gave them chances others didn’t have, and yet they rejected him.
It sounds like a passage of anger and bitterness, but we find Jesus has far different motives as he talks about his connectedness to the Father, explaining how he represents the Father while on earth. His motive is to wake up those who are blind to him and to invite them in, because immediately after this pronouncement of judgment, he throws his arms open wide and invites everyone who is weary and carries heavy burdens to come to him. He promises rest, something most of us long for.
Then he says something that is strange to our modern ears. He says to “Take my yoke upon you.” A “yoke” was a device for draft animals (especially oxen and horses) that joined them together. That idea is where we get the modern idea of horsepower. Two horses together have a lot more power than one by itself. In this passage, Jesus is offering to be yoked with us. He will take the lion’s share of the pulling and provide rest when we need it. He pleads with us to let him do this as he teaches us. And why should we trust his teaching? Because he is humble and gentle of heart.
So what does this have to do with our fears? Fear and anxiety are extremely heavy burdens. They weigh us down constantly; they dominate our waking hours and disturb our sleeping hours. We already feel that we are yoked to a runaway horse that is dragging us through the mud. Jesus asks us to trade that runaway horse for him. He tells us that his yoke is easy to bear and that the burden he gives us is light. Why? Because he is taking the heavy part of the burden on, giving us a chance to rest.
As you go about your day, keep the phrase, “my yoke is easy to bear” at the forefront of your mind. When you face something that causes you to fear or to feel anxiety, repeat that phrase and picture Jesus, who describes himself as humble and gentle, taking care of whatever is causing that anxiety. He’s got this!
Jesus, I know you are humble and gentle. That is part of what draws me to you. You long to take my burden and lighten my load. I ask you to remind me of this throughout my day. As I feel the weight of my fears, I pray that you remind me that your yoke is easy to bear, and that you will gently lift the load from my shoulders and take it upon your own.