“COME TO ME, ALL YOU WHO LABOR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN”
-We really want to get the revelation on this verse. Matthew 11:28 really is the clearest teaching on how to have a vibrant spirit, a happy heart. Jesus says, “Come to Me” (Mt. 11:28). He says, “I’m the source of the instruction, but I’m also the power source. Come to Me. Connect with Me and I’ll teach you about meekness; and I’ll empower you to walk it out.” It’s the all-important, “Come to Me.” He uses that invitation several times through the Gospels.
He says, “Come to Me, all that labor and are heavy laden” (Mt. 11:28, paraphrased). And of course it’s the whole human race. To be heavily laden means you have a heavy spirit. You’re weighed down in your emotions. You’re weighed down with things. He says, “I will give you rest” (v. 28b, NKJV). Now rest is a term that involves many things. He’s talking about our emotions. He’s talking about giving us the power of a vibrant spirit, a free spirit. He’s talking about a joyous, happy spirit. And He said, “Now I will tell you how to enter into rest. I’ll tell you how to get free from the heavy spirit.” And there are many different expressions of a heavy spirit. We all know them. I mean, we’ve all experienced a heavy spirit many times throughout our life.
“TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU AND LEARN OF ME, FOR I AM MEEK AND LOWLY”
But Jesus says in verse 29, “Here’s the way to freedom. You have to take My yoke. You have to yoke yourself to Me. And you have to learn from Me because I’m gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt. 11:29, paraphrased). “Lowly in heart” is translated in other Bible translations as humble or meek. It’s lowly of heart. And He says, “If you do this, you will find rest for your souls” (ibid). He repeats the promise that you’ll enter into rest. You’ll have a vibrant spirit. The spirit of heaviness will lift off of you over time.
HIS YOKE IS EASY, HIS BURDEN IS LIGHT
Then He goes on in verse 30 and He gives an encouragement: “Stay with the process, because if you stay with it, you’ll find out that My yoke is easy” (Mt. 11:30, paraphrased). Now the illustration of a yoke is very, very important. It’s central to this teaching of how to live in freedom and liberty. In the ancient world, as today, the farmer would put a pair of oxen or another pair of animals inside a yoke. And sometimes there would be two and sometimes there would be many oxen yoked together with a wooden yoke. And the yoke would be around their neck—both the lead oxen and the newer oxen that was just being broken in and trained in how to plow the fields. They would be yoked to an experienced ox, and that ox would lead the yoke.
We’re the new; and when we put that yoke on our neck, that yokes to Him. In the agricultural world, the “beginner ox” would tend to go either to the right or to the left. But they couldn’t get off the path because they were yoked in this wooden yoke next to the experienced ox that remained on the path. Jesus said, “Put that yoke on you,” because we’re chaining ourselves, we’re yoking ourselves to His pathway of meekness.
He says, “I’ll walk the path. Yoke yourself to Me. And when you want to go right and left, the yoke will keep you in the center. And that yoke is your commitment to learn from Me and to walk with Me in this pathway.”
Now it’s the yoke of meekness. And no one will put that yoke on you. God won’t put it on you; we have to put it on ourselves. We put it on ourselves by making a commitment to learn from Jesus in the realm of meekness and to follow it through with Him. And so we put that yoke on us and we begin the process of learning from Him.
Now the challenge of being yoked is this: in the earlier days of being yoked, the beginning stages of being yoked, the new ox feels the sores and the blisters of this new yoke. And it’s uncomfortable; it’s awkward. The new ox wants to get off the path and resist it, and so he kind of bucks the system and doesn’t like it at first. But over time, he gets into a rhythm. And the new ox adjusts to this new pathway, this new way of life. And so it’s a process. It takes time. There’s a resistance. It’s awkward at first. But Jesus is telling us in verse 30, “My yoke is easy” (Mt. 11:30). In other words, “If you stay with it: if you’ll stay yoked to Me in this pathway of meekness, eventually your heart will find rest. You’ll carry your heart in a new way.”
EXCELLING IN HUMILITY SHOULD BE ONE OF OUR HIGHEST AMBITIONS
Now here’s what the process of being yoked to the Lord is about. We start off being aware that humility is an important virtue. But our natural response to humility is to dodge it, to find ways to escape the yoke of humility. We’ll use Bible verses or the grace of God or social maneuvering to get out of having to face the issue of humbling ourself in relationships with people. We don’t like that yoke. But once we decide to take it on and wrestle, then over time, it becomes a primary life goal. I mean, it’s not just something we’re enduring; it’s not something we’re trying to escape. It’s actually something we settle in on. Our life goal isn’t just comfort or more blessing or more honor; our life goal is to excel in humility. And when that happens, the yoke becomes easy and we carry our heart in a different way.
THE MEEKEST MAN EVER TO WALK THE EARTH
Something happens on the inside when one of our primary life goals takes hold of meekness. Because it’s not natural to any of us to make that a primary goal in our life, but it’s the Lord’s agenda for our life. He’s the meekest Man that ever walked the earth, but He also had the freest and the happiest spirit of any man that ever walked the earth. And the two are related to one another.
Now this is the only characteristic Jesus ever proclaimed about Himself. He gave Himself titles; but He never, ever described a character trait about Himself, except here in verse 29. He said, “I’m meek,” or, “I’m humble,” or, “I’m lowly.” Use whatever word you want. The Lord commits Himself to training us in meekness if we will go with Him. He says, “Take the yoke; sign up for the class.” He won’t make you take this yoke. And again, putting on that yoke means we’re training ourselves or binding ourselves to a life of meekness according to His terms. That is what it means to take the yoke. Taking the yoke doesn’t just mean we ask the Lord to forgive us for our sins; we’re born again and we’re taking the yoke! No, that’s only the beginning of the beginning. The yoke of meekness is the call to discipleship.
As a matter of fact, in this very chapter, Matthew 11, earlier in verse 12, Jesus talked about spiritual violence: this radical abandonment to God. This is actually the yoke of meekness that He’s talking about. He described it just a few verses earlier referring to John the Baptist. He’s laying out the spiritual violence of the forerunner ministry. It’s living the yoke of meekness: not the occasional expression of humility, but humility defined as one of the primary goals of what we want to attain in this life. It’s violent, but once we settle that, it becomes easy. This doesn’t mean that the life externally is easy. But our heart comes to peace. There’s an enjoyment of God. There’s a vibrant spirit in coming to peace with this new alignment of our life, when our goal is to walk in the meekness and the yoke of humility that Jesus walks in.
THE GRAVITATIONAL PULL OF OUR HEARTS IS TOWARDS PRIDE
Well, we never graduate from this class. Sign up for the class, the yoke of meekness. And it’s a seminary course. It’s an internship that you’ll be in all your days. We need to assume that pride is strong in our being. Some folks have the opposite opinion. When someone suggests they’re proud, they’re scandalized. It’s exactly the opposite. Of course we’re proud.
I’ve had people tell me that over the years: “You’re proud!”
And I say, “Yeah…” I’m assuming that. The gravitational pull of all of our hearts is towards pride. And the assumption that we’re free from it is presumption on steroids. I’m talking about when people are troubled or offended that someone hints that you have pride! The reality is that it’s the biggest disease in the human heart, even in the midst of the family of God. And it’s the biggest battle we will fight all of our days. But it’s a battle that we can win. It’s the pathway of meekness. It’s this course we never graduate from. We spend all the days of our life learning this from Jesus.
TAUGHT BY CHRIST IN THE SCHOOL OF HUMILITY
Now I want to encourage you: look at verse 29. He says, “Learn from Me to take up that invitation of Jesus and make it a part of your life routine.” Mike Bickle has a teaching, “Ten Prayers that Strengthen the Inner Man.” And I take the ten-letter acronym, F-E-L-L-O-W-S-H-I-P and assign a theme and a Bible verse to each one of the letters. And I try to pray through that list on a regular basis for my own life and heart, and the “H” in F-E-L-L-O-W-S-H-I-P is humility. It’s this verse.
Or I do this. As often as possible, I take a few minutes and say, “Lord, teach me. Teach me the way of humility.” Now I want to ask you this question. Do you actually ask Jesus to teach you? Because He committed to teach you if you want to learn. Because if it’s not intentional, you won’t do well in this class. If you don’t know you’re in this class, you probably won’t do well in the class. But if you’re intentional and you’re committed to going the distance, this class will go well for you.
But it’s not even an issue of praying once or twice. I urge you to make this a prayer that you pray about as close to daily as possible. “Teach me, Lord. I want to come to You to learn this yoke. Give me insight on how it’s to be expressed.” Because humility has so many facets to it. I’m only going to identify a few today; there are any more than I could identify in one teaching. I don’t know all the facets; I only know a few of them. But pride has many, many tentacles that work beneath the surface in our heart. And so it’s a lifelong journey to learn from Him. We sign up for the course; we stick with it all the days of our life. But as we grow in it, our heart gets freer and freer.
Now let me say this to anyone who trains others in how to get free in the heart. There are different counseling ministries, which I really appreciate. I want to encourage you to make Matthew 11:28-30 your main source of curriculum, because there’s no liberty apart from this yoke. Anyone who promises freedom from the heart without the yoke of humility, without yoking himself to Jesus in this in a long-term way, sees only a mirage of freedom. It’s never going to happen at the heart level. Those people will live continually weighed down, heavy- laden in their emotions.
YOUR PRIMARY ASSIGNMENT IS TO GROW IN LOVE AND MEEKNESS
Jesus said, “My yoke is easy.” Now He’s not talking about external circumstances: “Your life will be externally easy!” That’s not what He’s saying. He’s talking about the internal condition, the state of your heart. You’ll enjoy your walk with God once you settle in that one of your primary assignments in this life is to grow in meekness.
Your primary assignment is not to be rich and famous.That’s not your primary assignment. You may end up rich and famous, but that is incidental. Your primary assignment actually is to grow in meekness, to grow in love. Now meekness and love are interchangeable. Meekness and love are interchangeable. If I had to come up with a distinction, I would say, “Meekness focuses on our attitude. Love focuses on the action, deeds, and words that are expressed to others.” They’re two sides of one coin; two tributaries out of one river, or, I don’t know what analogy you want to use. But we have a humble spirit, so we express deeds and words of love to other people. But in reality it’s essentially the same thing.
So the easy yoke is the ability to enjoy God: the ability to have greater grace to obey Him, that’s the yoke. That’s the internal yoke that Jesus is promising the people.