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We have in this Chapter the Message of John the Baptist to Christ, and the Lord's answer. Towards the close of it, Jesus upbraids the cities around him for their hardness of heart, and unbelief, and thanks his Father for revealing his truths to his people.
"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. (2) Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, (3) And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? (4) Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: (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. (6) And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me."
When the Lord Jesus had finished his charge to his disciples, and was about to depart on his own personal ministry, he received a message from John the Baptist. We have noticed somewhat of this wonderful man, Matthew 3:0 . to which I refer. John was now in prison, for honestly telling Herod, that his intention of taking his brother Philip's wife, was unlawful. Matthew 14:4 . John had given the most ample testimony to the Redeemer's person and character, and that not from human authority, but divine. John 1:30-34 . It now sends his disciples to Jesus for their conviction also. I cannot for a moment conceive, that John himself had any doubts concerning Christ, though some writers have ventured to think so. Let the Reader turn to the Sermon John preached to the Jews, and judge for himself. John 3:27 , to the end. Our Lord's answer to John's disciples is very striking. I beg the Reader to turn to those Scriptures which speak of the Messiah in the Old Testament, and compare them with the life and ministry of Jesus in the New, and he will at once discover the beautiful correspondence. Genesis 49:10; Genesis 49:10 ; Isaiah 8:14-15; Isaiah 8:14-15 ; Romans 9:33 ; 1 Peter 2:7-8 . And when the Reader hath duly pondered those blessed scriptures in proof, I will detain him but for the moment to observe, what a gracious testimony the Lord himself hath provided for his poor, doubting, fearful disciples, who, in the absence of higher evidences, can still say they love his name, amidst all their weaknesses and undeservings. John 21:17 .
"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? (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. (9) But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. (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. (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. (12) And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. (13) For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. (14) And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. (15) He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
The last words in this passage of our Lord's discourse, implies somewhat contained in it which requires deep attention. In this view I conceive the 10th verse to be the most weighty. If the Reader will turn to the Scripture which the Lord Jesus quotes from his servant, the Prophet Malachi, (Malachi 3:1 .) he will discover a very striking difference in the manner in which Jesus useth the words; from what, they are there. In the words of the Prophet, it is Jehovah the Lord of Hosts speaking to the Church concerning John.
He shall prepare the way before me. But here, as the Lord of his temple, Christ is spoken to on the same subject; and now the words are, behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. What a decisive proof of the Oneness in the divine nature, in the me and thee; Jehovah's way, and Christ the Mediator's way is one and the same. And what can be more full in point to the Godhead of Christ? And hence it must undeniably follow, that the way of both, being one and the same; He, who is the Lord of his temple, and the Angel of the covenant, is One, with the other Persons of Jehovah, in nature, in essence, in way, will, and work; in property, honor, and worship; and in all the divine attributes, perfections, and glory! Hail! thou Almighty Jesus, whom all thy people delight in! Oh! for ears to hear what the Spirit saith concerning time to the Churches! See Matthew 3:0 and Commentary throughout.
If I detain the Reader a moment longer on this discourse of Jesus, it shall only be to make a short observation on that passage in it, in which the Lord speaks of the kingdom of heaven suffering violence, and the violent taking it by force. There can be no doubt concerning what is meant by the kingdom of heaven for the whole tenor of scripture refers this to the kingdom of grace upon all occasions, when speaking of the things of this life. But the violence this kingdom is said to suffer, and the being taken by three, these are terms not so clearly to be understood. The whole tide of Commentators, as hr as I have seen, are all running in one, and the same opinion, that the words have reference to John's preaching, and the effects wrought upon the minds of the multitude thereby which flocked to his baptism. But I am free to confess, none of them satisfy my mind upon this subject. John's preaching of repentance can hardly be supposed to imply a violence done to Christ's kingdom, neither did it produce such an holy earnestness as might carry the expression of the violent taking it by force. See the parallel passage. Luke 16:16 , I do not presume to speak decidedly on this, or any other portion of the word of God, which may be considered in the least of doubtful meaning; but I am rather inclined to think, the violence Christ's kingdom is said to have sustained by John's preaching, refers more to the opposition made against it by the powers of darkness, than to the conciliating the minds of men to it by his outward ministry. John's chief scope of preaching was, as the herald of Christ, to testify of his approach, and that now it was very hear. The hellish malice of the enemy is thereby the more excited, in proportion as Satan knew his kingdom was now tottering in the centre. See Malachi 4:1 . And as John called the great mass of Pharisees and Sadducees, which came to his baptism, a generation of Vipers, (See the Commentary on Matthew 3:7 .) it might be said the kingdom suffered violence from them, but cannot be conceived, !that these were among the violent said to take the kingdom by force. But I leave the Reader to his own thoughts on the passage, under divine teaching, without adding aught more upon it.
"But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, (17) And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. (18) For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. (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."
How just the statement Jesus hath here made, of the inefficacy both of law and gospel, unaccompanied with the grace of God. The waywardness of children is a striking figure in proof. For neither the melody of salvation by Christ, nor the awful threatenings by the law of Moses, have the least influence on the ungenerate heart. Reader! think of the infinite importance of the work of God the Holy Ghost in conversion!
"Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: (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. (22) But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. (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. (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."
Reader! in the view of Chorazin and Bethsaida, and the awful woe pronounced upon those cities, which had been favoured with such high privileges, and regarded them not, think what will be the final condemnation of Great Britain in this particular? Would Jesus find faith, real saving faith, were he now to come among us? It is an awful thought! Luke 18:8 ; Matthew 7:22-23 ; Hebrews 2:3 .
"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. (26) Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. (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. (28) Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (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. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
If I were to enter into the full Paraphrase and Comment upon this most sublime address of Christ to the Father, and the discourse connected with it to his people, it would swell many pages. The contracted nature of this work will not allow me. I must beg, however, the Reader not to pass it over, until that he hath first remarked with me, how the Lord Jesus thanks his Father for the distinguishing grace bestowed upon his people; that while hiding the wonders of redemption from the wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight, (Isaiah 5:21 .) the Lord reveals his mercy unto the humble and the lowly. And I beg the Reader to observe further, the cause which Jesus assigns; namely, God's own appointment. To all the bold and presumptuous reasonings of the human mind, which have been or may be hereafter brought forward, against the exercise of Jehovah's sovereignty, the answer is direct. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Surely the Lord is not called upon to give account of the motives of his holy will and pleasure, to any of his creatures. One thing we know, namely, that his counsel and purpose must stand, and he will do all his pleasure; and that all He doeth is right. His conduct towards his creatures, is by an unerring Standard. His mercy is not moved by any good in us, neither is it kept back by our undeservings; for neither our merit, nor our misery, can be said to have had any hand in disposing the purposes of His sovereign will towards us. That the Lord hath taken occasion from our misery, to magnify the abounding riches of his mercy, is true; but then his mercy was before our misery, and his own everlasting love the sole cause of our blessedness in Christ, therefore our Lord's own words are most blessed in point: Even so Father! for so it seemed good in thy sight!
I must beg to detain the Reader with a short remark more upon those very blessed words of Jesus, (for very blessed they are in my view) in which the Lord hath said, that the knowledge of the persons of the Godhead is wholly in themselves; and that none can know the Son but the Father; neither can any know the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. If those words of the Lord Jesus, were but duly attended to by those who call themselves Christians, after Christ, and consequently profess to believe, that what Christ hath said is true, (I mean such as deny his eternal power and Godhead, of every class and description,) could they, consistently with their own creed, presume to so daring an act of impiety, when Jesus himself hath said, that no man knoweth the Son but the Father? They it seems, in direct defiance of this scripture, declare they know the Son; and with an uncovered front, Which makes one tremble at their blasphemy, advance further, and say that He is not One with the Father, over all God blessed forever! Reader! do not fail to keep in remembrance those blessed words of Jesus, which so plainly, and so fully declare, that none can know the Son but the Father; than which there cannot be a more decisive testimony, that Christ is God.
But when the Reader hath duly pondered this unanswerable testimony of Jesus, to the certainty of his Godhead, I crave his indulgence to dwelt a little longer on this precious passage. If the revelation, both of the Father and of the Son (for both are One) be made, and is made, by Jesus concerning the Father, and by the Father concerning the Son, oh! think how blessed it must be, when the Lord gives to any poor sinner a spirit of wisdom and revelation in this divine knowledge. I beg the Reader not to shut the book until he hath, in regular order, turned to those scriptures in blessed confirmation of this most unquestionable truth. And first, according to the order of those words, No man knoweth the Son but the Father. See Christ's testimony to Peter. Matthew 16:13-17 . See Paul's testimony also, concerning himself on this grand point. Galatians 1:11-16 . Paul was called from the error of his way by Christ from heaven. So that, as he saith, he never received the Gospel from man neither was taught it by man, but by Jesus Christ. A plain and decided testimony that he knew Christ to be God. Anti the same Apostle saith, that it was God the Father; that revealed his Son to him. Add to these, Jesus himself saith, No man, can come to me, except the Father which hath, sent me, draw him. John 6:44 . So much for the revelation of the Son by the Father and of which Paul was so well convinced, agreeably to what our Lord hath said in this scripture, that none can know the Son but the Father and by his revelation of him, that the Apostle expressly prays for the Church at Ephesus, that the Father would give unto them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. I beg the Reader to read the whole passage Ephesians 1:15 , to the end. Now then, in like manner, let the Reader consult those scriptures, which equally prove that the knowledge of the Father is only with the Son, and his redeemed, to whom the Loud Jesus reveals him. And here in proof, read John 1:18 ; then turn to John 6:46 ; then John 10:15 ; and lastly, to mention no more, John 14:9-10 . Oh! the preciousness and blessedness of these things! Reader! may not you and I (if so be the Lord Jesus hath mercifully given us a spiritual knowledge herein,) may we not take to ourselves what Jesus said to Peter; and consider the same blessedness as ours also: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto us, but our God and Father which is in heaven. See also Luke 10:23-24 ; John 16:13-15 ; 2 Corinthians 4:6 .
I must not trespass further by enlarging on the many other blessed things contained in the close of this Chapter. But otherwise what a subject might be opened concerning the All things Jesus saith, as Mediator, are delivered unto him by his Father? (see the Commentary on Luke 10:22 .) and of Jesus' invitation to the weary and heavy laden to come to him, and to find rest unto their souls? But I beg the Reader to consult some of the numberless scriptures on these glorious truths of our God: and may the Holy Ghost open their beauties and saving influences to his soul! Psalms 116:6 ; Isaiah 28:12 ; Hebrews 4:9 .
Will any send my soul to question, whether Jesus be indeed He that should come: or can there be a possibility of cause to look for another? Oh! no. He is the altogether lovely: and the chiefest and the fairest among ten thousand. Now, even now, as well as in the days of his flesh, the spiritually blind, are receiving from him their sight: the lame in soul, Jesus makes to leap as an hart; leprous sin-hers are cleansed in the fountain of his blood; the deaf hear the words of the book; the dead in trespasses and sins are raised; and the poor in spirit, hear and know the joyful sound, and through grace walk in the light of God's countenance. And can there be another Jesus: another Gospel which we have not received? Oh! thou dear Lord! blessed forever blessed be thou for having said, blessed is ha whosoever shall not be offended in me!
Lord! grant if it be thy blessed will, that it never may be the condemnation of our land like Chorazin and Bethsaida! Great Gospel privileges we have indeed; but what must follow if we neglect, or reject such great salvation?
Reader! let you and I listen to the sweet and gracious invitation, which Jesus gives to the weary in sin, and to the heavy laden under the burthen of it, Oh! for grace to learn of thee, thou meek and lovely Savior! Thou art indeed, both a rest and resting place, for thy people. In thee, my soul would rest from sin, and rest to God. Thou art both a shelter from the wind, and a covert from the tempest. Thou art my hiding place, thou will preserve me from trouble. Thou wilt compass mc about with songs of deliverance. Haste, haste my soul, to thy rest, thy Jesus for the Lord hath dealt bountifully by thee!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 11". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany