The Yoke of our Lord

Read Matthew 11:25-30

Of the Lord's grace and yoke I would speak to you. But as you well know we miss the full meaning and beauty of the great sayings of Scripture if we separate them from their setting, so I must first show you the circumstances in which He spoke these most wonderful of all His words recorded in this Gospel of Matthew. "At that time," we read. What time was that? It was a solemn time, a time of crisis. As we reach this part of the Record a sadness creeps over our spirits, we feel that we are entering upon the fulfilment of Isaiah 53. There is a quotation from that heart-moving chapter in the 8th chapter of this Gospel. "Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses." The King had come to His kingdom, He had come to dwell among His people, full of grace and truth. He was with them to pour out His mercy upon them in a healing flood, but they did not know Him; to them He was only a passing sensation, He had no form or comeliness and when they saw Him, there was no beauty that they should desire Him. WHY?

You have all read Bunyan's immortal allegory, and may remember that when the pilgrims on their journey to the Celestial City reached the house of the good Gaius, where they were entertained after a godly sort, they had much profitable talk. The 53rd chapter of Isaiah was read, and old, white-haired Mr. Honest who was one of the pilgrim band enquired, Why was it that they saw no beauty in Him? And that is the question, surely, that must spring up in every honest, enquiring heart. Why? Greatheart who was the warrior and the instructor of the party — and no one can be a successful Christian warrior who is not instructed — answered, "Those of whom that is said lacked the eyes that could look into the heart of our Prince." That was a shrewd and inspired answer.

The wise and prudent of the day who formed public opinion, looked only upon what was outward, and for all their prudence they were deceived by the vain show in which they and their fellows paraded themselves, and Jesus was to them only "the carpenter," or "a Galilean," who "had never learnt." Away with Him! They were blind. Blind! Blind to the infinite, divine loveliness of Him, blind to what was in His heart. They were blinded by the god of this world whose willing prey they were, and as it was then, so it is now, even in this last week of July 1932, those who do not rally to our Prince are those that have no eyes to see into His heart. Did that heart, the tenderness of which they could not appreciate, feel it when they turned with contempt from Him? Yes, it felt it deeply, but for their sakes and not for His own. Behold Him stretching out His hands towards blind, rebellious Jerusalem, and saying, while tears of pity ran down His face, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings but ye would not." His heart was broken because they had no eyes to look into it, and because they spurned the love that was there.

It was in that crisis, "at that time," when it could be clearly seen that they wanted neither Him nor His blessing, when they despised and rejected Him, that He lifted up His eyes to His Father. Did the Father care? He had sent His beloved Son into the world. "Having therefore one Son, His well-beloved, He sent Him also to them, saying, They will reverence My Son" (Mark 12:6). Was He indifferent then to the fact that His Son was despised and rejected. No, He was not indifferent, He looked down upon it all and passed His judgment upon these wise and prudent men who imagined that they could discriminate and discern, and He left them to their blindness and gave to the babes eyes that could look into the heart of His Son, He revealed His grace to them.

It is a most affecting thing to keep in mind that if we have been attracted to Jesus and can say to Him

"Fairer than all the earthborn race
  Perfect in comeliness Thou art,
Replenished are Thy lips with grace
  And full of love Thy tender heart."

We have been the subjects of the Father's work. He has revealed these things to us, He has given us eyes that can look to the heart of our Prince. Our Lord was satisfied to have it so, since this was His Father's doings. There was no resentment in His heart, He accepted the situation, and spoke those memorable words of perfect submission, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." Which words I desire you to keep in mind.

But though He was rejected by the people who ought to have welcomed and worshipped Him, yet His glory could not be hid. He is more than King of the Jews, He is Heir too and has been called and anointed to a universal throne, for He said, "All things are delivered to Me of My Father." The Father has trusted Him, fully and for ever. Into His hands the Father has committed the maintenance of His limitless glory and the carrying out of all His will. His absolute and universal supremacy is assured; He has the disposal of every created being in His power, from the highest angel in heaven to the meanest demon in hell. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven, in earth and under the earth. But His personal greatness is greater than all that He will do. He is the Son, and none can know the mystery of His eternal being and of that eternal relationship but the Father. And He knows the Father, for He dwelt in an eternal intimacy of love in the Father's bosom, and He has come forth from the Father, and become Man that He might reveal to us men the Father's Name and love, that the fullness of joy and everlasting satisfaction that that Name and love afford might be ours, that we might share it with Him, who is to be the Firstborn among many brethren in the Father's house.

We are glad to have that glimpse of His greatness but now we come to the other side, we make haste to reverently acknowledge the glory of His Name, but now we must open our eyes to look into His heart. His face is toward the multitudes now. He has accepted His rejection by Israel and now offers Himself as the Saviour of a needy world. O listen to His words. "Come to Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." It is an overwhelming word. Behold Him in the presence of the world's need. He knew everything; He measured everything; He had heard every sigh, seen every tear, weighed every burden; no heart was hidden from Him; the sin, the sorrow, the sordidness of men's lives was all uncovered before His eye, and He stretched out His hands to the world, and cried to the world with its countless woes and claimant needs, "Come to Me!" … Of course, we say at once that only God could speak like that. For who but God could sooth every fevered spirit, relieve every accusing conscience, bind up every broken heart and bless every troubled sinner! Great is the mystery of Godliness! Only God could speak thus, and yet these words came from the lips of Jesus, the lowly, rejected yet unresentful Nazarene. God was manifested in the flesh!

Have you been arrested by these words? Then now you need eyes to look into the heart of the One who spoke them. If you can do this, wonderful things will be revealed to you. That heart cares for you, it pities you. He looks into your heart and knows its sins and hopes and fears, its shattered ambitions and hidden secrets and desires, He knows your burdens and every deep and unspoken longing of your soul. He knows

"The regret, the struggle and the failing!
The long days desolate and useless years!
Vows in the night, so fierce and unavailing!
Stings of your shame and passions of your tears."

As you look into His heart and see this you draw near, you are encouraged to commit yourself to Him, to trust in Him. Surely you may fully trust the One whom the Father has fully trusted, you may safely commit your soul and its everlasting welfare to Him whom the Father has committed all His glory. Yes, surely, but it is only as you look into His heart that you will really Come. It is the grace rather than the greatness of His Name that attracts us, the tenderness of His heart rather than the glory. Here is rest for you, perfect rest. The only One in heaven or earth who could undertake your case is willing to do it. He appeals to you to come to Him, to come just as you are, and to bring all you are, with everything that is a burden to you, He invites you, and there is the yearning of divine love in His words, to cease your labours, and to rest in Him.

"Lay down, thou weary one
Lay down thy head upon My breast."

How can He do it, and be consistent with God's holy Name and righteous rule? That question we must ask as we draw near to Him, and He answers it. Look upon the multitude to whom He calls. "There is not a man that sinneth not," said Solomon, as on bended knees he stretched out his hands in supplication to Almighty God. How can this question be met. Above that multitude of sinners a cross raises its rugged head, and to that cross Jesus went; on it He bore in His own body our sins; there He was wounded for our transgressions. And His great sacrifice and precious blood answer the question. The Lord has made to meet on Him the iniquities of us all, and our sins and iniquities are remembered no more. "I lay down My life for the sheep," He said, "I have power to lay it down and power to take it again, this commandment have I received of My Father."

Now it is this One who suffered for our sins, and whose grace has no limit, and Who is now the risen Lord who invites us, in winning tones, to subject ourselves to His will. "Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your soul" He says. Other lords have had dominion over us and the bondage was bitter. What a heavy yoke Satan lays upon the necks of his dupes and how he befools them. Artists have often portrayed Satan with a sardonic smirk upon his face, and they have not defamed him. He seems to take a pleasure in double-crossing his victims. We have examples in Scripture. He enticed Achan, and Achan saw and coveted the wedge of gold and the Babylonish garment, surely they were lawful plunder, but having got them what should he do with them? Bury them, that was all he could do, and he was soon buried with them beneath the avenging stones of an outraged people. And there was that servant of Elisha, who pursued Naaman because Satan had put it into his heart to covet his Syrian wealth and gay apparel, but do you think he would wear his ill-gotten finery with pride and satisfaction when with it went a leprous face? There are many examples both ancient and modern of this same thing, they warn us, if we need the warning, that the yoke of Satan is not easy and the burden of sin is not light, and that Satan lays his yoke upon the necks of his dupes with a sinister motive and a terrible purpose. How greatly we should rejoice if the hand of our Saviour has lifted that yoke from us and set us free. If the Son shall make you free ye shall be free indeed.

But we must come under some yoke, and Jesus offers His. Shall we not gladly accept it as a great gift? If we have looked into His heart we can do no other, for we shall be persuaded that His will can only mean our blessing. His will is not against us, it is for us and against everything that could do us harm, His will is our greatest blessing. In this Gospel of Matthew He is the King, but the King rejected, but we will not reject His Kingship. We rally afresh to His banner and with uplifted hands and loyal hearts we cry

"Christ of God our souls confess Thee,
King and Sovereign here and now."

How shall I speak for Him who invites us to yield to Him? He must speak for Himself. He says, "I am meek and lowly in heart." What is it to be meek? It is remarkable that Moses, the God-chosen leader for His people in the Old Testament, was the meekest man in all the earth; he was a figure of Jesus our Lord. God's leaders are meek, and that certainly does not mean weak. Meekness is not weakness. The meek man is the One who is subject to the will of God, and Jesus was so absolutely. "My Father's business," "Even so Father," "Not My will." This was the whole tenor of His life, and He has qualified by His great obedience to command us. In the meek man there is an absence of pride, meekness and lowliness go together. There have been leaders of men who were haughty tyrants, men of unbounded pride, who brooked no challenge to their wills. Such were Nebuchadnezzar, Nero, Napoleon. But think of JESUS. He took the lowest place, even with those disciples who rightly called Him "Master and Lord." His love made Him their servant. He is not a hard Master, His commandments are not grievous, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

"Learn of Me," He says. Some of us have rather unpleasant memories of teachers, and tasks, and schools. But who of us would desire to be excused from this school and from the lessons that our Lord would teach us? We learn of Him as we consider Him. His words are words of life to us, He teaches us by His ways also. Our wonder increases as we sit at His feet and learn of Him, and as we wonder we grow and worship. If we cease to wonder we shall cease to grow; we shall slip back and lose the joy of what we know. But as we learn of Him we wonder and grow and find rest to our souls. We rest in His perfect love, His perfect wisdom, His perfect way, we can take up His own words in all circumstances, "Even so, Lord, for so it seems good in Thy sight." And that submission to perfect love and wisdom means rest of soul.

But I have heard it said, "It is hard to be a Christian," and some of you have said it in your hearts if you have not confessed it with your mouths. A young Christian man said that to me once and he seemed very depressed about it. I met him about a year afterwards, and his face was radiant. "It was hard when I was half and half," he said, "but it's different now." He had yielded to the Lord's yoke and he was proving how true were the Lord's words, "My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

If your experience contradicts His word, it has not been true Christian experience, and can we discover where it is wrong? I once saw a man labouring with a mule. His desire was that it should go one way, its determination was to stand still just where it was. It was hard for the mule and hard for the master, for their wills were in opposition. If your will is opposed to the Lord's will, it is hard for you and it is not easy for Him, but that clash of wills will cease if you yield yourself wholly to Him. Do you find that difficult? Pray then for the single eye. Take your eye off the world's tinsel and its unsatisfying prizes, cease to consider for yourself and look into the heart of your prince. Here lies the secret. It is easy to yield to perfect love, and if you will look into the Lord's heart you will gladly yield yourself to Him, for His love for you is perfect, and you will find that His yoke is padded with love, it will not chaff or irk you. He will not lay upon you any burden you cannot bear. He lifts the heavy burdens, and puts a joyous burden on the necks of those who look into His heart. The burden He lays upon them is witness for Him; He wants you to bear Himself in witness to the world, to show to men what He is and how blessed a thing it is to belong to Him. It has been said, "His burden bears those that bear it."

Take these words of shrewd old Bunyan with you and consider them well? "Eyes that look into the heart of our Prince," and take these words of our Lord and let them be a comfort to your heart and a soft pillow for your head. "MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT."