Farmers in Jesus’ day knew that a good working team of oxen often stood between starvation and well-being.
My uncle had a team of horses that pulled the hay wagon and helped him clear heavily wooded areas. During our summer visits to the farm we loved to watch him work with Champ and Casper—sinewy, thick-haunched animals with amazing stamina. They were incredibly strong creatures, their muscles rolling and turning with the demands of their task. Often after a particularly difficult task was done, my uncle would jump down from the box and affectionately slap the horses’ sweaty flanks. And they in turn would nuzzle his pockets for the treats he invariably carried for them.
Uncle Bill took special care with the wooden crosspiece and harness that bound Casper and Champ together. He’d sand away any rough spots in the wood and oil the leather parts until they were soft and pliable. And at the end of each day he checked the animals’ flesh for sore or chafed spots. Casper and Champ were inseparable yokefellows, seeming almost to understand their common task and revel in it.
Paul used the word “yokefellow” to characterize people whose lives were bound together for a common mission (Phil 4:3). The Christian life was meant to be lived in community. Empowered by the same Spirit, it is the Christian’s duty to labor not to develop private empires but to harvest souls for God’s kingdom.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me… For My yoke is easy and My burden light” (Matt. 11:30) said Jesus. He never said the work would not be difficult, the nights long, the sun’s heat intense and our energies tested. For some the hazards of being joined to Him would mean death.
What our Lord did mean to tell us is that His presence would make our service not only bearable but joyful and provide rest from our labors. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest… For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).
With remarkable tenderness Jesus pours the ointment of His love and blessing upon us. He enables us to work for Him through gifts chosen especially for us, through the fellowship and sustaining of brothers and sisters. When pressed down with the weight of our toil or wounded in some desperate battle, He comes with His healing, with His presence, with His rest.
Marlene Chase, Pictures from the Word