During the time of Jesus if someone were to follow a Rabbi it meant they would take up their “yoke of Torah.” The “yoke of Torah” was your Rabbi’s understanding of how to interpret and apply God’s word.
I believe, Jesus refers to the “yoke of Torah,” in Matthew 23 when he calls out the Pharisees for their poor application of Torah, “They tie up heavy, burdensome loads and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”- (Matthew 23:4)
The Pharisees were more concerned with purely following the law of Torah rather than understanding the grace of God found in the Torah. Jesus says, “practice and observe everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”- (Matthew 23:3) The Pharisees interpretation of Torah was very burdensome. It was impossible to follow, because it was centered on condemnation rather than grace.
They were so puffed up in their pride that they are not even humble enough to see that they themselves are unable to practice what they preach. Following their “yoke of Torah,” was defeating. It offered no hope, but Yeshua; King Jesus, offers a different understanding of God’s word.
He says, “come to me, all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”(Matt 11:28) It’s not that following Jesus is easy, following Him requires a true death to the old life. It is a daily choice to die, so that we might be made new in His life. It is easy in the sense that the guilt of sin, the penalty of it’s wrath is not our burden to carry anymore, because, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. “By His stripes you are healed.””- 1 Peter 2:24. You see, Yeshua (Jesus) does not hold sin over us once we have confessed it, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Jesus had a whole new understanding of Torah, so very different from many of the religious teachers of His day. He ate with tax collectors and sinners, healed on the sabbath and with grace, did not condemn a woman caught in adultery, but offered her a chance to be forgiven instead.
As we take up His life, the burdens of sins are lifted. The devil cannot speak words of guilt and condemnation over us any longer, because our Rabbi Yeshua (Jesus), offers for us a yoke, free of guilt and condemnation. He extends forgiveness of sin, if we are ready and willing to leave everything to follow Him.
Yeshua, I want to be like you. Thank you that following you is not burdensome, but instead there is freedom found in following you. Abba, thank you for sending your son, so that I might find new life in His name. Amen.