Matthew 11:29-30 ESV
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:29-30 ESV
Matthew Henry's Commentary
In these verses we have Christ looking up to heaven, with thanksgiving to his Father for the sovereignty and security of the covenant of redemption; and looking around him upon this earth, with an offer to all the children of men, to whom these presents shall come, of the privileges and benefits of the covenant of grace.
I. Christ here returns thanks to God for his favour to those babes who had the mysteries of the gospel revealed to them (Matt. 11:25, 26). Jesus answered and said. It is called an answer, though no other words are before recorded but his own, because it is so comfortable a reply to the melancholy considerations preceding, and is aptly set in the balance against them. The sin and ruin of those woeful cities, no doubt, was a grief to the Lord Jesus; he could not but weep over them, as he did over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41); with this thought therefore he refreshes himself; and to make it the more refreshing, he puts it into a thanksgiving; that for all this, there is a remnant, though but babes, to whom the things of the gospel are revealed. Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall he be glorious. Note, We may take great encouragement in looking upward to God, when round about us we see nothing but what is discouraging. It is sad to see how regardless most men are of their own happiness, but it is comfortable to think that the wise and faithful God will, however, effectually secure the interests of his own glory. Jesus answered and said, I thank thee. Note, Thanksgiving is a proper answer to dark and disquieting thoughts, and may be an effectual means to silence them. Songs of praise are sovereign cordials to drooping souls, and will help to cure melancholy. When we have no other answer ready to the suggestions of grief and fear, we may have recourse to this, I thank thee, O Father; let us bless God that it is not worse with us than it is.
Now in this thanksgiving of Christ, we may observe,
1. The titles he gives to God; O Father, Lord of heaven and earth. Note, (1.) In all our approaches to God, by praise as well as by prayer, it is good for us to eye him as a Father, and to fasten on that relation, not only when we ask for the mercies we want, but when we give thanks for the mercies we have received. Mercies are then doubly sweet, and powerful to enlarge the heart in praise, when they are received as tokens of a Father’s love, and gifts of a Father’s hand; Giving thanks to the Father, Col. 1:12. It becomes children to be grateful, and to say, Thank you, father, as readily as, Pray, father. (2.) When we come to God as a Father, we must withal 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, and yet with confidence, as one able to do for us whatever we need or can desire; to defend us from all evil and to supply us with all good. Christ, in Melchizedec, had long since blessed God as the Possessor, or Lord of heaven and earth; and in all our thanksgivings for mercies in the stream, we must give him the glory of the all-sufficiency that is in the fountain.
2. The thing he gives thanks for: Because thou has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and yet revealed them to babes. These things; he does not say what things, but means the great things of the gospel, the things that belong to our peace, Luke 19:42. He spoke thus emphatically of them, these things, because they were things that filled him, and should fill us: all other things are as nothing to these things.
Note (1.) The great things of the everlasting gospel have been and are hid from many that were wise and prudent, that were eminent for learning and worldly policy; some of the greatest scholars and the greatest statesmen have been the greatest strangers to gospel mysteries. The world by wisdom knew not God, 1 Cor. 1:21. Nay, there is an opposition given to the gospel, by a science falsely so called, 1 Tim. 6:20. Those who are most expert in things sensible and secular, are commonly least experienced in spiritual things. Men may dive deeply into the mysteries of nature and into the mysteries of state, and yet be ignorant of, and mistake about, the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, for want of an experience of the power of them.
(2.) While the wise and prudent men of the world are in the dark about gospel mysteries, even the babes in Christ have the sanctifying saving knowledge of them: Thou hast revealed them unto babes. Such the disciples of Christ were; men of mean birth and education; no scholars, no artists, no politicians, unlearned and ignorant men, Acts 4:13. Thus are the secrets of wisdom, which are double to that which is (Job 11:6), made known to babes and sucklings, that out of their mouth strength might be ordained (Ps. 8:2), and God’s praise thereby perfected. The learned men of the world were not made choice of to be the preachers of the gospel, but the foolish things of the world (1 Cor. 2:6, 8, 10).
(3.) This difference between the prudent and the babes is of God’s own making. [1.] It is he that has hid these things from the wise and prudent; he gave them parts, and learning, and much of human understanding above others, and they were proud of that, and rested in it, and looked no further; and therefore God justly denies them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, and then, though they hear the sound of the gospel tidings, they are to them as a strange thing. God is not the Author of their ignorance and error, but he leaves them to themselves, and their sin becomes their punishment, and the Lord is righteous in it. See John 12:39, 40; Rom. 11:7, 8; Acts 28:26, 27. Had they honoured God with the wisdom and prudence they had, he would have given them the knowledge of these better things; but because they served their lusts with them, he has hid their hearts from this understanding. [2.] It is he that has revealed them unto babes. Things revealed belong to our children (Deut. 29:29), and to them he gives an understanding to receive these things, and the impressions of them. Thus he resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble, Jas. 4:6.
(4.) This dispensation must be resolved into the divine sovereignty. Christ himself referred it to that; Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. Christ here subscribes to the will of his Father in this matter; Even so. Let God take what ways he pleases to glorify himself, and make us of what instruments he pleases for the carrying on of his own work; his grace is his own, and he may give or withhold it as he pleases. We can give no reason why Peter, a fisherman, should be made an apostle, and not Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and a ruler of the Jews, though he also believed in Christ; but so it seemed good in God’s sight. Christ said this in the hearing of his disciples, to show them that it was not for any merit of their own that they were thus dignified and distinguished, but purely from God’s good pleasure; he made them to differ.
(5.) This way of dispensing divine grace is to be acknowledged by us, as it was by our Lord Jesus, with all thankfulness. We must thank God, [1.] That these things are revealed; the mystery hid from ages and generations is manifested; that they are revealed, not to a few, but to be published to all the world. [2.] That they are revealed to babes; that the meek and humble are beautified with this salvation; and this honour put upon those whom the world pours contempt upon. [3.] It magnifies the mercy to them, that these things are hid from the wise and prudent: distinguishing favours are the most obliging. As Job adored the name of the Lord in taking away as well as in giving, so may we in hiding these things from the wise and prudent, as well as in revealing them unto babes; not as it is their misery, but as it is a method by which self is abased, proud thoughts brought down, all flesh silenced, and divine power and wisdom made to shine the more bright. See 1 Cor. 1:27, 31.
II. Christ here makes a gracious offer of the benefits of the gospel to all, and these are the things which are revealed to babes, Matt. 11:25 Observe here,
1. The solemn preface which ushers in this call or invitation, both to command our attention to it, and to encourage our compliance with it. That we might have strong consolation, in flying for refuge to this hope set before us, Christ prefixes his authority, produces his credentials; we shall see he is empowered to make this offer.
Two things he here lays before us, Matt. 11:27.
(1.) His commission from the Father: All things are delivered unto me of my Father. Christ, as God, is equal in power and glory with the Father; but as Mediator he receives his power and glory from the Father; has all judgment committed to him. He is authorized to settle a new covenant between God and man, and to offer peace and happiness to the apostate world, upon such terms as he should think fit: he was sanctified and sealed to be the sole Plenipotentiary, to concert and establish this great affair. In order to this, he has all power both in heaven and in earth, (Matt. 28:18); power over all flesh (John 17:2); authority to execute judgment, John 5:22, 27. This encourages us to come to Christ, that he is commissioned to receive us, and to give us what we come for, and has all things delivered to him for that purpose, by him who is Lord of all. All powers, all treasures are in his hand. Observe, The Father has delivered his all into the hands of the Lord Jesus; let us but deliver our all into his hand and the work is done; God has made him the great Referee, the blessed Daysman, to lay his hand upon us both; that which we have to do is to agree to the reference, to submit to the arbitration of the Lord Jesus, for the taking up of this unhappy controversy, and to enter into bonds to stand to his award.
(2.) His intimacy with the Father: No man knoweth the Son but the Father, Neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son. This gives us a further satisfaction, and an abundant one. Ambassadors use to have not only their commissions, which they produce, but their instructions, which they reserve to themselves, to be made use of as there is occasion in their negotiations; our Lord Jesus had both, not only authority, but ability, for his undertaking. In transacting the great business of our redemption, the Father and the Son are the parties principally concerned; the counsel of peace is between them, Zech. 6:13. It must therefore be a great encouragement to us to be assured, that they understood one another very well in this affair; that the Father knew the Son, and the Son knew the Father, and both perfectly (a mutual consciousness we may call it, between the Father and the Son), so that there could be no mistake in the settling of this matter; as often there is among men, to the overthrow of contracts, and the breaking of the measures taken, through their misunderstanding one another. The Son had lain in the bosom of the Father from eternity; he was à secretioribus—of the cabinet-council, John 1:18. He was by him, as one brought up with him (Prov. 8:30), so that none knows the Father save the Son, he adds, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. Note, [1.] The happiness of men lies in an acquaintance with God; it is life eternal, it is the perfection of rational beings. [2.] Those who would have an acquaintance with God, must apply themselves to Jesus Christ; for the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines in the face of Christ, 2 Cor. 4:6. We are obliged to Christ for all the revelation we have of God the Father’s will and love, ever since Adam sinned; there is no comfortable intercourse between a holy God and sinful man, but in and by a Mediator, John 14:6.
2. Here is the offer itself that is made to us, and an invitation to accept of it. After so solemn a preface, we may well expect something very great; and it is a faithful saying, and well worthy of all acceptation; words whereby we may be saved. 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.
(1.) We must come to Jesus Christ as our Rest, and repose ourselves in him (Matt. 11:28), Come unto me all ye that labour. Observe, [1.] The character of the persons invited; all that labour, and are heavy laden. This is a word in season to him that is weary, Isa. 50:4. Those who complain of the burthen of the ceremonial law, which was an intolerable yoke, and was made much more so by the tradition of the elders (Luke 11:46), let them come to Christ, and they shall be made easy; he came to free his church from this yoke, to cancel the imposition of those carnal ordinances, and to introduce a purer and more spiritual way of worship; but it is rather to be understood of the burthen of sin, both the guilt and the power of it. Note, All those, and those only, are invited to rest in Christ, that are sensible of sin as a burthen, and groan under it; that are not only convinced of the evil of sin, of their own sin, but are contrite in soul for it; that are really sick of their sins, weary of the service of the world and of the flesh; that see their state sad and dangerous by reason of sin, and are in pain and fear about it, as Ephraim (Jer. 31:18-20), the prodigal (Luke 15:17), the publican (Luke 18:13), Peter’s hearers (Acts 2:37), Paul (Acts 9:4, 6, 9), the jailor (Acts 16:29, 30). This is a necessary preparative for pardon and peace. The Comforter must first convince (John 16:8); I have torn and then will heal. [2.] The invitation itself: Come unto me. That glorious display of Christ’s greatness which we had (Matt. 11:27), as Lord of all, might frighten us from him, but see here how he holds out the golden sceptre, that we may touch the top of it and may live. Note, It is the duty and interest of weary and heavy laden sinners to come to Jesus Christ. Renouncing all those things which stand in opposition to him, or in competition with him, we must accept of him, as our Physician and Advocate, and give up ourselves to his conduct and government; freely willing to be saved by him, in his own way, and upon his own terms. Come and cast that burden upon him, under which thou art heavy laden. This is the gospel call, The Spirit saith, Come; and the bride saith, Come; let him that is athirst come; Whoever will, let him come.
[3.] The blessing promised to those that do come: I will give you rest. Christ is our Noah, whose name signifies rest, for this same shall give us rest. Gen. 5:29; 8:9. Truly rest is good (Gen. 49:15), especially to those that labour and are heavy laden, Eccl. 5:12. Note, Jesus Christ will give assured rest to those weary souls, that by a lively faith come to him for it; rest from the terror of sin, in a well-grounded peace of conscience; rest from the power of sin, in a regular order of the soul, and its due government of itself; a rest in God, and a complacency of soul, in his love. Ps. 11:6, 7. This is that rest which remains for the people of God (Heb. 4:9), begun in grace, and perfected in glory.
(2.) We must come to Jesus Christ as our Ruler, and submit ourselves to him (Matt. 11:29). Take my yoke upon you. This must go along with the former, for Christ is exalted to be both a Prince and a Saviour, a Priest upon his throne. The rest he promises is a release from the drudgery of sin, not from the service of God, but an obligation to the duty we owe to him. Note, Christ has a yoke for our necks, as well as a crown for our heads, and this yoke he expects we should take upon us and draw in. To call those who are weary and heavy laden, to take a yoke upon them, looks like adding affliction to the afflicted; but the pertinency of it lies in the word my: “You are under a yoke which makes you weary: shake that off and try mine, which will make you easy.” Servants are said to be under the yoke (1 Tim. 6:1), and subjects, 1 Kgs. 12:10. To take Christ’s yoke upon us, is to put ourselves into the relation to servants and subjects to him, and then of conduct ourselves accordingly, in a conscientious obedience to all his commands, and a cheerful submission to all his disposals: it is to obey the gospel of Christ, to yield ourselves to the Lord: it is Christ’s yoke; the yoke he has appointed; a yoke he has himself drawn in before us, for he learned obedience, and which he does by his Spirit draw in with us, for he helpeth our infirmities, Rom. 8:26. A yoke speaks some hardship, but if the beast must draw, the yoke helps him. Christ’s commands are all in our favour: we must take this yoke upon us to draw in it. We are yoked to work, and therefore must be diligent; we are yoked to submit, and therefore must be humble and patient: we are yoked together with our fellow-servants, and therefore must keep up the communion of saints: and the words of the wise are as goads, to those who are thus yoked.
Now this is the hardest part of our lesson, and therefore it is qualified (Matt. 11:30). My yoke is easy and my burden is light; you need not be afraid of it.
[1.] The yoke of Christ’s commands is an easy yoke; it is chrestos, not only easy, but gracious, so the word signifies; it is sweet and pleasant; there is nothing in it to gall the yielding neck, nothing to hurt us, but, on the contrary, must to refresh us. It is a yoke that is lined with love. Such is the nature of all Christ’s commands, so reasonable in themselves, so profitable to us, and all summed up in one word, and that a sweet word, love. So powerful are the assistances he gives us, so suitable the encouragements, and so strong the consolations, that are to be found in the way of duty, that we may truly say, it is a yoke of pleasantness. It is easy to the new nature, very easy to him that understandeth, Prov. 14:6. It may be a little hard at first, but it is easy afterwards; the love of God and the hope of heaven will make it easy.
[2.] The burden of Christ’s cross is a light burden, very light: afflictions from Christ, which befal us as men; afflictions for Christ, which befal us as Christians; the latter are especially meant. This burden in itself is not joyous, but grievous; yet as it is Christ’s, it is light. Paul knew as much of it as any man, and he calls it a light affliction, 2 Cor. 4:17. God’s presence (Isa. 43:2), Christ’s sympathy (Isa. 63:9; Dan. 3:25), and especially the Spirit’s aids and comforts (2 Cor. 1:5), make suffering for Christ light and easy. As afflictions abound, and are prolonged, consolations abound, and are prolonged too. Let this therefore reconcile us to the difficulties, and help us over the discouragements, we may meet with, both in doing work and suffering work; though we may lose for Christ, we shall not lose by him.
(3.) We must come to Jesus Christ as our Teacher, and set ourselves to learn of him, Matt. 11:29. Christ has erected a great school, and has invited us to be his scholars. We must enter ourselves, associate with his scholars, and daily attend the instructions he gives by his word and Spirit. We must converse much with what he said, and have it ready to use upon all occasions; we must conform to what he did, and follow his steps, 1 Pet. 2:21. Some make the following words, for I am meek and lowly in heart, to be the particular lesson we are required to learn from the example of Christ. We must learn of him to be meek and lowly, and must mortify our pride and passion, which render us so unlike to him. We must so learn of Christ as to learn Christ (Eph. 4:20), for he is both Teacher and Lesson, Guide and Way, and All in All.
Two reasons are given why we must learn of Christ.
[1.] I am meek and lowly in heart, and therefore fit to teach you.
First, He is meek, and can have compassion on the ignorant, whom others would be in a passion with. Many able teachers are hot and hasty, which is a great discouragement to those who are dull and slow; but Christ knows how to bear with such, and to open their understandings. His carriage towards his twelve disciples was a specimen of this; he was mild and gentle with them, and made the best of them; though they were heedless and forgetful, he was not extreme to mark their follies. Secondly, He is lowly in heart. He condescends to teach poor scholars, to teach novices; he chose disciples, not from the court, nor the schools, but from the seaside. He teaches the first principles, such things as are milk for babes; he stoops to the meanest capacities; he taught Ephraim to go, Hos. 11:3. Who teaches like him? It is an encouragement to us to put ourselves to school to such a Teacher. This humility and meekness, as it qualifies him to be a Teacher, so it will be the best qualification of those who are to be taught by him; for the meek will he guide in judgment, Ps. 25:9.
[2.] You shall find rest to your souls. This promise is borrowed from Jer. 6:16; for Christ delighted to express himself in the language of the prophets, to show the harmony between the two Testaments. Note, First, Rest for the soul is the most desirable rest; to have the soul to dwell at ease. Secondly, The only way, and a sure way to find rest for our souls is, to sit at Christ’s feet and hear his word. The way of duty is the way of rest. The understanding finds rest in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, and is there abundantly satisfied, finding that wisdom in the gospel which has been sought for in vain throughout the whole creation, Job 28:12. The truths Christ teaches are such as we may venture our souls upon. The affections find rest in the love of God and Jesus Christ, and meet with that in them which gives them an abundant satisfaction; quietness and assurance for ever. And those satisfactions will be perfected and perpetuated in heaven, where we shall see and enjoy God immediately, shall see him as he is, and enjoy him as he is ours. This rest is to be had with Christ for all those who learn of him.
Well, this is the sum and substance of the gospel call and offer: we are here told, in a few words, what the Lord Jesus requires of us, and it agrees with what God said of him once and again. This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him.