“Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for yourselves. For my yoke is kindly, and my load is light.”—Matthew 11:28-30, New World Translation.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”—Matthew 11:28-30, New International Version.
Meaning of Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus warmly invited his listeners to come to him. He assured them that by learning from him, they would find refreshment and relief.
“Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down.” Those to whom Jesus extended this warm invitation were “loaded down” by rules and human traditions imposed on them by their religious leaders. (Matthew 23:4; Mark 7:7) The common people were also burdened by anxiety and toil, having to work long and hard just to make a living.
“I will refresh you.” Jesus promised to give relief, or rest, to those who accepted his kind invitation. He did so by helping them to understand what God truly expected of them. (Matthew 7:24, 25) This knowledge set them free from enslavement to false ideas and oppressive religious traditions. (John 8:31, 32) Although learning and applying Jesus’ teachings took effort, doing so was refreshing.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” In Bible times, workers often used a yoke—a wooden bar placed upon the shoulders—to carry heavy loads. Thus, the word “yoke” took on the meaning of being subject to another person’s authority and direction. (Leviticus 26:13; Isaiah 14:25; Jeremiah 28:4) The phrase “learn from me” can also be rendered “become my disciples (learners).” So Jesus was encouraging his listeners to become his disciples by following him and imitating his example.—John 13:13-15; 1 Peter 2:21.
“You will find refreshment for yourselves.” Jesus did not offer immediate relief from all oppressive conditions. He did, however, help his listeners to find comfort and hope. (Matthew 6:25-32; 10:29-31) Those who became his disciples and accepted his teachings found that serving God was not a burden, but doing so brought true satisfaction.—1 John 5:3.
“For my yoke is kindly, and my load is light.” Unlike the religious leaders of his day, Jesus was humble and mild-tempered. (John 7:47-49) He was never harsh or oppressive. Instead, he was kind and approachable. He was reasonable in what he expected of his followers. (Matthew 7:12; Mark 6:34; Luke 9:11) He also showed them how they could benefit from God’s mercy and enjoy the refreshment that comes from having a good conscience. (Matthew 5:23, 24; 6:14) Jesus’ beautiful qualities not only drew people to him but also moved them to accept his kindly yoke and become his disciples.
Context of Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus spoke the words recorded at Matthew 11:28-30 while he was on a preaching campaign in Galilee in the year 31 C.E. The apostle Matthew was the only Gospel writer who recorded Jesus’ kindly invitation. As a former tax collector and a Jew himself, Matthew knew firsthand how the common people were oppressed, not only by Roman taxation but also by the corrupt Jewish religious system. So he was no doubt encouraged when he saw Jesus use the authority given him by his Father, Jehovah,* to invite the humble and downtrodden to come to him.—Matthew 11:25-27.
Watch this short video to see an overview of the book of Matthew.