HH Godfrey Gregg D.Div
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.–Matthew 11:29
The Thought of Surrender
There are, I think, three thoughts that meet and mingle in this beautiful figure of the yoke. The first is the great thought of surrender. When the Romans conquered some rebellious tribe they made the vanquished pass under the yoke. It thus became a figure of common speech that the conquered were under the yoke of the victorious. And our Lord, who had seen the legions marching, and who was quite familiar with the figure, says “Take my yoke upon you.” Nothing is more magnificent in Christ than the way in which He demands a full surrender. He does not claim a little bit of life. He claims life in its wholeness and entirety. And the strange thing is that whenever that is yielded, and never until that is yielded, the life is flooded with the sense of rest. Such a surrender to anybody else would mean the warping of the personality. But that it never means with Christ. It means the liberation of the personality. No man is ever really himself until he has fully surrendered to the Lord. “Take my yoke upon you…. and…find rest.”
Not a Forced Surrender
This, you observe, is not a forced surrender. Our Lord says take My yoke upon you. Our Lord is very fond of the word must, but He never uses it in this connection. When the Roman legions smashed some savage tribe, that tribe was compelled to bear the yoke. Often, on that account, they hated Rome and served her with rebellion in their hearts. But Christ wants nobody on terms like these. Such terms are not in the program of His conquest. Christ demands a surrender that is willing. You can compel the dog to do your bidding. You can force the slave to carry out your will. But Christ, that mighty protagonist of liberty, treats nobody as a dog or as a slave. We are the Father’s children, made in the Father’s image, with an inalienable heritage of freedom, and we may take or we may spurn the yoke. There are so many who are waiting for something irresistible to happen, something to sweep them off their feet to Christ, as the breaker sweeps the log on to the shore. That something is never going to happen. Now is the accepted time. The Master’s word is “Take my yoke upon you.”
Taking on a Yoke Means Service
The next suggestion of our text is that of service, for the yoke at once suggests the thought of service. Our Lord had coupled the two thoughts a hundred times as He wandered among the farms of Galilee. I love to watch the horses on a farm when the evening hour of their unyoking comes–the big, beautiful creatures free at last from the swinging and the straining of the day. So they pass to the water trough and to the stalls, till with the morning the yoke is on again: the yoke, the symbol and sacrament of service. Now all life is service, and perhaps “all service ranks the same with God,” from that of the starveling in Jackie Benn’s kitchen to that of the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And then Christ comes to all who have to serve, no matter how high or how low their service is, and says, “Take my yoke upon you and find rest.” It is not of rest from service that He speaks. It is of rest in service. It is of rest that comes when care and worry vanish, and the burden no longer irritates and frets. For duty is different now, and God is near, and love is everywhere, and strength sufficient, when once the yoke of Christ is on the shoulders.
Peace in the Heart while Serving with Christ’s Yoke
That our Lord had full authority for speaking so is evident to every student of His life. He served with an intensity unparalleled, yet who would ever think to call Him restless? Busy and broken were His days, yet He had the heart at leisure from itself. The crowds thronged Him and the calls were overwhelming, yet He moved in the peace that passeth understanding. And now He says, “Take My yoke upon you. It is My passion to pass on My secret. Take My yoke upon you–and find rest.” When a man flings himself into his toil without one word of prayer or thought of God, can you wonder if his nerves get jangled, or if he is tempted now and then to give things up? But we are not here to give things up if the ordering of God is a reality. We are here just to give up ourselves. To take Christ’s yoke upon us is to serve in the spirit that made all His service beautiful, with the same unfaltering trust that God was over Him, and that the everlasting arms were underneath Him. That gave Him peace when burdens grew intolerable. Sustained by that, He never gave things up. He gave Himself up upon the Cross.
A Double Yoke Means Christ Pulling with You
And then our text suggests another thought. It is the infinite comfort of society. The yoke is a double yoke (as commentator Matthew Henry said), and we are going to draw along with Him. Farmers tell me they sometimes train a young beast by yoking it with an old experienced beast, one that is familiar with the plough and has been out on many a raw and stormy morning. And Christ says, “I want you to pull with Me, and then you will learn to make a straighter furrow, and the farmer will be well contented in the evening.” He has been over all the ground before. He knows it well, and all its inequalities. He has been tempted in all points like as we are. He has borne the heat and burden of the day. And then He comes to us, worrying and anxious and wondering how we shall ever carry on, and He says, “Child, let’s do this thing together.” It is the offer of partnership with God in the strain and stress of unillumined days. The question is, Have we accepted it? Is it a great reality to us? If not, why not accept it now?