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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 11



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Verses 2-6


Matthew 11:2-6; Luke 7:18-23. We answer the above question unhesitatingly in the negative. Neither John nor his disciples had any doubt about the Christhood of Jesus. Already twenty months have rolled away since he had introduced Him to the people and inaugurated Him into His official Messiahship by baptizing Him at the Jordan, and he had seen the Holy Ghost descend on Him, not only indubitably demonstrating His Christhood, but gloriously qualifying Him to preach the gospel of the kingdom. As the disciples of Jesus had begun with John, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, the steward of King Herod, lived at Machaerus, where John was in prison, and coming home kept the faithful Baptist well posted in reference to the mighty works of Jesus, the fact of the matter was, that Jesus had not yet openly to the Jews proclaimed His Messiahship, as this was brought out at a later date, up at Caesarea-Philippi, through the confession of Peter; John wanted to draw Him out into an open confession of His Christhood to the multitude, feeling that this would expedite the work.

Luke: “His disciples proclaimed to John concerning all these things. And calling certain two of his disciples, John sent them to Jesus, saying, Art Thou He who is to come, or look we for another? And the men, coming to Him, said, John the Baptist sent us to you, saying, Art Thou He who is to come or do we look for another? And at that hour He was healing many of diseases, chronic ailments, and unclean spirits, and was conferring on many blind people the power to see. Jesus responding, said to them, Going, tell John those things which you have seen and heard; that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them, and blessed is he whosoever may not he offended in Me.” So you see that Jesus just sent them back to John to tell him what they had seen, aiming this to be the answer to his question. During all these twenty months He has been performing all these mighty works, and at the same time constantly preaching the gospel of the kingdom. You see the solution of the whole problem: He desires the people to be convinced of His Christhood by His mighty works, which none but God can do, preferring that their faith may supervene as a normal result of witnessing His miracles and hearing His profound and glorious truth, rather than it should be founded on His simple affirmations. The time had not yet arrived for the open and public declaration of His Christhood. Another reason consisted in the fact that the Jews all believed that Christ was to be their King, ascending the throne of David; would break the yoke of oppression, and reign over them; thirty years of military despotism, since the Roman proconsulate had superseded the Jewish kingdom, had galled their necks with the yoke of military despotism till they longed to throw it off and again be free. This was evidently a great reason why He did not openly declare His Messiahship; but at the same time filled the whole country with His mighty works, which none but God could do. You must remember that He did, in the beginning, declare His Christhood while preaching in Samaria, as there was no probability of their crowning Him King.

Verses 7-15



Matthew 11:7-15, & Luke 7:24-30. “And the messengers of John having gone away, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” Well did the multitude remember the thrilling scenes two years ago, when they all left their employments and went away to hear the wonderful prophet of the wilderness; and the waving of the tall reeds growing in the rich alluvial soil on Jordan’s bank, moved by the sighing zephyrs, hither and thither, were vivid in their memories. Those reeds are there now, fifteen feet high. My comrades, a few days ago, brought away some of them as souvenirs. “But what went ye out to see? A man clothed in soft raiments? Behold, those who are in gaudy and soft apparel are in king’s houses.” No, they never went to see a royal dude or a leader of the hon tons. A great man of the world could never have attracted that multitude, away into the wilderness, to run a camp-meeting six solid months. He was the very opposite, dressed like a tramp, and living like a soldier who proposed to conquer or die. “But what went ye out to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it has been written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thee, who will prepare Thy way before Thee. <390301>Malachi 3:1 For I say unto you, That among those who have been born of women, no prophet is greater than John; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” That John the Baptist was a transcendent intellectualist and climacterically spiritual, actually filled with the Holy Ghost from his infancy, the greatest of the prophets and peerless in his dispensation, no one can call in question; yet the smallest saint in the Pentecostal age is dispensationally greater than John, the prince of prophets, and even more than a prophet, as he was the precursor of our Lord. While the Bible is preeminently spiritual, yet it is the most intellectual Book in the world, exhibiting many specimens of the highest mental culture the ages have produced, among those who have given themselves world-wide notoriety as hornines unhts libri, “men of one book.” Our Savior frequently indulges in terse, enigmatical statements of truth, in order to sharpen our wits, develop our intellects, and superinduce profound and exhaustive research. If John the Baptist were living now, he would be the sensation of the world, as he was in his day; yet, dispensationally, he lived and died under the Law. Hence all the sons of gospel grace stand on a plane superior and more luminous, and richer in privileges and opportunities, than the brightest and the best enjoyed under the old covenant. “And all the people hearing, and the publicans justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John; but the Pharisees and theologians rejected the counsel of God against themselves, not having been baptized by him.” While the rank and the of the Jewish nation, and especially the poor, were melted and convicted by the preaching of John, gladly receiving baptism at his hands, the Pharisees (i.e., the influential and official members of the Church) and the lawyers — Greek, nomikoi, from nomos, “law;” i.e., the law of Moses — who were the learned exponents of the Old Testament Scriptures, and not lawyers in the modern sense, but theologians (i.e., the learned preachers), took gross offense at the stern rebuke of John, calling them “generation of vipers,” and demanding of them satisfactory evidence of repentance, and consequently they were not baptized by him. (Matthew 3:7.)

Verse 12


Matthew 11:12. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of the heavens suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force;” i.e., strong, vigorous, muscular, nervous men and women, from Dan to Beersheba, from the great sea to the Arabian desert, are rising up, leaving their homes, dropping everything in their enthusiasm for personal salvation. Four hundred years had rolled away since an inspired prophet had preached in Israel. The ministry of John the Baptist was like an effulgent noonday, suddenly breaking the black darkness of midnight. Never had Israel seen or known such a revival as swept the country, like a cyclone, under the ministry of the eloquent Baptist. Before John’s revival was arrested by his imprisonment and martyrdom, he enjoyed the honor of administering the inaugural baptism to the Son of God, thus introducing Him into His official Messiahship, who immediately began to preach and perform the most stupendous miracles, not only healing the people by hundreds and thousands, administering infallible cures to lepers, cripples, and all sorts of invalids, well known to be hopeless by human agency, but, under the ministry of Jesus, not only was all Israel aroused from the slumber of bygone ages, and thrilled with an electric-shock which emptied their cities and depopulated their towns, to run away and see the mighty works and hear the paradoxical preaching of the Galilean Prophet, but heathen nations from all parts of the country rise up, and come in multitudes, pressing pell-mell, precipitately, shouting as they come, “Only let me into the kingdom!”

Verse 15


For all the prophets and the law prophesied unto John. And if you wish to receive him, this is Elijah who is to come.” (Malachi 3:1) “Let the one having ears to hear, hear.” Though all have physical ears, they never can hear the voice of God and the music of heaven till Jesus speaks the Ephthatha, “Be thou opened.” The above Scriptures settle all questions as to the boundaries of the dispensations, showing clearly that John the Baptist did actually wind up the Mosaic dispensation, being the last of the prophets and the greatest of all.

Verses 16-19


“But to whom shall I liken this generation? It is like unto little children, sitting in the forums, and calling to their comrades, and saying, We have piped unto you, and you have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and you have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a demon. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold, a man gluttonous and a wine-drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.” The group of children last mentioned are playing funeral, and thus emblematize John the Baptist, who came in all the austerities and abstemiousness peculiar to the old prophets, and actually preached the funeral of the Mosaic dispensation; while the other group, playing wedding, which introduces the new life of the wedded twain, emblematized Jesus, the Bridegroom, who came, not only introducing the new dispensation, but wedding the gospel Church. You see that as these groups of children mutually complain of the non-reciprocation of their fellows, so the people cried out against both John and Jesus, at opposite poles of the battery, the one representing death and the other life, and the carnal Church equally displeased with both. So in the great plan of experimental salvation, we have the funeral of Adam the First and the marriage of Adam the Second, both equally repellent to the carnal clergy and the worldly Churches. Present to them sanctification from either pole of the spiritual battery, and they reject it, turning away with proud disdain. “Wisdom is justified of her children.” Wisdom here means the Holy Ghost, who was fully approved and vindicated, both by the ministry of John and Jesus, who differed widely, either from other, and yet harmonized most perfectly. We have this day an infinite variety and diversity of preachers and workers in the kingdom of God, all about equally repellent to carnal people, yet the Holy Ghost is vindicated, and God glorified, by the ministry of all His children.

Verses 20-30


Matthew 11:20-30. “Then He began to upbraid the cities, in which most of His mighty works were wrought, because they did not repent: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! because if the mighty works which have been wrought in you were in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Moreover I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.” Chorazin was a magnificent city, twenty miles to the northwest of the Galilean Sea, on a mountain slope, and very conspicuous. We saw it almost constantly while sailing on that sea. This prophecy has been literally and signally fulfilled in the utter ruin of that city, which remained without an inhabitant through the intervening centuries, till about twenty years ago a Jewish colony reached the old site. It is now a very flourishing city of twenty-five thousand inhabitants, one of the cheering omens of the swiftly approaching end of Israel’s long desolation, and inspiringly ominous of the Lord’s near coming. (Matthew 24:29-30.) Bethsaida stood on the northwestern shore of that sea, the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip. Signally has this woe been fulfilled in its utter destruction. This day it is without an inhabitant, though rather a favorite camping-ground for travelers, as the great spring, which evidently originally determined the location, still rolls its clear, limpid waters into the sea. We spent an hour, lunched, and fed our horses, enjoying copious draughts from this spring.

Of course, this city will be rebuilt in the good time coming. Tyre and Sidon are among the most ancient cities in the world, situated in Phenicia, on the Mediterranean coast, twenty miles apart. They were the inventors of the royal purple, which erelong became the uniform of all the kings throughout the known world, thus making these cities immensely rich by their patronage, as they enjoyed a monopoly of the costly and gaudy apparel worn by the royal families in all the earth. They suffered terribly in the conquest of Nebuchadnezzar, 600 B. C. Having somewhat revived, they again suffered awfully in the conquest of Alexander, 325 B. C., in after ages being conquered by the Romans, so that in the Savior’s time, though they still existed, scarcely a vestige of their former grandeur existed. These were Gentile cities. Jesus says that with the opportunities enjoyed by those Jewish cities, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes.

“And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted up to heaven, shall be cast down to Hades; because, if the mighty works which have been performed in thee, were among the Sodomites, they would have remained until this day. Moreover I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of the Sodomites in the day of judgment than for thee.” Why was Capernaum exalted up to heaven? Because she enjoyed the residence and the ministry of Jesus, the richest blessing in all the earth; no city on the globe ever so signally favored. How plain the preaching of Jesus! Remember, He was in that city when he pronounced this awful, withering woe, which has been literally verified in the utter destruction of the city, remaining through the ages without an inhabitant. They are now beginning to rebuild that memorable city. When I reached the sea of Galilee, and embarked in a boat to go sailing all around, I said to them, “Take me, first of all, to Capernaum,” which is about ten miles from Tiberias, whence we sailed. O how I enjoyed walking on the ground where Jesus had walked, and standing where He preached to the multitudes. The revival of this city is of very recent date; a Latin convent, claiming to occupy the site of Peter’s house, which was the home of Jesus, being the principal interest. Hades means the unseen world, which we all enter when we evacuate these tenements. There are two words in the Greek, “Hades” and “Gehenna,” both translated “hell” in E.V.; the latter always meaning hell, and the former simply meaning the eternal world, including both heaven and hell. Sodom and Gomorrah were Gentile cities, so awfully wicked that God rained on them fire and brimstone, thus destroying them. Here our Savior says that with the opportunities enjoyed by these Hebrew cities, they would have repented. I have met many idle and foolish talkers who even dare to impeach the Divine benignity, saying that it is unfair to give the millennial generations an earthly paradise, with no devil to tempt them, when all the premillennial ages have to pass through Satan’s flint-mills, taking chances for heaven. Who art thou that repliest against God? Hath not the Almighty a perfect right to dispense His sovereign mercy pursuant to His infallible will? We know He makes no mistakes. Here, Jesus says that if these great Gentile cities, Tyre and Sidon and Sodom, had enjoyed gospel privileges, they would have repented. Let us thank God for our opportunities, and be sure that we appreciate them.

Verses 25-27


Matthew 11:25. “At that time, Jesus responding, said, I praise Thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and revealed them unto babes. Yea, Father, because thus it was well pleasing in Thy sight.” Here our Savior calls His apostles and disciples babes, and very appropriately, as the whole gospel Church remained in spiritual babyhood till Pentecost. Here, Jesus says that the Father was pleased to withhold these deep, sweet, and wonderful revelations from the wise and the prudent, and has revealed them to babes. We are frequently admonished to be “wise and prudent.” Good Lord, deliver me from the wisdom and prudence which would disqualify me to get down to the bottom of the valley of humiliation, from which I can look up and see the beauty of holiness!


Eight hundred millions identified with the paganistic Churches, one hundred and seventy-five millions belonging to the Churches of Islam, and all the Unitarians in the Protestant world, ignore and reject the Divinity of Christ. You see their awful dilemma, claiming to worship the Father when they never can know Him, as they reject the Son, who alone can reveal Him.

Verses 28-30


Matthew 11:28. “Come unto Me, all ye who are laboring and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” These laboring people are all convicted sinners, toiling to save their own souls, and at the same time heavy laden with guilt, realizing mountains on them, crushing them down to perdition. Millions are thus toiling beneath their intolerable burdens, but all in vain, as it is utterly impossible for them, with all the good works which they can do and the preachers can do for them, to ever get rid of their crushing load of guilt and sin, which will get heavier through time and eternity, not only dragging its victim down to hell, but sinking him to a deeper depth of damnation through the flight of eternal ages. Then, what shall the burdened soul do? Jesus here tells you, “Come unto Me;” not to the Church, to the preacher, to water baptism, to sacraments or duties, but “unto Me, and I will give you rest.” This is rest from that burden of sin, which Jesus takes from your soul, granting you a free pardon. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, because I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” So here you see plainly that our Savior invites the same people who have come to Him and been relieved of their burden of guilt, to come again and find soul-rest; i.e., the sweet repose of the soul itself in Jesus. He has taken your burden, and now it is of the greatest importance that you get Him to take you.

This world is not our Paradise; it is full of foes and perils. We find our heaven here in Jesus, when we lie down in His arms, like a tired child, and sink away into perfect rest. Entire consecration puts us in the position of learners in the school of Christ. He is our Infallible Exemplar. When we learn to be meek and lowly like Him, then we find this wonderful soul rest for which the weary pilgrim sighs. Here He assures us that His yoke is easy and His burden light How blessed it is to take the yoke, because He is omnipotent! And when you put your neck under one end of the yoke, Jesus has His under the other. What is the result? He carries all the load, the yoke and you too, and you go shouting on your way, enjoying perfect soulrest, and flying up to heaven.


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 11:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament".

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Thursday, December 3rd, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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