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MATTHEW CHAPTER 11
Matthew 11:2-40.11.6 John sendeth his disciples to Christ.
Matthew 11:7-40.11.15 Christ’s testimony concerning John.
Matthew 11:16-40.11.19 The perverse judgments of the people concerning both John and Christ.
Matthew 11:20-40.11.24 Christ upbraideth the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum with their long unfruitfulness and impenitency.
Matthew 11:25-40.11.27 He thanks the Father for revealing his gospel to the simple only,
Matthew 11:28-40.11.30 and invites the weary to partake of his rest.
We never find our Saviour idle, but continually going up and down doing good, and we find him most intent upon preaching and teaching, which doubtless is the great work of the ministers of the gospel; of what quality soever they be, they call pretend to no higher than Christ’s. Nor did our Saviour think it enough to send others in his stead, as his curates, he went himself. Luke notes, Luke 10:1, that he sent the seventy, two by two, into every city whither himself was to follow; so as it seems he did not judge it enough that one proclamation of the gospel should be made to them. For those that think there is a distinction to be made between preaching and teaching, κηρυσσειν and διδασκειν, they may learn from this text, that they are both the work of Christ’s ministers, if they be bound to take example from their Master, and not think the servant is above his Lord. Those that under value preaching, as the least part of the ministerial work, do both forget this text, and what Paul said, that Christ sent him not to baptize, but to preach the gospel; that is, not so much to baptize as to preach. If any think that people are now so instructed that there is no such need of preaching, they should do well to question their people a little, and they may discover their own great mistakes. Besides that experience teacheth us, that those who are best instructed are most desirous of that which deserveth the name of preaching; which lets us know that there is yet something further to be known, or that we had need have our remembrance stirred up, or at least our affections quickened.
The instance of this text alone is enough to convince the observing reader of holy writ, that the evangelists do not set down all things in that order as they were done. We have heard nothing before of John’s being cast into prison in this gospel, nor do we hear any thing here of the story of it, till Matthew 14:6, when our evangelist occasionally relates it something largely. He here tells us of something done during his imprisonment, viz. his sending two of his disciples to Christ, to be satisfied whether he was the promised Messias, or they must look for another. Luke reports the same thing, Luke 7:19. Could he that was sent before Christ to prepare his way, and that had baptized him, and seen the Spirit descending on him, and heard the voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, and who had showed Christ to his disciples, John 1:29-43.1.31, &c., doubt whether he was the Messiah? Undoubtedly no; but John saw how some of his disciples, either envying for his sake, as John 3:26, or else inclinable to the common error of the Jews about the Messiah, were something shaken with the clamours of the scribes and Pharisees (who were far more favourable to John than to Christ). That they might be satisfied from their own sight of the works of Christ, he a little before his death sendeth them to Christ on this errand,
Art thou he who should come (in the Greek, who is coming)? Which lets us know the full expectation the Jews generally had at that time of a Messias coming. They desire only to be satisfied whether Christ was he.
We must imagine these disciples of John to have stayed with Christ some time, and to have seen him work some of these miracles, and to have heard him preach, and seen the great success of his ministry, and then to have left him with this answer. Luke therefore addeth, Luke 7:21, And 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. Then he repeateth the answer which we have here, in which our Saviour refereth unto his works as sufficiently testifying of him, John 5:36,John 5:37; John 10:25,John 10:37,John 10:38. We read not that these disciples saw any dead person raised while they were with Christ, but it appeareth from Luke 7:18, &c. that the report of such a miracle was the occasion of their coming to Christ.
The question is, how the sight of these things done by our Saviour could be a sufficient argument to confirm to them that he was the Messias, especially considering that his apostles did the same things?
Answer: First, it was prophesied by Isaiah, Isaiah 35:4-23.35.6, that when God should come to save them, the eyes of the blind should be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: and Isaiah 61:1, that the Messiah should preach good tidings to the meek, that is, the poor, Luke 4:18, which Christ, Luke 4:21, applied to himself. So that the fulfilling of these promises argued that the Messias was come, and no other was to be looked for, whether these things were done by him or by his disciples.
Secondly, the disciples as yet had done no such things, so as his doing of them plainly evidenced his Divine power; the others did them but as his disciples, by his power and authority.
Thirdly, it is more than probable, that when the disciples did them, they used some such form as Peter used, Acts 3:6, In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. We find Peter, Acts 3:12, very wary that the people should not mistake in thinking they did it by their own power or holiness.
And the poor have the gospel preached unto them. Gr. πτωχοι ευαγγελιζονται, which may be translated, the poor preach the gospel, in an active sense, as the word is used Luke 2:10; or, the poor are gospelized, taking the word in a passive sense, as Hebrews 4:2; 1 Peter 1:25; 1 Peter 4:6. In the passive sense it may be understood either of a more external reception of the gospel upon preaching, or of a more internal reception of the gospel by faith. In all senses it was true of the times of the Messiah,
1. The poor preached the gospel; nor was this a mean evidence that the Messiah was come, to see a few poor fishermen at his call leaving their nets and their friends, and following one calling them to preach a new doctrine to the new world.
2. The poor had the gospel preached to them; nor was this a less evidence of Christ to be the Messiah, considering the prophecy, Isaiah 61:1, and the contempt of the poor amongst the Jews, John 7:49.
But that the poor, who commonly are the more ignorant and rude sort of people, should vouchsafe to hear the gospel, and be turned into the likeness of the gospel upon Christ’s preaching to them, this was yet a higher evidence. Many by poor understand the poor in spirit. The binding up of broken hearts, and bringing glad tidings to souls sadden on spiritual accounts is a great effect of the Divine power. It followeth, And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. It is not improbable that our Saviour here reflects on the disciples of John, who out of a great honour for their master took many occasions to be offended at Christ. One while because he and his disciples did not first so often as they and the Pharisees, as Matthew 9:14; another while because so many followed him, John 3:26. But the words spoken have a further reference than to John’s disciples. The Lord Jesus and his doctrine are to many a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, according to the prophecy, Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 28:16; Luke 2:34; Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:6. The Jews stumbled at the meanness of his person and parentage, and the meanness of his followers. The Gentiles, not at these things only, but his ignominious death. At this day many stumble at the sublimeness and strictness of his doctrine, &c. Christ speaks here with reference to all, and pronounces that man a blessed man, who shall so take offence at nothing, whether respecting his person, his life, or his death, his doctrine, or his followers, as to deter or discourage him from embracing him, and believing in him as the Saviour of lost sinners, that shall by faith receive him.
Luke repeating the same story, Luke 7:24-42.7.26, instead of they that wear soft clothing, saith, they that are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. Our Saviour here doth tacitly imply, that the ministers of the gospel should neither be uncertain and inconstant men, nor yet delicate men, affecting splendid apparel or delicate diet, but minding their great work, viz. the revelation of the will of God. But the scope of his present speech here, was to confirm the multitude in their good opinion of John, and to keep them from being scandalized, or altering their opinion of him, because he was now in prison. All men held John as a prophet, Matthew 15:5; Matthew 21:26. You went out (saith our Saviour) into the wilderness to hear John preach: you did not go out to see some idle, light man, such as a reed shaken with the wind, nor yet to see a man clothed gorgeously, (the wilderness is no place for such persons, they are to be found in the courts and palaces of princes), you went out to hear one revealing the will of God to you. Nor did you mistake. He was a prophet. Not that Prophet of which Moses spake, Deuteronomy 18:15. But a prophet; yea, and more than a prophet; one that hath taught you what none of the prophets ever could teach you, that I, the Messias, am come; they could only tell you that I should come.
St. Luke hath the same, Luke 7:27,Luke 7:28, only he saith, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist. It was written, 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. The latter part was a prophecy of Christ. The former part a prophecy of John the Baptist, and applied to him not in this text only, but Mark 1:2; Luke 1:76; Luke 7:27. Christ is set out as a great Prince, who sends his harbingers before him to prepare his way, and by John’s preaching we may learn the ministers’ duty, who are to prepare Christ’s way to people’s souls, viz. to preach repentance and faith in Christ.
Verily I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there hath not risen a greater; that is, (as Luke expounds it), a greater prophet; i.e. amongst all the prophets of the Old Testament, God raised up none greater than John.
Notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Mr. Calvin and many others think that by this phrase is to be understood, the least of those who shall preach the gospel after my resurrection will be greater than he, that is, as to their doctrine. John could only declare me to be come. They shall preach me, as having died for my people’s sins, and risen again for their justification, Romans 4:25. The death and the resurrection of Christ were indeed great points of the gospel, which John could only prophesy of, not preach of, and declare us things in his time accomplished.
As John Baptist was a great man, so the Lord hath owned him as such, giving such a success to his ministry, that ever since he began the course of it, men have been carried on with a great ardour and heat, in hearing and receiving the gospel, which is the gospel of the kingdom, and bringeth men into the kingdom of Christ amongst men, and at last to the kingdom of glory. The hearts of men and women have been inflamed with a desire after the knowledge and obtaining of heaven, and heavenly things. They are great persons whom God thus owneth; and those whom the Lord thus owneth, are ordinarily such as have some measures of the spirit of this first gospel ministry, making the great things of God the matter of their discourse, and doing their work with a seriousness, zeal, and fervour fitted to it.
The violent take it by force: they are not lazy wishes or cold endeavours that will bring men to heaven.
It is no wonder that there was such a heat kindled in the souls of people upon John the Baptist’s coming, for they understood that Christ, typified in the law, and only foretold by the prophets, was now come. So as the ceremonial law from his time began to die, and all the prophecies of Christ in the prophets began then to have their complement. John showed them with his finger him who before had been only darkly revealed under types and figures, and in the prophecies of the prophets; men came to see that they had not hoped or waited in vain for the salvation of Israel.
Prophesied, in this verse, signifies, made dark revelations of Christ and the kingdom of heaven.
God had told the Jews, Malachi 4:5,Malachi 4:6, that he would send them Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest (saith he) I come and smite the earth with a curse. This prophecy related to John the Baptist, as our Saviour here teacheth us; so, Luke 1:17, it is confirmed by the angel to Zacharias, and Mark 9:11. From which last text it appeareth, that the scribes had a tradition, that Elias should come before the Messiah. Their mistake was that they looked for an Elias to come in person, whenas God meant no more (as the angel expounds it, Luke 1:17) than one in the spirit and power of Elias, as bold and free a preacher, who should no more fear the face of men in the discharge of his duty than Elias did. Saith our Saviour, if you will believe, this John was that Elias prophesied of by Malachi.
It is an epiphonema or conclusion often used by our Saviour, (and by St. John in the Revelation), quickening up the hearers to a just attention to and belief of what in the doctrine preceding he had revealed to them; intimating that he knew, that what he had said would not be entertained or believed of all, but only of such whose ears and hearts God had opened, or should open to receive spiritual mysteries. But it was a matter of great concernment, he therefore calls upon those whose ears God had opened to attend to it. So Matthew 13:9,Matthew 13:43; Mark 4:9; Mark 7:16; Luke 8:8.
Luke, telling to us the same history, Luke 7:31-42.7.35, prefaces it thus, Luke 7:29,Luke 7:30, And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. Which letteth us know that our Saviour by the term this generation here doth not mean all the people of that generation; but the Pharisees and the lawyers, whom nothing could allure or persuade to the receiving of Jesus Christ, neither the ministry and example of John, nor yet his own preaching and example. For the people and the publicans justified the words of Christ, which he had spoken in commendation of John, and were baptized of him; but the Pharisees and lawyers did not believe, nor would be baptized of him. These our Saviour likens to a company of sullen children, whom their fellows could not persuade any way to a compliance with them: if they piped they would not dance; if they sang to them some mournful songs, neither would they be affected with them; so as no tune would please them. It is thought that our Saviour doth here allude to some sport used then amongst children, which we are not so well acquainted with, wherein children were wont to sing, sometimes more merry and pleasant, sometimes more sad and mournful songs one to another; and that he here likens the Pharisees and lawyers to a sullen set of children, that, let their companions sing what they would, would not answer them. Our Saviour’s meaning is expounded plainly enough by the next words (see Matthew 11:18,Matthew 11:19).
Luke hath the same words, Luke 7:33-42.7.35. The sense of the words is this: God hath by his providence used all means to win this people to the gospel. The doctrine of John the Baptist and Christ was the same, but their temper and converse was very different: John was an austere and morose man, Christ was of a more free and familiar conversation; but these men would neither give the one nor the other a good word; they reviled both of them, and rejected them both, and the doctrine which they brought.
John came neither eating nor drinking, that is, not as other men ordinarily do; he was a man that lived most in the wilderness, and fed upon very ordinary diet, not eating with publicans and sinners, not coming at any feasts, &c.; and they said of him, He hath a devil; he is a melancholic, hypochondriac fellow, a kind of a madman.
The Son of man came eating and drinking, he was of a more affable, pleasant temper, of a more free and less reserved converse, eating and drinking as other men (though keeping to the law of temperance) such things as the country afforded, not refusing to be present at feasts, though publicans and sinners were there. They said of him, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners: he displeased them with the two great freedom of his conversation; from whence, by the way, they may be better instructed, who place some perfection, or merit, in living like monks and hermits; by that rule John the Baptist was to be preferred before Christ. But Christ could please the Pharisees and lawyers, and their followers, no more than John did. They could not say he was melancholic or morose; but they blasphemed him to a higher degree, calling him a glutton and drunkard, and a friend of publicans and sinners. A godly man, let his temper and converse be what it will, pleaseth none who hateth the truth of the gospel, and the power of godliness. If he be reserved, then he is a morose, melancholic man; if he be of a more free and open converse, then he is a drunkard, or a glutton; something or other they must have to say against a man that will not run with them to the same excess of riot, though they lay to their charge things that they know not. The business is, they hate the power of godliness in them. This instance of these men’s thus treating John the Baptist and Christ, is of mighty use to strengthen those who meet with the very same things.
But wisdom is justified of her children. There is a great variety amongst interpreters in giving the sense of these words. Some think them spoken ironically, for the Pharisees went for the children of wisdom. Some think them spoken plainly, and think it should be, wisdom is judged, or condemned, of her children; but though the word δικαιοομαι, signifying to justice or do justice to another, which, according to the merit or demerit of the person, may be by justifying or condemning, upon which account it was true here that wisdom was condemned of those who pretended to be her children, and the word is so used in other authors, yet we have no such usage of it in Scripture. Not to reckon the various senses others put upon the words, the plain sense of them seems to be this. It is a proverbial speech, something like that, Ars non habet inimicum praeter ignorantem, Learning hath no enemies but the ignorant.
1. I, who am the Wisdom of God, am justified by you, who truly believe on me: you know I am no glutton, no winebibber, no friend of publicans and sinners. Or;
2. Grace is justified of all that are partakers of it. Godly men that are wise will own the grace of God in all men, whether they be of John’s temper or of mine, whether of more austere or more pleasant tempers. Or;
3. The wise counsel of God, making use of several instruments of several tempers to win these people unto his gospel, will be justified, that is, acquitted, defended, praised, adored of those who belong unto God, and are acquainted with his wisdom and counsels.
Luke saith, The people justified God, Luke 7:29. Some, by the children of wisdom, understand the scribes and Pharisees themselves, (who thought themselves the children of wisdom), or the generality of the Jews, who were condemned in their own consciences, and could not but in heart justify Christ, though in their speeches they condemned him. But Christ never called them the children of wisdom. This interpretation therefore seemeth something strained. That which seemeth the most natural is what I before hinted. Though those that pretend to be the children of wisdom thus speak of John and of me, yet those who are truly wise will justify me, and also the counsels and wisdom of my Father in the use of all means to bring them to receive the glad tidings of salvation, brought to them both by my more austere and reserved forerunner, and by myself, who have chosen, though a holy and unblamable, yet a more free and pleasant way of converse with them.
Our Lord had hitherto spent most of his time in Galilee, and the cities belonging to that province: there both John the Baptist and himself had preached the gospel, there he had wrought many miracles, by both aiming at their repentance; but there were multitudes that did not receive him, nor would be brought to any sight of their sins, or any acknowledgment of him as the Messias. He now begins to reprove them smartly, not that they did not applaud and commend him, but because they did not repent. This was Christ’s end in all his preaching, and in all his miraculous operations, to bring men to repentance, and to receive him as the Messias; and this should be the great end pursued by all his ministers.
Luke hath the same, Luke 10:13,Luke 10:14. Chorazin (and) Bethsaida were two cities of Galilee not far from one another, only the lake of Gennesaret was between them. Capernaum (by and by spoken of) was between them both, on the same side of the lake as Bethsaida, which was the city of Philip, Andrew, and Peter, John 1:44. In these towns Christ had often preached, so probably had the apostles, and Christ had done many great works in them.
Tyre and Sidon were habitations of heathens, their country joined to Galilee. They were places of great traffic, inhabited with Canaanitish idolaters, and exceedingly wicked; threatened by the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 23:1-23.23.18, and by the prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 26:1-26.28.26, and by Amos, Amos 1:9,Amos 1:10; a people odious to the Jews upon many accounts. To these our Lord here compares the Galileans, telling them that they were worse than that pagan people, who were so contemptible in their eyes, and that their plagues in the day of judgment would be greater.
For (saith he)
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. Some think this a strong proof, that where the gospel is preached God gives a sufficiency of grace; so as if men will but use that power which they have in their own wills, they may, with the assistance only of that grace, truly repent and be saved. I shall not meddle with that dispute, but cannot see how that notion can derive any proof from this text;
1. Because the text only mentions Christ’s miracles, not his preaching.
2. The text doth not say, they would long ago have repented unto life, but they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes, they would have been more affected than these Galileans were, who showed no sense at all of their sins. The king of Nineveh and his people repented, Jonah 3:7,Jonah 3:8; so did Ahab, 1 Kings 21:27; yet none will say they repented unto life. None ever denied a power in man’s will (his understanding being by the gospel enlightened to his duty) to perform acts of moral discipline.
3. Our Saviour might here speak after the manner of men, according to rational conjectures and probabilities. The scope of our Saviour in these words is to be attended, which was only to show, that the men of Chorazin and Bethsaida, showing no signs of remorse for sin, or conviction of the Messias upon the sight of his miracles, confirming his doctrine to be from heaven, had showed a greater stubbornness and hardness of heart than these heathens, who, though they were bad enough, yet had not had such means to reform and to convince them. Therefore he tells them their place in hell would be more dreadful than the place of the men of Tyre and Sidon. And so we are by this text taught, that as the sins of men who have the light of the gospel are much greater than the sins of the worst of men who have it not, so their condemnation in the day of judgment will be much heavier, John 3:19.
This speech of our Saviour is much of the same import with the other. The scope and sense of it is the same, to let the Capernaites know that the hardness of their heart was greater in contempt of the gospel, confirmed by so many miraculous operations, and their guilt greater, than the guilt of Sodom, long since destroyed by fire and brimstone, Genesis 19:1-1.19.38, for though they were guilty of prodigious sinning, yet they had not such means to convince, reclaim, and reform them. God had not sent his Son amongst them, nor given them such testimonies of that act of grace as he had given these, by vouchsafing to confirm the doctrine of his Son by miracles; and therefore they must expect that God, in the day of judgment, should deal more severely with them than with the filthy and impure Sodomites. Our Saviour here speaketh not as an all knowing God, but as the Son of man to the sons of men, who speak upon probabilities and rational conjectures. If we should say that Christ spake this as an all knowing God, all that can be inferred is this, that an external reformation may be a lengthening out of persons’ tranquillity. In the mean time God was just to both in not giving them such means, they sinning notoriously against the light of nature, which they had, and the light of Lot’s holy example, whose righteous soul they vexed with their filthy conversation and unrighteous deeds, 2 Peter 2:7,2 Peter 2:8; and he was also just in destroying of them. Capernaum is here said to have been
exalted to heaven, either with respect to their trading and outward prosperity, or with respect to the means of grace they enjoyed in hearing Christ’s sermons and seeing his miracles. The casting down to hell, seems to be meant of a temporal destruction, the word αδης not signifying the place of the damned, but the state of the dead; but Matthew 11:24 must be understood of eternal condemnation, which shall be
in the day of judgment.
Luke 10:21, hath the same thing, only he thus prefaces, In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, & c. He rejoiced in spirit, his heart was inwardly affected with this grace of God his Father. Then he answered and said. Answering in Scripture doth not always signify replying to the words of others, but a speaking upon some fit occasion offered, a beginning of a speech.
I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth. In the Greek the same word is used which signifieth to confess. In all thanksgiving and praising there is a confession of the power, wisdom, or goodness of God, so as all praising is a confessing, though all confession be not praising. By calling his Father
Lord of heaven and earth, he acknowledgeth his absolute power to have done otherwise, even as it pleased him.
Because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent. By the wise and prudent he here plainly means the scribes and Pharisees, the learned doctors of that age, who should have been wise and prudent, and were so both in their own and in their followers’ opinion. By
these things he means the mysteries of the gospel, as Matthew 13:11, The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. God is said to have hid them, because he had not revealed them to them; nor can it be understood of a mere external revelation by the preaching of the gospel, but of an internal revelation by his Spirit, so as they embraced and believed them, 1 Corinthians 2:10; in which sense Paul saith, If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, 2 Corinthians 4:3.
And hast revealed them unto babes, nhpioiv. It signifieth persons that are young in years, infants, and weak in understanding. He principally means his apostles, together with those ordinary persons that believed in him, for the Pharisees said, John 7:48,John 7:49, Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. O Father, (saith our Saviour), thou hast all power in thine hand, thou art the Lord of heaven and earth, thou couldest by thy Spirit have caused these learned men to have received and embraced thy gospel, and followed me, as well as these poor fishermen, and other Jews of none of the highest quality; in that thou hast not done it, thou hast declared thy justice, for their rejecting of thy counsel for their salvation, but in that thou hast revealed these things to any, especially to these persons, not under the same worldly advantages for reputation, wisdom, and wit, herein thou hast showed thy special and abounding grace, as well as the greatness of thy power. Lord, I rejoice in thy dispensations, and I give thee thanks that out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected thy praise. There can be no other reason given of this, but thy good pleasure;
Even so, Father; so it pleased thee. We may from hence observe,
1. That the further revelations of Christ some souls have more than others enjoying the same outward means, are not to be ascribed to the power or goodness of the will of man, but solely to the good pleasure of God.
2. That from the beginning of the gospel, the special and effectual revelations of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven have, from the good pleasure of God, been made generally not to the most learned and wise men in men’s account, but mostly to persons of a meaner rank. Surgunt indocti, et coelum rapiunt: Nos cum doctrina nostra in Gehennam trudimur. 1 Corinthians 1:26-46.1.28; James 2:5.
3. That wheresoever God by his Spirit reveals the mysteries of the kingdom of God, it is matter of great joy and thanksgiving; especially where God reveals these mysteries to persons most unlikely to have received them.
Our Lord having before showed;
1. That all power was given to him;
2. That none could know the Father but by and in him; closes his discourse with an invitation of persons to him. By the weary and heavy laden, in the text, some understand those that are laden with the sense of their sins, and the feeling the guilt of them. Others understand, with the burden of the law, which the apostles called a yoke, Acts 15:10.
Mr. Calvin thinks this too strait an interpretation. Others understand heavy laden with trials and afflictions. Christ will give rest to all those of his people that are any ways weary and heavy laden, but in an order first to souls wearied and heavy laden with the burden of their sins, and their want of a righteousness wherein to stand before God. Then to such to whom he hath given this rest, he promises also rest from their troubles and persecutions in the world, John 16:33. It is very like he used this term, Come, with respect to that of Isaiah, Isaiah 55:1,Isaiah 55:2. That by coming is to be understood believing is plain from John 6:44-43.6.46; Hebrews 11:6. The rest promised chiefly respecteth the soul, as appears from Matthew 11:29. The promise may be understood both of that rest which believers have in this life, Romans 5:2; Romans 15:13, and also of that rest which after this life remaineth to the people of God, Hebrews 4:9. Whatever the rest be, it must be of Christ’s giving and our seeking; nor is it to be obtained without labour and suffering, for it followeth,
Take my yoke upon you. The members of Christ are not without a yoke, a law and rule by which they are obliged to walk; and though the service of God be a perfect freedom, yet to flesh and blood it is a yoke, grating upon our sensitive appetite, and restraining our natural motions and inclinations.
For I am meek and lowly. Humility and meekness are in themselves yokes, as they are contrary to our pride, and aptness to swell in a high opinion of ourselves; and to our wrath and danger, which sometimes boils to a great height, without any due fuel: and as in themselves they are a great part of Christ’s yoke, so they fit and dispose us to take Christ’s further yoke upon us, and may be here considered as means directed for the better performance of the precept,
Take my yoke upon you. Our Lord also by this precept lets us know there can be no true faith without obedience to the commands of Christ. Though true faith and obedience be two things, yet they are inseparable; Show me thy faith (saith James) by thy works; and the rest of the text is not promised to either of them severally, but to both jointly.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Our Saviour had before (Matthew 7:13,Matthew 7:14) told us that the way to heaven is a strait way, how doth he now tell us his yoke is easy and his burden light?
1. Nothing makes it hard or burdensome but our corruption, which floweth from the depravation of human nature.
2. It is much easier than the yoke and burden of the law.
3. Though it be hard to beginners, yet it is easy when we have once accustomed ourselves to it.
4. It is easy, considering that we do it not in our own strength, but by assistance from God, Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:25,Ezekiel 36:26; John 15:3, we are delivered even from the moral law, considered as a covenant, and as merely commanding us, and affording no help and assistance.
5. It is also easy; as we are by the love of God constrained to our duty, so we are freed from the rigour of the law. It is easy and light, as it is a course of life highly consonant to our reason, once delivered from a bondage to our passions. Finally, it is much more easy and light than the service of our lusts is. There is no greater slavery than a subjection to our lusts, that if a drunkard saith "Come," we must come, if an harlot saith "Go," we must go. Or than our service to the world, &c. To say nothing of the exceeding easiness of it, from the prospect of the great reward proposed and promised to those who keep the commandments of Christ, the exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 2 Corinthians 4:17; as Jacob’s hard service of fourteen years seemed to him but a few days.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 11". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent