The Yoke Of Rest
"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." MAT 11:28-30.
A very unique part of our text is that it seems to be an all-inclusive invitation immediately following a revelation that God determines the recipients of salvation. "Come unto me, all ye" seems to include everyone, yet it follows a beautiful illustration of the sovereignty of God. Is it really an invitation to all or does it simply describe those to whom the invitation is extended? "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Then it goes on to explain that 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."
The saving grace of God is only available to those to whom Christ reveals the Father. MAT 11:27 says, "All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." This displays the sovereign choice of God in salvation, yet the invitation is seemingly extended to all. No one will be able to say on the Day of Judgment, "I am not saved because I was not chosen!" We are invited to come to God, but our text qualifies who will come, not who can come: those who "labour and are heavy laden" will come.
This is parallel to JOH 6:37, which says, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; [which shows God's will in choosing] and him that cometh to me [showing who will come] I will in no wise cast out." It does not describe who can come or who may come, but who "shall come to me." The invitation to come to Christ is open to all men, but it is qualified with the sovereignty of God showing who will come under the terms of the invitation.
For our first point, let us see the harmony between God's sovereignty in election and His open invitation to come to Christ.
For our second point, let us consider how love of self and love of temporal things hinders coming to Christ more than lack of ability.
For our third point, let us consider that the invitation, which is open to all men, is an invitation to serve under a yoke of rest.
First, let us see the harmony between God's sovereignty in election and His open invitation to come to Christ.
A yoke is a form of service. Wooden yokes were used to harness oxen for labor. We are invited to come under Christ's "yoke" to serve the Lord.
How do we reconcile God's sovereignty in election with an open invitation? Men refuse to come to Christ because they will not, not because they cannot. "All that the Father giveth me shall come." We are made willing. It is not true that people who would be saved cannot be saved because they are not chosen, and therefore God's sovereignty is unjust. The only ones who cannot be saved are the people who refuse to come.
It was not because the Jews could not come to Christ but because they rejected the gospel. Then the Apostle Paul turned to the Gentiles. It was not their inability but their unwillingness. In ACT 13:46 we read, "Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." That is where God's sovereignty shines. God will be justified in saving those whom He has chosen and in condemning those who rejected the gospel and judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life by refusing to obey. The gospel calls us to serve the Lord.
Those in whom God had made place for the gospel believed and came to Christ. God went before the preaching of the gospel and prepared the soil of their hearts for the seed of the gospel and made them willing.
ACT 13:48 says, "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." That does not say anything about a person who wanted to believe but could not because he was not ordained. Only those who were ordained believed because they were the only ones who desired to come under the yoke of Christ. The work of regeneration prepared their souls for the gospel; they were made willing, so they believed.
In the verses preceding our text, Jesus explains that the revelation of Christ is an essential element of salvation. Until the grace of the Holy Spirit reveals Christ in our souls, we will never desire Him. MAT
11:25-26 says, "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so,
Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight." The Father did not reveal Christ to the wise and prudent, who were self-sufficient, but to babes, who had nothing within themselves.
The only ones who receive this personal knowledge of the Father and the Son are those who are sovereignly chosen, whose hearts God has prepared to feel their need of Christ. Our text says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Those who are not hungry do not need food, but to those who have been sweating and working in the field, even a dry morsel of bread looks good. "The full soul loatheth an honeycomb," PRO 27:7, but those who labor under a load of sin will find rest.
The word labor in the Greek is kopiao (kop-ee-ah'-o), which means "to feel fatigue, by implication to work hard: to bestow labor, toil, to become wearied." It signifies laboring to the point of sweat and exhaustion. Those who have labored to the point of exhaustion are the ones who seek rest.
Jesus' reference to labor in our text teaches how He causes His chosen ones to see the futility of attempting to please God by their own human efforts. We may have labored and striven in our own strength to please the Lord, but when we see how futile it is, we look for rest. Jesus'
description in our text of "all ye that labour and are heavy laden"
describes those who are weary in their search for truth and who labor under a load of sin and despair of earning salvation by good works.
The term heavy laden brings to mind the heavy burdens of the law imposed by the Pharisees. In MAT 23:4, Jesus 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." The people carried great burdens of Pharisaical religion requiring them to earn salvation according to the law. Jesus told them to come out from under that yoke, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." He was comparing the yoke placed upon the church by the Pharisees to the yoke under which He wants us to serve. He wants us to serve under the law of love, not the law of rigor and the law of the Pharisees.
Those who desperately need relief from the crushing load of a sin-laden, guilt-ridden conscience hear the internal call of the gospel. We are heavy-laden under a load of sin. We have learned that we cannot earn salvation under the yoke of the law. We seek to assuage our guilt, to break that yoke, and come under His yoke of service.
Although the word repentance is not specifically used here, our Lord is calling for it. "Come unto me," demands a complete turn-around, a complete change of heart, and a complete change of service to come out from under the yoke of sin and the yoke of the Pharisaical law.
This invitation is to those who feel they are overpowered and burdened by sin and who have failed to enter the kingdom by their own works.
They are lost! There is absolutely no way of escape while serving under the yoke of the Pharisees or the yoke of sin. This invitation applies only to those who have reached the end of their resources, desperate to turn from self and sin unto a Saviour who has taken their burden.
This is not an invitation to those who only legally repent by seeking to flee the consequences of sin but still loving sin. The Lord Jesus does not extend the invitation until sin has become a burden. The invitation is to come out from under the yoke of sin, to discontinue serving self and sin, and to serve Christ under the yoke of His love.
Jesus gave the invitation in our text to those who are weary of sin and self-righteousness just after He revealed His indignation against those who refused to repent. He said in MAT 11:16-20, "But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.
But wisdom is justified of her children. Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not." They never made a turn-around; they wanted to continue serving sin. His invitation is to repent, which means to come out from under the yoke of sin, no longer cherish sin, and turn to serve the Living God.
Verses 21-24 say, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida!
for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee."
Why did Jesus use Sodom for His illustration? Sodom was destroyed for serving sin, but had never received the gospel. If the miracles and the teachings of Christ had been performed in Sodom, they would have repented, yet here it was rejected. It "shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom" than for those who have received the invitation but have not repented, because Sodom had never received the invitation to come and serve the Lord.
For our second point, let us consider how love of self and love of temporal things hinders coming to Christ more than lack of ability.
The rich young ruler refused Christ's personal invitation because he saw no beauty in the way of the cross. MAR 10:21 tells us, "Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me."
Come under my service: crucify self, sin, pride, and wealth; take up your cross, crucify that old man of sin, and follow me.
This man had the right motive. He knew he lacked eternal life, and he was seeking it. He certainly knew eternal life was of much more value than all his possessions. That was why we read in MAR 10:22, "And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions." His love of self and his possessions hindered him, not because he was unable to come to Christ, but because he had his priorities mixed up. He obviously perceived the need to walk in the way of the cross, but could not make the sacrifice. He could not give up what Christ said he had to give up, which revealed his love for something other than salvation. He was not able to sacrifice his money and self-honor, though he knew what Jesus said was right.
This man had a right attitude toward eternal life. He not only realized he missed it, but he desired it. He felt the urgency of his need! He came running to Jesus and "kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" MAR 10:17. He understood his lack and knelt at Jesus' feet in a position of humility.
He risked the scorn of those about him, and showed anxiety over his condition, asking "All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?" MAT 19:20. Commentators say that he was one out of the synagogue, who was scorned by his peers for publicly kneeling in front of Jesus. He came so close to the kingdom, but he could not obey. He had the desire, he saw his need, and he had the humility, but he could not make the sacrifice.
This young man came to the right source; he came to the very source of eternal life. He called Him "Good Master," and so He was, for Jesus answered him, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments,"
MAT 19:17. He mistook that to mean legalistically keeping the commandments and meriting salvation, but Jesus was telling him to take His yoke upon him and break the yoke of sin and legalism.
This young man asked the right question: "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" MAT 19:16. This is not, as some say, a mere trap to have Jesus condone self-righteousness, but it is an echo of the question the multitude asked Jesus in JOH 6:28-29; "Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."
The answer Jesus gave reveals the impossibility for fallen man to keep the law, not only because of actual sin, but because of original sin as
the psalmist complained of in PSA 51:4-7. "Against thee, thee only,
have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be
clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." The psalmist saw the need for true, gospel repentance.
There is a difference between true, gospel repentance and legal repentance. Legal repentance is a mere desire to escape the consequences of sin while continuing to serve sin. A true, gospel repentance is "wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." We are burdened and heavy-laden by the pollution and sinfulness of sin and come to the Lord Jesus Christ to be cleansed from sin. Jesus' answer revealed this man's total ignorance of his own sinfulness, and that he had only legal repentance.
When the Holy Spirit prepares the heart for Christ, He brings us under a deep conviction of the sinfulness of sin. JOH 16:8-11 says, "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." The prince of this world must be dethroned; he can no longer sit upon the throne of the heart. Jesus'
invitation is to leave the service of the prince of this world as judge and king and enter into the service of the Lord.
This rich young man would not confess his guilt. He said, "All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?" MAT 19:20. When Jesus showed him his guilt, he went away sorrowfully. He heard, but Jesus said those who build upon the Rock not only hear His words, but also do them. He could not come under Christ's service.
Last, but not least, this young man refused to submit to the authority of the Word. This is what is wrong with modern Christianity. "Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou
lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me," MAR 10:21. He could not follow. He was unable to let go.
The love for the things of this world and the love for self were stronger than his love for salvation. He still loved sin.
Repentance and obedience are the fruit of God's grace in the soul, and cannot be separated from saving faith. To come unto Him is to do a 180-degree turn. Break the yoke of sin and come under His service and repent.
For our third point, let us consider that the invitation, which is open to all men, is an invitation to serve under a yoke of rest. We find rest for our souls in serving the Lord.
Our text says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." We will find rest for our souls in serving the Lord. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you," which are all the necessities of life.
Jesus' invitation did not end there. It was not our twentieth century appeal in all its variations: "Accept Christ," or "Ask Jesus into your heart," or "Make a decision for Christ." His invitation was to come into His service. We like to "accept Jesus" as Lord, but not as King.
We like to "make a decision for Christ," but He tells us to come into His service. He calls us to surrender to the Lordship of Christ! He went on to say, "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." We will find rest for our souls when we come into His service, when we put on His yoke.
Jesus' hearers well understood that the yoke was a symbol of submission and service. Those who are unwilling to take on His yoke cannot enter into the saving rest He offers. There is no separation between coming into His loving service and His rest. There will never be rest for those who refuse to serve under the authority of the Word of God. What does the Lord do to those who refuse to bow under the Lordship of Christ? He sends them into captivity into Babylon, and they serve the king of confusion. Christ proffers peace and pardon and rest for our souls under His service.
This yoke perfectly illustrates salvation! Jesus said in JOH 16:8-11, "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." Satan, the prince of this world, is judged; he is dethroned when we come under the service of Christ.
This invitation of Jesus disproves any thought of carnal Christianity, which is the philosophy that one can accept Jesus as Saviour but not as Lord. The only rest we will ever find is in His service. That is the invitation from Christ's own mouth.
The evidence of salvation, as found in EPH 4:22-24. "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." There is a complete change. It is a completely different yoke. You cannot put one shoulder to each yoke, serving Christ on one side and sin on the other. The yoke of sin must come off and the yoke of Christ must go on. To put on the new yoke, to put on the new form of service, is to "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Righteousness is the second table of the law: serving Christ under the law of love by loving your neighbor as yourself. True holiness is the first table of the law: loving God with your heart, soul, and mind, so that every thought and desire is to please the Lord.
When the Holy Spirit regenerates us, sin becomes abominable. We can no longer cherish sin in our hearts. The psalmist knew that if he cherished sin in his heart, the Lord would not hear him. The yoke of Christ becomes our greatest delight. We see in PSA 119:4-6, "Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments." That does not mean that we will keep the law for merit, but we desire to keep it out of love. We desire to come under the yoke of Christ to serve Him because He first loved us.
The yoke of submission to Christ is easy because it is true spiritual liberty. What is liberty? Some people think it means they can do anything they want since Christ has paid for it all, but that is spiritual hypocrisy. Spiritual liberty is to be delivered from the power of sin. It is to be delivered from that hypocritical, Pharisaical yoke of bondage and to be brought under the yoke of love. The yoke of submission to Christ is liberty from the yoke of Satan and sin and finding true "rest unto your souls." Your greatest delight then is to do the will of God out of love.
Our text is an echo of what Jeremiah said in JER 6:16; "Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
But they said, We will not walk therein." The Old Testament gospel is the same as the New Testament. Where will we find rest for our souls?
When we come under the yoke of Christ, it becomes our delight to do His will.
God the Father condescends to sinners who trample upon His will, and pleads with them, "Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." He is talking to a rebellious nation that was headed for captivity, but if they would serve the Lord and stop serving themselves and sin, they would find rest for their souls and not be taken captive by the king of Babylon, the king of confusion. "But they said, We will not walk therein."
The response of the heart discerns "between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not," MAL 3:18. Will we serve the Lord? Is it our delight? Do we seek rest from laboring under the load of sin to walk under the yoke of Christ?
The yoke of rest is for those who come unto Christ, seeking rest from their heavy labor and load of sin, who delight to serve under the yoke of love, and who delight in the kingship of Christ. That yoke of rest is the most blessed place. That is building upon the Rock.
We read in MAT 7:24-25, "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." Jesus then contrasts that with Verses 26-27.
"And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the
sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."
If we hear His will and we know His will, but we do not do His will, we will have no rest. We do not do His will to merit a reward, but as an act of service. All who come under the yoke of Christ find rest for their souls!