Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.
11:25-30 It becomes children to be grateful. When we come to God as a Father, we must remember that he is Lord of heaven and earth, which obliges us to come to him with reverence as to the sovereign Lord of all; yet with confidence, as one able to defend us from evil, and to supply us with all good. Our blessed Lord added a remarkable declaration, that the Father had delivered into his hands all power, authority, and judgment. We are indebted to Christ for all the revelation we have of God the Father's will and love, ever since Adam sinned. Our Saviour has invited all that labour and are heavy-laden, to come unto him. In some senses all men are so. Worldly men burden themselves with fruitless cares for wealth and honours; the gay and the sensual labour in pursuit of pleasures; the slave of Satan and his own lusts, is the merest drudge on earth. Those who labour to establish their own righteousness also labour in vain. The convinced sinner is heavy-laden with guilt and terror; and the tempted and afflicted believer has labours and burdens. Christ invites all to come to him for rest to their souls. He alone gives this invitation; men come to him, when, feeling their guilt and misery, and believing his love and power to help, they seek him in fervent prayer. Thus it is the duty and interest of weary and heavy-laden sinners, to come to Jesus Christ. This is the gospel call; Whoever will, let him come. All who thus come will receive rest as Christ's gift, and obtain peace and comfort in their hearts. But in coming to him they must take his yoke, and submit to his authority. They must learn of him all things, as to their comfort and obedience. He accepts the willing servant, however imperfect the services. Here we may find rest for our souls, and here only. Nor need we fear his yoke. His commandments are holy, just, and good. It requires self-denial, and exposes to difficulties, but this is abundantly repaid, even in this world, by inward peace and joy. It is a yoke that is lined with love. So powerful are the assistances he gives us, so suitable the encouragements, and so strong the consolations to be found in the way of duty, that we may truly say, it is a yoke of pleasantness. The way of duty is the way of rest. The truths Christ teaches are such as we may venture our souls upon. Such is the Redeemer's mercy; and why should the labouring and burdened sinner seek for rest from any other quarter? Let us come to him daily, for deliverance from wrath and guilt, from sin and Satan, from all our cares, fears, and sorrows. But forced obedience, far from being easy and light, is a heavy burden. In vain do we draw near to Jesus with our lips, while the heart is far from him. Then come to Jesus to find rest for your souls.
Take my yoke - This is a figure taken from the use of oxen, and hence signifying to labor for one, or in the service of anyone. The "yoke" is used in the Bible as an emblem:
(1) of bondage or slavery, Leviticus 26:13; Deuteronomy 28:38.
(2) of afflictions or crosses, Lamentations 3:27.
(3) of the punishment of sin, Lamentations 1:14,
(4) of the commandments of God.
(5) of legal ceremonies, Acts 15:10; Galatians 5:1.
It refers here to the religion of the Redeemer; and the idea is, that they should embrace his system of religion and obey him. All virtue and all religion imply "restraint" - the restraint of our bad passions and inclinations - and subjection to laws; and the Saviour here means to say that the restraints and laws of his religion are mild, and gentle, and easy. Let anyone compare them with the burdensome and expensive ceremonies of the Jews (see Acts 15:10), or with the religious rites of the pagan everywhere, or with the requirements of the Popish system, and he will see how true it is that Jesus' yoke is easy. And let his laws and requirements be compared with the laws which sin imposes on its votaries - the laws of fashion, and honor, and sensuality - and he will feel that religion is "freedom," John 8:36. "He is a freeman whom the truth makes free, and all are slaves besides." It is "easier" to be a Christian than a sinner; and of all the yokes ever imposed on people, that of the Redeemer is the lightest.
For I am meek ... - See the notes at Matthew 5:5. This was eminently Christ's personal character. But this is not its meaning here. He is giving a reason why they should embrace his religion. That was, that he was not harsh, overbearing, and oppressive, like the Pharisees, but meek, mild, and gentle in his government. His laws were reasonable and tender, and it would be easy to obey him.
Take my yoke upon you,.... The phrase is Rabbinical. The Jewish doctors often speak (a) of , "the yoke of the kingdom of heaven", and of persons taking it upon them; and which they exhort to, and express in much such language as here (b); , "take upon you the yoke of the holy kingdom", every day. They distinguish this from the yoke of the law, and say (c).
"a man must first take upon him the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and after that take upon him the "yoke" of the commandment.''
Their sense I take to be this, that a man must first make a profession of his faith in the God of Israel, and then live conformably to his law: agreeably to this, Christ exhorts such persons who come to him for rest and happiness, to profess their faith in him, to embrace the doctrines of the Gospel, to submit to his ordinances, and to walk according to those laws, commands, and orders, which he, as king of saints, has made, and requires obedience to: so those who come to him for life, and believe in him, as the Saviour of their souls, though they are not to trust in, and depend upon any duties performed by them; yet they are not to sit still, or lay aside the performance of good works, or live a licentious course of life, but are always to be doing the will and work of their Lord. And this he calls "his yoke", in distinction from the yoke of the law of Moses, and of the traditions of the elders.
And learn of me, for I am meek, and lowly in heart: respect seems to be had to Zechariah 9:9 where such characters as these are given of the Messiah. The meekness, humility, and lowliness of Christ appear in his assumption of human nature; in his subjection to his Father; in the whole of his deportment and conversation among men; in his submission to the ordinance of baptism; in the whole course of his obedience to God, and in his sufferings and death: and he is to be imitated herein, by all his followers, who may learn many excellent things from his example, as well as from his doctrine; and particularly, that whereas, though he was so great a person, yet condescended to perform every duty with readiness and cheerfulness, his disciples should not think it below them to conform to every ordinance of his, to every branch of his will; for he has set them an example, that they should tread in his steps, and walk even as he has walked. There never was such an instance of humility, and lowliness of mind, as Christ; nor is there any example so worthy of our imitation as his. The Jews have a saying (d),
"for ever let a man , "be meek as Hillell", and let him not be wrathful as "Shammai":''
which two men were presidents of their universities about the times of Christ. But our Lord says, "learn of me", not of "Hillell", or any of your doctors,
and ye shall find rest unto your souls; referring to Jeremiah 6:16 and which shows the rest he speaks of in the preceding verse, to be not a corporal, but a spiritual one; and which is to be enjoyed "in", though not "for" the observance of Christ's commands; whose "ways are ways of pleasantness, and all" whose "paths are peace".
(a) T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 4. 1. Bab. Beracot, fol. 61. 2. Zohar in Lev. fol. 46. 4. Caphtor, fol. 44. 2. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 2. 2. (b) Zohar in Num. fol. 51. 2. Caphtor, fol. 48. 2.((c) Misn. Beracot, c. 2. sect. 2. T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 4. 2.((d) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 30. 2.Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
"These words, as recorded by St. Matthew, the Evangelist of the Jews, must have sunk the deeper into the hearts of Christ's Jewish hearers, that they came in their own old, familiar form of speech, yet with such contrast of spirit. One of the most common figurative expressions of the time was that of the yoke for submission to an occupation or obligation. Very instructive for the understanding of the figure is this paraphrase of Cant. 1:10: 'How beautiful is their neck for bearing the yoke of thy statutes; and it shall be upon them like the yoke on the neck of the ox that plougheth in the field and provideth food for himself and his master.'
"The public worship of the ancient synagogue commenced with a benediction, followed by the shema (Hear, O Israel) or creed, composed of three passages of scripture: Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41. The section Deuteronomy 6:4-9 was said to precede Deuteronomy 11:13-21, so that we might take upon ourselves the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and only after that the yoke of the commandments. The Saviour's words must have had a special significance to those who remembered this lesson; and they would now understand how, by coming to the Saviour, they would first take on them the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and then that of the commandments, finding this yoke easy and the burden light" (Edersheim, "Life and Times of Jesus," and "Jewish Social Life").
See on Matthew 5:5.
The word has a history. In the classics it is used commonly in a bad and degrading sense, of meanness of condition, lowness of rank, and cringing abjectness and baseness of character. Still, even in classical Greek, this is not its universal usage. It is occasionally employed in a way which foreshadows its higher sense. Plato, for instance, says, "To that law (of God) he would be happy who holds fast, and follows it in all humility and order; but he who is lifted up with pride, or money, or honor, or beauty, who has a soul hot with folly, and youth, and insolence, and thinks that he has no need of a guide or ruler, but is able himself to be the guide of others, he, I say, is left deserted of God" ("Laws," 716). And Aristotle says: "He who is worthy of small things, and deems himself so, is wise" ("Nich. Ethics," iv., 3). At best, however, the classical conception is only modesty, absence of assumption. It is an element of wisdom and in no way opposed to self-righteousness (see Aristotle above). The word for the Christian virtue of humility (ταπεινοφροσύνη), was not used before the Christian era, and is distinctly an outgrowth of the Gospel. This virtue is based upon a correct estimate of our actual littleness, and is linked with a sense of sinfulness. True greatness is holiness. We are little because sinful. Compare Luke 18:14. It is asked how, in this view of the case, the word can be applied to himself by the sinless Lord? "The answer is," says Archbishop Trench, "that for the sinner humility involves the confession of sin, inasmuch as it involves the confession of his true condition; while yet for the unfallen creature the grace itself as truly exists, involving for such the acknowledgment, not of sinfulness, which would be untrue, but of creatureliness, of absolute dependence, of having nothing, but receiving all things of God. And thus the grace of humility belongs to the highest angel before the throne, being as he is a creature, yea, even to the Lord of Glory himself. In his human nature he must be the pattern of all humility, of all creaturely dependence; and it is only as a man that Christ thus claims to be lowly; his human life was a constant living on the fulness of his Father's love; he evermore, as man, took the place which beseemed the creature in the presence of its Creator" ("Synonyms," p. 145). The Christian virtue regards man not only with reference to God, but to his fellow-man. In lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself (Philippians 2:3, Rev.). But this is contrary to the Greek conception of justice or righteousness, which was simply "his own to each one." It is noteworthy that neither the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, nor the New Testament recognize the ignoble classical sense of the word.
Ye shall find (εὑρήσετε)
Compare I will give you and ye shall find. The rest of Christ is twofold - given and found. It is given in pardon and reconciliation. It is found under the yoke and the burden; in the development of Christian experience, as more and more the "strain passes over" from self to Christ. "No other teacher, since the world began, has ever associated learn with rest. 'Learn of me,' says the philosopher, 'and you shall find restlessness.' 'Learn of me,' says Christ, 'and you shall find rest'" (Drummond, "Natural Law in the Spiritual World").
29. Take my yoke upon you—the yoke of subjection to Jesus.
and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls—As Christ's willingness to empty Himself to the uttermost of His Father's requirements was the spring of ineffable repose to His own Spirit, so in the same track does He invite all to follow Him, with the assurance of the same experience.
Take my yoke upon you - Strange paradox! that a man already weary and overloaded must take a new weight upon him, in order to be eased and find rest! But this advice is similar to that saying, Psalm 55:22
. Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee; i.e. trust thy soul and concerns to him, and he will carry both thyself and thy load.
I am meek and lowly in heart - Wherever pride and anger dwell, there is nothing but mental labor and agony; but, where the meekness and humility of Christ dwell, all is smooth, even, peaceable, and quiet; for the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever. Isaiah 32:17.
11:29 Take my yoke upon you - Believe in me: receive me as your prophet, priest, and king. For I am meek and lowly in heart - Meek toward all men, lowly toward God: and ye shall find rest - Whoever therefore does not find rest of soul, is not meek and lowly. The fault is not in the yoke of Christ: but in thee, who hast not taken it upon thee. Nor is it possible for any one to be discontented, but through want of meekness or lowliness.
11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.
He has first asked us to come, and made a gracious promise. He next shows us how to come. We are to come by taking HIS yoke upon us. Taking on the yoke is a symbol of submission. The two steps by which we come, and secure the promise of rest unto our souls are then (1) Submission to Christ, (2) Becoming his disciples.