Matthew 11:28-30

The exposition of these three verses must be seen as a continuation of the three before them and there ought to be no break whatever in our thought processes as we consider the Words of our Lord.  What I hope and pray will happen is an in-depth understanding of the unfolding of the truth as our Lord progressively reveals the absolutes about the eternal decrees of God, and about the condition of mankind.

Last Lord’s Day we saw Jesus openly acknowledge that His Father had concealed all these things about the Kingdom from all those who considered themselves of some worth.  These He euphemistically calls “wise and intelligent,” and this group is personified by the Pharisees whose primary motivation, it seems, was their own self-esteem.

And Jesus also acknowledges that His Father has revealed all these things to those who realize that they have nothing with which to commend them to God.  These He calls “babes” or “children,” and they are personified by the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” and by the despised, rejected and destitute of the nation.

And Jesus makes it plain that the depraved condition of all mankind includes this perverted and twisted view of its own self-worth, but that His Father’s good-pleasure is that all these things be hidden from some and revealed to others!

And, further, Jesus ends any speculation about the condition of men by saying that no one knows Him – except His Father.  And no one knows the Father except Jesus.  Everyone else is excluded – and that means all men!  But by God’s “good pleasure” He is revealed to some, and Jesus is the One Who reveals Him.  And since “all things” have been delivered over to Him, which includes the prosecution of God’s eternal decree, Jesus is now the One Who wills to reveal the Father to those who are poor in spirit.

And all of that exalted language spills and flows directly into these next words of Christ which form the next three verses. 


“Come unto Me all those who labor and have been burdened down, and I, Myself, will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and find a place of rest for your souls.  For My yoke is pleasant and My burden is light.”


Now, before I get into a discussion of the language here, let me tell you about an organization which came to my attention this week, which, I think, will serve to illustrate the nature of man and the ones whom Jesus is not commanding to come in these verses, from whom God has concealed.

There are a number of institutions, including Notre Dame, Harvard Divinity School, Vassar, and others, who meet twice a year for “the Jesus seminar.”  This is a convention of wise to intelligent thinkers sponsored by a new age think tank called Westar Institute near San Francisco.

But this group claims that eighty percent of Jesus’ words weren’t spoken by Him, but were inserted by the authors of the Gospels.  They’ve eliminated almost all of His words in the Gospel of John!  Their conclusions are now being published in various “red letter” editions of the Bible.  And they have this new color scheme whereby they print what He said in red, what He might have said in shades of pink and gray, and the words which were “put in His mouth” by the authors are all in black.  So far the “Jesus seminar” has included thirty-one items in red, two hundred two in pink and one thousand thirty-four in gray or black!

In covering this group the press has stressed the high academic credentials of the attendees, and, naturally, the results of their work will count more (with the press) than all the preaching that is done in the faithful Churches of the land!  And, by the way, the next seminar will include discussions to the acts of Jesus – such as, whether there was really a resurrection!

I thought that might be interesting to you, since these things aren’t being done in the so-called “secular” world, but in the “religious!”   These are just a few of the Pharisees of our day who, because of one reason or another, have placed themselves as judges over the words and deeds of our Lord!  And, frankly, I don’t see much denial of “self” there, do you?  In fact, what I see is a prideful “setting” themselves against the authority of God!  Just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, these men and women don’t like what is written, so, rather than putting themselves “under” Christ’s preaching, they have taken it upon themselves (publicly) to denigrate the preaching!  Because – and we’ve already seen this a number of times – if you evacuate the content of the Gospel, then you don’t have to put yourselves under it!

I bring this up this morning – as one of dozens of similar things which come across my desk – because it is a perfect example of those who Jesus does not include in His command to “come” – here in verse twenty-eight.  I use the word “command” because that’s exactly what it is.  He finishes saying that He is the One Who reveals the Father to whom He wills, and says “dute pros me” – come now unto Me – “all of you who labor and have been burdened down….”

All men are blind and deaf and unclean and lame and demon-possessed and dead; and not one of you knows Me or My Father; and I reveal My Father to whom I will….  “Come now unto Me….”  All things have been delivered over to Me by My Father, “come now unto Me….”

Who?  Not those, certainly, who pass judgment on His words or deeds!  Who is to come unto Him?  “… all of you who labor and have been burdened down….”

Terrible and striking language, isn’t it?  Present tense – laboring.  The word has nothing to do with work!  There are other words for work in the language, and, at this stage in the Gospel, this isn’t one of them.

Have you heard the term “labored breathing?”  Or, maybe, a “labored existence” – an existence which is on the brink of extinction but which hangs on by the hardest?

Every time I pick up something which has to do with this verse, and it says that Jesus has reference to those who work hard in the Christian Community, it infuriates me, because that’s the essence of a works religion!  If Jesus says, “come unto Me all you who work hard for the Christian Community, and I will give you rest…” then I had better stop preaching the doctrines of grace!

Laboring – present tense – beaten down, oppressed, rejected, on the brink of calling it a day, wearied of the troubling, living from breath to breath; sick, diseased and despised – no hope.  “Come unto Me you who are laboring….”  My Father has given over everything to Me, Come unto Me….

And – “all of you who have been burdened down” – come unto Me.  This word isn’t in the present tense; it’s in the perfect tense, and it’s passive!  In other words, the ones whom Jesus is commanding to come to Him are those who have had something happen to them in the past, and the effects and results of that continue to the day.  And the word translated “burden” here, means to load on to a freighter – in its basic sense.  Once burdened and still burdened.

It is true that the Pharisaical legal system was terribly oppressive – as all unlawful law systems are oppressive – and the poor and wretched of Jewish society under their leadership fell prey to their evil and became objects of unjust treatment.  They became loaded with oppression – stifling oppression!  “All of you who have been burdened down” … come unto Me.

But having seen these things, we, have yet to take the next step, you see, from the very obvious, literal meaning all the way over to this very powerful and dynamic context where it fits in so beautifully!  The literal translation of the words (only) would leave us in the realm of simple economic, emotional, and physical oppression by the leadership of Israel!  But we know that this context has to do with the law of sin which reigns in the body of depraved men!  But we’ll get to that in a couple of minutes.

First, we need to see what the normal interpretation of these things leads to.  And I say “normal” in the sense that it’s the usual and biased interpretation of the commentators and antinomians that Jesus has reference to the oppression of the Law! – that the people of Israel, all of them, were weighed down with the demands of the Law of God!  And that Jesus invited all the people of Israel to come to Him, because He would give them rest from the grueling constraints of the Law.

I’m going to say some more about this in a little while, but for now I’ll just mention the fact that nowhere in the language, grammar, history, context or text is there any reason to come to that conclusion.  That reasoning just comes out of nowhere!  The only thing that could be said about the Law we’ve already said, which was that the Pharisees did, indeed, use a self-preserving and self-edifying, but false, interpretation of the Law in order to keep themselves elevated in the eyes of the populace and keep the people under oppression.  But that was clearly Pharisaical manipulation of God’s Law and not the Law given to Moses at Sinai!

So to say that the laboring and burdened people to whom Jesus was speaking when He commanded them to come to Him were under the oppression of God’s Law has no basis in the Bible, in Theology or reason!

But let’s quickly get to some of the other words in these verses, and then we’ll see about interpreting it all.

The next one occurs at the end of this verse twenty-eight – rest.  This isn’t the overall “Shabbat” – rest – which is ours for eternity, but a more limited idea.  And it is directly connected to the laboring and the having been burdened down.  In other words, the “rest” promised by Christ is a state completely opposite the laboring and burdened state, and it is given to those who come to Him.  He gives it.  And He can do that because everything has been delivered over to Him by His Father.

Then Jesus says, “take My yoke.”  A yoke is a sign of dependence and submission.  In Revelation six, the rider on the black horse has a yoke in his hand (slavery and oppression).  In Isaiah chapter nine, God is said to break the yoke which is on the Gentile nations.  In First Timothy six the slave is under yoke and must submit.

It’s very obvious that those who are laboring and are burdened down under such a tremendous weight are under yoke, and they are in submission to that yoke.  They can’t do anything about it.  But Jesus says, “take My yoke upon you and learn of Me.  My yoke is pleasant.”  It’s easy to bear.  It’s the very opposite of the yoke of awful oppression under which you now are burdened – laboring!  Take Mine, and you’ll never be under submission again to the one you now submit to!

How can a yoke be pleasant?  What is the yoke of oppression under which all men are submitted?  What’s the nature of the “rest” promised by Jesus?  Why does Jesus refer to Himself as meek and lowly in heart?  And what is the real meaning of laboring and burdened down?


“Come unto Me all you who are laboring and who have been burdened down, and I will give you rest.”


Christ commands those who are fainting under the burden to come to Him.  Not the rest of them! – because the hypocrites have no concern for Christ, they’re intoxicated with themselves!  The rest are not poor in spirit, they’re not mourning their sin, they’re not hungering and thirsting for righteousness!  Christ calls the laboring and the burdened down to come to Him.  The rest are devoted to self and to the world, and they have no use whatever for mourning – they set no value at all on submission and meekness – they could care less for the fear of God, and for Godliness, and for living in Christ!  So Christ commands the wretched and afflicted to come to Him!

And He speaks of their groaning under a burden – not the oppression of the Pharisees, not the burden of God’s Law! – like those who are vexed and oppressed with grief, but those who are overwhelmed by their sin! – those who are filled with alarm at the wrath of God and are ready to sink under the weight of it all! – those whose consciences are distressed by the exposure to eternal death, and who are so pressed down by their misery.

These figures of the blind and the deaf and the dead; and the laboring and the burdened down – they’re all descriptive of the state of mankind, and the necessity for each one to see his own poverty – that he’s fit only for the wrath and anger of God, and that he has no worth with which to seek the favor of God!

And all of this is in the context of the affliction and oppression of Israel’s leadership over the despised and rejected of the nation.  They did the exact opposite of the Messiah, because they used the Law in an unlawful way to oppress and enslave the people.  Where Christ frees His people from the curse of the Law, which kills those who will not mourn their sin against God! – rest from the curse!

As I look at these Pharisees in Israel in the time of Christ, I see many who are entangled and entrapped by Christ, who were sincerely persuaded that they possessed a righteousness!  That they worshipped God!  That they had all they needed to be happy!  But Christ admitted, (and now admits), none to the enjoyment of His rest, but those who sink under the burden of their own sin!  Do you see that!?

Again let me say that this is not the burden of the Law of God!  It is the curse of the Law under which all men stand condemned!  The Law is a terrible burden to the self-concerned, for with it comes the curse.  It kills!

The laboring and the burden is the sense of worthlessness and uncleanness and iniquity and hopelessness to which a man must be brought and it is the prerequisite to entering into the “rest” which is promised by Christ!  The laboring and groaning under the burden is the curse of sin, and Christ’s rest is the rest from the curse – the refreshing of cleansing and forgiveness and the lifting away of the burden and the release from being overwhelmed by sin!

It has been said that the realization of our deadness makes us like “dead men.” – we die helpless – worthless.  But that’s the beginning of repentance to which no man can aspire on his own!  For no man can know Christ and no man can know the Father!  But we must become “dead men.”  In other words the dead man has to see his own deadness and die.  Put self to death.  And the yoke of that depravity to which he’s been submitted will be replaced with the yoke of Christ – which is so much easier and more pleasant.  No more laboring.  No more being burdened down with the weight of sin.

That’s not to say that living in Christ and suffering in Him is going to be easy.  That’s not what He means.  But the yoke of absolute submission to Christ is altogether different from the yoke of eternal death – the result of the curse.  The yoke of depravity and enmity with God is a tyrannical slave-master.  But the yoke of Christ is easy.  In Him is life.

Learn of Him.  He’s meek and lowly in heart.  Not full of pride and self-concern, but anxious to please His Father and submit to His authority.  Learn from Him.  And in Him is that place of rest – that covering from wrath – that satisfaction for punishment.  The rest in Christ is so blessed because the greatest anxiety in the heart of man is gone – the fear of abandonment from God due to uncleanness and sin.

And if Jesus is meek and lowly in heart, and we’re to learn of Him, then it’s meekness and lowliness that we’re supposed to learn!  We’re to come in poverty of spirit because of our uncleanness, and we’re to learn meekness and lowliness.  That’s where the perfections are!  And that’s the very meaning of His yoke.

But those who refuse the yoke of Christ rebel against meekness and lowliness, and they try to appease God in other ways!  And in doing so they distress and waste themselves in vain.  People groan under the tyranny of self and its sin in order that they might not bow to Christ!  Instead of humble cries of prayer and supplication before God, it is preferable to most to stay within themselves and deal with their own self-concerns.  Some are angry with everything and everyone around them.  They’re so filled up with self that that’s all they can think about!  All around them is the problem!

Others are intoxicated with power and influence.  Still others are so filled up with self that all they can think about is their economic future.  And there are even those who, like the Jesus seminars attendees, who are bonafide wolves, willfully ripping and tearing at the fabric of the Kingdom.  And, as you all could probably supply, there are a number of other categories of self-willed, rebellious people, laboring under the great weight of their own uncleanness, who stubbornly refuse to see their own problem.  The offices of lawyers and psychiatrists and marriage counselors are filled with them every day.  That’s how they make their living – dealing with self-willed and self-concerned people!

Now.  One more thing and I’ll quit.  There’s no denial here from Jesus that His yoke is a burden.  He just says that it’s easy.  It’s completely different from the yoke of slavery to depravity and curse.  In Him is refreshing release from that yoke.  But there is a burden to which men must submit.  And He is deliverer to those who submit to it.

But many abuse the grace of Christ by turning it into an indulgence of the flesh!  But Christ doesn’t absolve men from their sin so that they might sin with greater freedom!  But, being freed from the terror of being the subjects of God’s eternal wrath, men are freed to cast off the curse of the Law and restrain the flesh!  Fleeing to Christ for His rest never exempts us from the warfare of the flesh!  But just the opposite – it is to train us under the burden of His yoke.

But He says it’s pleasant – the burden is light.  “Come to Me all of you who are laboring and are burdened down, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I Am meek and lowly in heart, and find a place of rest for your souls.”  If you find the self, you’ll lose it.  But if you destroy the self, you’ll find it.  Come unto Me in poverty of spirit, and I’ll give you a place of rest.