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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Matthew 11

Verse 1

11:1 All the words it came to pass are from GINOMAI and that word is used over 400 times in the Greek New Testament. It has a wide range of meanings and has been rendered in the Authorized Version by, be done 62 times, be 249, be made 69, become 42, come 53, tome to pass 82, and others. In places where it is rendered 'came to pass" it has the simple meaning; "it happened." Made an end means for the time being, for Jesus gave them commandments many times afterward. When the twelve disciples are mentioned it always means the apostles. Having given his apostles their "first commission," Jesus resumed his own work of teaching and preaching. There is not much difference between these two words when applied to the words of Jesus. The specific meaning of the first is "to instruct," and the other is, "to proclaim or announce."

Verse 2

11:2 This is the third time that the imprisonment of John has been referred to without relating its events. (See chapter 4:12; 9:14, 15.) The account of it will be found in chapter 14:1-12. John sent two of his disciples on an inquiry to Jesus. Let it be noted that it was his own disciples he sent, not those of Jesus who were daily near him and seeing his miracles on the sick and infirm.

Verse 3

11:3 I do not believe that John made this inquiry through any weakness of his own faith. That would have been a serious fault after the kind of preaching he had done. His own languishing in prison even should not have put any strain on his faith for he had preached to the people and told them concerning Christ and himself that "He must increase, but I must decrease," so that his persecution would harmonize with his own preaching. And had it been the case that his faith was weakening. Jesus would certainly have said something of a reproving character either to or about him. But he not only did not do that, but the entire speech that he made afterwards at verses 7-14 about John was highly complimentary. I am persuaded that it was for the reassurance of his own disciples who had not been seeing the miracles that Christ's disciples had seen. No doubt John believed that by getting his disciples in the immediate presence of Jesus on the occasion of the inquiry, they might get to see some of those evidences for themselves. This idea is borne out by the account in Luk 7:21 which says "in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities," etc.

Verse 4

11:4 Having "performed" doubtless for the benefit of John's disciples, he sent them back to John with the instruction to show him "again" about these miracles that they had just seen. The language shows that John had previously known about them, hence the report would not bring him any additional news. It might be asked why they should go tell John if the circumstance was just for their benefit. Well, the mission in the mind of John would have been accomplished, but their duty would not have been performed until they reported, and of course Jesus would not interfere with that.

Verse 5

11:5 This verse is the same account of the deeds which Luke says Jesus did "in that same hour." They all were things that required miraculous power unless we except the preaching of the gospel to the poor. That would require the miracle of inspiration but not the physical kind that is usually meant.

Verse 6

11:6 Not be offended is from SKANDALIZO and Thayer defines it at this place, "To be offended in one," and he explains his definition to mean, "i. e., to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority." Jesus was giving so many evidences of the authority in his possession that no doubt should be had as to whether he was the one "that should come," and they need not "look for another."

Verse 7

11:7 The importance of John and his work will be the subject of some verses, all of which will show that Jesus had a high regard fcr him. A reed is a tall and slender stem that would be swayed easily by the wind. Such would illustrate a man with little stability and one who could be easily influenced. The question of Jesus implied that John was not that kind of a man.

Verse 8

11:8 A man who was accustomed to the soft and luxurious life of royal palaces would be unsuited for work out in the wilderness. But the prophecy had foretold that the forerunner of Jesus was to operate in the wilderness, hence no surprise should be felt over the rough outdoor raiment of John the Baptist.

Verse 9

11:9 Coming more specifically to the office of John, the subject of a prophet was mentioned. The ordinary prophet was a man who wrote and/or spoke general predictions that would have widespread fulfillment. John had himself been the fulfiller of other prophecies and hence he was more than a prophet.

Verse 10

1:10 Jesus makes references to the predictions that had been made of John, which are recorded in Isa 40:3-4; Mal 3:1. The pronouns I and my stand for God, thy and thee refer to Christ, and the messenger means John the Baptist.

Verse 11

1:11 Up to the time of John's birth there had never been a greater prophet than he, for he not only fulfilled other prophecies, but uttered some himself that were of the greatest importance. Notwithstanding, he never was permitted even to see the kingdom of heaven, much less to set up and be "in it." For that reason the least person in that kingdom would be greater than John in the sense of having superior advantages over him, the privileges only possible to those who are members of the final master piece of Heaven in the salvation of mankind.

Verse 12

1:12 This verse is used by some to prove that the kingdom of heaven was in existence in the days of John. There have been several passages under observation that would forbid such a conclusion, hence we should seek for an explanation of the apparent contradiction. An organization is like a house in that it exists in preparation before it does in fact. Passing a site and seeing some digging of soil and unloading of material, a man may say to his friend: "This is our new school house." He would mean it was the school house in preparation. John began to "prepare" a people for Christ and thus it was the kingdom of heaven in preparation. But John's work was opposed even by ford and hence it is said that the kingdom suffered violence.

Verse 13

1:13 After Malachi completed his book, there was not one word of inspiration from heaven recorded until the voice of John was heard in the wilderness. That is, there was silence until his teaching about the kingdom introduced the new subject.

Verse 14

1:14 Elias in the New Testament is the form for Elijah in the old. Mal 4:5 prophesied that "Elijah the prophet" was to come, which Luk 1:17 words" in the spirit and power of Elias." John the Baptist was not Elias in person (for he had gone to heaven, 2Ki 2:11), but had the same kind of spirit (PNEUMA) and power (DUNAMIS) as he, and hence he is called by his name.

Verse 15

1:15 This is an emphatic call to attention, meaning that all who are blessed with the faculty of perceiving the sense of the divine teaching should use that faculty by attending to what is said.

Verse 16

1:16 Markets is from AGORA which Thayer defines, "1. any collection of men, congregation, assembly. 2. place where assemblies are held." The same author further explains: "In the New Testament the forum or public place,--where trials are held, Act 16:19; and citizens resort, Act 17:17; and commodities are exposed for sale." At such a place persons of all ages and classes would gather sometimes only for pastime. Children here is from PAIDARION which Thayer defines, "A little boy, a lad." These children were gathered to amuse each other. One set was to "furnish the music" and the other set was to respond.

Verse 17

1:17 But the set that was to respond was hard to please which was used by the Lord to illustrate the people of that generation in their attitude toward John the Baptist and himself. The one set of children first played on their pipes or flutes, but the others would not respond by dancing. Thinking they were not in the mood for jollity, they next set up a wailing sound and the others refused to respond to that, too, showing that they were determined not to be satisfied with anything that was done.

Verse 18

1:18 Neither eating nor drinking. No man can live without eating and drinking, but John did not eat among the people or from their supplies. He dwelt in the wilderness and lived on locusts and wild honey. He hath a devil. This charge is not recorded in any place except in the words of Jesus, but that makes it an established fact. They meant by such an accusation that John was a maniac or "out of his mind" to live as he did. That was the meaning that was attached to such a charge as may be seen in the following passages. Joh 7:20; Joh 8:48-49; Joh 8:52.

Verse 19

1:19 Jesus did the very opposite as to his social activities and did eat "with publicans and sinners" (chapter 9:11), yet that did not suit the people so they represented him as a man especially interested in his appetites. Wisdom is justified of her children. The last word is from a Greek word that means something that is produced by another. The wisdom that John and Christ showed in their different manner of life will be justified by the good results (the product or children) of their work, which was adapted to the peculiar circumstances in which they moved.

Verse 20

1:20 The key to this verse is that they repented not. God does not condemn unrighteous persons rashly on the mere fact of their sinfulness, but it is when they have been admonished and refuse to repent. (See Rev 2:5; Rev 2:16; Rev 3:3.)

Verse 21

1:21 These cities first named were not literally as wicked as Tyre and Sidon, but they had received more opportunities for learning better. Those ancient cities would have shown a better spirit in that they would have repented, which is the idea of importance in the passage.

Verse 22

1:22 Notice the toleration was to be at the day of judgment, not afterward. See the comments on this thought at chapter 10:15.

Verse 23

1:23 The same comparison is to be made between the cities of this verse as was made in verse 21. Exalted unto heaven is a figure of speech, based on the fact that Jesus was an inhabitant of Capernaum by choice (chapter 4:13), and hence it had the advantage of his presence. Hell is from HADES, and the literal meaning of it is the abode of disembodied spirits after death. However, it is used figuratively in this passage, since its fate is contrasted with what would have been that of Sodom under as favorable opportunity, namely, that it would have remained until this day. The prediction of Jesus is that the city will sink into a state of forgetfulness. The prophecy has been fulfilled because the works of reference can only tell of various places that claim to have been its location. Funk and Wagnalls Standard Bible Dictionary says, "Its present site is a matter of dispute," and Smith's Bible Dictionary declares, "It is impossible to locate it with certainty."

Verse 24

1:24 For more tolerable see the comments on verse 22.

Verse 25

1:25 The Pharisees professed to have superior wisdom, yet their hearts had become so hardened with selfishness that the important principles of responsibility had been hid from their perception. Babes is a figurative term for the honest and humble people who were ready to hear the lessons of truth offered to them.

Verse 26

1:26 The endearing term of Father is used here, to which Jesus had joined that of Lord in the preceding. verse. Jesus endorsed the work of God with NAT which is translated. even so. Thayer defines it, "Yea, verily, truly, assuredly, even so." The beautiful reason for his endorsement was that it "seemed good in thy sight." The best of reasons for any action of God is that He considers it to be good.

Verse 27

1:27 The complete intimacy between Jesus and God is the main point, and he indicates it by using the terms Father and Son. In anticipation of the full delivering of authority to him (chapter 28:18), he says all things are delivered. No person will be permitted to benefit from this great intimacy but the one to whom the Son reveals it, and that will be only the man who accepts the Son.

Verse 28

1:28 The willingness of Jesus to share the forementioned blessing with others is indicated by the rest of this chapter. This whole passage is often called Christ's world-wide in-vitation. To labor means to be distressed with the hardships of life, especially those brought about by sin. The kind of rest to be given will be shown next.

Verse 29

1:29 Yoke is from ZUGOS, which has been rendered in the Authorized Version by yoke 5 times and pair of balances 1. The word is used as an illustration of the obligation that one must accept as a co-worker with Jesus in the service of righteousness. Learn of me is consistent with the whole situation, for if a man expects to serve his yokefellow he should desire to know something about him. That learning will reveal that the owner of the yoke is meek and lowly which means he is humble and interested in the welfare of the unfortunate ones of earth. The rest is to be for the soul, not that a disciple of Jesus will be an idler in the vineyard. But while his body may be bent down with the toils of the service and from its persecutions imposed by the enemy, the inner man will be at peace and rest in the Lord. (See 2Co 4:16.)

Verse 30

1:30 Easy is from a word that means it is not harsh nor galling because it is made correctly. If a yoke for a beast is made to fit his body, he can pull a heavy load without any injury to his shoulders, and that would make a big burden comparatively light. On that principle the service that Christ places upon the shoulders of his disciples is adapted to their needs and abilities, which makes it easy to bear.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 11". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/matthew-11.html. 1952.