Matthew 11.28-30What is this "yoke" and to what other "yoke" is Jesus making a contrast with, his "yoke" as opposed to some other "yoke" the people were carrying and pulling?
"Come to me, all 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.”
Many people think that the "yoke" Jesus is making a contrast with was the "yoke" of the Torah. That is, Jesus is ushering in a law of grace--the "yoke" of Jesus--as opposed to a law of works-based righteousness--the "yoke" of Torah obedience.
Now, is true that Torah obedience was described by the rabbis as a yoke. However, if you look at the Old Testament the image of the yoke has less to do with Torah obedience than two other things: 1) punishment for sin and 2) the experience of political oppression. And in Israel's experience of exile these were, in fact, the same thing. Punishment for sin was political oppression during the exile.
If the yoke the people were carrying, then, was the yoke of judgment and exile then the yoke of Jesus is a pronouncement of forgiveness as the end of Israel's exile.
Jesus replaces the yoke of judgment, punishment and exile with a yoke of grace. A paradoxical yoke that is easy and light.
The labor of grace that brings us rest.