"Come unto me, . . . . and I will give you rest."
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me . . . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Matt. 11.
Faith knows the Lord Jesus, exalted to the right hand of the majesty in the heavens, as the One in whom all fulness dwells, unto whom all power is given in heaven and earth, seated on the throne, the orderer of and ruler over all. There is He blessed, and blessed for ever. But it is altogether another place in which we see Him stand in this chapter - despised and rejected of all those unto whom He had presented Himself in the name of Jehovah. And there, too, is He blessed, and blessed for us.
John the Baptist - "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" - even he seems doubting.
Israel - "Whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented," - equally displeased with John and with Jesus, content neither with law nor with grace. Men do not like righteousness, that is too strict for them; neither like they grace, that is too free: they would have part one and part the other.
Again. If we look at the "cities wherein most of His mighty works were done" - "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which have been done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you," - we find them worse than any other. So that here we see the Lord Jesus rejected on every hand.
It is a solemn thought, that we are "unto God a sweet savour of Christ in them that perish," as well as "in them that are saved." His testimony rejected, the soul of Jesus finds its rest in God. He had done God's will; the name of God had been glorified - there was all the full consciousness of this, and, therefore, what blessed repose of soul! Nowhere do we find the Lord Jesus rising more above the power of circumstances, rejoicing more in spirit than here. His soul, in the midst of this weary world, needed rest, needed repose, and it found that which it needed in submitting to the will of God.
"At that time" - after and amidst all the rejection, the Lord Jesus "answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight!" He bowed to the righteous sovereignty of God.
Now I believe this would ever be the position of soul in the saint when walking in communion with God. Assuredly it is the right spirit, because the recognition of God's "ordering all things after the counsel of His own will." But, then, how different from the petulance of many of us!
Jesus, when rejected, could still rest in the sovereignty of God. If we witness our testimony rejected; our wishes disappointed; our motives misunderstood; trial coming whence we least expected it, from Christians, perhaps from our own family, from those whom we have sought to serve; then is the time to bow to the righteous sovereignty of God, and to say, "I thank thee, O Father: for so it seems good in thy sight." Oh, dear friends, if our souls knew a little more of the marvellous mercy vouchsafed unto any of us, in God's having revealed Jesus, quickened us when dead in trespasses and sins, put forth the arm of His power on our behalf, we should not be wasting our time, as is now too frequently the case, in vain murmurings and regrets; but should be enabled to say, "I thank thee, O Father: for so it seems good in thy sight."
Beloved, this is most blessed; there is in it the recognition of the "good and acceptable and perfect will of God;" there is no reasoning here. In Jeremiah we find complaint, cursing the day in which he was born; in Habakkuk, argument; in Job, self-vindication; but here there is nothing of the sort, it is simple subjection to the "will of God," as being the best thing possible. "Even so, Father: for so it seems good in thy sight."
What "seemed good" in the Father's sight, was good in the sight of Jesus. It was ever so. "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." Now this is resignation. It is not resignation merely to bow to that which we cannot escape; true resignation recognises a thing to be good and fitting, because the will of God, however trying, however painful to ourselves. "I thank thee."
There is another blessed truth. When Jesus felt Himself to be rejected by all about Him, He said, "All things are delivered unto me of my Father." Here the Lord Jesus stands so blessedly - in utter rejection by man; but "all things" given unto Him "of God."
Beloved, did you never find, when your own wills have been thwarted, when there has been self-denial, and the bowing of the will to God, something opened to the soul in blessing which it had never known before? It is habitually and practically true, that "he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
As to matter of fact, Jesus is here the rejected One - rejected of the world; but, as the consequence of this, He is the exalted One of the Father. And now He can tell forth, "no man knoweth the Son but the Father." Although the world knew Him not, the Father knew Him; although the world delighted not in Him, the Father delighted in Him; although He was not precious to the world, He was precious to the Father.
Again: "Neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." I find that the Lord Jesus Christ, by the knowledge of the Father in His own soul, was supported all through His rejection, and now He stands forth as able to "reveal" the Father's name to others. The Father is only known by the revelation of the Son. "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent Me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them."
If you are of the world, you will not want to know that name which Jesus came to manifest. If the world is your portion, you will not want to know that name which was the portion of Jesus when the world had rejected Him. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
But I would now speak a little on the last verses of this chapter, and endeavour to bring out some of the blessed truth contained in them.
There is a marked distinction between what is said here of Jesus giving rest and our finding rest, a distinction of much importance. He does not tell me to do any thing in order that He might give me rest, it is simply "come unto me;" but in order to my finding rest, He says, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart." Practical obedience is made necessary.
It is of great moment to see the connection these things have one with the other; the saints often lose the present practical enjoyment of the rest which Jesus has given them because of not taking heed to it.
In the consciousness of the possession of "all things all things being delivered unto Him of the Father, all power given unto Him in heaven and earth, all judgment committed unto Him, everything (for there is not one single thing which the Father has not given into the hands of Jesus as the rejected One of the world) His - He says, Come unto me."
What a most blessed connection is there then between Jesus receiving "all things" and His asking us to come unto Himself. He does not say "come unto me" as the despised and rejected One merely; no, "come unto me" as the One, "despised and rejected" indeed "of men," yet having in Himself all that men eagerly seek after, all that they count estimable, every thing that is an object of human ambition. "He is worthy to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory, blessing." There is in Him whom the world has rejected, not only every thing that is suited to our need as sinners, but that also which can satisfy the utmost desire of our hearts, therefore it is, "Come." This is most blessed; it shows forth the grace of the heart of Jesus. When we find Him as the "rejected" One turning round and saying "come unto me!" "come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," we learn grace indeed!
Coming unto Him, believing on His name, is all the great secret of the rest He offers. The self-righteous multitude, the scribes, the Pharisees, the lawyers, had rejected Him, but Jesus knew that there were some standing around weary, heavy-laden ones, trying to get rid of their burden of guilt in vain. The law could never give them relief; the law could never take away their sin. To these He turns, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest." Again: there were those who had had the experience of trying to find rest in society, in friends, in the world, and to them He says, "Come unto me." Rest, true rest, is received in simply coming to Jesus. What is it that my soul wants? "Come unto me" is the invitation; all that it needs is in the hands of Jesus - pardon of sin, eternal life, rest, whatever it may desire, all is provided for it there.
I will here notice the order in which these things are presented. The Lord Jesus does not tell us to find rest until He has first given us rest. I believe many have inverted this order, and have sought to take the yoke before they were bidden. He knows exactly what the sinner needs (as also did the Father who has delivered all things into His hands) - needs simply as a gift, not to be earned, not to be deserved, but to meet him at once - a free gift. I do press this - until there is simple rest to the soul by coming unto Jesus, in any way to act as a Christian, whether it be in worship or in service, will be bondage; for they that are in the flesh cannot please God. We must be set at rest about ourselves before we can think of acting for God. I must have rest in my soul before I can act as a saint, before I can take upon me "the yoke" of Christ. Ere I can bear His "burden" I must have got rid of my own, I must have left it with Him.
When not coming to Jesus to receive at His hands rest - a free gift, I come to Him as a task-master, and thus only get a double burden, instead of finding that blessed rest for my soul, wherein I, a pardoned sinner, can rest and delight, and God, a holy God, can delight also.
Jesus is the true sabbath wherein God hath infinite delight. And He is the soul's most blessed sabbath also. He has been the obedient One - "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Man has crucified Jesus, but God has raised Him from the dead, and now God publishes His name as the only name given under heaven whereby men can be saved. He has done God's will, therefore all things are delivered unto Him of the Father, and He says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Beloved friends, I again repeat it, Jesus does not ask us to take His "yoke" or His "burden" upon us until we have laid aside our own. Until I am free in spirit through the knowledge of the work of Jesus on the cross, I am not able to serve aright.
Whatever we may be in our own estimation or in the estimation of others, though despised and rejected of all around, still, as having come to Jesus, "all things are ours," not one thing withheld from us. For Jesus is the great gift of God, and in Him is treasured up every other gift, righteousness, life, peace, everything.
"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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Jesus had borne the "burden," Jesus had borne the "yoke" Himself, and therefore He could say, "Learn of me." I am not speaking about the burden of our sins; the Lord Jesus came also to "learn obedience by the things that He suffered." Jesus was the One who had found out all the bitterness of rejection and scorn, and yet could say, "Even so, Father" - therefore it is, "Learn of me." In Isaiah 1 we read, "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." "He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned;" therefore has He "the tongue of the learned, that He should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary." He can tell us how He has borne the yoke Himself, going lower and lower, and He can say, "My yoke is easy, and my burden light."
Beloved, if Christ Jesus found the yoke to be easy, and the burden light; if He could say, I have overcome, how was it? - by bowing to the yoke. And how do we overcome? always by enduring; never by endeavouring to alter circumstances; never by seeking rest here. Every man naturally thinks to overcome circumstances of trial by altering them, but this is not the way with the disciple of Jesus. When the soul of the saint complains of being ill at ease, and he is seeking practical peace and rest by endeavouring to alter the circumstances in which he is placed, he is not having that peace in Jesus which Himself has promised - "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me peace." We often speak very foolishly one to another, and seem to think that change of circumstances will afford peace. But change of circumstances merely does not affect the peace of the soul at all. Let us listen to that word - "Learn of me." Jesus did not alter circumstances; the cup did not pass from Him. No! He bowed, and said, "Not my will, but thine be done."
There are but two ways in which to act; we must either fight our way through the world, or endure. Now I read, "God will render to every man according to his deeds - unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish;" and, on the contrary, "to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life." Here I learn that patient continuance in well-doing endurance is the great characteristic of the saint. That is the path of glory and virtue; that is the path that Jesus trod; that is the "yoke" He bore - He endured, and He found it most blessed so to do. Jesus overcame by patient continuance in well-doing, and He says,
"Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Not the rest of the fretful, impatient saint, who is always trying to alter the circumstances around, but the rest of Jesus - "Even so, Father; for so it seemeth good in thy sight."
I come to Jesus as a heavy-laden sinner, He gives me rest, and He does not take away that which He has given - rest is my everlasting portion. But then I find myself here, still in the midst of a trying world, exposed to the temptations and wiles of the devil, and having an evil heart of unbelief myself. Now we would desire that all in us and about us were already as it will be by and by when Satan is chained, but it is not so. We may fret and be angry and disappointed because it is not; but if God does not choose to alter the character of either the flesh, the devil, or the world, it is no use to fret. "Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." Faith says, "This is the path God has chosen for me to tread." Rest is found in the denial of my own will, in the taking up of my cross daily, and in following Jesus, not in seeking to alter the circumstances, but in bowing the head and saying, "Even so, Father; for so it seemeth good in thy sight." The Lord Jesus Himself found this second character of rest in becoming obedient unto the "yoke," in bearing the "yoke" put upon Him, and then, as One who had had the experience of it, I hear Him saying, "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
This "rest" is a complete contrast to the restlessness which characterises the walk of some saints. And wherefore? There is perhaps, from a desire for prominence, the going out into a public path of service, instead of living in that of home duties, where God would have them to adorn the doctrine they profess; hence this constant restlessness. They get uneasy, disappointed, discouraged, not settled here, not settled there, but ever disquiet.
A Christian should go on, unaffected by circumstances, in the path of practical obedience to the will of God. There, and therein alone, is practical rest found (for it is practical, experimental rest of which I am now speaking); when I am trying to have my own will and to go my own way, I do not find this rest.
The two things act and react one upon the other; very often we find that a saint has lost peace of soul - the blessed joy he had in knowing his sins put away for ever by the blood of Jesus, and the possession of eternal life - and what is the cause? In many cases because he has not been bearing the burden of Christ, but walking in the path of fleshly activity and restlessness. His peace has thus become disturbed, and he is even tempted to doubt whether or not he be a child of God. They do act and react in a manner and to a degree of which we are little aware. It is very wretched for a saint of God to be always questioning whether he indeed be a saint, instead of walking on in the path of healthy service.
There is still another thing that I would desire to notice briefly, and that is the great basis of Christian humility. I mean that humility which a saint has because he is a saint, and not because he is a sinner. A sinner saved by grace ought indeed to be humble; but the humility which a saint has because he is a saint and an heir of glory is of a much deeper kind than that which is occasioned by the discovery of sin. There is nothing will bring a soul so low, and make him willing to serve another in the meanest of service, as the consciousness of his standing before God. Mark the Lord Jesus Christ here: He stands forth in conscious possession of all things - "All things are delivered unto me of my Father." And yet He says, "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart." Can you put these two together? I believe you can; the soul of the really instructed saint discerns their needful connection. The Lord Jesus, in conscious possession of all things, could afford to humble Himself. What was it that enabled Him to do so but His real greatness, because God was caring for Him - "Which thing is true in Him and in you." Nothing enables us to go and wash the saints' feet, to lay ourselves down to be trampled on, but the knowledge of our real greatness: we can then afford to be humbled; we can then afford to come down and minister unto others, instead of wanting others to minister unto us. A child of God needs not anything to add to his dignity, because of the dignity which is given him of God; he has all dignity, "all things" in Christ. This is the real power of truly humbling ourselves to serve others. That which will enable us to put ourselves lower than anything is the consciousness that "all things are ours; for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
Well, I believe we shall find this real and abiding peace and rest to our souls in taking the "yoke" of Christ, in not "minding high things, but condescending to men of low estate," in willingness to serve all saints - "If any man will be great among you, let him become the servant of all." "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
It is one of the happiest of things to be thus a learner in the school of Christ.
The Holy Ghost, whose office and delight it is to bring before the soul the Lord Jesus as our example, never does so without grounding us first in the faith of the work that He has done for us on the cross. But if there be a place of real blessing for the servant, it is that of being put in the place of his Master. He is what he is in himself; we are what we are in him.
Beloved, remember if there is restlessness instead of rest, I would say, "Is not something of your will, your own will, at work, and not the 'Even so, Father; for so it seemeth good in thy sight'?"