Keeping in Step with Jesus
I have never lived on a farm—never milked a cow, never plowed a field, never waited for the harvest. I am a city boy. This puts me at a disadvantage, at times, when I read the parables and illustrations of Jesus in the New Testament. Many of His images in preaching came from a context of farming—ancient Israel was an agrarian society. The people not only understood but lived their lives around the planting and harvesting seasons.
One such farming image in the New Testament is Jesus as our “Yokefellow.” In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Still today, farmers in different parts of the world use oxen to plow their fields. When farmers have a new ox, they will put the young, untrained ox in a yoke with an experienced, well-trained ox. The young ox learns to be a draft animal by simply keeping in step with the older ox.
Recently, I was reflecting on the church’s challenge of evangelism in 2020 and beyond. Honestly, evangelism seems so difficult today. Many in the world seem uninterested in a committed relationship with a sovereign God. Even many Christians pull away when we speak about evangelism and reaching the lost. Pastors often feel weary and burdened when they think about sharing the Gospel message and helping their church grow. What do Jesus’ words in Matthew 11 teach us about making disciples?
One important lesson to learn is that seeking the lost is Jesus’ mission. We are to be yoked to Jesus, not the other way around. We are not intended to go out into the world and ask Jesus to follow us. “Jesus, I have to grow this church,” says the anxious pastor. “Please come along with me and bless me.” Being yoked to Jesus looks much different than that.
The rest that Jesus offers comes when His disciples are yoked with Him as they begin each new day.
We recognize that we learn from Jesus. We follow Him. We go where He goes. Jesus leads us. Evangelism, then, takes on a new dimension. It is evangelism led by the Spirit of God. He brings us into conversations with the right people at the right time. Living in step with Christ’s Spirit, we find ourselves in the midst of what Christ’s saving grace is doing in this world. Jesus invites us along His journey with someone who needs Him.
We are called to live moment by moment in tune with Jesus, yoked to Him, listening to His voice. When we do this, evangelism brings peace in place of anxiety because we are walking with the Prince of Peace. It is a place of excitement because we are walking with the One who makes all things new. It is a place of deliverance because we are walking with the Almighty God. It is a place of goodness because we are walking with the One who is called Wonderful!
The next time you feel fear around the activity of evangelism, remember to take up His yoke. Learn from Him. Find rest. Go where He goes, and be fruitful as you keep in step with Jesus!
Scott Rainey is global director of Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International.
Holiness Today, November/December 2020
Please note: This article was originally published in 2020. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.