Bind literally means to tie or secure, as with a rope or cord. A secondary meaning is to compel or obligate.
In Bible times, a yoke was essentially a Rabbi‘s teaching of what was prohibited and what was allowed, according to his interpretation of Scripture. The process of ascertaining what things were prohibited, was the act of binding. To bind something, then was to prohibit it, that is, to hold to it tightly. To bind implies an obligation of performance.
Jesus‘ yoke was light; there were only a few things he wanted to bind, that is, to prohibit.
Contrast to loose.
Jesus’ teaching on binding and loosing is a bit perplexing and worthy of careful contemplation. A parallel passage talks about forgiving sin and is even more disconcerting.
Jesus says that if we forgive someone’s sins, they will be forgiven; conversely if we don’t forgive someone’s sins, they will not be forgiven.
That is an even heavier burden, realizing that our holding of a grudge — that is, not forgiving someone — will result in the withholding of forgiveness for their sins.
However, it is even more weighty than that.
Consider the “Lord’s Prayer” and the phrase “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Through this prayer we are actually asking God to only forgive us to the degree to which we forgive others.
Given the severity of the ramifications, we need to be most diligent in forgiving all others and not holding a grudge.
In the post about the easy yoke, we learned that a yoke was essentially a Rabbi’s teaching, of what was prohibited and what was allowed. Jesus had his own yoke and he said it was easy.
The process of ascertaining what things where to be prohibited, was the act of binding. To “bind” something, was to prohibit it; that is, to hold to it tightly. To “bind” implies obligation.
The process of determining what things were to be allowed, was the act of loosing. To “loose” something was to allow it; that is, to let to go. To “loose” implies freedom.
Since Jesus’ yoke was light, there must have been only a few things that he wanted to “bind” and many things that he wanted to “loose.”
However, Jesus doesn’t stop there. He also told his disciples that “whatever you bind (prohibit) on earth will be bound (prohibited) in heaven and whatever you loose (allow) on earth will be loosed (allowed) in heaven.” In doing so, he implicitly gave them — and us — the opportunity to interpret scripture just like he and the Rabbis were doing — with the promise of agreement in heaven.
As such, we need to be extremely careful about the things we bind and loose; there are eternal consequences.