We are again favoured with another splendid study from the pen of S.O.M. In future issues of Focus we hope S.O.M. will complete the series he has begun in this issue, and to this end the editor has both requested and urged him to do so.
The officers who were sent to arrest the Lord Jesus were so impressed by His persuasive words and natural eloquence that, overawed, they were unable to execute their commission and returned without Him. They exclaimed, “Never man spoke like this Man!” How true! The Lord always spoke graciously, but with authority, and at times even imperatively. There are four very interesting imperatives which He used when speaking to His own: “Come unto Me,” “Believe Me,” “Abide in Me,” and “Follow Me.” These are both instructive and challenging.
In the first place, these imperatives indicate the frailty of our humanity. The Lord knows how incredulous we become and how independent we act, so He calls, “Come unto Me.”
We are prone to doubt; consequently, He commands, “Believe in Me.” We also become barren and weak, so He exhorts, “Abide in Me.” The leadership of men frequently leaves us completely confused; therefore, He entreats, saying, “Follow Me.”
In the second place, these imperatives indicate the sufficiency of Christ. If we doubt, He is the anchorage of faith; if our lives are fruitless, He supplies the nourishment and strength. Should we at times stray and lose our way, He is the Ensign on the hill, our rallying point. Inasmuch as we are inclined to be self-assertive and to meddle in the affairs of others, gently He rebukes us and presents Himself as a powerful magnet to draw us to Himself. He calls to us all, “Follow Me.”
Come unto Me (Matthew 11:25-30)
Here is a divine invitation to all who are suffering under severe circumstances. To understand it properly we must consider its general setting, its immediate context, and the details of this invitation.
The General Setting
Matthew’s Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom; in it the Lord Jesus is the King. The four Gospels give us a four-fold portrait of the Lord. In Matthew He is a Prince; in Mark, a slave; in Luke, a cultured gentleman; and in John, the Son of God.
In the first ten chapters of Matthew, Christ is presented as the King by His herald, John the Baptist. He in turn offers Himself as Messiah King to the Jews, and sets forth the laws of His kingdom.
In chapter 11 we see the attitude of the whole nation to His offer.
This attitude is demonstrated by the attitude of three principal cities: Ca pernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida. This first section of Matthew ends with these very solemn words: “But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before my Father, who is in Heaven” (Matthew 10:33). As the nation rejected Christ, Christ rejected the nation. He turns from those who had rejected Him and appeals to all who are encumbered and dejected, and calls, “Come unto Me.”
Its Immediate Context
The six verses (11:25-30) which form the immediate context are very significant. The Lord here is praying. His prayer with its note of thanksgiving is in response to a communication from the Father. The text says, “Jesus answered.” What wonderful fellowship and understanding there must be within the Godhead! “…thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent,” continued the Lord Jesus in His prayer.
Later, the Apostle Paul wrote, “The world by wisdom knew not God” (1 Corinthians 1:21). Men have attempted to know God by wisdom through philosophy and science. They have not learned that infinite Wisdom has hidden Himself from most of such research. A few of the wise of this world have found God, but they found Him by faith, not by wisdom.
“And hast revealed them unto babes,” said the Lord Jesus, intimating that God gave revelations to the immature in the wisdom of the world, to the lowly, the inadequate and the humble. May God give us grace to be before Him as little children.
In the text the wise and prudent must have been the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the scribes and the priests; the babes were the Lord’s own disciples. And the disciples received this wonderful revelation; first, by the will of the Father: “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Second, it came through the ministry of the Son: “And he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.”
The Divine Invitation
In this gracious act, the Son, according to the context, is revealing the Father. Actually, it is God in Christ who speaks here — God manifested in flesh. Two or three questions and their answers may simplify these precious words.
Who may come? The belaboured and the heavily burdened. This description is frequently taken as picturing the sinner working, striving and struggling under a load of sin and guilt. There is no doubt that all such may find forgiveness, acceptance, and peace in Christ. But could it not also be a reference to the condition of some of the Lord’s own? Are there not some of God’s beloved people who are labouring and struggling to attain, say, sinless perfection or some higher spiritual state? Are there not some who are burdened with traditional legalism and its consequent discouragement? There were some in the early Church (Acts 15:10). To all in such a condition, the Lord Jesus says, “Come unto Me.”
Why should they come? First, because of the gift of Christ: “I will give you rest.” What a word to those who are floundering and are defeated in their own attempts to attain a higher spiritual level. In their coming to the Lord Jesus there is rest (Matthew 11:28), peace (John 14:27), and joy (John 16:22). Second, because of the example of Christ: “For (because) I am meek and lowly in heart.” Here is a word portrait of Christ. He is meek; that is, He is gentle and tender. He is not harsh and overbearing. What an example! Third, because of the teaching of Christ: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” Nicodemus said to the Lord, “Thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles which thou doest, except God be with Him” (John 3:2).
The Lord had suggested that the Father had reserved certain things for the babes. It is to them that the Lord said, “Learn of Me” (i.e. Learn from Me). He seems to be saying, “Come, study through Me in order to be informed and made to understand.
Later the world was forced to acknowledge that although these babes, who had been present at the time of His prayer, were unlearned and ignorant of the schools of men, they were a marvel. Well might the world take knowledge that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).
Two of the disciples, Peter and John, seem to taunt the so-called wisdom of this world by adding to the verb “to know” in their writings the prefix “full.” The world might have knowledge, but because of their association with the Lord, the disciples had full knowledge.
Finally, all who are belaboured and burdened down should come because of the yoke of Christ: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Here is complete provision for the laboured and heavy laden. To work in a poorly fitted or adjusted yoke would be very distressing. It could pinch and chafe and make any task difficult. The Lord Jesus says to all, “My yoke is easy,” that is, it is kind and good; it does not irritate.
The burden drawn by a yoke that chafes and hurts can only become more weighty. The Lord says, “My burden is light,” that is, it is easy to carry.
A yoke is literally used to bind two animals together in order that they may work together. In the Word of God it is used symbolically in numerous and different ways, some harmful and some beneficial.
The Lord Jesus does not impose His yoke upon any, but He is willing to share it with many. When Christ and the believer are yoked together, the burdens of life become lighter for the Christian, and he discovers that the Lord Jesus bears the greater part of any load.
“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee” (Psalms 55:22). He will sustain, not the burden only but thee — thyself and the burden, too.