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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 11

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-30

Chapter 11

Now it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of these commandments, he departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities ( Matthew 11:1 ).

So He sent them out in front of them, and then He departed and was following up now, and coming into the cities. They were sort of the advance men for Him to go out in advance.

Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and he said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? ( Matthew 11:2-3 ).

Now John had been placed in prison by Herod. John had been preaching the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And he said, "There is one who is coming after me who is mightier than I am, I am not worthy to untie his shoes" ( Matthew 3:11 ). But here is John still in Herod's prison and he is saying to the Lord, hey, let's get this show on the road, for even John did not fully understand the mission of Christ in His first coming, but was anticipating the immediate establishment of the kingdom of God as was promised in the Old Testament scriptures.

And so the fact that Jesus had not yet proclaimed His power, and overthrown the Roman yoke and John was still in prison, he was getting impatient. He sends his disciples to Jesus asking, "Are you the one, or shall we start looking for someone else?" What he was really saying is, let's get this thing going. I am tired of sitting here in jail. Let's get the kingdom on the road. Let's get this movement going. Are you the one we should look for, or should we start looking for someone else?

Now Jesus answered and said unto them.

Go and show John those things which you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever is not offended in me ( Matthew 11:4-6 ).

Now Jesus, rather then answering John directly, points to His ministry, the works that He was doing.

You remember on the night that Jesus was betrayed, as He was talking to His disciples, and John records it so faithfully there in the fourteenth chapter, where Jesus had been saying, "Now look, I am going to the Father, and if I go, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also". And where I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas said, Lord, we really don't know where you are going; and how can we know the way? Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life: no ones comes to the Father, but by me." And He said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father also."

Philip said, "Lord, if you will just show us the Father, it will suffice us". Jesus said, Have I been so long a time with you, and haven't you seen me, Philip? "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; why do you say then, Show us the Father? Don't you believe not the Father is in me? And the works that I do, I don't really do of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father or else believe me for the very works' sake" ( John 14:2-11 )

In other words, Jesus was pointing to the works as the evidence of His commission, of His person, and of His authority, pointing to the works. He also said, "The works that I do they do testify of me" ( John 10:25 ). They were the evidence. He was fulfilling the promises of the kingdom in the Old Testament, as far as the lame walking, the blind seeing, the dumb speaking, the deaf hearing, he was fulfilling. The dead were being raised, the poor had the gospel preached, and he was fulfilling those aspects of the kingdom. His works were a witness and a testimony. All He did was heal a few of the sick that were around there, open the eyes of the blind, and all, and He said, now you just go back and tell John what you see. And just tell him, Blessed is the one who doesn't get offended because of my not really establishing the kingdom immediately, and over throwing the Roman yoke and establishing a physical, visible, earthly kingdom.

Now they departed, Jesus began to talk to the multitudes concerning John the Baptist, And he said, What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken in the wind? ( Matthew 11:7 ).

John was preaching down at the Jordan River, a lot of reeds down at the Jordan River. Did you go down to the Jordan River just to watch the reeds being blown by the wind? How come you went out of the cities and down to the Jordan? What did you go there to see? But what did you go out for to see? You obviously didn't go out to see the reeds being blown in the wind.

But what did you go out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment [a man who was wearing fancy clothes]? behold, those that wear soft clothing are in king's houses [they are not in the king's prisons] ( Matthew 11:8 ).

John was in the king's prison at that time. And those who wear that kind of clothes are in the king's houses or palaces.

What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say unto you, more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee ( Matthew 11:9-10 ).

He is declaring to them that John was indeed the fulfillment of the promise of a forerunner who would come before the Messiah to prepare His way.

Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of woman there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he ( Matthew 11:11 ).

In other words, our position as children of God through Jesus Christ puts us in a greater position than those of the Old Testament. Our position of having the Holy Spirit indwelling us, puts us in a greater position. Of all the men born of women, not a greater prophet than John the Baptist, yet the privileges that God has bestowed upon us in the church exceed those privileges.

So often times we think, Oh, how blessed it must have been for Abraham to have had that kind of a relationship with God, and Moses, David and all, but in reality the potential of relationship that is ours through the Spirit is tremendous. That God would dwell in us, by His Spirit, that God would empower us with His Spirit, is absolutely amazing. So even the least of us, filled with the Spirit of God, walking in this glorious fellowship with Jesus Christ, have greater privileges than those of the old dispensation.

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence ( Matthew 11:12 ).

John was thrown into prison and soon he is to be beheaded. The kingdom of heaven is going to suffer violence. The King Himself is going to be crucified. And so the kingdom of heaven is suffering the violence of man.

And the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are able to receive it, this is [Elijah], which was to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear ( Matthew 11:12-15 ).

Now in an interesting way, according to Jesus, John the Baptist was Elijah. This does bring up some confusion and when we get to the seventeenth chapter, we will look at this again in a little more detail.

When Zechariah the priest was fulfilling his ministry in the temple, the angel Gabriel came to him and told him that his wife Elizabeth, who had been barren, was in her old age, going to bear a son, and he was to call his name John. And the angel told him, "He shall go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the children unto their fathers " ( Luke 1:17 ). He quotes this prophecy that Jesus quoted concerning the forerunner of the Messiah. And basically the Lord was saying John the Baptist was going to be the forerunner of the Messiah, coming in the spirit and in the power of Elijah.

When in the gospel of John, John the Baptist began his ministry; they came out to him and began to challenge him concerning his authority. And they said unto him, "Who are you?" And they asked him point blank, "Are you Elijah?" and John answered, "No." Then they said, "Who are you?" He said, " The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths " ( Matthew 3:3 ), quoting another passage of scripture concerning the forerunner.

Now, the reason for the ambiguity here, is the fact that before Jesus comes again and establishes His visible, physical kingdom upon the earth, Elijah will be coming, of which John the Baptist was a type, for he came in the spirit and in the power. So even as there were two aspects of the coming of Jesus Christ: the first to be crucified, suffering violence; the second to reign as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, so there are two aspects of the forerunner Elijah.

So John the Baptist came to fulfill the first coming in the spirit and power of Elijah, but Elijah himself will actually come before Jesus returns again. Elijah will prophesy before the Lord to the Jewish people, not to the world, but to the Jewish people to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers; that is, to bring the Jewish people back unto the faith of the patriarchs in God the Father.

In Revelation 11:2 ,I am convinced that one of those two witnesses in Jerusalem will indeed be John the Baptist, for he has the power to shut up heaven, that it not rain in the time of his ministry, even as Elijah prayed and it rained not. And he has power to call down fire on his enemies to consume them, even as Elijah called down fire upon the captain with the fifties who came out from the king to take him in. So Elijah coming before the Lord.

Because I believe that the coming of the Lord is so near, I do believe that somewhere in the earth today, Elijah probably is alive and living, because I believe that we are that near the coming of the Lord. I don't think that anybody knows who he is or where he is. He may know himself, but I am not looking for him. I am looking for the Lord to come for me. I think that it is easy for us to get our eyes off the main attraction and start looking for little side events. "Oh, who is the Antichrist? I wonder if this one could be the Antichrist." But let's look for the main event, Jesus Christ.

So Jesus is saying, Hey, this is tough to take. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." I mean, if you can take it, if you can handle it, if you will receive it, this is he. This is Elijah, if you can receive it. If you can't receive it, then take it however you want, but "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear". So in a sense it was Elijah, coming in the spirit and power, as a forerunner of the Messiah, but not the total fulfillment of that promise in Malachi.

Now what shall I liken this generation to? It is like children sitting in the marketplace, that are calling to their fellows ( Matthew 11:16 ),

They're seeking entertainment.

And they saying, We have piped to you, and you didn't dance; we mourned, and you didn't cry ( Matthew 11:17 ).

What do you want? What are you looking for?

So John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, and the Pharisees said, He has a devil. The Son of man came both eating and drinking, and you say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children ( Matthew 11:18-19 ).

What did the people want? They really didn't know what they wanted. John came as an asthenic. And they said, "He's got a devil." Jesus came mixing with people, and they said, "Oh, He is a friend of the sinners. He is a friend of the publicans, a wine bibber."

Then he began to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they did not repented ( Matthew 11:20 ):

It is interesting that these cities that He upbraided around the Galilee have all been destroyed, and today are nothing but ruins. In fact, it wasn't until just recently that they even discovered the sight of Bethsaida. For a long time it was thought that maybe the Bible was speaking of some fictitious place, until more recently the archaeologists have uncovered Bethsaida. But Jesus in these cities that He pronounces woes upon, it is interesting that they have totally disappeared. Whereas many of the other cities, such as Tiberias, which was the capital of the Galilee region where Herod lived, Jesus didn't really go to Tiberias, it still remains today Tiberias. The city is still there. But Capernaum is gone, Bethsaida is gone, Chorazin is gone, so that these cities that he upbraided have disappeared off the map.

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. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. 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 ( Matthew 11:21-23 ).

Capernaum was the headquarters of Jesus, that was His city, that's where He spent the majority of His ministry. His earthly ministry was spent in and around the city of Capernaum. The majority of the miracles that Christ wrought, were wrought in Capernaum. And yet, the people there did not repent. And He said, "If the works had been done in the city of Sodom that were done here in Capernaum, they would have repented." And so the judgments that He pronounces upon Capernaum to be cast down to hell.

But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, in the day of judgment, than for thee ( Matthew 11:24 ).

Why? Unto who much is given, much is required. The greater understanding and light that a man receives, the greater will be the judgment of that individual. And so when God does judge, it will be according to the understanding or the knowledge that God has given. According to the grace they have been exposed to, will be the degree of judgement by which they will be judged.

At that time Jesus answered and said ( Matthew 11:25 ),

He has just rebuked these cities for their failure to repent, for their failure to receive, and then He turns from the rebuking of these cities to the Father in a prayer in which He said,

I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto the babes ( Matthew 11:25 ).

Father, I thank you that the great people of the earth, those great people of Capernaum, and Bethsaida and all, you have hid the truth from them. But here are these babes, simple ordinary people that you've chosen to reveal your truth and your love to. Jesus said,

Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in your sight ( Matthew 11:26 ).

I thank you, Father, that you've chosen just to use the common, ordinary people to reveal your love and truth to. I am too. How glorious that God has chosen to reveal Himself to just the common.

All things are delivered, [Jesus said] unto me of my Father: and no man really knows the Son, but the Father; and neither knows any man the Father, except the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him ( Matthew 11:27 ).

Now Jesus after this prayer, "Thank you, Father, because you've chosen to reveal yourself not to the wise and the prudent, but just to babes," then He said, "No one really knows the Father, but the Son. And no one really knows the Son, but the Father. And the only ones who really know the Father, are those to whom the Son reveals Him."

There are a lot of people who thought they knew the Father, but they had wrong concepts of God. There are a lot of people today who think they know God, but their concepts of God are all messed up. Jesus said, "No one really knows the Father, unless I reveal the Father to them." I look at the concepts that many people have of God, concepts that they have developed in their own minds. "If I were God this is how I would live; this is what I would do; this is how I would react; this is how I would respond; and so this is my god. I've created my own god, after my own likes and wishes and all." And this has been endemic of man through history, creating his own gods. "But no man really knows the Father, except the Son, and the ones to whom the Son reveals."

Then Jesus makes the broad invitation,

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest ( Matthew 11:28 ).

You see, Jesus is relating the restlessness of humanity with its godlessness. And He is saying that you will never really know what it is to rest, until you know God. Come unto Me, I'll give you rest. Come unto Me, I'll reveal the Father to you.

Now the invitation, of course, is from Jesus to you. The invitation is to come to Him, and the promise is, "if you come, He will give you rest." So that the first consciousness that a person has when they have come to Jesus Christ, the very first consciousness that they possess is a deep, beautiful peace inside. It just feels so good. I can't tell you why, but I feel good. You see, I am not running from God anymore. I am not fighting God anymore. In fact, I begin now to really understand the Father, and my restlessness was my godlessness. But now as I've come to Jesus Christ, suddenly there is a beautiful peace inside, a rest.

And then Jesus said,

Take my yoke upon you ( Matthew 11:29 ),

The yoke was the thing that was put on the ox so he could pull a plow. Basically what the Lord is saying is, "Let me have the reigns of your life, and I will guide you to that work that I have for you," for the Lord has a purpose and a plan for each one of you.

Paul the apostle writing to the Philippians said, "I have not yet apprehend that for which I was apprehended by Jesus Christ" ( Philippians 3:12 ). Jesus Christ has apprehended every one of you. And when He apprehended you, He apprehended you for a specific purpose and plan that He has for your life. The Lord has a work for each of you to do for Him. He's got a plan for each one of your lives. The Lord does not waste anything. He is very conservative, uses everything, and when He apprehended you, He had in mind a purpose and a plan for you to fulfill for His glory, and for the kingdom's sake.

Paul recognizing that, having devoted himself to serving the Lord, after some thirty years said, "I am not yet apprehended that for which I was apprehended. Neither are things yet complete, but I am pressing towards the mark for the price of the high calling of God. I am still pushing on, seeking to apprehend that for which I was apprehended." Take My yoke upon you. I've got a plan for your life. Now you let Me take over the reigns, and let Me begin to guide you into My purposes, and into My plans for you.

And then the third thing Jesus said,

Learn of me ( Matthew 11:29 ),

Now you need to know the Father, and you can't know the Father unless I reveal the Father to you. Learn of Me, because as you learn of Me, you'll know the Father. He who has seen Me, hath seen the Father. So learn of Me, that you might know the truth of God, that He might reveal to you the truth of the nature of God. And as you learn the truth of God, you'll learn that He is a God of love, a God of compassion, a God of great deep concern for you. A God who cares for you more than you could ever dream, a God who is interested in every minute detail of your life. "Learn of me," Jesus said, for in learning of Him, you will learn of the Father, and you'll have a true revelation of the Father.

And then Jesus adds,

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light ( Matthew 11:30 ).

That's in sharp contrast to those who go around telling me about the heavy burden they've been under lately. "Oh man, I've been under such a heavy burden. I don't know if I am gonna be able to handle it, Man. The burden is so heavy on me." Wait a minute! I believe that it is possible for us to take on burdens that are not from God, burdens that we take upon ourselves. It's possible for us to get ourselves into some real messes.

I feel that I've taken on many burdens that God didn't lay on me and I sometimes complain about the burdens. Right now I am sort of complaining at home about the burden of going to Norway. I don't know if God laid it on me or not. I accepted the invitation and now I sort of wish I hadn't. I am just tired, and I would like to stay home. But nonetheless, I have to go. But I can't say, "Oh, the Lord has laid this heavy burden on me. I've got to go to Norway." If the Lord indeed has sent me, than He is going to give me the strength and the energy and I am going to do great. If I've taken the burden on and He hasn't, then pray for me, I am in trouble. For the Lord said, "My yoke is easy, my burden is light."

Hey, wait a minute, what was His yoke? Every man bares a burden. A man's burden is that master passion by which his life is governed. Jesus said, "My burden is light." What was His burden? What was behind the life of Jesus? What was the main thrust behind His life? He revealed it in His first recorded words, when He was just twelve years old, when He said to His mother Mary, "Didn't you know that I must be about my Father's business" ( Luke 2:49 ).

Now when a person says, "I must," you better listen, because you're getting close to the heart of the issue. So many times a person says, well, I really ought to do that. I know I should. Forget it, you're not getting close yet. When a person says, "I must," then listen. "Didn't you know I must be about my Father's business." That was the burden in His life, His Father's business. "I do always those things that please the Father" ( John 8:29 ). "I came not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me" ( John 6:38 ). And He prayed: "Father, I have finished the work you have given me to do" ( John 17:4 ).

And what does He say about His burden? He said, "My burden is light." It is light to do the will of the Father, to please the Father. It is not a heavy burden. Who is He calling? Those who are heavy laden, those who are carrying a heavy burden. "Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden."

What are the heavy burdens of man? What is the burden of life that you are trying to carry? What is the master passion behind your whole life? You say, well, I am being honest and looking at myself, the master passion of my life is money. I love good things. I love nice things. I want to live comfortably. And so the master passion of my life is just to possess nice things, and to live a comfortable life. Someone else may say, well, the master passion of my life is fame. I just want people to admire me and to look up to me, and I want to be famous. Someone else might say, well, really the real thrust behind my life is pleasure. I just like excitement and pleasure, and the only reason why I work is to get enough money to go out and have a good time. I hate the job, and I hate working, but I have to work in order to get the money. I can't wait for the weekends, man, where we can just really have a great time, and my whole life is geared around the weekends, and the fun that I can have, and I'd have to say, that's the burden of my life.

Look a little deeper, because none of these are the burdens that any of you are carrying. Who do you want the money for? Who are you seeking fame for? For whose pleasure are you looking? And when you get behind these things, you have to say, well, I am seeking money for myself. I want to be wealthy. I am seeking fame for myself. I am seeking pleasure for myself. Now you've come to the truth. The burden that Jesus said is heavy, one that will weigh you down, is living for yourself. When a person is seeking to live for himself, that is a heavy burden that one day will become intolerable, and you will just come to the cynicism and say, life isn't worth going on. You will become totally cynical, because you'll never be able to satisfy yourself. The yoke is too hard. The burden is too heavy.

But Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you, my yoke is easy, my burden is light". Living for God has to be the most satisfying life in the world. Nothing is more satisfying than to commit your life totally to God and to live for His glory. As Jesus said back in chapter ten, "he who finds his life, shall lose it, but he who loses his life for My sake shall find it." My yoke is easy, My burden is light, because my yoke is living to satisfy and to please God. And you find that is much easier to please God, then it is to please yourself. You'll never be able to please yourself, as you just live for yourself, because you're not answering to the basic purpose of your creation. When God designed you and created you, God purposed that you should be for His pleasure and for His glory.

As the elders are ascribing praise unto God and the worthiness of God to receive the praise of the Cherubim, "Thou art worthy oh Lord, to receive glory and honor, for thou hast created all things, and for your good pleasure they are and were created" ( Revelation 4:11 ). God did not create you to live for your own pleasure. And if you live for your own pleasure, your life is gonna be empty, frustrating, and dissatisfying. But if you will live for God's pleasure, if you take up the light burden, then your life will be fulfilling, rich, full. In fact even more, as David said, "my cup runneth over" ( Psalms 23:5 ). And your life will be like an overflowing cup.

May the Lord put His hand upon your life, fill you with His Spirit, and guide you with His councils. May you be strengthened in your walk with Him. May you begin to experience greater victories over those areas of the flesh that have dominated, and may you begin to experience more and more the power of God's Spirit within your life, giving victory. May the Lord be with you and may the Lord keep you in His love during the time that we're absent from each other. And may you just grow in your knowledge of Him, and in your fellowship in Jesus Name. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 11". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/matthew-11.html. 2014.
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