"The wise and prudent" that Jesus refers to here would have been those who deemed themselves as such (e.g., the scribes and Pharisees). It has never been God's intent to hide the truth from anyone (cf. I Tim. 2:4), but the Scriptures often record God as doing that which He merely allows to happen (e.g., Exo. 7:3; II Sam. 12:11,12; II Thess. 2:10-12). God allows His truths to be hidden from those who are arrogant and selfish, but they are clearly visible to the pure and childlike. When God's truth is presented, it is hidden to the proud because they consider it to be foolishness (cf. I Cor. 1:21), but the humble receive it gladly.
Admittedly, understanding Matthew 11:27 in context is difficult. Perhaps it is best viewed as a preface to 11:28-30. It is understood that Jesus received all of His teachings and authority from the heavenly Father (cf. John 3:35). It also could be said that the Father revealed the Son, and consequently Himself, when He sent Jesus to earth. But, the Father and Son are only known by those who are "babes" (cf. Matt. 11:25). Thus, if one rejects Jesus, his eyes will not see the truth. Such a one is without hope unless He humbles himself and repents.
In spite of the fact that most will reject Jesus, He still invites them to "come" to Him (11:28). This is a universal invitation. Jesus is justified in inviting men to come to Him because of His divine nature and dominion. The "labor" and "rest" spoken of here are primarily spiritual in nature; that is, the heavy burden is sin, and when that sin is forgiven, there is a peaceful rest. Of course, it is also true that the trials of this life are made lighter by coming to Jesus because the individual is then better able to bear them.
In the context of farming, a yoke is a device used to "join" two animals so they can labor together and share the workload. When Jesus invited His listeners to take His yoke upon them (Matt. 11:29), He was encouraging them to become servants of His.
Those who were willing to put on His yoke would learn from Jesus, for He is "gentle and lowly in heart". It is certainly true that more can be learned from a humble person than from one who is proud and boastful. The "rest" mentioned in 11:29 may be referring to the rest that the faithful will have in heaven (cf. Heb. 4:9).
In farming, the key to an efficient yoke is to make sure that it fits properly. If a yoke fits snugly around the neck of an animal, then that animal can easily bear a heavy load. Jesus' spiritual yoke is of no great weight, yet it enables one to do much service because the burden that is borne seems light.
Friends, to submit to Jesus and obey His commands shouldn't be a great burden--if we truly love Him (I John 5:3). In fact, when one understands that God's commands are for our eternal good, then we should joyfully obey and trust that He will give us rest! For a more detailed study pertaining to the yoke of Christ, please study our feature lesson from October 8, 2005.