Bible Study: A Yoke of Love

You’ll never regret where Jesus leads—or how.

When oxen are joined by a yoke—a wooden beam across the shoulders—much can be achieved in a day. The best teams are those that have worked together for years, often with a more experienced animal “teaching” the younger one. Imagine being joined to a strong, capable leader like that. In fact, you are. And He’s a leader who offers an easy yoke and a light burden (Matt. 11:30). That’s because with Jesus, it’s all about love.

 

READ

Matthew 12:1-13

 

BACKGROUND

Jesus and His disciples traveled from city to city as He preached about repentance and salvation. But the Pharisees opposed Him because He said their obedience to God’s Law was inadequate.

 

REFLECT

Stiffly following rules might look easier than having a good heart, but it can lead to enslavement.

  • The problem addressed in this passage is legalism—the Pharisees held to a strict interpretation of God’s law and condemned anything they considered a deviation. They saw the disciples picking heads of grain to eat and accused them of working on the Sabbath. Have you experienced confusion over whether something was acceptable to God? How did you resolve it?

  • The Lord called the men “innocent,” referring to two Old Testament examples where God didn’t view apparent violations of the law as transgressions (Matt. 12:3-5; Matt. 12:7). What do you think Jesus’ reasoning was, considering He always urged obedience to God? (See Matt. 12:49-50.)

  • In citing His Father’s words—“I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice” (Matt. 12:7)—Jesus condemned the Pharisees for passing judgment on His friends. What does that say about the limits of our ability to know where others stand with God? Is there someone you’ve judged who may, in fact, be “innocent”? Take a moment to search your heart and ask God’s forgiveness.

  • Proverbs 9:10 teaches, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” But Matthew 12 shows that by Jesus’ day, a healthy fear of God had led some into bondage. Explain how fear of punishment might lead to being judgmental and proud.

Have you experienced confusion over whether something was acceptable to God?

 

REFLECT

God values doing good.

  • When the Pharisees criticized healing on the day of rest, Jesus called it “lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:10; Matt. 12:12). What does that reveal about God’s will?

  • The Lord taught that obedience to God is about the heart’s intent more than outward appearance, which is why the disciples in the grainfields could be pleasing to God. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:29: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” How does time spent with Him improve the condition of your heart?

  • Jesus said loving God and others is the basis for the Law and all Scripture (Matt. 22:37-40). But that requires a right understanding of “love.” Have you seen a worldly concept of love steer someone wrong? How can you ensure that your love is wise and helpful?

  • Christ frees believers from the law of sin and death (Rom. 7:6; Rom. 8:2)—a priceless blessing. Yet committing offenses against His law of love can still cause destruction (Gal. 5:15; 2 Peter 3:16). Why do you think that the New Testament, despite advocating love, repeatedly exhorts us to “fear God”? (See 1 Peter 2:17.)

Obedience to God is about the heart’s intent more than outward appearance.

 

REFLECT

Living by the letter of the law is bondage—but walking in newness of the Spirit aligns us, through love, with God’s desires.

  • Scripture describes legalism as “a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). But when we give our life to Jesus, we accept a yoke of love. The liberty found in Christ is not freedom from righteousness. Rather, it’s freedom to let His righteousness (perfect love) rule in our life.

 

GOING FURTHER

Consider how this study applies to your life.

Learning to live in the freedom of Christ can be complex. Scripture calls the law a schoolteacher, given so we’d understand our sinfulness and inability to please God by works (Gal. 3:24). When Jesus is described as “the end of the law” for everyone who believes in Him (Rom. 10:4), our heart should rejoice with joy unspeakable. We receive Christ’s righteousness instead of relying on our own. But we’re also expected to walk like Him—that is, by the fruit of the Spirit.

Walking in newness of the Spirit aligns us, through love, with God’s desires.

  • Living in Christ means living in His power. The Pharisees couldn’t maintain perfect hearts before God, and neither can we. What are you doing to follow Christ’s words from John 15:4-5: “Abide in Me, and I in you … for apart from Me you can do nothing”?

  • Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). How does this radical idea help you rely on Jesus so He can fulfill God’s law through you?

  • Walking and growing in Christ will fill us with the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). How would these qualities have changed the Pharisees’ attitude toward Jesus’ activities?

  • The fruit of the Spirit will never bring you into conflict with God’s commands since “against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:23). Stay in Christ’s yoke, and you’ll learn to walk in love, fearing God and caring for the world.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Reading Bible

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Bound Together

There are many factors that divide us in contemporary society—education, class, gender, and race. But we all lose until we learn to meet each other in our strengths.

By Amy Julia Becker

30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat.

2 But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath."

3 But He said to them, Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions,

4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?

5 Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?

6 But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here.

7 But if you had known what this means, `I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent.

8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

9 Departing from there, He went into their synagogue.

10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"--so that they might accuse Him.

11 And He said to them, What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out?

12 How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

13 Then He said to the man, Stretch out your hand!" He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other.

3 But He said to them, Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions,

4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?

5 Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?

7 But if you had known what this means, `I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent.

49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, Behold My mother and My brothers!

50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"--so that they might accuse Him.

12 How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

37 And He said to him, `YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'

38 This is the great and foremost commandment.

39 The second is like it, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'

40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.

4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

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