Matthew 11:28 -30
"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart: and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
To understand this verse, we must first do a little educational background on a few things.
In the New Testament, many times Yeshua is referred to as a Rabbi. This is a Hebrew term which means,
Master or Great One. The use of this term, during this period of the first century, was not associated
with the title or profession of Rabbi, which would come later; after 70AD when the temple was destroyed. (Rabbinic Judaism) At this time it was a title of respect given to teachers of the Torah,
or in Greek, nomos, the law (Torah) of Moses. All the great teachers of Torah were called Rabbi’s .
Yeshua is called Rabbi by his disciples (Luke 7:40), by lawyers (Matt. 22:35-36), ordinary people (Luke 2:13), the rich (Matt. 19:16), Pharisees (Luke 19:39), and Sadducees (Luke 20:27-28).
Yeshua fit the description of a first century Rabbi by being a proficient teacher of Torah (law) and as such he was sought out by talmadim (disciples). Men would follow a great Rabbi to learn Torah, they would give up everything to follow in the very footsteps of their teacher. It was a high honor to be chosen by the Rabbi to be one of his disciples.
Sometimes, the Rabbi would call out his own disciples that he wished to follow him, as Yeshua did when he said, “follow me”, at other times, disciples would seek out the Rabbi that they wished
to follow, and if the Rabbi approved, He would allow them to follow him. The disciples devoted their entire lives to the Rabbi for whatever period of time was necessary for them to learn his ways and teachings.
Many Rabbi’s during this time in history would travel from place to place with their disciples depending on the hospitality of others (Luke 8:1-3,) and during their travels they would visit local synagogues where a discussion of the scriptures (our Old Testament) would take place on the Sabbath (Saturday). Here the
Rabbi would read and teach on the scriptures being read (Matt. 4:23).
Yeshua differed from many Rabbi’s in that He was a Rabbi believed to have s’mikhah, or authority, to make new interpretations of the law (Torah). Most Rabbi’s only taught the accepted interpretations of the law.
Those Rabbi’s with superb authority (ordination) could make new interpretations and pass legal judgments regarding the teaching and application of the law in daily understanding and living. This ability to be a Rabbi with authority was passed down by Rabbi’s who had already been given the laying on of hands (know as s’mikhah) by a Rabbi of authority. Yeshua was questioned about his authority (Matt. 21:23-27), (Matt. 7:28-29, Mark 1:21-27) They knew that no Rabbi had ordained him with authority, thereby they questioned him as to how He had been given the authority to change the accepted interpretation of scripture and how He could pass legal judgments without having been given this authority. Of course, His authority came from His Father, who sent Him.
Rabbi’s invited people to learn to keep the scriptures (Old Testament). This was called taking the “yoke of Torah” or the “yoke of the kingdom of heaven”.
Now, I told you all that just to tell you this one important thing, Rabbi’s like Yeshua, who taught with authority and taught new interpretations of scripture and passed legal judgments, like Yeshua, would
have a new “yoke” . Yeshua’ s disciples would then take HIS YOKE (his teachings and instructions) upon themselves.
This was a very Hebraic thing that we westerners do not understand. Disciples would take the “yoke” of their Rabbi upon them, like two animals bound together, they were bound to him, to obey his teachings. Yeshua said his “yoke” was easy and light, not heavy and burdensome as the other Rabbi’s taught and interpreted scripture. Their interpretations made the scriptures heavy and made them unable to bear up under its weight. Yeshua condemned the Pharisees and Sadducees for this very thing, but Yeshua’s teaching was easy to understand and obey, for those who loved Him, and His Father.
Fulfilling the law (Torah) was the goal of the Rabbi’s. The term used for this in English is “fulfill”. To interpret scripture so that it would not be obeyed correctly was to “destroy” the law. Yeshua used this word “fulfill” in Matthew 5:17-19. The word, and you can study it for yourself, means to fill up, or to bring to a higher level of understanding, to accomplish, completeness. He came with authority to show us the correct interpretation of scripture, that man had corrupted, and to teach the right interpretation and meaning of everything that his Father had commanded to Moses. Contrary to popular belief he did not come to do away with the law, scripture says so, (vs. 18) but to teach and interpret it correctly. At that time, as today, the scriptures had been corrupted by the traditions of man. Yeshua wanted to correct those wrong interpretations.
Luke 6:40 states that “a disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” Will we take his “yoke” upon us? What was His Yoke? We must study His word, pray, and imitate him, if we are to be like him. Remembering, that He was in the image of His Father, and so are we, to be HOLY. We must give our whole lives to becoming like Him and taking His yoke upon us.
When the Rabbi believed that his disciples were prepared to be like him in all manners, he would send them forth to make disciples, hence, more little Christ’s, all in his and God’s image. Yeshua sent his first disciples forth in Matthew chapter 28:18-20, instructing them to keep everything that He commanded them. Keep His yoke!
Disciples were always baptized in the name of their Rabbi. It signified that they had taken the yoke (teachings and instructions) of their Rabbi upon them and that they were following him. Hence, John baptized in his name, but then sent his disciples to Yeshua. To be baptized in Jesus‘ (Yeshua) name is very significant.
Yeshua calls us to be like Him, and then to go and make more disciples, like him; like us. In this regard, we are suppose to take the whole world for Messiah. In order to do this, we must be passionate about being his disciple. We must study , pray, and practice all that He taught us to do, passionately, as set-apart , consecrated, holy people.