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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Take my yoke upon you.—As the teaching of the Pharisees was a yoke too grievous to be borne, so the yoke of Christ is His teaching, His rule of life, and so is explained by the “learn of Me” that follows. (Comp. Ecclesiasticus 51:26.)
I am meek and lowly in heart.—The stress lies upon the last words. Others might be lowly with the lowliness which is ambition’s ladder, but pride and self-assertion were reigning in their hearts. The Christ, in His infinite sympathy with men of all classes and conditions, could boldly incur the risk of seeming to boast of His humility, in order that He might win men to come and prove by experience that He was able and willing to give them rest, to hear the tale of their sorrows, and to turn from none with scorn.
Ye shall find rest unto your souls.—Here, as often elsewhere in our Lord’s teaching, we have a direct quotation from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 6:16).Matthew 11:29-30. Take my yoke upon you — Believe in and obey me: hearken to me as a teacher, rely on me as a Saviour, and be subject to me as a governor. And learn of me — Μαθετε απ’ εμου, Be my disciples; be taught by me, namely, all things pertaining to your acceptance with God, your duty, and your happiness: for I am meek and lowly in heart — Meek toward all men, lowly toward God. As an instructer, I will show myself to be most mild, gentle, and forbearing; kind and condescending toward all my disciples, directing them with tenderness, patience, and lenity, in the way to pardon, life, and salvation, not imposing on them any unnecessary burdens: and, as an example, recommending by my practice both meekness and humility; meekness by bearing all kinds of injuries, and humility by condescending to do the meanest good offices to the meanest of mankind. Learn, then, of me to be meek and humble, both in disposition and behaviour; and ye shall find rest to your souls — That composure, tranquillity, and satisfaction which nothing but humility and meekness, with an entire subjection to me, can give. The original words may be properly rendered, Ye shall find refreshment to your souls, such as you would in vain seek elsewhere; refreshment, arising from clear manifestations of the divine favour, consoling influences of his Spirit, lively hopes of his glory, and sensible communion with him. For my yoke is easy — Gr. χρηστος, gracious, sweet, benign, agreeable; and my burden light — Or, pleasant, as
ελαφρον also signifies. Such it is to those in whose hearts the love of God prevails over the love of the world and sin. To them, the commandments of God are not grievous, but delightful. They love his law, and their pleasure is in it all the day long.
(2) of afflictions or crosses, Lamentations 3:27.
(3) of the punishment of sin, Lamentations 1:14,
(4) of the commandments of God.
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.
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.See Poole on "Matthew 11:30".
"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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 11:29-30. To regard ζυγός (Olshausen, Calvin) as referring to the cross, is at variance with the context. Jesus has in view His guidance and discipline, to which they are to subject themselves through faith in Him. Comp. Sir 51:26, and the very common Rabbinical use of עול in Schoettgen, p. 115 ff.
ὅτι] not that, but because; motive for μάθετε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ (i.e. learn in me, learn from me; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 279 [E. T. 324]), with which words Jesus presents Himself as their moral example, in contrast to the character of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, who, if they affected to be meek and humble, were, as a rule, not so at heart (τῇ καρδ. belongs to both words), but only in appearance, while in reality they were tyrannical and proud. Comp. 2 Corinthians 10:1.
κ. εὑρήσετε, κ.τ.λ.] Jeremiah 6:16.
χρηστός] may mean good and wholesome (comp. παίδευσις χρηστή, Plat. Rep. p. 424 A), or suave (Vulg.), gentle and agreeable. The latter suits the figure and the parallelism.
τὸ φορτίον μου] the burden which I impose (comp. on Galatians 6:5).
ἐλαφρόν] for it is the discipline and duty of love, through which faith manifests its practical results, 1 John 5:3. “Omnia levia sunt caritati” (Augustine), notwithstanding the strait gate and the narrow way, and the cross that is to be borne.Matthew 11:29. ζυγόν: current phrase to express the relation of a disciple to a master. The Rabbis spoke of the “yoke of the law”. Jesus uses their phrases while drawing men away from their influence.—μάθετε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ: not merely learn from my example (Buttmann, Gram., p. 324: on, that is, from the case of), but, more comprehensively, get your learning from me; take me as your Master in religion. The thing to be learned is not merely a moral lesson, humility, but the whole truth about God and righteousness. But the mood of Master and scholar must correspond, He meek as they have become by sorrowful experience. Hence ὅτι πραΰς … τῇ καρδίᾳ: not that, hut for I am, etc. What connection is there between this spirit and knowledge of God? This: a proud man cannot know God. God knoweth the proud afar off (Psalm 138:6), and they know God afar off. God giveth the grace of intimate knowledge of Himself to the lowly.—ἀνάπαυσιν: rest, such as comes through finding the true God, or through satisfaction of desire, of the hunger of the soul.29. learn of me] i. e. “become my disciples;” an idea also conveyed by the word “yoke,” which was used commonly among the Jews for the yoke of instruction. Stier quotes from the Mishna, “Take upon you the yoke of the holy kingdom.” Men of Belial=“Men without the yoke,” “the uninstructed.”
for (or, because) I am meek and lowly in heart] The character of Jesus described by Himself; cp. 2 Corinthians 10:1, “the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” It is this character that brings rest to the soul, and therefore gives us a reason why men should become His disciples.
rest unto your souls] Cp. Jeremiah 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.”
unto your souls] Not relief from external bodily toil.
my burden is light] Contrast with this the burden of the Pharisees, ch. Matthew 23:4, “heavy burdens and grievous to be borne.”Matthew 11:29. Ἄρατε, take ye) To take the yoke of Christ upon us, is to give oneself up wholly to His discipline.—ὅτι, κ.τ.λ., because, etc.) Hence it appears why we should willingly learn from Jesus. Our meekness and lowliness are consequent upon our so doing.—πρᾶός εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς, κ.τ.λ., I am meek and lowly, etc.) Although His language is fearful in Matthew 11:20; Matthew 11:24. Meekness produces easiness of yoke; lowliness of heart, lightness of burden. The Pharisees were austere and proud. Condescension (Demissio) is a much to be admired virtue of God, which is described as fully as possible, although it is not named in Scripture, by one word; whose likeness, humility, is found in the saints; whose opposite, pride, in Satan and the wicked. For it is condescension, that that highest Majesty should have deigned at all to make creatures, and especially men, however contemptible, however mean, and to look on them without disdain, and to unite them to Itself. And the Son of God in a most conspicuous manner manifested His humility in our flesh.—See Psalm 34:7; Psalm 113:6; Luke 1:48; Luke 1:52-53; Luke 12:37; Luke 22:27; John 12:26; John 13:14; Php 2:8; Hebrews 11:16.—τῇ καρδίᾳ, in heart) Lowly does not by itself express a quality of the heart, which meek does; therefore in heart refers rather to lowly than to meek. The word καρδίᾳ completes the expression: see Romans 2:5.—καὶ, and) καὶ is introduced as in κἀγὼ, and I, in Matthew 11:28. Thus the LXX. in Jeremiah 6:16, καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀγνισμὸν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν and ye shall find purification for your souls. Rest flows from the heart of Christ into our souls; see Matthew 11:29.—εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν, ye shall find rest) as yet unknown to you, but sought for and desired.
 In E. V. it is, “And ye shall find rest unto your souls.”—(I. B.)Verse 29. - Vers. 29, 30 have so much in common with both the language and the thought of Ecclus. 51:26, 27, that probably this passage was in our Lord's mind. It is noteworthy that most of the other signs of acquaintance with Ecclesiasticus are found in the Epistle of St. James (cf. Edersheim, in the 'Speaker's Commentary' on Ecclesiasticus, p. 22). Take my yoke upon you. For there is work to be done, therefore enter on it. The yoke is the service that Christ gives us to do, and therefore implies more than his teaching. This, however, is so important a part of his service, both in itself and as being the means of knowing what he wishes done, that Christ speaks of it as though almost identical with his yoke. (On the figure of the yoke, compare a note by Professor Ryle and Mr. James, in 'Psalms of Solomon,' 7:8, suggesting that our Lord was contrasting his yoke with the yoke of minute legal observance laid upon the people by the scribes and Pharisees. For a detailed description of the yoke and plough used now in Palestine, see an article by Dr. Post in the Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration for 1891, p. 112.) And learn of me. The figure of the oxen passes into that of the scholars. The "of" is slightly ambiguous, and may refer to Christ as the Example from which they may draw the lesson for themselves (Matthew 24:32), or as the Teacher who will himself instruct them (Colossians 1:7). The second meaning is more suitable here. (For the thought, comp. John 8:31.) For. The reason why they should learn from him and no other teacher. He alone was what he claimed to teach, therefore he alone could teach it properly, and therefore from him alone could they learn that type of character which they ought to develop. I am. Observe the claim. It is almost greater than that of ver. 27. Meek. Primarily, as regards God (Matthew 5:5, note). Receiving in my degree whatever yoke my Father puts on me. And lowly in heart. As regards men. Observe that meek and lowly correspond, though the order is reversed, to "He humbled himself and became obedient" (Philippians 2:8, where ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτόν does not refer to the Incarnation (ἐκένωσεν ἑαυτόν), but to his relation to others in this world). In heart (Matthew 5:8, note). "Lowly in heart" very nearly corresponds to "he that is of a lowly spirit." Such a person as Christ's experience shows (Philippians 2:9) "shall obtain honour" (Proverbs 29:23). And ye shall find rest unto your souls. In this learning and service. The words are taken from Jeremiah 6:16 (not the LXX.; cf. also Ecclus. 6:28), where they form the promise given to those that ask for the old paths and walk in the good way of the Divine commandments. But these roads were now more clearly made known in Christ. Observe the full force of the two expressions, I will give you rest (ver. 28), and Ye shall find rest. The tired comers are at once refreshed by Christ; these accept his service and teaching, and in performing it find further rest. The first rest may be termed the peace of justification; the second, that of sanctification. Both are obtained through Christ alone, yet they are not to be confused, much less identified, with one another.
"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").
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