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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 11

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-30

Matthew 11:3 . Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another. Brevity here is connected with obscurity. John could not doubt, after seeing the glory, and hearing the voice from heaven. The main object seems to be, to transfer his disciples to the pastoral care of Christ, as well as to obtain fresh support of faith in the time of trouble.

Matthew 11:4 . Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see. Unfold to him the accomplishment of all the glorious works foretold by the prophets, which the Messiah should graciously effectuate. Isaiah 35:0. Tell him that the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear; yea, that the lepers, foul and incurable, are cleansed; that the dead are called back to life, and that the poor have the gospel preached to them. Zephaniah 3:12. John will ask for nothing more. To this passage Luke adds, “In the same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits, and unto many that were blind he gave sight:” Matthew 7:21.

This being the proper place to notice the miracles of Christ, we pause, adore, and wonder at those signs and miracles. John was not commissioned to work miracles: he came to prepare the way for the glory of the Lord to be revealed. But our Saviour, coming to supersede the ritual law, and to establish the new covenant, it was essential that his mission should have the seal of miracles. Why require the nation to give up institutions which had the sanction of heaven, without a demonstration that the injunction was divine.

The number, the extent, and magnitude of his miracles were such as demonstrated that he was the Creator and Lord of nature. With him nothing was arduous, nothing difficult. He spake, as in the first creation, and the work was done: he commanded, and it stood fast.

Those miracles were, for the most part, plain historic facts, of which the common people could be as competent judges as the most learned. The vulgar were transported with joy, the learned were convinced. No man, said Nicodemus, can do those miracles which thou dost, except God be with him. John 3:2. This recital of those miracles was made to convince John that Jesus was the Christ, and to assure him that the cause should live, though the faithful herald should receive a martyr’s crown. This power of working miracles would have carried equal conviction to the jews, had they been disposed to believe. “The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.” “Believe me for the very works’ sake.”

Nor should it escape remark, that the miracles of Christ were gracious works, and worthy of the Lord. He went about doing good; the crowd which his presence brought to the marriage in Cana, were amply supplied, and with the best of wine. Twice he fed myriads in the desert, when otherwise they had fainted by the way; and twice he more than filled the fishermen’s nets. In healing diseases his ministry was like a cloud, scattering blessings in all its course. Chronic cases, limbs deficient, and eyes to one born blind, limited not the arm of the Son of God. Inanimate nature equally obeyed his voice; the winds were still and the seas were calm at his command; and the figtree, emblem of the Hebrew nation, withered at his frown. The dead, the abodes of hades, or of paradise, heard his voice, and demons trembled at his word. Just was the conclusion of the vulgar crowd, “When the Messiah cometh, will he do greater miracles than this man doeth?”

Matthew 11:6 . Blessed is he who shall not be offended, or scandalized in my poverty, or persecution, or in my doctrine through the pride of reason, or offended because of my poor members, who at a future day shall inherit my glory.

Matthew 11:11 . There hath not risen a greater than John the baptist. Of all men the prophets were the greatest that had ever lived; and John was more than a prophet.

(1) Because he was himself the subject of prophecy. Isaiah 40:3. Malachi 3:1.

(2) Because he received a special commission to prepare the way of the Lord, and was the messenger before his face.

(3) Because he was privileged not merely to predict the advent of Christ, but to see his face; and to say unto the cities of Judah, “Behold your God.”

(4) Because he was the chosen paranymph the friend of the bridegroom, who led the infant church to her glorious spouse, and transferred to him all the fruit of his ministry and all the glory of his work. He stood and heard HIM, and rejoiced greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. John 3:29. (5) The fidelity of John the baptist, his disinterestedness, his constancy; the purity of his conduct, the holiness of his life, and the seal of martyrdom; but above all, the humility with which he laid all his honours at his Master’s feet, saying “He must encrease, I must decrease.” All conspire to confirm the testimony of the Saviour, that 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. Whoever received the grace and unction of the Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out upon the infant church, received nobler gifts, and richer grace and privileges, than were conferred on John the baptist. All that constitutes man great and good is received from above, that no flesh should glory in His sight.

Matthew 11:12 . The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence. Like a fortress in war it must be taken by storm, and he who besieges the throne of grace by faith and prayer, is sure to prevail.

Matthew 11:16 . Children sitting in the markets. Musicians or minstrels who attended places of public resort to be heard, as well on occasions of festivity and mirth, as at funerals. See notes on Genesis 50:10, and Jeremiah 9:17.

Matthew 11:17 . We have piped, and ye have not danced; mourned, and ye have not lamented. The gospel came to that generation as glad tidings of great joy, but they did not rejoice in it. It came as a savour of death unto death to the impenitent, but they did not lament and turn from their sins.

Matthew 11:27 . Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son. This was one of the first texts adduced against Arius, when he had broached his heresy against the Godhead of Christ. The knowledge here spoken of is above that of angels and men; and the mutual knowledge subsisting between the Father and the Son designates a unity of essence, and by consequence of all the incommunicable perfections of Deity.

Matthew 11:28 . Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden. Come with faith and hope, for he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. Believe on me as the only Mediator, Redeemer, and Saviour, appointed by the Father for the salvation of men. Come guilty for a pardon, wounded to be healed, and wretched, burdened, and oppressed to obtain peace of mind. Be encouraged by all the invitations of the prophets, which open wide the gates of the temple, and exclude no man whatever, be his case or his colour what it may. Come weak and weary and “heavy laden,” groaning under the yoke of the law, the frowns of justice, and a sense of the guilt and baseness of sin. Come, under all the yoke of inward corruption, concupiscence, and all the solicitations of your heart to evil, and I will give you rest. I will refresh you with grace that shall reign in your heart, and supersede the reign of sin.

Matthew 11:29 . Take my yoke upon you, the yoke of liberty, of obedience springing from love, and you shall find rest, even the peace of God which passeth all understanding.

Learn of me the lessons of piety of diligence, of overcoming evil with good, of perseverance, of prayer, of resignation to the will of our heavenly Father. Come and repose under the wings of Jehovah, under all his covenant grace and care, and then you shall find a peace which the world can neither give nor take away.

For I am meek and lowly in heart in opposition to the haughty scribes and doctors of the law who taught for hire, and repelled the simple and the ignorant. I am not merely a teacher of meekness and humility, but a meek and humble teacher. I will receive you with kindness. I will stoop to your ignorance, your weakness, your prejudices. I will condescend to the meanest, and patiently bear all your infirmities.


The work under John’s ministry had been great; but the day of trial came, and many of the weaker disciples were tempted, and ready to droop because of Herod’s frowns. John himself needed support in his imprisonment, for whose faith does not need refreshing in the trying hour? But his disciples were overwhelmed with discouragement, and knew not what to do. Hence John sent to Jesus for some new and reviving proof that he was the Messiah. Let us likewise in our temptations and discouragements often meditate on the glory of Christ, and on the all- convincing evidences of our religion. Let us acquaint him with our weakness and fears, and ask of him reviving proofs of his presence and favour. And as the tree is more enrooted by the tempest, so shall we become stronger after conflicts.

Our blessed Lord opportunely comforts his afflicted saints. In that same hour, while the embassy was present, Jesus wrought many miracles, and bade them tell John what they heard and saw. Oh blessed, though suffering servant of God. He asked not for interest to be made that he might come out of prison; he was happy to die, provided the cause might live, and provided he might see his flock transferred to the true shepherd.

The last proof which Christ enumerated of his Godhead and mission was, that the poor had the gospel preached to them. This would come with great force to John, the prophet Zephaniah having said, I will leave in the midst of thee a poor and an afflicted people, and they shall trust in the Lord. The gospel of Jesus was the richest grace of heaven, stooping to make happy the penitent poor. If the rich abound with the good things of this life, the poor are better disposed towards the gospel and the life to come. Their obligation to labour exempts them from the vices of indolence. Intemperance, habitual among the great, is only occasional among the poor. Having no haughty ties of honour and connection of blood, the poor can the more readily break with the world, and close with Christ. When the gospel addresses the poor, it is welcomed into the cottage as an angel of God; but in the villa, or the lordly mansion, it is often treated as heresy, ignorance and sedition. The poor, oppressed with want, and often afflicted, more gladly welcome the supports and comforts of the life to come. The gospel reconciles them to their condition; it elevates them to true nobility by a birth from above, and by making them heirs of an immortal crown. Happy then are the pious poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

When ministers have glorified God, and been eminently holy and useful, the church ought to hold up their excellence and worth: the timid flock are hereby emboldened to follow the heroes of faith. John was in his person but a weakly man, a reed shaken with the wind; but in the power of his spirit he was more than a prophet, and greater than Elijah, for Elijah was but a figure of him. Elijah reproved Ahab for Naboth’s vineyard, and John reproved Herod for incest. Elijah was much in the desert, and so was John. Elijah achieved a great reformation in Israel, and laid his axe at the root of idolatry; such also was the ministry of John, and more extensive than Elijah’s. From his days, men rushed in multitudes to take the kingdom of heaven, as an army storms a city. But it ought to be remarked, that the mysteries of grace are not to be disclosed to the world till matured. John was indeed the promised Elias, Malachi 4:5; but he came not to amuse the age by the wonder of his person, but to convert the wicked from the error of their ways. Hence Jesus did not reveal the high mission of John till after his imprisonment. Men who reject the gospel are so incorrigible as to despise and slander it in every form. When John came rough in his dress, and rigid in his manners, they slandered him as an improper model for the world to follow; and when Jesus came in all the habits of social life, taking his food with those that asked him, they called him an epicure. How just is it in God to blind men who first blind themselves. How gracious is it in God to reveal his gospel to babes, to the simple, and the poor of the land, when the learned and the rich reject it. May all praise be ascribed to the Father and Lord of heaven and earth for so doing. In a similar way St. Paul, after the LXX, has illustrated the prophecy of this event. Acts 28:26-27. At the same time it should be fully remarked, that the men who reject the gospel shall receive a greater curse than the accursed Canaanites, whom the Lord consumed in the cities of Sodom.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 11". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/matthew-11.html. 1835.
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