He was a stranger in town. As happens so often when one is alone in a small town like Nazareth, he killed some time by wandering around looking at things. If Nazareth had been a walled town, he probably would have spent most of his time sitting in the court that would have been held in the gate. As it was, he started at the market at the edge of town.
As he approached one edge of the market, close by the fields, he saw a particular shop. The sign on the shop, carefully crafted as befit the nature of the establishment, said "Carpentry by Yosef." Underneath, in smaller letters, it proudly proclaimed "My Yokes are Easy."
It just happened as the stranger was passing that he had an example of what the sign meant. Outside the shop stood a pair of oxen. Between them stood a lad holding a rough carved yoke over their shoulders. An older man, undoubtedly the carpenter, was checking each end of the yoke where it lay across the oxen. He was drawing lines where he would have to carve and fit the yoke. It didnít take a farmer to realize that this was the most crucial part of making the yoke. How many people have stood before a mirror while the tailor or dressmaker pinned here and marked there, trying to achieve the perfect fit? No good farmer would expect less for his oxen. He could go to the cut-rate carpenter down the street and buy a yoke "off the rack." But if he saved money that way he would spend twice as much later, doctoring the sores on the oxenís backs. To save trouble, the farmer would go to a craftsman like Yosef, who would fit the yoke to the team--who would make his yokes "easy."
A few years later the same stranger went to hear a young rabbi who was gaining prominence. He didnít recognize him as the youth who had held the yoke for his father to measure. He had probably forgotten the specific incident. But he did recognize the message. "Come unto me," the rabbi said, "all who are weary and heavy laden." As you plow through life, you get tired because you are being rubbed raw by a cut-rate yoke. "But," said the preacher, "as the sign on my daddyís carpentry shop used to say, `My Yoke is Easy.í" He added, "My burden is light." (Mt 11:29-30)
The farmers in the audience knew. The stranger knew. A yoke can wear you down. Or it can make life good, if it is "easy."
We often plod through life. We can remain under the old, chafing, "off the rack," cheap yoke of sin and sorrow. Or we can choose to go to an owner who lays on us a yoke that he carefully carved just for us, a yoke that we donít even feel.
"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not burdensome." (1 John 5:3)