HIS SERVANTS' MINISTRY
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Matthew Chapter 11
BIBLE STUDY on the Gospel of Matthew
Jesus continues His ministry; is questioned by the disciples of John; rejects the cities where He has performed mighty works, and issues a new invitation to individuals.
The movement of His ministry continues in this chapter. The Lord Jesus has pronounced a set of principles of moral standards and conduct. He has performed the miracles, and He has sent His disciples out to present His claims . . . they have gone out and they have covered all the cities of Israel. What kind of reception did they get? How did the Jews react to His being the Messiah? One word will do it: REJECTION!
This chapter makes a turning point in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. In verses 28-30, He gives a new message. It is a clear departure from the message of repentance in view of the Presence of the King.
Having sent out His disciples, He Himself goes out. It is extremely important to get the Word of God out to the people, then and now. All the things commanded the first disciples are still in force today (Mat.28:19-20).
John's Message from Prison (Matthew 11:1-6)
Matthew 11:1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. (KJV)
And it came to pass . . . this phrase is found 2943 times in the Bible. The directions to His apostles were given in the area of Capernaum. He went from there to preach in the vicinity of Capernaum, or in Galilee. He did not yet go into Judea.
When Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples . . . when He had given them a commission to preach the Gospel, and had finished giving the instructions He thought necessary to give them. He told them where they should go, what they should say, how they should conduct themselves, and what treatment they should expect to come. He gave them all the proper advice and encouragement.
He departed thence . . . from the place where he had been. He did not stop the ministry of the Word, or from working miracles, but went out into other parts of the country,
To teach and to preach in their cities . . . meaning either in the cities of the Jews, or the cities of the apostles, namely, the cities of Galilee; for the disciples were Galilaeans, and where Christ now was; or possibly the cities where He sent them to preach first, and then came Himself, confirming their doctrine by His own ministry and miracles.
There is a difference between preaching and teaching. They both are the work of Christ's ministers, IF they want to take example from their Master, Who was both Teacher and Preacher. It is wise not to think the servant is above his Lord. Please do not under value preaching, it is a big part of ministerial work. Paul said, 1 Cor. 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. (KJV) . . . If anyone thinks that people are now adequately instructed that there is no such need of preaching, they should think again. Experience teaches us, that there is always something further to be known. I think that teaching is done in Sunday school and Bible studies where the ‘students’ can ask questions, whereas preaching is done by the pastor from the pulpit where the congregation listens with wide open ears, or should!
Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, (KJV)
Now when John had heard in the prison . . . this is John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, who was now in the prison, being put there by Herod, for his reproving him for taking Herodias, his brother Philip's wife (Mat.14:3; Mk.6:17-18; Lk.3:19-20); and while John was in prison, an account was brought to him by his own disciples. Neither the exact time of John's imprisonment nor the period of time between his imprisonment and his death can be determined. On the occasion of the unnamed feast of John 5:1, Jesus refers to John's witness as already past. His arrest, if not his death, must have taken place before to that feast, before the second Passover of Jesus' ministry.
The works of Christ . . . the miracles He did, such as the healing of the centurion's servant and the raising from the dead the widow's son of Nain.
He sent two of his disciples . . . John sent two of his disciples, who might be the most prejudiced against Christ, because of the increase of His followers, and the decrease of John’s, their master; and because Jesus did not live such a strict and sever life as John did. In spite of all that these men had heard, and their master had told them of Jesus, they were not sure that He was the true Messiah. Two were sent, because it was more honorable to Christ, and that they might be proper witnesses of what they saw and heard (Deut.17:6; 19:15); and since it was not so much for John, himself, but for the sake of his disciples, that these messengers were sent.
Matthew 11:3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? (KJV)
And said unto him, Art thou he that should come? . . . John's question is a valid one. He had every reason to believe that the King would have assumed power by this time. He is puzzled that the Lord is moving so slowly toward the throne. The Jews expected a Saviour. His Coming had been long foretold (Gen.49:10; Isa.9:1-6; 11:1-5; 53:1-12; Dan.9:24-26). The Messiah, the King was familiarly described as he that was to come. John could not be ignorant of this, for he had seen the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus at His baptism, heard a Voice from Heaven, declaring Him the Son of God (Mat.3:16-17; Mk.1:10-11); and had often pointed Him out to others, and had borne testimonies that He was the Lamb of God (Jn.1:29,36), but I think John wanted his disciples to hear it from the mouth of Christ, which would remove all their doubts, and attach themselves to Christ, now John was about to die and leave them. There are some who think, that John's faith slackened; and with his long imprisonment, he began to doubt whether Jesus was the Messiah or not; while others think the reason of this message was, neither the ignorance and unbelief of John, or his disciples; but that John, and the rest of the Jews, had the idea of a temporal kingdom, and hearing of the mighty works of Christ, wonders why he was not delivered out of prison by Jesus, and grew impatient and asks, if He was the Messiah? And if He was, why did He allow His forerunner and chief minister to be in prison?
Or do we look for another . . . to release me, and set up the kingdom?
Matthew 11:4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: (KJV)
Jesus answered and said unto them . . . not by a declaration, that He was the Messiah that was to come, and they were not to look for any other; He bids them to . . .
Go, and show John again, those things which ye do hear and see . . . Jesus told them to go back to John in prison, and tell him the doctrines which they had heard preached by Him to the poor; and the miracles which they had seen with their own eyes, which were confirmed to them by credible witnesses; for there were at that time about Christ, those that had infirmities, plagues, and evil spirits, and that were blind, and He cured them instantly in their presence (Lk.7:21-22).
Matthew 11:5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (KJV)
The blind receive their sight . . . the Lord here, refers to several prophecies concerning the Messiah (Ps.146:8; Isa.35:5; 42:16,18), and which had their fulfillment in Him, so that John and his disciples might easily conclude, that He was “He that was to come”, and that they should not look for another.
And the lame walk . . . (Isa.35:6), as did the man sick of the palsy, who was brought to him on a bed, carried by four men, but went away himself, with his bed upon his shoulders (Mat.9:2-7).
The lepers are cleansed . . . as the poor man was, that was full of leprosy, and who was cured by Christ, just by touching him (Mat.8:3).
And the deaf hear . . . as did the man, into whose ears Christ put His Fingers and said, Ephphatha (Mk.7:33-35).
And the dead are raised . . . as were Jairus's daughter (Mat.9:18,25), and the widow's son of Nain (Lk.7:15).
And the poor have the Gospel preached them . . . the “poor” could be the poor of this world, and so were despised, and reckoned as cursed by the Scribes and Pharisees: or the “poor” could mean who were poor in spirit (Mat.5:3), or spiritually poor; who saw and admitted their spiritual poverty, and wanted only the true riches of grace and glory in Christ. The World: (Jam.4:4; 2 Tim.4:10; 1 Jn.2:15-17; 4:4; 5:4-5,19; 2 Jn.1:7).
Matthew 11:6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (KJV)
And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me . . . the Jews were offended by Christ's parentage, and their poverty; and at the manner of His birth, by a virgin; and at the place of His birth, which they thought to be Galilee, NOT Bethlehem; at His lack of public education, and His lowly appearance in His public ministry and in His own Person, and in His followers. The disciples of John also were offended in Him, because He and His disciples did not fast, and did not lead such an strict life as they and their master John did. The Lord knew, and had an unusual respect to them in the above words. Blessed means happy. Happy are those who in spite of all these difficulties and discouragements, stand by Christ, do not fall away from Him (apostasy). They heartily accept and receive Him, believe in Him, make a profession of Him, and hold Him close to their heart. They really love, highly value and esteem Him, they are willing to give up all and bear all for His sake. These are blessed (happy), in spite of all their sufferings for Him now, because they have spiritual peace, joy and comfort in their souls and they shall be eternally happy in Heaven. Apostasy: (2 Thes.2:3; 1 Tim.1:19; 4:1; 5:12; 2 Tim.4:4; Heb.3:12; 2 Pet.2:21; 3:17).
Jesus Pays Tribute John The Baptist (Matthew 11:7-19)
Matthew 11:7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? (KJV)
And as they departed . . . the messengers of John (Lk.7:24), when they returned to their master, to give an account to him of what they had heard and seen.
Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John . . . He took this chance before all the people who had heard what was said between Him and the disciples of John, to say some things concerning John’s character and ministry. He did this to correct and remove any wrong opinion they might have had of John.
What went ye out in the wilderness to see? . . . this refers to Matthew 3:1-5, where great numbers from Jerusalem, Judea and the country round about Jordan, went out into the wilderness of Judea, where John came preaching, to hear him, and be baptized by him. The Lord asks, what it was that led the multitudes into the wilderness? What did they expect to see there?
A reed shaken with the wind? . . . (Lk.7:24-30). The region of country where John preached, overflowed each year by the Jordan, producing great quantities of reeds, or canes, that were of a light, fragile nature, easily shaken by the wind. They were a therefore an symbol of a changing, inconstant man. John's sending to Christ to inquire about His character, might have led some to think that John was changing and inconstant, like a reed. He had once credited Him to be the Messiah, and now, being in prison and sending to Him to question the fact, they might have thought that he had no fixed principles. John was NOT a reed shaken with the wind! He was a wind shaking the reeds! The majority of today’s pulpits have become like a “reed shaken by the wind” because in weakness the pastor is afraid to offend someone in the congregation. A reed shaken by the wind symbolizes a man who is swayed by public opinion. We need men like John the Baptist, a wind shaking the reeds!
Matthew 11:8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. (KJV)
But what went ye out for to see? . . . the Lord again asks what they expected to see in the wilderness.
A man clothed in soft raiment? . . . one clothed in soft raiment, is a man of self-indulgence. The questions Jesus brought out, greatly reveals the contrast between John and all such characters. Contrasting a reed shaken by the wind, stood John’s firmness in stand up against the Pharisees, and his fearlessness in rebuking sin, even when Herod was the sinner, and when his liberty and life were at stake. Contrasting soft feminine type clothing with John’s camel's hair coat with its raw hide girdle, and his food of locusts and wild honey. The Lord hoped to remind the people of these things, to rekindle their admiration for John.
Behold they that wear soft clothing . . . Luke 7:25 says "gorgeously apparelledand live delicately, are in kings' houses" . . . or "courts"; NOT in the wilderness, where John came preaching, nor in a prison, where he now was. John was NOT an inconstant, flattering person, as these delicate men were; had he been, he would not have been in a prison; because it was for his uprightness and faithfulness, in reproving Herod the king, that he was in such a place and condition. John’s extraordinary clothing, diet and character set him apart from all others.
Matthew 11:9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. (KJV)
But what went ye out for to see? . . . it was NOT any thing so low as a shaking reed, or so grand as a man in elegant clothing that they saw.
A prophet? . . . this was the truth of the matter. They expected to see a prophet, and they believed that he was one. This is what made Herod afraid to put him to death, and the Pharisees to speak against his baptism. But even though this was giving John a great character, to believe and own him as a prophet, it did not come close to his full character.
Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet . . . when the Jews saw him, they saw not only a prophet, but one that was greater, and more excellent than any of the prophets that went before him. The prophets that came before John, prophesied of the Messiah at a distance, and in words not too clear, and hard to be understood. They spoke of Him as to come, but John pointed to Him and declared that He was come. John saw Jesus for himself, and showed Him to others. He saw the Spirit of God descending upon Him, and he himself baptized Christ Jesus, for he was the forerunner of Christ, and the administrator of the ordinance of baptism to Him. No mere man could have done this. John was ordained by God! (Jn.1:6-7).
Matthew 11:10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. (KJV)
For this is he of whom it is written . . . Malachi wrote about John the Baptist.
Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee . . . Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. (KJV) . . . Malachi looked forward to the times of the Messiah, the Gospel dispensation. He was speaking to the Jews, but when Messiah came, they did NOT see Him! The Lord Himself applied Malachi’s words to John the Baptist; to whom the things said in it perfectly agree. He was a "messenger", not by nature, but by office; sent by God, "before the face" of the Messiah (Lk.1:76); six months before him: the same space of time that John was born before Jesus; and the same space of time that he entered on his public ministry before Him; and "prepared" His "way before" Him, by preaching the doctrine of repentance, administering the ordinance of baptism, pointing at the Messiah, and urging people to believe on Him. All of this proving that John the Baptist was what Christ says he was, "more than a prophet".
Matthew 11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (KJV)
Verily I say unto you . . . what Christ had before said, he proved from Scripture; what He was about to say depended on His Word.
Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist . . . what a tremendous statement! What tremendous praise! Some people like to debate on who was greater: Abraham, Moses, or David. Jesus answers it for us here. None of them, it was John the Baptist! Jesus clealy tells us that John is greater than anyone in the past. NO one topped John the Baptist.
Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than he . . . when the Lord Jesus came, He began calling out a group of people who are even greater than John the Baptist. HOW can they be greater? Because they are in Christ and clothed with His righteousness (Rom.5:1-10; 1 Cor.1:30). I think the kingdom of heaven in this verse means the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel of peace; which fullness was not known until after Christ had been crucified, and had risen from the dead. The least in this Kingdom, could be the most humble preacher of a crucified, risen, and glorified Saviour, and too the ones who hear the message and believe and accept it. Jesus says that these “least ones” are greater than John. Justification By Faith: (Gen.15:6; Isa.45:25; Lk.18:14; Acts 13:39; Rom.3:22,24,28; 4:5,11; 5:1,9,18; 8:30,33; 9:30; 10:4; 1 Cor.4:4; 6:11; 2 Cor.5:21; Gal.2:16,21; 3:6,11,24; 5:5; Phil.3:9; Tit.3:7; Heb.11:7; Jam,2:23)
Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. (KJV)
And from the days of John the Baptist until now . . . from the time that John began to preach, to the then present time,
The kingdom of heaven . . . the Gospel, and the ministry of it, first by John, then by Christ and His apostles,
Suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force . . . the Kingdom of Heaven cannot literally be forced; so this must be understood symbolically. The Kingdom can be compared to a walled city, into which men are trying to force their way in, in order to get possession of it. This is said to have been going on since the days of John the Baptist. To really see what the actual conduct of men is represented; we must look back to the time of John. Multitudes rushed out to John at the Jordan River, many of them thought that he was the expected Messiah, and they were eager to set up by force the expected Kingdom. Disappointed in this, the same "men of force" soon gathered around Jesus, and on the very day in which the news of John's death reached Galilee, there followed Jesus into the wilderness about five thousand men, who tried to "take him by force and make him a king." (Jn.6:15). It was this kind of temperament, to force their way into the misconceived kingdom, which made it necessary for Jesus to often avoid the multitudes, and to sometimes command persons whom He had healed, "Tell it to no man." I think this verse could refer to the eagerness of the people to enter by violence into the privileges and honors of the Kingdom . . . a disposition which arose from the mistaken idea that the Kingdom was to be a political or military kingdom.
Matthew 11:13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. (KJV)
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. . . . this should be considered in connection with verse 11, and is further proof of John's being greater than any of the prophets; because all the inspired writers and prophets, who were before him, prophesied of the Messiah as to come; and either spoke of him in difficult to understand terms, or represented Him under dark shadows and figures while John spoke of Him as already there, and in plain, understandable words, directed people directly to Jesus as the Messiah. Since the time of John, there have been NO more prophecies concerning the Messiah and His Kingdom.
Matthew 11:14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. (KJV)
And if ye will receive it . . . this carries suspicion of unbelief and hardness of heart, as though they would not receive it, “Receive it” . . . what is “it”? I believe it is the Gospel. John the Baptist brought the good news that the Messiah had come and that the people had better repent. Did the Jews repent and believe John? No. Repent: (Mat.3:2; 4:17; Mk.1:15; 6:12; Lk.13:3,5; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 26:20; Rev.2:5,16,21,22; 3:3,19).
This is Elias, which was for to come . . . this is Elijah. Matthew 17:12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. (KJV) . . . Elijah was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. The story of Elijah is found in the first and second books of Kings. Elijah was a very well-known prophet, and was taken up to Heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Ki.2:11). The prophet Malachi predicted that Elijah would be sent before the Coming of the Messiah, to prepare the way for Him. Malachi 4:5-6 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. (KJV) . . . The last word of the Old Testament is curse. The curse came when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden and disobeyed God. At that time God said that the ground would be cursed and that the curse would rest upon them. The curse was sin, and it will not be removed until the Lord comes to this Earth the second time. SIN is still in the human family today. After Malachi died, the voice of God’s prophets would be silent for 400 years. Then a prophet would come, like Elijah, to get people ready for Christ’s Coming (Mat. 17:10-13; Luke 1:17). This prophet was John the Baptist. John prepared people’s hearts for Jesus by urging people to repent of their sins. Christ’s First Coming would bring unity and peace, but also judgment on those who refused to turn from their sins. But this verse tells us that God will send Elijah before the Second Coming of Christ (Rev.11). Elijah never died (2 Kings 2:1,11), and all must die once (Heb.9:27). Elijah shall die in the Great Tribulation Period (Rev.11:7-8), before Christ’s Second Return (Zec.14:1-4; Rev.19:11-21). Elijah’s preaching will at that time, turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of children to their parents. John the Baptist preached repentance and renewal, just as Elijah had done and shall do. The turning of souls to God will be their duty, just as it is our duty today! This is the best preparation of them for the great and dreadful day of the Lord. The Jewish nation in John’s day, by wickedness, laid themselves wide open to the curse. God was ready to bring ruin upon them. But because of His love, He sent John the Baptist to preach repentance to them. He will send Elijah one day. But there will be those who will NOT listen to him. NO one can expect to escape the curse of God or to enjoy the happiness of His chosen and redeemed people, unless their hearts are turned from sin and this world, to Christ and holiness. A big question comes up: "IF Israel had accepted Christ at His First Coming, would He have established the Kingdom at that time?" Another question: “Would John the Baptist have been Elijah?" I think the answer is yes. HOW could that be possible? I honestly do not know. I only know that this is what Jesus said in verse 14. With God all things are possible (Mat.19:26; Mk.10:27; Lk.18:27). This is just my humble opinion. He can do and does many things that I cannot explain. "IF" questions create problems that do not exist. There are enough real problems without making up some! We do NOT know what or why God does things the way that He does. Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (KJV)
Matthew 11:15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (KJV)
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear . . . this is another phrase the Lord Jesus used, like “verily”, when He had something serious, and of great importance to say which required their attention, and was not easily understood, like several things he had mentioned in this context; such as that John was more than a prophet, more excellent than all the prophets; that the law and prophets were now at an end, and that John was Elijah . . . which things, if correctly understood, would greatly serve to settle their opinion of Himself as the Messiah . . . BUT His words imply, that everyone did NOT have spiritual ears and would NOT understand. He that hath ears: (Mat.11:15; Mk.4:9; Lk.8:8; 14:35) also: (Rev.2:7,17,29; 3:6,13,22).
Matthew 11:16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, (KJV)
But whereunto shall I liken this generation? . . . the men of that age, the stubborn and perverse Jews who would not listen to John or Jesus. They found fault with anything that they heard, or saw done. History repeats itself! It is the same thing today with both Jews and Gentiles.
It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling to their fellows . . . they are spoiled children. The generation Jesus was speaking to was like that, and this generation is too. With some people, every thing is useful in leading them to God, while with others, nothing is sufficient. Everything is good to an upright mind, but everything is bad to a evil heart.
Matthew 11:17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. (KJV)
And saying, we have piped unto you, and ye have not danced . . . the reference is to Jewish children, who having seen their parents and friends at their festivals and weddings, some play the pipe, and others dance to them, mimicked the same in their pastime.
We have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented . . . and also having observed, at funerals, the mourning women, making their doleful songs, and others answering to them, acted the part of these persons, expecting their friends would respond, but did not, so they complain. Jesus condemned the attitude of His generation. No matter what He said or did, they were not happy. They were contemptuous, disbelieving and doubtful because He challenged their comfortable, secure and self-centered lives. Far too often we justify our inconsistencies because if we listen to God, we will have to change the way we live.
Matthew 11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. (KJV)
For John came neither eating nor drinking . . . this and the following verse explain the above "parable"; and this shows, that John and his disciples are the persons that mourned, of which his austere life was a proof. He "came" because he was sent by God, and came into view as a public preacher. John was "neither eating nor drinking"; not that he did not eat or drink at all, but he ate very little; and what he did eat and drink, was not the common food and drink, but lived upon locusts and wild honey. He refused all invitations to people's houses, and shunned all feasts and entertainment. He withdraw from all sociable conversation with men, in eating and drinking: and although the Scribes and Pharisees pretended abstinence and frequent fasting, yet they did not follow his severe way of living.
They say he hath a devil . . . is a demoniac, a madman, one that is unsociable and under a delusion of Satan, and influenced by him to abstain from proper food and company of men, under a pretence of religion. John was both strict and severe. And they did not feel comfortable with him.
Matthew 11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. (KJV)
The son of man came eating and drinking . . . meaning Himself, who ate and drank as men usually do, lived in the common way of life, was free and sociable, went to feasts, entertainments, and weddings when He was invited; and was pleasant, courteous and friendly in his manner, to all men.
And they say, behold a man gluttonous . . . a voracious man, with an excessive appetite, one that indulges his appetite to a very great degree, and in a disgraceful manner.
A winebibber . . . one that drinks to excess; one that is given to wine, and is greedy of it.
A friend of publicans and sinners . . . those that are openly and notoriously wicked; and loves their company, for the sake of drinking with them; and encourages them in their reveling and drunkenness. . . what a very horrible thing to say about Jesus.
But wisdom is justified of her children . . . the children of wisdom are the wise, those who understand. I think He means that although that generation of Pharisees and fault-finders did not appreciate the conduct of John and Himself, yet those who are wise understood the reason of their conduct; and would approve of, and do justice to it.
Jesus Rejects Unrepentant Cities (Matthew 11:20-27)
We have now come to a tremendous change. Remember that Jesus is the King. He has presented His credentials by performing miracles, He has preached the Gospel that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, He has presented Himself, but His people have rejected Him. Their rejection has caused Him to make a decision, and He rejects them. He is the King, and the King always has the last word, if not here in this world, it will be at the last day when He sits then as a Judge!
Matthew 11:20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: (KJV)
Then began he to upbraid the cities . . . when Jesus had sent forth His apostles to preach, and had been in several cities that shall be mentioned, and had taught and preached in them, and confirmed His doctrine by many wonderful works, and when He had observed how badly they had treated both John and Himself, representing the one as having a devil, and the other as an immoral person; when they could not be pleased with the ministry of either one, He very righteously began to rebuke them with their miserable treatment of Him, their ingratitude to Him, their unbelief in Him, the hardness and impenitence of their hearts which could not be moved to repent of their evil ways, and believe in Him, and acknowledge Him as the Messiah by all the information He gave them, and miracles He did among them.
Wherein most of his mighty works were done . . . the most by number, and the greatest in their kind; especially at Capernaum.
Because they repented not . . . not because they did not praise Him, and speak well of His works, for He did NOT want His own glory, but their good. All He did was because He wanted to bring men to repent of their sins, and have faith in Him that they might be saved.
Matthew 11:21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (KJV)
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! . . . although many of Christ's mighty works were done in this place, yet mention is made of it no where else but here and in Luke 10:13. Some say it was about 2 1/2 miles from Capernaum.
Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! . . . this was the city of Andrew and Peter (Jn.1:44), so that as bad as it was, there were some persons called out of it by the grace of God, and to the high office of apostleship; and which makes God’s grace in such, all the more unique. Chorazin and Bethsaida were cities in the north near Capernaum where the Lord had His headquarters. He had performed many miracles in this area. They rejected Him, and now He pronounces a judgment upon them. (Lk.10:13).
For if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes . . . I think the meaning is, that if the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon had had the advantages of Christ's ministry, and of seeing His miracles, as the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida had, they would have repented of their sins; at least, in an external way, signified by sackcloth and ashes, which were outward signs of repentance (Isa.58:5; Jer.6:26).
Matthew 11:22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. (KJV)
But I say unto you . . . These words are found 17 times in the Gospel of Matthew, and 311 times in the Gospels. It means what He is going to say can be depended upon as true, and which shall certainly come to pass.
It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day off judgment, than for you . . . Tyre and Sidon’s punishment that shall come in the day of judgment will be more mild and moderate than it would be for Chorazin and Bethsaida. These words suppose, that the men of Tyre and Sidon will be punished for their many abominable sins, committed against the law and light of nature; but that the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida, having rejected the Messiah, and the doctrines of the Gospel, against all the evidence of miracles, and convictions of their own minds, and probably sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost (Mat.12:31-32). Light creates responsibility. The Lord never had a ministry in Tyre or Sidon, but He spent a lot of time in the area of Chorazin and Bethsaida, and He holds them responsible for the light which He gave them. It is my understanding that there will be degrees of punishment as well as degrees of reward at the time of God's judgment. Even in our own day, there are many people who have had a perfect opportunity to receive Christ, but they have turned their backs on Him. I do not know what God will do with that person who has never heard the Gospel and bows down and worships an image, but I do know what God is going to do with that person who comes and sits in church Sunday after Sunday and hears the gospel and does nothing about it. Romans 1:20-22 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, (KJV) . . . This tells me that God gives everyone enough light to see God. All persons could see God in any of His Creation if they would just open their eyes and heart.
Matthew 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. (KJV)
And thou Capernaum . . . this city is singled out from all the rest, and spoken to particularly, because of its unusual advantages.
Which art exalted unto heaven . . . this city had a tremendous privilege. It was the place where Christ chose to live and where He first began to preach. It was where He had done a long list of miracles: He cured the centurion's servant, recovered Peter's wife's mother from a fever, healed the man sick of a palsy, raised Jairus's daughter from the dead, made whole the woman that had a bloody issue, opened the eyes of two blind men, and cast out a devil from a dumb man who was possessed with one . . . ALL these and more He did in this one city, and therefore He might justly chastise them.
Shalt be brought down to hell . . . Isaiah 14:15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. (KJV) . . . it would end with very humbling destiny, be destroyed and laid waste as a city, as it was in the times of Vespasian; and the inhabitants of it not only punished with temporal worldly destruction, but everlasting destruction.
For if the mighty works which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day . . . the sense of these words is the same as verse 22, but this may be observed, that while Capernaum was superior in privileges and advantages than the other cities, they acted in a vile and ungrateful way, causing its impenitence and unbelief to be more aggravated, so a still viler set of men are picked . . . the men of Sodom, to compare them with. As wicked as the men of that Sodom were, so infamous for their unnatural lusts (Gen.19) . . . BUT, had they had enjoyed such a ministry as Christ's, and had had such miracles done among them . . . in all probability they would have repented of their heinous crimes; at least in an external way, to escape that dreadful judgment which laid their city, and several bordering ones, in ashes.
Matthew 11:24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. (KJV)
But I say unto you . . . He is speaking to Capernaum, and the inhabitants there.
It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, in the day of judgment, than for thee . . . although the punishment of the men of Sodom will be very great, because their iniquities were horribly dreadful and enormous . . . yet Sodom’s last day judgment will be more easy to bear than the vengeance of the Judge (Rev.20:15), which in the last and universal judgment, will fall upon Capernaum, who have had the Means of grace right there among them, and had despised them, for they had had the personal Presence of Jesus, His ministry and His miracles were right there among them, and turned their backs on Him, rejecting Him completely. Such a way of expressing and setting forth the more severe punishment of others, by that of Sodom, is not unusual in the Old Testament. Lamentations 4:6 For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her. (KJV) . . . A far heavier punishment for Israel than the punishment of Sodom, because Israel abounded with prophets who warned them to repent, whereas Sodom had no prophets to warn them. But what about today? Do we have “prophets”? YES! The Bible, which graces the homes of the vast majority of people, and good pastors who bring the Word of God. In today’s time, anyone who brings the Truth to people are “prophets”. This is the harshest language of all that came from the lips of the gentle Jesus. He speaks here as the Judge and King. Does this strong language should make you sit up and listen? It would be better for someone who never heard the Gospel than to be one who sits in a pew in one of our modern churches, having a Bible but has never accepted Christ as Saviour.
Matthew 11:25 At that time 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. (KJV)
At that time Jesus answered, and said . . . the time referred to is, when the disciples returned to Him, and gave Him an account of their ministry (Lk.10:17,21).
I thank thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth . . . the phrase "Lord of heaven" takes us back to Gen.14:19, where God is called by this Name. He IS the Lord of Heaven and Earth . . . many wise people never learn this Truth, but many babes understand it. The words of Jesus are words of thanksgiving, glorifying and praising His Father, acknowledging His wisdom, power, grace and goodness. The Lord was discouraged and dejected at His bad treatment by the Pharisees, and the general impenitence and unbelief of the cities, where He preached and done His miracles. But He is abundantly thankful, and respects the distinguishing grace of God. This He mentions to show the sovereignty of His Father, in the conversion of men. The things He expresses His thankfulness for, follow;
Because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent . . . the "things" He means are the doctrines of the Gospel, such as respect Himself, His person, as God, and the Son of God; His office, as Messiah, Redeemer and Saviour; and the blessings of grace, righteousness, and salvation by Him. The persons from whom these things were hid, are "the wise and prudent", meaning worldly men of great learning, of a large range of knowledge, having a considerable share of shrewdness, penetration, and who were wise and prudent in their own conceits, as were the Scribes and Pharisees.
And hast revealed them unto babes . . . foolish ones, who have not the learning and knowledge others have, they are as babes, helpless, defenseless, and impotent in themselves, to do or say anything that is spiritually good. Dr. Ironside said many years ago, "Always put the cookies on the bottom shelf so the kiddos can get them." I have always thought that if you preach or teach so children understand what you are saying, the older folks are bound to understand. But sad to say, sometimes the children understand and the adults miss it.
Matthew 11:26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. (KJV)
Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight . . . there is a wide difference among men, with respect to the Gospel revelation. It cannot be had by people with shrewdness, prudence and penetration; for from these is the Gospel hidden. Nor is anyone worthy of it. God works in mysterious ways, and the Gospel is revealed to those who are poor, base and foolish in this world’s eyes, by the good will and pleasure of God only. Our understanding is often confused. We come to a screeching halt in all our efforts at trying to explain. All that we can say is, "Even so, Father: for so it seems good to thee." My friend, that is enough. That God does a thing, is the best reason which we can have that it is right. It is a security to know that nothing wrong is done by God; and although now it is mysterious, light will shine upon it one day. I would feel more secure that a thing was right, and I knew that it was the will of God, than I could trying to depend on my own reasoning. Let us confide in the infallible and most perfect God; rather on the reasoning of frail and erring mankind. God never errs; but I mess up all the time.
Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (KJV)
All things are delivered unto me of my Father . . . this same doctrine is taught often elsewhere: (Jn.3:35; 6:46; 10:15; Col.1:16-17) in the New Testament. It means that Christ has control over all things, for the good of His people, that the government of the universe is committed to Him as Mediator, that He may redeem His people, and guide them to glory (Eph.1:20-22). All things in Jesus’ Hands: (Jn.3:35; 5:22-27; 13:3; 17:2; Mat.11:27; 28:18; Lk.10:22; Acts 2:36; 1 Cor.15:27; Eph.1:21-22; Phil.2:9-11; Heb.1:2; 2:8-9). . . . All the blessings of grace, and the promises of the everlasting covenant, and all the glory and happiness of his people, are put into Jesus’ Hands by His Father.
And no man knoweth the Son, but the Father . . . the magnificent glories and perfections of His nature, as the Son of God are known only by the Father. Such is the nature of the Son of God; such is the mystery of the union between the Divine and human nature; such is His exalted character as Divine, that NO mortal anywhere can fully comprehend Him. None but God fully knows Him. Had He been just a mere man, this language would not have been used of Him.
Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son . . . only the Son knows totally the Father’s Spirit and glory, His mind and will, His purposes and decrees, His counsels and covenant; the grace and love of His Heart to His chosen people; what He has prepared and laid up for them, and will make them partakers of to all eternity . . . NO man or angel clearly comprehends the character of the infinite God, except the Son, the Lord Jesus, and he to whom He makes Him known. This He does by revealing the character of God clearly, and more clearly, by manifesting His character as a God Who forgives sin, and to the soul that is weary and heavy laden (Mat.11:28).
And he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him . . . and the grace and glory of both Jesus and His Father, which He does by His Spirit; who is a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; and which depends entirely on His own sovereign will and pleasure. No one but the Father knew the Son at that time . . . nor does anyone know Him even at this time. And no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son will reveal him. This revealing is done partly in this world and partly in the world to come. The statement makes it certain that no correct knowledge of God can be obtained except through revelation.
Jesus Issues New Invitation To Individuals (Matthew 11:28-30)
These verses bring us to a definite change in the Lord's message. Up to now, the Lord taught, "Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He had presented His credentials and had been rejected as the Messiah. The cities which have been mentioned turned their backs upon Him, and so had Jerusalem. The Lord now turns His back on the nation Israel, no longer presenting to them the Kingdom. He is on His way to the cross, and His invitation below is to each individual, personally.
Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (KJV)
Come unto me . . . the dominion which Christ controls, and the knowledge which He can impart, justify Him in inviting men to come to Him.
All ye that labour, and are heavy laden . . . He very well could be referring largely to the Jews, who groaned under the weight of their ceremonial laws, and the traditions of their fathers (Acts 15:10). He tells them, that by coming to Him, and embracing the new system of religion (Jn.1:17); they would be freed from these burdensome rites and ceremonies. But, there can be no doubt, that He meant here to mainly speak to the poor, lost sinner; those burdened with a consciousness of their transgressions (Mat.5:4), trembling at their danger (Phil.4:12), and seeking deliverance. For these souls, there is relief. Christ tells them to come to Him, to believe in Him, and to trust Him, and He alone for salvation (Jn.14:6; Acts 4:12). Anyone who comes to Jesus in this manner, He will give them rest . . . a rest from their sins; rest from the distress of a troubled conscience; from the terrors of the law; and from the fears of eternal death (Jn.3:18,36; 8:24; Mk.16:16; Heb.2:3; 12:25; 1 Jn.5:12; Rev.20:15). NO one can “labor” for their salvation . . . eternal life is FREE for the taking! (Jn.3:15-16; Isa.55:1-4). There are millions who groan, being burdened with the guilt of sin upon their consciences, and are pressed down with the yoke of the law, and the load of human traditions. These labor until they are weary to the point of fainting, in order to obtain peace of conscience and mind, and rest for their souls by laboring for these things, in vain. These sinners are encouraged to come to Him, lay down their burdens at His Feet, and grab hold of His Person, Blood, righteousness and Sacrifice . . . by faith (Rom.5:1). Only then can they enjoy that true spiritual comfort, which could NEVER be attained to by the works of the law.
The labor and rest spoken of here are those which affect the soul (verse 29). The labor and the heavy burden are that which sin inflicts, and the rest that follows is the forgiveness of sins. Thank You Jesus! But my friend, physical burdens are also made lighter by coming to Jesus, because the soul is made stronger to bear them. Those who come to Christ in the right way, as humble and repentant sinners, come to an able and willing Saviour. They trust in Him for righteousness, life and salvation. I pray that you have accepted His invitation.
And I will give you rest . . . NO one can give rest like the rest Jesus offers! Spiritual rest here on Earth, peace of conscience, ease of mind, tranquility of the soul, through the application of God’s pardoning grace, by the free justification (Rom.5:1) by the righteousness of Christ (1 Cor.1:30), and full atonement of sin by His Sacrifice (1 Pet.1:18-19), and eternal rest in Heaven (1 Pet.1:4-5), in a perfect and uninterrupted relationship with Father, Son and Spirit. When He speaks of being "heavy laden," He is referring to being burdened with sin. This same symbol is used by Isaiah and the psalmist: "Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward" (Isa.1:4).. "For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me" (Ps.38:4). My friend, sin is far too heavy for you to carry. The only place in the world to put that burden is at the foot of the Cross of Christ. He bore it for you, and He invites you to come and bring your burden of sin to Him. He can forgive you because on the cross He bore the burden of your sin.
Matthew 11:29 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. (KJV)
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me . . . “yoke” is a figure taken from the use of oxen. Just as harness is for horses, so a yoke is for oxen. The yoke is used in the Bible as a symbol: #1. of bondage or slavery (Lev.26:13). #2. of afflictions or crosses (Lam.3:27). #3. of the punishment of sin (lam.1:14). #4. of the commandments of God, as here. #5. of legal ceremonies (Acts.15:10; Gal.5:1).
“Yoke” here refers to the religion of the Redeemer, and means that they should embrace His system of religion and obey Him. All virtue and all religion imply restraint . . . the restraint of our bad passions and inclinations and subjection to laws. The Lord says that the restraints and laws of His religion were mild, gentle and easy. Feel free to compare Jesus’ rules (Mat.22:36-40) with the burdensome ceremonies of the Jews, or with the religious rites of the heathen everywhere, or with the demands of the Popish system, and you shall see how true it is that His yoke is easy. Compare His laws and requirements with the laws which bind a person by vows to live a life of religious worship. John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (KJV) . . . It is much easier to be a committed Christian than an unbelieving, lost, laboring sinner. Of all the yokes ever imposed on mankind, the yoke of the Redeemer is the lightest of all.
And learn of me, for I am meek, and lowly in heart . . . that Jesus is meek and lowly in heart (Zec.9:9), assures those invited that no grievous fees or charges will be made of them; and that His yoke is easy, and His burden light, is a good reason why the heavily laden should come. The meekness, humility and lowliness of Christ come into view in His assuming human nature; in His subjection to His Father; in His manner and lifestyle among mankind, in His submission to the ordinance of baptism; in the His complete obedience to God, and in His sufferings on the cross and death. We should consider this and we should imitate Him in all that we do. Meek: (Mat.5:5). Learn of me: (Phil.2:5-8; 1 Pet.2:21). Lowly in heart: (Zec.9:9). Ye shall find: (Jer.6:16).
And ye shall find rest unto your souls . . . this refers to Jer.6:16, which shows that the rest He speaks of in the preceding verse, is NOT physical, but spiritual. This “rest” is enjoyed when we observe Christ's Words in this Passage. This “rest” is "ways of pleasantness" and whose "paths are peace" (Pro.3:17).
Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (KJV)
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light . . . the services that the Lord Jesus requires are easily rendered. They are not burdensome, like all other systems of religion. When we accept His invitation, and come to Him, there is a peace which passeth all understanding (Phil.4:7). Believing in Him and accepting Him brings great joy (Ps.16:11; 21:6; 43:4; Jn.15:11; 17:13; Acts 13:52; Rom.15:13; Gal.5:22; 1 Thes.1:6). Only Jesus can give a comfort which the world giveth not (Jn.14:27) in bearing trials and in persecution. He is our only Hope, the hope of glory (Rom.5:2; Eph.1:18; Col.1:27), and the hope of eternal life (Tit.1:2). When we keep His commandments, we shall receive a great reward. (Ps.19:11). His commands are not grievous (1 Jn.5:3). Christ wants a profession of faith in Him and subjection to His ordinances. He wants us to trust and obey, and we cannot have one without the other!
The spiritually poor and needy; the weary and heavy laden; the soul sick of sin and what the world has to offer, those who are always aware of the guilt within by the conscience, and ever fearful of death (1 Jn.4:18), are invited to come to Christ Jesus, and receive a spiritual “rest” that only He can offer. The invitation He offers is wide enough for the whole world . . . IF they chose to accept it. A young child and an old man can seek and find salvation at the Feet of the same Saviour. No age is too young; no sinner is too old. Christ is full of mercy, and all who come to Him shall find comfort, forgiveness and peace. My friend, this wicked world is full of sin, and we are exposed every minute until we die, and friend, none of us know when our time on Earth is up. No one wants face judgment without having their name in the “book of life” (Rev.20:15). I hope that you have accepted the invitation that the Lord Jesus has so graciously offered. Book of life: (Phil.4:3; Rev.3:5; 13:8, 17:8; 20:12,15; 21:27; 22:19).
Gospel of Matthew
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