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“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11: 28-30)

Probably there is no passage in the New Testament more familiar to church-goers than the one (Matt 11: 28-30) of which our quotation is the final clause. Yet, there is scarcely any other that has been so sadly mangled by unqualified novices and unfaithful preachers. The invitation and promise with which it opens have been divorced from the conditions by which they are qualified — so that an entirely inadequate, in fact a false, apprehension of the same has been conveyed of what our Lord there taught. That which is required from those desiring rest of soul — namely, submission to the authority of Christ and the following of His example — is omitted. They emphasise His gift, but are silent upon the terms upon which He bestows it.

Far better instructed thereon than so many of our modern evangelists was good old Matthew Henry. Outlining the whole passage, that helpful commentator pointed out: “We are here invited to Christ as our Priest, Prince, and Prophet, to be saved — and, in order to that, to be ruled and taught by Him. First, we must come to Christ as our great High Priest and repose ourselves in Him for salvation.

Second, we must come to Him as our Prince or Ruler, and submit ourselves to Him, “Take My yoke upon you.” This must go along with the former, for Christ is exalted to be both a Prince and a Saviour (Acts 5: 31). The rest He promises is a release from the drudgery of sin — not from the service of God. Christ has a yoke for our necks — as well as a crown for our heads — and this yoke He requires that we should take upon us.

Third, we must come to Him as our Prophet or Teacher, and set ourselves to learn from Him. We must learn of Him to be “meek and lowly in heart” — to mortify our pride and passion, which render us so unlike to Him. We must so learn of Christ, for He is both Teacher and Lesson, Guide and Way!”

“My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This is not a poetic hyperbole, but the language of truth and soberness, and, therefore, is not to be denied or doubted. The Saviour was there drawing a blessed contrast with the scribes and Pharisees, of whom He said, “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matt 23: 4).

In order to gratify a domineering spirit, they usurped authority, and, by their inventions and traditions, removed liberties which God allowed, and imposed irksome injunctions which He had never enjoined. They demanded a greater strictness in the observing of the ceremonial law than the Lord did, obtruding severe tasks (under pain of heavy penalties), but offering no assistance unto those who submitted to their dictates. They were the false shepherds who ruled “with force and with cruelty” (Eze 34: 4). Such has ever characterised a carnal-priesthood. Now, in sharp and blessed opposition thereto, the great High Priest of God’s people presents a yoke which is easy and a burden that is light — and places His everlasting arms beneath those who voluntarily take and wear the same.

Christ is no cruel Egyptian taskmaster, requiring men to make bricks without straw, but “a merciful and faithful high priest” (Heb 2: 17), One who can be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb 4: 15). Therefore, it is not fetters and chains which He imposes upon His followers, but a yoke that is pleasant and a burden that is light. As others before us have pointed out, the Greek word rendered “easy” also signifies “good and gracious”. So far from Christ’s yoke being galling and painful — to the yielding neck it is benignant (kindly and benevolent) and delightful. It is designed not for our injury, but for our benefit.

The first reference — “my yoke” and “my burden” — is unto the one that Christ Himself wore and bore, and which He declared to be easy and light. And what did they consist of? Why, doing the Father’s will, being about His Father’s business. In that will He delighted (Ps 40: 8), and to do that business was what had brought Him down from Heaven to earth (Lk 2: 49). Since His followers are predestined to be conformed unto His image, He requires that they should wear the “yoke” which He sets before them. Christ gives rest not in sin and unlawful pleasures — but from them, by engaging the heart with something infinitely better. It is rest, not in our lusts, but in Himself! (… to be continued)

(Adapted from Gracegems website)