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Bible Commentaries

John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew
Matthew 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 16

Matthew 10:16 to Matthew 11:1.
Further Instructions To The Twelve

Our Lord's instructions to the Twelve close in Mark (Mark 6:11) and Luke (Luke 9:5) at this point. But Matthew goes on to give much additional matter spoken on the same occasion. There are several other remarkable cases, as the Sermon on the Mount, the discourse in Matthew 18, and that on the Mount of Olives (ch. 24 and 25), in which Matthew gives much more than Mark and Luke. The remainder of the present address consists of warnings as to coming persecutions, directions how to act when persecuted, and reasons why they should not shrink from duty because of danger. Some of these warnings and directions look beyond this brief mission in Galilee and on to their labours after the Ascension. In the address to the Seventy (Luke 10:2-16) there is no such reference to future time. It was natural that he should, on first sending them out to labour, give directions which would be of service to them throughout their appointed course. Bruce: "It was his way on solemn occasions, to speak as a prophet, who in the present saw the future, and from small beginnings looked forward to great ultimate issues. This Galilean mission, though humble and limited compared with the great undertaking of after years, was really a solemn event. It was the beginning of that vast work for which the Twelve had been chosen, which embraced the world in its scope, and aimed at setting up on the earth the kingdom of God." The parts most peculiar to that journey apply in principle (Edersheim) to us and to all time; the parts which pointed to the remotest future applied in principle to the immediate journey about Galilee. These considerations form a sufficient reply to those who insist that Matthew has here put together matters actually spoken on different occasions at a later period. Mark and Luke give some similar sayings in the discourse on the Mount of Olives, and Matthew there omits them. It was natural that if similar things were said in different discourses an Evangelist should give them in one case and omit them in another; and it was perfectly natural that Jesus should say similar things on different occasions. On this point compare at the beginning of Matthew 5. In applying the present discourse to ourselves, allowance must be made for the difference of situation. We do not work miracles, and are not inspired; the opposition we meet is rather moral than physical; we often go to foreign countries.

I. Matthew 10:16-23. They Must Be On Their Guard Against Coming Persecution

"We have here the general intimation and counsel of Matthew 10:16; warnings as to the persecutions which awaited them," (Matthew 10:17 f.) with directions as to the defense of themselves when brought before the tribunals; (Matthew 10:19 f.) further statements concerning persecutions and hatred; (Matthew 10:21 f.) and the direction to flee from any town in which they were persecuted into the next.

Matthew 10:16. They are going forth into the midst of perils, and must therefore exercise a blended prudence and simplicity. These ideas are beautifully and strikingly expressed by figures. Behold, I send you forth. 'Behold' calls special attention to what follows. 'I' is expressed in the Greek, and therefore in some sense emphatic. The idea perhaps is that they are not going out like sheep wandering into dangers, without the knowledge of their shepherd; he himself sends them forth into the midst of these perils; and hence both a reason why they should strive to come off safe, and an encouragement to hope they would succeed. He sends them forth as sheep, weak and defenceless, and not only in a region where there was danger of wolves, but in the midst of wolves—the language is very strong. To the Seventy (Luke 10:3) it is still stronger; they are 'lambs.' Herodotus speaks of leaving a man as a sheep among wolves. Be ye therefore wise (prudent) as serpents, and harmless (simple) as doves. 'Be' is more exactly 'become,' get to be, implying that they are not so now. 'Therefore' may be taken as an inference not merely from the fact that they would be as sheep in the midst of wolves, but also from the fact that he sent them as sheep in the midst of wolves; there is a duty to themselves and a duty to him. 'Wise,' more exactly 'prudent' (compare on Matthew 7:24); Latin versions prudentes or astuti. Serpents show great caution and skill in avoiding danger. The Egyptian hieroglyphics use the serpent as the symbol of wisdom. We may understand that they were to be prudent in the recognition of danger, and in the choice of means for opposing or escaping it—in general as to their behaviour when in danger. But such prudent regard for self-preservation is very apt to be accompanied, in men as in serpents, with the tricks of low cunning. This is forbidden by the other injunction. The word rendered 'harmless,' better 'simple' (margin Rev. Ver.) signifies literally unmixed, and hence pure (as pure wine, pure gold), uncorrupted, and so guileless, sincere. The Latin versions all have simplices: the Peshito, a word denoting whole-minded, upright, sincere; Chrys. explains by simple and artless. The English use of 'simple' does not quite clearly express the idea, but it is exactly hit by the substantive 'simplicity.' The other proposed derivation, without horns, and so 'harmless,' adopted by King James, is highly improbable. The Greek word is used also in Philippians 2:15, and Romans 16:19, Rev. Ver., "wise unto that which is good, and simple unto that which is evil. "In our passage the word is translated 'simple' in Wyc. and Rheims, McClellan, and Davidson, and 'innocent' in Tynd., Great B., and Geneya. They were not to deserve injury, or afford any pretext for it; and were to employ no trickery or other improper means of escaping from danger. They must combine prudence and simplicity. If the dove alone were taken as model, they might become silly; (Hosea 7:11) if the serpent alone, they would become tricky. (Genesis 3:1) Stier : "So that thy wisdom shall never degenerate into cunning, nor thy simplicity into ignorance or imprudence." Plato : "Knowledge without justice should be called cunning rather than wisdom." If we are to fail in either, it is doubtless better to be lacking in Christian prudence than in Christian simplicity. But the injunction is to combine both in due proportion; and the example of Jesus shows this to be possible. How prudent he was, constantly taking pains to avoid danger till his hour was come and at the same time how innocent, guileless, and pure. Not merely in respect to persecution, but in all the dangers to ourselves and our work which throng about Christian labourers, we have constant need of prudence, united with simplicity. In a late Jewish commentary (Midrash), a Rabbi says: "God says, toward me the Israelites are simple as doves, but toward the Gentiles subtle as serpents." This may have been borrowed from the Gospels; we know that the later Jews borrowed from every direction.

Matthew 10:17 f. With Matthew 10:17-22 compare similar things said to the four disciples in the great discourse On the Mount of Olives; (Mark 13:9-13, Luke 21:12-19) there Matt. does not record them. But beware of men, i.e., of mankind in general, spoken Of as hostile to them, like 'the world' in John 15:18, John 17:14. They were few, and men were against them. Councils does not here mean the great Sanhedrin, as in Matthew 26:59, but apparently refers to the smaller judicial bodies which existed in every city and village, as in Matthew 5:22. Synagogues, see on "Matthew 4:23". Other allusions to scourging in the synagogues, apparently in the very place of worship, and in the actual presence of the worshipping assembly, are found in Matthew 23:34, Mark 13:9, Acts 22:19; compare Acts 26:11. At a later period it is said that, on one occasion, the Jews sung a psalm while a man was receiving a scourging in the synagogue; and Maimonides says that the principal judge would read passages of Scripture throughout the scourging. The Jews were very scrupulous not to exceed forty stripes, according to the law which Moses made (Deuteronomy 25:3) to mitigate the dreadful severity of the common Oriental scourgings; and to make sure of not going beyond forty they stopped at thirty-nine. (2 Corinthians 11:24) And ye shall be brought (even) before governors and kings for my sake. This is introduced as more important ('even') than what precedes; and it was so not merely because they would be tribunals of greater dignity, but because they could punish with death, which the Jewish tribunals at that time could not do. It was also a remarkable thing that they were authorities of their own people, but before the civil authorities, the highest Roman officials. The word rendered 'governors' is a general term, which would include several kinds of Roman rulers of provinces, viz.: propraetor, proconsul (like Sergius Paulus, and Gallio), and procurator (like Pilate, Felix, Festus), and is used in the same broad sense in 1 Peter 2:14. As to their being brought before 'kings,' we have examples in the persecutions of James and Peter by Herod Agrippa I, (Acts 12) and the appearance of Paul before his son Herod Agrippa II. (Acts 26) The term king was also frequently applied to the Roman imperator or emperor, (1 Peter 2:13 f.) and in that sense we should have an example in Paul's trials before Nero. For a testimony against (to) them and against (to) the Gentiles. The Greek might mean 'against them' (Com Ver.), but the other is a more natural meaning, and better suits the connection. 'To them' may mean the rulers just mentioned, as distinguished from the nation at large; or it more probably means the Jews, spoken of as 'they,' 'them;' as in Matthew 10:17, in Matthew 11:1, and often. The idea would thus be that the design of Providence in suffering the disciples to be brought before these tribunals was, that they might bear witness to rulers and people—or, more probably, to Jews and Gentiles—-of (Philippians 1:13, 2 Timothy 4:17) the truths they were going forth to proclaim. (Compare a similar expression in Matthew 8:4, Matthew 24:14) All this we cannot understand as referring simply to their brief journey about Galilee, during which they would perhaps encounter some persecution (see on "Matthew 10:23"), but were certainly not brought before governors and kings. It must therefore be understood as glancing forward to persecutions they would suffer in future days, while prosecuting that mission as Christ's apostles, of which this journey would be the first stage. (Compare on Matthew 10:16) How plainly our Lord spoke to his followers of the perils and persecutions which awaited them in doing his work. He would have them count the cost. And they did not shrink from his service, though warned what it would cost them, being doubtless sustained by their own devotion, and by such promises as those of Matthew 10:19 and Matthew 10:22.

Matthew 10:19 f. When thus called before the authorities for trial, they need not be anxiously considering as to the defense they shall make, the testimony they are to bear, for it shall be communicated to them by the Divine Spirit, (Matthew 10:19) who indeed will be speaking in them as his instruments. (Matthew 10:20) Compare the similar promise on the Mount of Olives, (Mark 13:11, Luke 21:14 f.) and on another occasion. (Luke 12:12) Take no thought, be not anxious , or 'do not anxiously consider.' See on "Matthew 6:25". They would be more likely to feel anxious what they should say, because it was common to make very elaborate addresses and affecting appeals; and before the Roman tribunals, even to employ counsel, such as Tertullus, (Acts 24:1) who would understand Roman law and judicial methods, and could deliver high-wrought orations. Knowing that importance was attached to such addresses, and conscious of inexperience in Roman legal procedure, the disciples might naturally feel, when they were delivered up, great solicitude; and this would be increased by the fact that they were called to present, not only a defense of themselves, but a testimony for Jesus. There was thus great comfort for them in the promise here given. As specimens of the addresses made by some of them under such circumstances, we have the speeches of Peter and Stephen before the Sanhedrin, and of Paul before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa. How or what ye shall speak, 'How' suggests the general plan and delivery of their defence, and 'what' suggests the subject matter. Compare 'mouth and wisdom' in Luke 21:15; and compare Luke 12:12.

Matthew 10:20. For it is not ye that speak, etc. With the form of expression compare Genesis 45:8, "It was not you that sent me hither, but God," and so Exodus 16:8. Your Father, see on "Matthew 6:9". This was clearly a promise of special inspiration, in the highest sense and degree. (compare Exodus 4:12) To apply it to uninspired preachers of to-day, is unwarranted and absurd. They may expect, and should earnestly seek, the gracious aids of the Holy Spirit in their previous reflections and in their actual preaching; but they have no right whatever to expect inspiration. This promise of inspiration was repeated by our Lord in the promise of the Comforter (John 14-16); and that assures us that in their writings also the apostles were inspired.

21 f. Not only will the public authorities be disposed to persecute them, but men will deliver to the tribunals their own dearest kindred for being Christians, and will put them to death, and the hatred against them will be universal; yet let them endure to the end, and they shall be saved. See a similar passage in Mark 13:12 f. and Luke 21:16-19, as spoken on the Mount of Olives, and part of it is in this case given by Matthew also. (Matthew 24:9-13) And the children shall rise up against their parents, and, literally, put them to death, (see margin of Rev. Ver). This doubtless means, will put them to death through the instrumentality of the authorities. But Rev. Ver. ought hardly to have followed Com. Ver. in giving a mere interpretation a place in the text, and throwing into the margin the correct translation of Tyn. and his successors, and of Davidson, Noyes, Darby. The dreadful effects of religious bigotry, as here predicted, and as so often witnessed in the world's history, should impress us with the immense power and importance of the religious principle in man; just as when a train of cars runs off the track, or a dynamite factory explodes, we see all the more clearly from the ruinous consequences the power of the' forces in question, and the importance of their being properly directed and controlled. For the motive to such persecutions has usually been, not opposition for its own sake to the religion persecuted, but attachment to another religion with which it was thought to interfere. But he that endureth to the end, shall be saved. It seems proper here, as is manifestly necessary in the discourse on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13) to understand the assurance as having a twofold application; first, he that endures to the end of the persecutions and other evils in question shall at last be saved, delivered, from those evils; but also more widely, he that endures to the end of life's trials shall be saved, in the usual sense of attaining eternal life. The propriety of understanding a twofold: allusion in such passages, or making a varied application of them, will be discussed at the beginning of Matthew 24; see also on the next verse.

Matthew 10:23. Flee ye into another, or the other, i.e., into the next. The particular city in which they are persecuted, and the one next in order are conceived of as forming a pair, 'this,' 'the other.'(1) In thus avoiding persecution they would be 'prudent as the serpents'; (Matthew 10:16) so Paul and Barnabas acted in going from Antioch in Pisidia to Iconium, etc. (Acts 13-14.) For verily I say onto you, see on "Matthew 5:18". Some fancy that this expression in Matthew 10:15, Matthew 10:23, Matthew 10:42, marks the close of three distinct sections of the discourse; but this is supposing a very artificial use of the phrase, and if so designed, it ought also to occur in Matthew 10:33 and Matthew 10:35. Ye shall not have gone over (or, finish) the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. 'Not' is a strong negative, translated 'in no wise' in John 6:37 and Hebrews 13:5, and in Matthew 5:20, Matthew 10:42, etc. 'Finish' (so rendered by Tyn., Gen., Rheims, and margin of Com. Ver.), in the sense of visiting them all. They must not stay in one city, vainly endeavouring to overcome opposition and persecution, but flee to the next; for there were more cities than they would be able to visit before the Son of man should come. It is quite difficult to determine the meaning of this last expression, as here employed. It has been supposed to mean: (1) Till he come and rejoin the Twelve at the end of this journey. (2) Till he make his appearance as the Messiah, distinctly present himself as such. (3) Till he come spiritually to console and support. (John 14:23) (4) Till he come to put an end to the Jewish institutions at the destruction of Jerusalem. (5) Till he come to judge the world. The first sense might at the outset strike one as natural and good, and it would be possible that he should return from the more general view of their coming labours and persecutions, to speak of the particular journey then before them; as in the discourse on the Mount of Olives he sometimes returns from the second topic to the first. In the mission of the Seventy, (Luke 10:1, R.V.) it is said that be sent them 'before his face into every city and place, whither he himself was about to come.' It is natural to suppose that he was going to follow the Twelve also; and indeed he must have done so, since their work was confined to Galilee (see on Matthew 10:5), and he himself went about all the cities of Galilee. When the objection is made that it is hardly probable they were persecuted during this journey, one may reply that Jesus himself was persecuted at Nazareth, and seriously threatened with death at various other places. The greatest difficulty in the way of understanding the expression in this sense is that the language seems too elaborate and solemn for so simple an idea. He does not say "for I you will not finish the cities of Galilee till I come," but employs the solemn phrase 'till the Son of man come,' and prefaces it by 'verily I say to you,' using also the more general term Israel. The second sense proposed is not supported by any similar use of the phrase elsewhere, and does not seem very appropriate to the connection. There was indeed no broadly marked epoch at which he appeared as the Messiah, and the occasional intimations of his Messiahship commenced long before the delivery of this discourse. The third sense is that of Chrys. and his followers, of Beza, Maldonatus; while Calvin and Bleek understand similarly his coming in the mission of the Holy Spirit. But the time of his spiritual coming would be a very vague chronological epoch; and Jesus certainly seems to be speaking of some personal coming. The fourth sense is accepted by many recent writers. In Matthew 16:28, 'the Son of man coming' unquestionably refers to the destruction of Jerusalem. The idea here would thus be that they would not reach all the Jews with their ministry before the overthrow of the Jewish institutions; and hence they must not waste time in remaining where they were persecuted. But in the discourse on the Mount of Olives (ch. 24 and 25), the coming to destroy Jerusalem and the coming at the end of the world are constantly associated, and sometimes both referred to in the same expression. So, also, in Matthew 16:27 f. It would, therefore, seem natural to combine with this fourth the fifth sense. On no occasion would there be greater propriety in employing the obscure language and perspective view of prophecy than here. He wishes to give counsel which shall apply not only to this journey, but to their labours after the Ascension, and perhaps even to the labours of his followers in all ages; and to intimate that in each of those periods there would be more to do than they could complete before the season in question would end. It may, therefore, be that the phrase was intended to include in some obscure fashion the first, fourth, and fifth senses. It was manifestly impossible that the Twelve should at that time understand any distinct reference to the coming to destroy Jerusalem; indeed it is not probable that they understood when he spoke of it on the Mount of Olives. It was necessary, therefore, as so often in O. T. and N. T. prophecies, to employ language which would refer to each of these at the same time; which would be understood at once as regarded the present journey, and would afterwards be viewed in its broader meaning when needed. (Compare on Matthew 10:22, and at the beginning of Matthew 24.) The notion of Origen, that Scripture has everywhere a twofold, or even threefold, sense, is now justly rejected; our present danger is that of rejecting along with it the unquestionable fact that Scripture does sometimes use language referring at once to a nearer and a remoter event.

II. Matthew 10:24-33. Encouragement To The Persecuted

The key-note is here 'fear not,' which occurs three times, in Matthew 10:26, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 10:31.

Matthew 10:24 f. They need not think strange, or complain that they were going to be persecuted; this would only be sharing-the fate of their Teacher and Master, The disciple is not above his master (teacher,) nor the servant above his lord (master), (see margin Rev. Ver.) For 'disciple' see on "Matthew 5:1"; for 'teacher' (didaskolos), and 'master' (kurios), on Matthew 8:19; and for 'slave' (doulos), on Matthew 8:6. This saying is also given by Luke, (Luke 6:40) as used in the Sermon on the Mount; by John, (Matthew 13:16) as employed in an other connection; and also in John 15:20, where the application is much the same as here. The saying, "It is enough for the slave to be as his master", (compare Matthew 10:25) occurs repeatedly in the later Jewish writings, and was perhaps proverbial when used by Jesus. (Compare on Matthew 7:5, Matthew 7:12) There are of course exceptional cases in which a pupil does have a better lot than his teacher, or even a slave than his master; but the general fact is as here expressed, and so the disciples need not be surprised at hearing that they would suffer the same treatment to which Jesus himself was exposed. If they (i.e., people, the impersonal use) called the master of the house Beelzebub, or Beelzebul (see margin Rev. Ver.). 'Master' is here (see on "Matthew 8:19"), which we borrow as despot. The compound term of the original 'house-master' presents him as ruler of the household in general a man's authority over his wife and children was then scarcely less absolute than over his slaves. The Pharisees had already charged Jesus with being in league with Beelzehul (see on "Matthew 9:34"; also see on "Matthew 12:24"); are we to understand here that they had actually applied the name to Jesus? The expression does not necessitate this supposition, but we know they had said what amounted to it, and on other unrecorded occasions they may have literally called him by that name.

Matthew 10:26 f. With Matthew 10:26-33 compare Luke 12:2-9, where substantially the same things are said in another discourse. The thought of Matthew 10:26 is also found in Luke 8:17, as introduced in yet another connection. The injunction, Fear them not (i.e., the persecutors, Matthew 10:25, Matthew 10:16-23) is presented on the one hand as an inference from what precedes—' therefore do not fear,' viz., because if they oppose and persecute you, it is nothing more than your Master encounters; and on the other hand is supported by the assurance that the truths they bear forth are destined, in spite of all opposition, to be made known—for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed (or uncovered); and hid that shall not be known. And so they must proclaim everything boldly and publicly, even what he taught them in his private instruction. (Matthew 10:27) Luke 8:26 might also mean, as some suppose, that the apostles, so misunderstood and persecuted, should in a coming day be differently regarded, all men then perceiving that they were the benefactors of their time; but the other view better suits the connection. The expression of Matthew 10:27 gives a different turn to the idea than that found in Luke 12:3, but it amounts to the same thing. There is repeated mention in the Talmud of Jewish teachers as having one standing by, to whom the teacher would whisper something, and who would then proclaim it to the audience. It is likely that such a practice existed already in our Lord's time, and it may be that he here alludes to it, not as meaning that he literally did this, but as a figurative and striking way of saying that they were to keep nothing back through fear, but even his private instructions to them were to be proclaimed in the most public manner. Upon the housetops. The roofs of the houses were fiat, and surrounded by a narrow battlement. It was common (and still is) for persons to walk on the roof, and this would naturally afford an elevated stand from which to proclaim anything to the people in the street below. Thus Josephus, having taken refuge in a house from a mob in Tarichaea, "went up on the roof, and with his right hand quieting the uproar, said," etc. ("War.," 2, 21, 5.) The Talmud represents a religious official as proclaiming from a housetop, with the sound of a trumpet, the approach of any religious festival; and the same thing is often done at the present day. Indeed, the muezzin's call to prayer, from the minaret of the mosque, is the same sort of thing.

Matthew 10:28. Let them not fear men, but fear God. The idea of some that the phrase Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell, means Satan, is wholly unwarranted and unsuitable. God is able to destroy; he does not wish that any should perish. (2 Peter 3:9) Jesus does not say that God will kill the soul, but, avoiding that term, says he will destroy both soul and body. For 'destroy' need not mean annihilation, but only ruin, perdition, the destruction of all that makes existence desirable. Hell is gehenna, see on Matthew 5:22, and compare on Matthew 5:29. Fear is natural to man; and our Lord does not say we must root it out and have no fear, but that the less fear must give way to the greater. The gospel does not teach stoicism or self-abnegation, but appeal to the human mind according to its actual constitution. Compare the appeal to a higher self-interest in Matthew 5:29, and to hope and fear in Matthew 10:32 f. below. In proportion as one has a true fear of God he will feel no fear of man. It was a saying of Col. Gardiner, "I fear God, therefore there is none else that I need fear." And not only with reference to persecution or any open opposition, but to a concern for approbation or blame, does the thought of this passage apply. How much more important that we should avoid God's displeasure, than that of our fellow-men. Compare Luke 12:4 f.; James 4:12. The thought occurs often in Jewish writings. In 2 Maccabees 6:26, "For even if for the present I shall be delivered from the vengeance of men, yet neither while living nor after dying shall I escape the hands of the Almighty." In 4 Maccabees 13:14, "Let us not fear him who thinks to kill the body; for great is the danger to the soul, consisting in eternal torment to those who transgress the commandment of God." Philo says, "For men reckon the extreme penalty to be death; but in the divine court of justice this is scarcely the beginning." And the Midrash on Numbers (Wet.): "He who causes a man to sin is worse than he who slays him: because he who slays, slays him in this world, and he has part in the world to come; but he who causes him to sin, slays him both in this world and in that which is to come."

Matthew 10:29-31. Let them not only dread God's displeasure, (Matthew 10:28) but trust in his protection; he who cares for the least objects, will not fail to care for them. Compare Matthew 6:26 ff., and Luke 12:6 f. (See above on Matthew 10:26) The word rendered farthing, denotes a Roman copper or bronze coin, actually equal not to about three farthings sterling (as in margin of Com. Ver.), or one and a half cents, but to about five-eighths of a cent (Edersheim I., 649), and frequently used to denote any trifling amount. Fall on the ground, viz., dead. Without your Father, without his agency or permission. On 'your Father,' compare on Luke 12:26, and see on "Matthew 6:9". The Midrash on Genesis says (Wet.), "A bird without heaven (God) is not taken, how much less so many souls of men." In Matthew 10:30 the position of the Greek words makes 'your' emphatic, and so with 'ye' in Matthew 10:31. A single hair falling from the head seems to us a matter of the most trifling consequence; (compare 1 Samuel 14:45) but every one of them is numbered by God. (Compare Luke 21:18, Acts 27:34) A late Jewish compilation (Wet.) represents God as saying, "Do I not number all the hairs of every creature?" This was very likely borrowed from the New Testament Our Lord's line of argument here is in precisely the contrary direction to that which men often follow on this subject. They will say that no doubt God controls great matters, but that it is questionable whether his care extends to such little things as the concerns of an individual man. Jesus says, God takes care of the smallest and most trifling things, and therefore we may be sure he cares for a man, who is so much more important.

Matthew 10:32 f. Whosoever (every one) therefore (who) shall confess me. 'Therefore' presents what follows as an inference from what precedes. Since God will protect, there is no excuse for shrinking from duty through fear of men, and therefore he will confess only those who confess him. This affecting statement stands last and highest in a climax of reasons for going forward undeterred by the fear of men: first, the fact that if they are maltreated and slandered, it is no more than their Master himself suffered; (Matthew 10:24 f.) second, that tile truths they proclaimed are destined to be made known, and thus no opposition will prevent it; (Matthew 10:26 f.) third, that God's wrath is more to be dreaded than man's; (Matthew 10:28) fourth, that he who cares for trifling things will certainly care for them; (Matthew 10:29-37) finally, that if we do not confess Christ before men he will not confess us before his Father in heaven. It is thus manifest that the confession here enjoined upon us does not consist merely in a particular ceremony, or other single act, but denotes in general that we come out as his followers, and speak and act as his, under all circumstances and at all hazards. The term rendered 'confess'(1) has been explained on Matthew 7:23, where it is rendered 'profess'; see also 1 Timothy 6:12. Observe that we have here a perfectly general proposition. (a) In Matthew 10:26-31 it is 'ye'; but in Matthew 10:32 f. it is 'every one' and 'whosoever.' (b) While the statement is here specially suggested by the idea of confessing Jesus when persecuted, when brought before tribunals, (Matthew 10:18) yet the language is general, and doubtless intended to include every kind of confession during the whole course of life. Many who have once publicly confessed Christ, and are numbered with his people, often fail to confess him afterwards in word or deed. It is of course possible that one should show bad judgment and bad taste in announcing himself a Christian where there is no occasion for it; but for every person who does this unseasonably, there are very many who shrink from such an avowal when it ought to be made, and still more fail to confess by the actions which "speak louder than words." Will I confess, acknowledge as mine. (Compare Matthew 7:23) What a question it is, whether we are going to be confessed or denied by Jesus, before his Father in heaven. Here again, as in Matthew 7:22 f., our Lord speaks freely of his coming exaltation as Messiah; but it is likely that the disciples at first understood it all of elevation and honour in a temporal kingdom. With Matthew 10:32 f., compare Luke 12:7 f. (See above on "Matthew 10:26".) As to deny, compare on Matthew 16:24.

III. Matthew 10:34-39. Persecution Is Inevitable

Let no one be surprised at learning that so much persecution is to be encountered by the Twelve, and by Christ's followers in general; for it was the object of Christ's mission to introduce principles which would be sure to cause divisions and conflicts among men, even within the bosom of families. His religion was so wholly opposed to the spirit of the world, that such a result was inevitable. Think net that I am come, (came) compare on Matthew 5:17. Here again, as so often, the Com. Ver. (but here following Tyn., Great B., and Gen.), introduces an unnecessary variation in the rendering of Matthew 10:34 f.; for in all three cases the Greek has the same form, 'I came.' Our Lord here, as in Matthew 5:17, speaks of himself as having come among men on a special mission. The Jews were accustomed to bloody conflicts between their politico-religious parties, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and (Lightfoot) between the followers of Hilleland Shammai, but they were likely to think Messiah's reign would be a reign of peace, for so the prophets had predicted; the disciples of Christ were especially apt to think so, if they then knew of the angelic song at his birth. The gospel does tend to bring men into peace with each other, but only in proportion as they are brought into peace with God. So as to the prophecies; men will beat their swords into plow-shares, only when men ground the arms of their rebellion against God. Till then the enemies of God will be enemies of his people, and often bitter enemies. To send (or cast as margin of R. V.) a sword upon the earth, is a natural image; and this led to the use of the same term with peace, 'to cast peace upon the earth'; compare Luke 12:49, 'to (cast) send fire upon the earth.' When he says that he came to cast a sword, etc., to divide the nearest relatives, etc., we understand that he came for the purpose of doing a work which would inevitably lead to this not that these evils were what he wished for. The language of Matthew 10:35 f. resembles that of Micah 7:6, where the prophet is describing the perfidiousness and general wickedness which existed in the reign of Ahaz. It is not here quoted as a prophecy, but the same ideas and similar expressions are introduced, and describe a similar state of things. Matthew 10:35 brings up again the ideas of Matthew 10:21 above. Plumptre thinks the statements may have been suggested by occurrences among our Lord's followers. "Had Zebedee looked with displeasure on the calling of his two sons?... Were the brethren of the Lord, who as yet believed not, as the foes of a man's own household?" With Matthew 10:34 f. compare Luke 12:51-53, where like sentiments and expressions are found introduced on another occasion.

In such a state of division even in families, the true follower of Christ must not hesitate. Better to give up the nearest kindred, (Matthew 10:37) take cross on shoulder, (Matthew 10:38) and be content to lose life itself, (Matthew 10:39) than to forsake Christ. The question whether one loves father or mother more than Christ, is put to the test in any case in which the wishes of parents stand opposed to the known will of Christ. As to the duty of keeping all natural affections subordinate to our love for the Saviour, compare on Matthew 8:22, Matthew 19:29. Is not worthy of me. On another occasion, (Luke 14:26) he uses still stronger expressions: 'If any man cometh unto me, and hateth not his father and mother.... he cannot be my disciple.' As to Matthew 10:38 f., see on "Matthew 16:24"f., where the same solemn truths are repeated in a different connection. The peculiar and striking expression of Matthew 10:39 was also repeated on two other occasions. (Luke 17:33, John 12:25) As to our Lord's frequent repetition of striking sayings, see at the beginning of Matthew 5. The apostles would readily understand the image of Matthew 10:38, since crucifixion was a common punishment for high crime (compare on Matthew 16:24), but they did not yet know that Jesus was to be crucified, and so this, like many other sayings of his, was not fully understood by them until later. The term find was obviously suggested by the contrast to lose; he who by yielding to persecution and failing to confess Christ has avoided the loss of his life (the natural life), shall lose his life (spiritual and eternal life); and he who has lost (margin Rev. Ver.) his natural life for Christ's sake, shall find life eternal (compare on Matthew 16:25). As to such uses of a word in two different senses in the same sentence, compare on Matthew 8:22.

IV. Matthew 10:40-42. Those Who Do Not Persecute, But Receive And Aid Them, Shall Be Rewarded

Having said so much about the unkind treatment his followers will often receive, Jesus returns to speak of those who will treat them kindly, and of the reward which such shall obtain. To receive them will be receiving him who sent them, yea, the Father who sent him. (Compare a similar thought in Matthew 18:5, and again in John 13:20) Receiveth is here meant especially of receiving into one's house, (Matthew 10:14) which would not only be an act of respect to the Lord's servant, but would be helping him in his work. (Compare 2 John 1:10 f.; 3 John 1:8) But any other act by which one encourages and assists a servant of the Lord in his work, is of the same class, and shall in like manner be rewarded; even if it be merely giving a cup of cool water to one of the humblest disciples because he is a disciple, it shall assuredly have a reward. 'Receiveth' may perhaps also include the notion of listening to their message and accepting it as truth. He said to the Seventy, (Luke 10:16) 'He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that rejecteth you, rejecteth me, etc.' Yet the notion of hospitality and help appears at least to be the prominent one in the present discourse, as is shown by the concluding thought of the series. (Matthew 10:42) He that receiveth a prophet (a person speaking by divine inspiration, see on "Matthew 7:22") in the name of a prophet, with reference to the name of a prophet, i.e., out of regard for the fact that he bears the name of a prophet, or, as we should say, because he is a prophet; not on any other account, such as kindred, friendship, admiration of abilities, etc., but because he is a prophet; and not simply from the hope of reward, for that would not be doing it because he is a prophet. (Compare Luke 14:14) Shall receive a prophet's reward, the Messianic, eternal reward. Since he treats kindly and helps the prophet because he is a prophet, he shall get in eternity the same sort of reward as if he had been himself an inspired teacher, because he has been helping an inspired teacher to do his work. So as to receiving any righteous man. Prophets and righteous men are in like manner united in Matthew 13:17, Matthew 23:29. We have among us no inspired teachers; but every member of a church, in so far as he encourages and assists his pastor, takes part in the pastor's labours, and shall in like proportion have the sort of eternal reward which pastors have; so in regard to missionaries, and all Christian workers. As to future rewards, compare on Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:19. The sentiment of Matthew 10:42 is also given in Mark 9:41, as repeated on a different occasion.One of these little ones refers to Christ's disciples as despised and persecuted (compare on Matthew 18:6 ff). To do the very smallest kindness to the very humblest disciple because he is a disciple, shall not fail of reward.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 10:16. Luther: "That's a slim affair, when sheep preach to wolves, lay down the law to them, and judge them! Better send lions. But this comes to pass, as Paul says (1 Corinthians 2:5), that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."—Christian Prudence and Simplicity (Sermons by jeremy taylor)—Find examples of combined prudence and simplicity in the life of Paul and in the life of Jesus. gerhard (Lange): "Have a serpent's eye and a dove's heart." Chrys.: "These things have had an accomplishment, and men became prudent as serpents and simple as doves; not being of another nature, but of the same with us. Let not then any one account Christ's injunctions impracticable. For he, beyond all others, knows the nature of things; he knows that fierceness is not quenched by fierceness, but by gentleness." Bruce: "Happy they who can be both; but if we cannot, let us at least be doves. The dove must come before the serpent in our esteem, and in the development of our character. If we invert this order, as too many do, and begin by being prudent to admiration, the higher virtue will not only be postponed, but sacrificed; the dove will be devoured by the serpent."

Matthew 10:19. Chrys.: "It is no small consolation, that they are suffering these things both for Christ, and for the Gentiles' conviction." Lange: "The dangers of care for oratorical finery in preaching. (1) It springs from anxiety, and restrains the spiritual life. (2) It manifests itself by excitement and excess, and adulterates the spiritual life. (3) It leads to weariness or self-seeking, and destroys the spiritual life."—difference between inspiration, and the spiritual help which may now be expected.

Matthew 10:21. Christianity as awakening hatred and as promoting love.

Matthew 10:22. Unpopularity is not always alarming. It may be easier to persevere amid the world's frowns than its smiles.

Matthew 10:26. Two reasons why the Christian worker should not fear. (1) He need not be discouraged by reviling and assault, which even perfect innocence and perfect prudence did not escape. (Matthew 10:24 f.) (2) He may be encouraged by the assurance that the gospel must and will be made known. (Matthew 10:26 f.) Henry: "There is no part of Christ's gospel that needs, upon any account, to be concealed; the whole counsel of God must be revealed. (Acts 20:27) In never so mixed a multitude, let it be plainly and fully delivered."

Matthew 10:28-31. Two reasons why we must do our duty notwithstanding opposition. (1) If through fear of man we shrink from duty, God will punish us. (2) If amid all opposition we persevere, God will care for us.

Matthew 10:32 f. Confession and denial. (1) We are all constantly doing one or the other. (2) There are many ways of confessing Christ, and many of denying him. (3) There are present benefits in confessing him, and present losses in denying him. (4) Life-long confession will bring eternal reward, life-long denial, eternal ruin. Luther: "What a great difference. (1) The confessors, we and Christ; (2) The place, earth and heaven; (3) The hearers, wretched men and God and the angels."

Matthew 10:34-36. When Christianity divides families and produces wars, this is not the fault of Christianity, but of human nature. Luther: "If our gospel were received in peace, it would not be the true gospel." Henry: "They mistake the design of the gospel, who think their profession of it will secure them from, for it will certainly expose them to, trouble in this world. Christ has dealt fairly and faithfully with us in telling us the worst we can meet with in his service; and he would have us deal so with ourselves, in sitting down and counting the cost."

Matthew 10:37. Not that we should love kindred less, but Christ more.

Matthew 10:38. William Penn: "No cross, no crown."

Matthew 10:38 f. We ought to be ready to die for Christ; a fortiori, we ought to be living for him. But "men are ready to argue for Christianity, ready to fight for it, even to die for it, anything rather than live for it."—The great paradox—losing by finding, finding by losing. Contradictions in theory may often be completely reconciled in practice.

Matthew 10:40-42. Helping the great workers. (1) We cannot all be prophets or apostles, missionaries, evangelists, eloquent preachers, etc. (2) But the greatest workers need help, and the lowliest can give it. (3) Thus sharing the blessed work, we shall share the blessed reward.

Matthew 10:24-42. Thomas: "Encouragements to evangelical labour. (1) The cause for which the true evangelist suffers is most honourable, Matthew 10:22. (2) The example he has is most glorious, Matthew 10:24. (3) The success of the cause is most certain, Matthew 10:26 f. (4) The providential care of God over him is positively guaranteed, Matthew 10:29-31. (5) His reward will be most glorious at last, Matthew 10:32 f. (6) If actuated by the right spirit, he will find the greatest trials the greatest blessings, Matthew 10:38 f. (7) His interests are thoroughly identified with those of Christ, Matthew 10:40, Matthew 10:42."

Further Instructions To The Twelve, Cont

V. Matthew 11:1. Having Finished Instructing The Twelve, Jesus Resumes His Own Labours

With this concluding remark by the Evangelist, compare Matthew 7:28. Departed thence. It was somewhere in Galilee (compare on Matthew 9:35), but there is no intimation as to the precise locality. To teach and preach in their cities. He did not by any means send forth the Twelve in order to relieve himself, but immediately set out to continue his own labours. 'Preach' is the common word, explained on Matthew 4:17. In their cities, means not the cities of the disciples, though they are the persons just mentioned, but of the people, the Jews. (compare Matthew 10:18) This verse properly belongs to the preceding chapter, and should have been included in it. Matthew 4:2 introduces a new subject, and actually refers to a different period. As to the frequent awkwardness of our division into chapters, see on "Matthew 9:1". Matthew does not stop to say expressly that the Twelve also went forth as they were bidden, but leaves that to be taken for granted. Mark, (Mark 6:12 f.) and Luke, (Matthew 9:6) state that they went forth, preaching repentance and working miraculous cures, as the Lord had directed. Nor does Matt. say anything of their return and report, which is mentioned by Mark (Mark 6:30) and (Luke 9:10); see below on "Matthew 14:13".


Verses 2-19

Matthew 11:2-19.
Message From John The Baptist, And Resulting Discourse

Having given a general account of our Lord's journeys about Galilee, with some important specimens of his teaching and his miracles (compare on Matthew 8:1), and having added an account of his sending out the Twelve, with much preparatory instruction, Matthew now advances to other topics. Before introducing examples of the Parables (Matthew 13), he mentions a remarkable message from John the Baptist, and our Lord's discourse thereupon, (Matthew 11:2-30) and then gives instances of avowed opposition to him on the part of the Pharisees. (Matthew 12.) The paragraph noted above (Matthew 11:2-19) includes so much of the discourse occasioned by John's message as relates to John himself. This is also given, and with unusually little difference of phraseology, by Luke; (Luke 7:18-35) and from the connection of his narrative it appears probable, (compare Luke 7:1, Luke 7:11, Luke 7:18) that this message from John was sent shortly after the delivery of the Sermon on the Mount. We have heretofore seen that the arrangement of Matthew, in Matthew 5-13, is not chronological but topical, a course not uncommonly pursued by historians and biographers.

I. Matthew 11:2 f. The Message

Now when John had heard in the prison. As to John's early life and ministry, see on "Matthew 8:1 ff." It has been stated in Matthew 4:12, that he was 'delivered up,' in the way familiar to Matthew's first readers, and afterwards described. (Matthew 14:3 ff.) He had now been confined in the Castle of Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea (see on "Matthew 14:3"), for probably not less than twelve months, during which time Jesus has been pursuing his ministry in Galilee. John was allowed some intercourse with his followers, (Matthew 10:2, Luke 7:18) who brought him accounts of what was going on in the outer world. Yet this year of imprisonment must have been for him a dreary time. He had indeed been accustomed to comparative solitude for years 'in the deserts'; (Luke 1:80) but at that time life was before him with its high hopes, and he doubtless felt himself to be preparing for a great mission, the nature of which was gradually growing clearer to his mind. Then came some eighteen months of public labours, during which he was attended by vast crowds, and his ardent nature must have revelled in the high excitement of his work. And now he is shut up, he, a "son of the wilderness," in one of the deep, dark, and frightfully hot dungeons of Machaerus, deprived of fresh air and bodily exercise, of cheerful mental employment and opportunity to do good, and dependent for any future opportunities on the caprice of a weak king and a cruel woman. As Elijah sometimes got sadly out of heart, so John, who in many respects closely resembled him (see on "Matthew 3:4"), would be likely to grow desponding, in this season of enforced idleness and uncertain danger. (Compare the occasional depression of Moses also.) This state of things may account for the perplexity which John's message of enquiry seems to indicate. He heard from his disciples, (Luke 7:18) who would learn the report, circulated throughout the country, (Luke 7:17) and some of whom had at least on one occasion heard Jesus themselves. (Matthew 9:14)

The works of (the) Christ. Matthew's narrative usually employs our Lord's proper name, Jesus; but in introducing John's question whether Jesus was the Messiah, he implies the answer by calling him 'the Christ,' i.e., the Messiah. (Compare on Matthew 16:21 and on Matthew 1:1): For the importance of the article, 'the Christ,' see on "Matthew 2:4". His 'works' signify his general activity (which would include teaching), but especially his miracles. This seems to be suggested by the answer, (Matthew 10:4 f.) which points to the things they 'bear and see,' to his miracles and the good tidings he preached. Likewise 'all these things' in Luke 7:18, would naturally include not merely the two miracles which there immediately precede, but some account of his remark. able teachings, as in the Sermon on the Mount, which had just occurred. Even in John, who usually employs the term 'works' to mean miracles, (John 5:36, John 10:38, etc.) in Matthew 9:4 'work the works of him that sent me,' can hardly be restricted to miraculous works. Sent two of (properly by) his disciples, (compare Revelation 1:1) was in many manuscripts and versions altered into 'sent two of his disciples' (simply changing to), so as to be like Luke 7:19. The true reading in Matt. 'by' or 'through' implies all the more strongly that John sent the message of enquiry for his own satisfaction. We still know from Luke (Luke 7:19) that the number of messengers was two; they would be company for each other in the journey of some eighty miles, and might supplement and confirm each other's statements upon returning. (Compare on Matthew 10:5) For the word disciples, see on "Matthew 5:1"; as to the position of the disciples of John at this period, see on "Matthew 9:14".

Art thou he that should come, or the coming (one)? 'Thou' is expressed in the original and at the head of the sentence, so as to be strongly emphatic; and to this corresponds the emphatic position in the Greek of another. 'The coming (one)' had become a familiar designation of the Messiah, (Matthew 3:11, Matthew 21:9, Matthew 23:39; John 6:14, John 11:27; Hebrews 10:37) having probably been derived from Psalms 118:26, Matthew 3:1 f., etc. Look we, or more probably, 'are we to look,' as in Noyes and Darby, or 'shall we look' as in Tyndale and Geneva. The Greek subjunctive has in this word the same form as the indicative, and so the term is ambiguous. The Latin versions take it as indicative, and this probably influenced the Common Version, following Great Bible and Rheims. The Peshito is ambiguous, but the Memphitic is distinctly subjunctive. The majority of leading commentators take it as subjunctive (see Meyer, Weiss). The plural, 'are we to look,' means persons in general who cherished the Messianic hope. The form of John's question seems naturally to imply (Weiss) that he had regarded Jesus as the Messiah, and that he wished to learn whether he should still think so. The whole tone of the narrative, even more in Luke than Matthew, naturally suggests that John asked at least in part on his own account, to remove difficulties in his own mind. So already Origen (Cremer): "John's question was not for his own sake alone, but also for the sake of those who were sent." Tertullian also three times intimates that John himself was in doubt whether Jesus was the Messiah. So among recent writers, Neander, Meyer, Bleek, Ewald, Keim, Reuss, Godet, Plumptre, Schaff, etc.

But many have thought it wholly inconsistent with John's position and previous testimony to suppose that he now felt personally the slightest doubt; and so they hold that he sent simply for the satisfaction of his disciples. So Chrys. (and his followers), with Cyril, Aug., and Jerome, followed by Luther, Calvin, and Beza, by Bengel, Maldonatus, and many others. Now, it is always desirable to accept the plain, straightforward meaning of a passage, unless there be insuperable difficulties in the way of so doing. Any one who did not know John's previous utterances would certainly understand Matt. and Luke as here implying that he sent to Jesus for his own sake as well as that of his disciples. It is very difficult to believe that John would send in his own name ('are we to look for another?') and Jesus send back the answer to him personally ('Go, your way and tell John'), when it was all merely for effect upon the minds of John's followers. Theophyl. actually says that John "affects to inquire," and Euthym., "in pretence inquiring." The only reason for adopting such an interpretation is the supposition that John cannot have been in doubt after his known previous testimony. But while John knew himself to be the harbinger of Jesus (John 1:33) and also to be the harbinger of the Messiah, (John 3:28) as indeed had been understood by his father Zachariah, (Luke 1:67-79) still it was conceivable that Jesus might possibly not be the Messiah. Among the various confused ideas which the Jews had developed from imperfectly understood Messianic prophecies, the notion was entertained by some that a succession of great personages would arise. Elijah, they generally believed, would return to life; some thought that Jeremiah also would return, and perhaps others of the great prophets; then there was 'the prophet' predicted in Deuteronomy 18:15, who was not universally identified with the Messiah. (See John 1:20 f.; John 7:40 f.; Matthew 16:14, Luke 9:19) Some thought it very likely that these would come in quick succession, to herald with all the greater pomp the approach of the glorious King of Israel. Some such notion is certainly involved in the question, 'Art thou the coming (one), or are we to look for another ?' Now, John would naturally share the current Jewish ideas (as the apostles did at that time), except so far as they were corrected by the special revelations given to him. These revelations, according to the whole history and manifest law of God's communications to men, extended only to the truths necessary for his own station and appointed work. There is therefore nothing surprising, and nothing derogatory to John, in the idea that amid the despondent and perplexed thoughts of a weary prisoner, he began sometimes to question whether Jesus was himself the Messiah, or only a second and greater forerunner. Points which later revelations have made clear enough to us, may easily have perplexed him. We need not suppose that he at any time wholly lost his persuasion that Jesus was the Messiah, but only that he became harassed by difficulties that he could not solve; and he shows great confidence in Jesus by referring the whole question to him. These 'works' which he heard of as wrought by Jesus were very remarkable. But how strange it was that the great worker, to whom he had himself borne testimony, did not come out publicly in the Messianic character, and have himself crowned, and reign as the Anointed King; how strange that, with the power of working such astonishing miracles, he should leave his devoted servant and herald to languish so long in this unjust imprisonment, cut off from the work in which he delighted. John was embarrassed, plexed—perhaps (Kohler, Morison) impatient—he knew not what to think, and was weary of waiting—he would send and ask Jesus himself; and while the answer cleared up his own perplexity, as he hoped would be the case, and perhaps aroused Jesus to prompter action, it might at the same time help him in overcoming (compare John 3:25-30) the obstinate hostility to Jesus which some of his disciples manifested (Compare on Matthew 9:14)

II. Matthew 11:4-6. The Answer

Jesus answered and said unto them. It is of course implied that the disciples of John came and asked as directed, which Luke (Luke 7:20) states in detail. Jesus must have been touched by this indication of perplexity and doubt on the part of his imprisoned forerunner. Ewald : "And surely at no moment of these years did the whole picture of all his fortunes in the many coloured past since his first meeting with the Baptist, come so freshly before his soul as now." Go and shew John again, carry back the message to John. 'Again' in the Com. Ver. is correct, but apt to mislead, as it might be understood to mean, 'show a second time.' Those things which ye do hear and see, the teachings and miracles which he proceeds to mention. Luke (Luke 7:21) states that 'in that hour he cured many,' etc. Just before, (Luke 7) Jesus had healed the centurion's servant and brought to life the son of the widow of Nain; but 'hear' seems most naturally to refer, not to the report they heard about his great miracles, (Luke 7:17) but to what they heard Jesus saying on that occasion—particularly to the fact that he was proclaiming good tidings to the poor. Jesus was not yet prepared to avow publicly, in so many words, his Messiahship (compare on Matthew 16:13 ff.); and John ought to be, and we may suppose was, satisfied with the evidence furnished by his working such miracles, and bringing such good tidings to the poor, as were specially predicted in connection with the Messiah.

The blind, the lame, etc. (Matthew 10:5) The Greek has here no articles, which is appropriate and expressive, but cannot be imitated in the English idiom without awkwardness, though Davidson and Darby so translate—'blind see again and lame walk' etc.,. (compare Matthew 10:8) 'And' before dead, is the best supported reading; it was probably omitted in order (Weiss) to have three parallel clauses. In Isaiah 35:5 f. we read, "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing." (Rev. Ver.) Here was then a literal fulfilment of a prophecy which referred also to the spiritual healing Jesus came to accomplish. In addition to the things thus predicted, Jesus was cleansing lepers, yea, and raising dead persons. The message of John came shortly after Jesus had raised to life the son of the widow at Nain; (Luke 7:11-18) and the raising of Jairus' daughter may have been, as the Harmonists think, some time earlier. Only a few specimens of our Lord's miracles are described, and it may well be that other cases of raising the dead occurred, but were not recorded. The poor have the gospel (good tidings) preached to them, doubtless refers to Isaiah 61:1, where Messiah is described as commissioned to "bring good tidings to the lowly." This last word in the Hebrew signifies those who are oppressed and afflicted, and bear it with meekness—persons lowly in condition and in spirit. For all such Messiah had good tidings (compare on Matthew 5:3). The Sept. renders by 'poor,' and that word is retained, as sufficiently expressing the force of the Hebrew, both in this passage of Matthew and Luke, and in Luke 4:18. For the Greek word rendered 'have good tidings preached to them,' see on "Matthew 4:17". It here means more than what we express by "preach the gospel," signifying more generally the tidings of blessings to be enjoyed by them through Messiah's reign. The masses of mankind, poor and ignorant and suffering, received little attention from the heathen philosophers or from the Jewish rabbis. The latter often spoke of them with the greatest contempt, literally: "But this crowd (rabble), who know not the law, are accursed"; (John 7:49) and they delighted to stigmatize them as "country folks," ancient culture being almost entirely confined to cities. It was thus the more remarkable that Jesus brought tidings of good to the poor, to the suffering, despised, and lowly.

This appeal to his 'works,' as testifying in his behalf, was repeatedly made by our Lord towards the close of his ministry; (John 10:28, John 14:11, John 15:24) and indeed had already been made, at a period probably earlier than this message of John the Baptist. (John 5:36) These miracles and good tidings for the lowly, showing that Jesus of Nazareth was the predicted Messiah, still stand as an evidence of Christianity. The Emperor Julian (Wet.) says scornfully, that "Jesus wrought nothing worthy of report, unless somebody thinks that to heal the lame and blind, and to relieve demoniacs, in the villages of Bethsaida and Bethany, were among the greatest works." And blessed (happy, same word as in Matthew 5:3 ff.) is he, whosoever shall not be offended (find no occasion of stumbling) in me. See the same image in Isaiah 8:14. For the word meaning 'to be made to stumble,' or 'to find occasion of stumbling,' see on "Matthew 5:29"; it has here the second meaning there given—whoever does not find in me an obstacle to believing, and hence reject me. Jesus was doing and saying things predicted of Messiah. But the Jews stumbled at his failure to do various other things which they expected in Messiah, and so most of them rejected him. (Compare Matthew 13:57, Matthew 26:31) John was now perplexed by the same things; and Jesus declares, 'Happy is he who shall not stumble at me.' The form of expression delicately suggests a warning, that he who does thus stumble will be anything else than happy.—This saying is clearly a part of what they were to report to John, and this best accords with the idea that the reply was meant for John's own benefit also, and not merely for his disciples. Were John's perplexities and doubts relieved by the answer sent? We are not told, but circumstances suggest that they were (Keim). John's disciples, after his death, went and told Jesus; (Matthew 14:13) and subsequently we find Jesus speaking of John in a tone of high commendation, (Matthew 17:12, Matthew 21:25, Matthew 21:32) as indeed he proceeds to do on the present occasion, thereby showing his confidence that John is right at heart.

III. Matthew 11:7-15. Testimony Of Jesus To His Forerunner

John had repeatedly borne testimony to Jesus (John 1:15, John 1:26 f., John 1:29-34 f.; John 3:26-30), and now when he is cut off from usefulness by imprisonment, Jesus bears testimony to him. John's disciples are sufficiently devoted to him; so Jesus speaks this commendation when they are out of hearing, for the benefit of the people at large. This was grateful to the people, among whom John was highly esteemed. (Matthew 21:26) Began to say. While the messengers were going, Jesus began the discourse which continued after they had disappeared. Unto the multitudes (crowds, so also Luke 7:24), see on "Matthew 5:1". Into the wilderness, see on "Matthew 3:1". To see, to behold, look at, as a spectacle; the word explained see on "Matthew 6:1". It seems to be implied that they went too much as if to look at a sort of show. (In Matthew 11:8 f. it is 'to see,' the common and simple word.) Doubtless those who went out to see and hear John were much influenced by curiosity. But what was the object of this curious gazing? Was it a reed shaken with the wind? Some understand Jesus to be asking whether they went merely to see an ordinary, natural object. But the phrase shaken, or 'tossed by the wind,' and the use of the singular, 'a reed.' much more naturalists that this is a symbol of fickleness. They did not go out to see a fickle doubter, and they must not think he is really a fickle doubter now. The perplexities and difficulties indicated by his message were not of the sort due to inconstancy, or to any weakness of character. Nor was it (compare on Matthew 8:4) to see a man in soft raiment, elegant clothing,(1) such as courtiers wore; John had refused to play courtier, as all the people knew, and had gone to prison for it. We learn from Jewish writers (Jost, in Plumptre) that in the early days of Herod the Great, some Scribes who attached themselves to him laid aside their usual plain dress, and wore the gorgeous raiment of courtiers. But John was no weakling, no self-seeker.

These introductory questions lead up to the great question, which, in the correct text,(2) has a slightly altered form. What went ye out for to see, etc.—Rev. Ver, But wherefore went ye out? to see a prophet? We learn from Matthew 21:26, that the masses of the people universally regarded John as a prophet; and the fact that there had been no prophet for so many weary centuries invested him with a heightened interest. Jesus says he was indeed a prophet, and something exceedingly more than a prophet (the word rendered 'more' is neuter gender; compare Matthew 12:6, Matthew 12:41). He was indeed an inspired man who came to speak for God (see on "Matthew 7:22"), like the prophets of earlier days. He was also something more than a prophet, for he was the fulfilment of prophecy, (Matthew 11:10) and he had a unique and singularly dignified position, as the immediate forerunner of Messiah, ushering in his glorious reign. Euthym.: "The heralds that march near the king are greater than the others.... And John not merely saw the predicted one, but also baptized him." Morison: "He not only said, He will come: he said, He has come; and there he is." Our Lord was here in fact exalting his own mission by exalting that of John. The people should hearken to him, to whom this more than prophet had testified.

Matthew 11:10. (3) This is he of whom it is written, has been written, and now stands on record (see on "Matthew 2:5"). The quotation is from Malachi 3:1, and the literal rendering of the Hebrew is, "Behold I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before my face."There Jehovah speaks as if coming himself, namely, in the coming of Messiah. In the application here made, Jehovah addresses Messiah, as if sending a messenger before him. This is only bringing out more clearly an idea really involved in the prophecy, as the N. T. writers have in various cases done, with an obvious propriety (compare on Matthew 2:6). The prophecy is quoted with exactly the same variation of expression, in Luke 7:27, and in Mark 1:2, and the same variation is implied in the evident reference to this passage in Luke 1:76. The most natural explanation is that in this form it was commonly given in the oral apostolical teaching. The supposition of quotation by the Evangelist from an oral Aramaic synagogue version (Toy), seems to have no clear and adequate ground, here or elsewhere. As to the image involved, that of sending forward a messenger to prepare the way for a journey, see on "Matthew 3:3", where a similar passage is quoted from Isaiah.

Matthew 11:11. Verily I say unto you, see on "Matthew 5:18". Among those.. born of women, compare Job 14:1, Galatians 4:4. A greater. Luke (Luke 7:28) has it 'a greater prophet.' The expression obviously refers principally to his exalted position, and also, perhaps, to his faithful devotion to its duties. No person had occupied a position of higher privilege than John the Baptist, involving clearer views of truth, or greater honour in the sight of God. Nevertheless he that is least, literally, less, viz., than all others, (compare Mark 4:31) and so equivalent to 'he that is least.' Similar expressions are found in Matthew 18:1, Luke 22:24, etc., and in the Septuagint of Judges 6:15, where Gideon says, "I am the least in my father's house." The Old Latin and Vulgate (as well as the Memphitic) render 'less,' and so all the Eng. Vet. before that of King James, which may here (as so often) have followed Beza, who renders 'least.' The Peshito also translates as if it were a superlative. The rendering of the Rev. Ver. 'but little,' does not commend itself as particularly good, for the Greek either means 'least' or 'less'; the occasional rendering of the comparative, somewhat little, rather little, etc., seems to be here quite out of place. Chrys. understands that it means Jesus, as 'less' than John, "less in age, and, according to the opinion of the multitude," which is excessively far-fetched. To refer the kingdom of heaven here to the future life, as many do, is entirely unsuitable. We must understand that the lowest subject of the Messianic reign is in a position of greater privilege and dignity (compare Zechariah 12:8) than the great forerunner; or, else, perhaps (Calvin), that the lowest of all the teachers instructed by the Messiah himself was superior as a teacher to the forerunner.

In any case this expression implies that John was not in the kingdom of heaven. The inference is often drawn that he belonged entirely to the Old Testament Dispensation. It is frequently asserted, and by many taken for granted, that the kingdom of heaven began on the Day of Pentecost following our Lord's Ascension, and so John had no connection with it except to predict its approach. But if this he so, where did the ministry of Jesus himself belong, the early part of which ran parallel to that of John, and embodied the same announcement? (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15) If John's teaching and baptizing are to be set off as essentially different in kind from Christian teaching and Christian baptism, these beginning only on the Day of Pentecost, then we have the strange contradiction that Christ himself, as a teacher and baptizer, (John 3:22, John 4:1 f.) did not belong to the Christian Dispensation. Moreover, in Matthew 11:12, and also in Luke 16:16, our Lord speaks of the kingdom of heaven as already in actual existence, and counts John among the preachers of the kingdom of heaven, as distinct from those who merely predicted it. (Compare Luke 17:21, Luke 10:23 f.; Matthew 13:16) If some argue that John's baptism was not regarded by the apostles as Christian baptism, from the single and peculiar case of re-baptism in Acts 19:1 ff., it may be answered that those persons were re-baptized because it was evident that when they previously received baptism (probably from some ignorant disciple of John), it had been without knowing what they were about, without understanding the fundamental truths of the Messianic reign, as announced by John himself. As this isolated case can be accounted for in this way, and indeed in various other ways, it is quite unwarrantable to make it the proof of a radical distinction between Christian baptism and the baptism administered by John and by Christ himself.

How then are we to conceive of John's position? In some sense he belongs to the kingdom of Messiah, the Christian Dispensation, his work constituting its introductory stage; and yet his position is inferior in dignity and privilege to the least in that kingdom. His work may be compared to a landing-place in a stairway; the highest step of the lower flight, or the lowest step of the upper flight, or, whenever you choose so to regard it, higher than the highest of one, lower than the lowest of the other. Or (Chrys.), it may he compared to the hour between dawn and sunrise—part of the day, yet less light than the first moment after the sun is actually risen. The beginning of John's ministry was the dawn of the Messianic reign, whose light gradually increased throughout the ministry of Jesus; the Day of Pentecost was its sunrise, when it appeared in full-orbed beauty and brightness; its noontide glory is yet to come. In this passage, then, John's position is distinguished from that of one living when the New Dispensation should be fully established; while in other passages he is spoken of as himself belonging to that Dispensation, in its opening stage. His position was so peculiar, that it could be variously regarded, according to the point of view in each case.

Matthew 11:12. This is connected especially with the former clause of Matthew 11:11. The importance of John is shown by a reference to the great excitement his ministry had produced among the people (compare Josephus,"Ant.," 18, 5, 2), and which still continued, at the time when our Lord was speaking. From the days of John the Baptist means from the time when John was engaged in active labours, which closed with his imprisonment. These labours had probably continued about eighteen months, and from six to twelve months had elapsed since their close. Until now shows that the work in question was still going on, but without at all implying that it would now cease. The kingdom of heaven is here conceived of as net simply near, but in actual existence, and as having begun to exist with the beginning of John's ministry. (See on "Matthew 11:11") The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, or, 'is taken by violence.' (Davidson, Darby.) The image employed appears to be not precisely that of storming a city (2 Maccabees 14:41), but that of invading and seizing a kingdom. Before the time of John many were expecting the establishment of the Messianic kingdom, but in general were quietly waiting, without any earnest efforts to prepare for it, and share its blessings. John's ministry awakened an eager expectation of its immediate appearance, and men were aroused to press into it, like invaders pressing into a country and taking possession. Our Lord described this state of things by the same striking image on a later occasion. (Luke 16:16) It is appropriate and eminently desirable that both individuals and communities should become greatly aroused on the subject of religion, and be deeply in earnest about it, so as to resemble, in their pursuit of salvation, the resolution and irresistible force with which an invading army presses into a country. How it forces its way along—every obstacle is overcome, every stronghold is seized, every opposing host is broken and scattered—nothing can withstand its conquering advance. Of course the application of this is to spiritual energy, and it gives no warrant for violent bodily exercises, except in so far as these may sometimes naturally result from uncontrollable feelings of soul; but it does show the propriety of impassioned earnestness and indomitable resolution in the entrance upon, and pursuit of, a Christian life. ( Compare Matthew 7:13; Luke 13:24; Philippians 3:12 ff., etc.) The period in question was the first of those seasons of widespread religious excitement which have repeatedly marked the progress of Christian history. Christianity was born in a great revival.—Weiss interprets Matthew 11:12 as said in the way of censure, viz., that John had introduced a hasty and stormy way of entering the kingdom of heaven, opposed to the quiet and gentle introduction of it in which Jesus was engaged. This is ingenious, but it ill suits the following connection, and the whole tone of our Lord's testimony to John.

Matthew 11:13-15. This reference to Elijah is not given by Luke, who on the other hand makes at this point some remarks not (Luke 7:29 f.) made by Matthew. For gives a reason for the statement of Matthew 11:12. This great religious movement, men pressing with eagerness and violence into the kingdom of heaven, he has just declared to have existed from the days of John the Baptist; for, until John, until his time, the prophets and the law (see on "Matthew 5:17"; prophets here mentioned first, doubtless because prediction was a less prominent element of the law) prophesied of the Messianic reign; but this period of prophecy ended with the coming of the new Elijah, in the person of John, who was at once the last predictor of the kingdom of heaven, and the first preacher of it; and now the good news of the reign of Messiah is made known, (Luke 16:16) and men are pressing into it with violence. Athanasius: "Up to John the law; from him the gospel." (Compare on Matthew 11:12.) And if ye will (are willing to) receives, i.e., most naturally 'to receive it,' possibly 'to receive him' (margin Rev. Ver. and Geneva). They might he slow to receive it, because it conflicted with the popular notion that Elijah in his own proper person would appear to anoint the Messiah (Justin Martyr, Trypho 8, 49); and because too, of John's present helpless captivity, which they might fancy God would not permit in the case of one sent by him on a great mission. This is Elias—he, and no other, the original being emphatic, as in Matthew 1:21 and elsewhere. As to reasons for giving the Old Testament form of the name, Elijah, rather than Elias, see on "Matthew 1:2". Which was for (that is) to come, or 'that is going to come.' This was the expression used among the Jews concerning the expected coming of Elijah, and our Lord retains it, as the familiar phrase though the coming had now taken place (so also in Matthew 17:11). The prediction of Malachi 4:5, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet," etc., was generally understood by the Jews to mean that Elijah would come to life again. and many of the modern Jews have that expectation still. Jesus means that John had come "in the spirit and power of Elijah", (Luke 1:17) a similar man, and to a similar work; and this is all that the prophecy meant. (Compare on Matthew 3:4, Matthew 17:10 ff.) John himself was asked (John 1:21) whether he was Elijah, and answered 'No'; but he was answering in the sense of their question—he was not Elijah come to life again. He that hath ears(1) let him hear. As Elijah was to he forerunner of the Messiah, and as John the forerun-net of Jesus was Elijah, it followed that Jesus was the Messiah—if they had ears, and were willing to receive it. This peculiar phrase, 'he that hath ears,' etc., was repeatedly used by our Lord, especially after saying something which was important, and also likely through ignorance or prejudice not to be understood (compare on Matthew 13:9, Matthew 13:43, Matthew 24:15); and it is still used in the last words he has spoken on the earth, the messages to the seven churches. (Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:29, Revelation 3:6, Revelation 3:13, Revelation 3:22) We can scarcely conceive how difficult it was for the Jews to accept the assertion that the prophecy of Elijah's coming was fulfilled in John the Baptist. And we have abundant need to fear lest we ourselves lack ears to hear, lack the spiritual perception and sympathy, the candour and willingness to follow truth, the readiness to let the Bible mean what it wishes to mean, which are necessary to a thorough understanding of Scripture.

IV. Matthew 11:16-19. But Both John And Jesus Are Rejected

The thought of this passage was naturally suggested by the reception which many had given to the great Forerunner, the new Elijah, and to Jesus himself. John was unsurpassed in the dignity of his position, the greatness of his work; he whom John heralded was greater still; yet both were rejected. They had different, even opposite, peculiarities and modes of life; but that wilful and unreasonable generation rejected each of them, thus showing a determined and invincible opposition to the heavenly wisdom which both were seeking to inculcate, and which was justified and vindicated by its effects in all who received it.

Matthew 11:16 f. But whereunto shall I liken this generation? Their conduct was so strange, in its inconsistent and wilful opposition to the truth, that he was at a loss to find anything like it for an illustration. (Compare Mark 4:30, Luke 13:18, Luke 13:20, Lamentations 2:13; and the rabbis have a similar formula.) In saying 'this generation,' he does not mean all without exception, but refers to the general tone of public sentiment, and especially to the leading men, the Scribes and Pharisees who gave that tone. Luke (Luke 7:29) informs us that of the persons present on that occasion the mass of the people and the publicans justified God, having received John's baptism; but the Pharisees and the lawyers rendered void as regarded themselves the counsels of God, not having been baptized by John. Our Lord was not yet prepared to make open discrimination among the Jews, and denounce the Scribes and Pharisees by name, as he did at a later period. (Chap 23.) It is like unto children, etc. There is a certain colloquial inexactness in the expression, which ought not to occasion any difficulty. He does not mean that the men of this generation correspond distinctively to the children who speak, which would make John and himself answer to the parties complained of; but in general, the conduct of this generation corresponds to the case of children sitting in the market-place, some of them saying to others, etc. So in Matthew 13:45, the kingdom of heaven is said to be like a merchant, etc., but it is not meant that the kingdom resembles the person, but that in a general way the two cases are similar. (So also in Matthew 18:23, Matthew 20:1) The comparison in such cases is made somewhat loosely, and is to be understood according to the nature of the case. There is thus no need at all for the various artificial explanations by which some able expositors (as Meyer, Ewald, Keim, Weiss, Plumptre), try to work out the view that John and Jesus are the persons called to, and complained of, for not doing as the people wished. The simple and obvious application in the contrary direction is much more natural and appropriate.(1) In the markets—marketplaces. The word denotes a public square, or place of public resort in a town, such as the Greeks called Agora (the word here used), the Romans called forum, and we call place or square. In Oriental cities this place was just inside the gate. Here the citizens assembled, the judges sat, business was transacted, and markets were opened; (Genesis 19:1; Ruth 4:1; Proverbs 31:23. etc.) and here, as a matter of course, loafers would lounge, (Psalms 69:12) and boys would gather to play. The children, i.e., boys, are represented as imitating, in their play, the practice of their elders at merry-makings or funerals. We have piped unto you, the instrument intended somewhat resembling a flageolet. We have mourned , (or, wailed), i.e., sang the funeral wail or dirge (Davidson and Noyes translate 'sang a dirge'), such as hired mourners were accustomed to sing at a funeral. (Compare on Matthew 9:23) Lamented, literally, 'beat yourselves,' beat the breast, as the publican smote his breast. (Luke 18:13) The boys had tried their comrades with notes of joy and with notes of grief, and met no response to either. Stier : "It cannot but be noted that the Lord, nihil humani a se alienum putans [deeming nothing human without interest to himself], as he took notice of the rending of mended garments, (Matthew 9:16) and the domestic concerns of the children in their beds, (Luke 11:7) So also observes the children's play in the market place, and finds in everything the material for the analogies of his wise teaching." Who is not moved at the thought of the Saviour standing sometimes in the marketplace, with the busy throng around, and watching the boys at their play? This is the only place in the Bible (Nicholson) where any game of children is described.

Matthew 11:18 f. Our Lord then applies the illustration. For, presents this as a proof of the previous statement. The case of this generation does resemble that of the children, for they treat John and Jesus exactly as the children's comrades treated them. John came neither eating nor drinking, i.e., as other men do; (Luke 7:33, 'eating no bread nor drinking wine') not sharing with men in general in their modes of life, but living apart and abstemiously. (Compare on Matthew 3:4) He hath a devil—demon. See on "Matthew 8:28; Mat_8:31." As one now would say, he is deranged. It is natural that such an expression should become common, (John 7:20, John 8:48) since demoniacal possessions were often found in conjunction with mental derangement, whether as causing it, or because persons were thereby rendered more suitable to be thus possessed. Demoniacs would sometimes go into a wild region, and live on such food as they could procure there; (Matthew 8:28) to these the people compared John. Though "willing to rejoice for a season in his light," as "the lamp that burneth and shineth", (John 5:35, Rev. Ver.) they were now rejecting his witness to Jesus and ridiculing his mode of life, saying, "He has a demon." On the other hand, Jesus lived among men, eating and drinking as they did. He was accustomed to drink wine, as was common, almost universal—those light and pure wines which abounded in that country, and which, taken in moderate quantity, and mixed with a double quantity of water according to custom, would stimulate about as much as our tea and coffee. He went to the houses of Pharisee and Publican, of scrupulous observers of the law and open transgressors of it, and shared their customary food and drink. And immediately they cried, Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber! The Greek word here used for man implies in such connections a certain contempt, as we sometimes use 'a person.' A friend of publicans and sinners. The emphasis is not on 'friend,' but, as the Greek order shows, separately on 'publicans' and 'sinners.' Because he ate pleasant food like others, and with no special abstemiousness, they called him a glutton. Because he sometimes drank wine as others did, he was a wine-bibber; one who drank habitually and to excess. Because he treated bad men with civility and kindness, earnestly seeking to do them good, he himself also was bad. (Compare Luke 15:1-2, and see above on "Matthew 9:11".) So they talked. John was not enough like other people—a crazy sort of man. Jesus was too much like other people. Nothing could please them. The Son of many see on "Matthew 8:20". Publicans and sinners, compare on Matthew 5:46.

Now, what shall be the consolation of those religious teachers who see that, do as they may, men will find fault with their conduct, and reject their message? That in which Jesus took comfort. But wisdom is justified of her children. 'Works' is clearly the correct text here, 'children' in Luke 7:35.(1) Though the people in general rejected the true wisdom, yet she was justified, shown to be right, both in John's way of living and teaching and in that of Jesus, by her works-the general effects of the true wisdom in those who receive and practice it, and in particular those miraculous works which proved Jesus to be the Messiah. (Matthew 11:2, Matthew 11:4 f.) There is thus no great substantial difference between 'justified by her works,' as affecting those who receive her, and seen in them, and 'justified by all her children', (Luke 7:35) recognized and appreciated by all of kindred spirit to her, all the truly wise. (Compare the expression 'justified God' a little before, in Luke 7:29) The peculiarities of John and of Jesus were in each case appropriate and effective, producing such works as the truly wise must recognize to be the legitimate effects of wisdom. John's mode of life was suitable to the stern rebukes and warnings he came to proclaim (see on "Matthew 3:4"); while Jesus moved freely among men, and conformed himself pleasantly to their way of living, as representing especially the kind invitations and joyful tidings of the gospel. Both methods were blamed by the people at large, but both were justified by their effects, and both were from God. And so as to the peculiarities of temperament, modes of life, and methods of working, on the part of religious teachers now. Every sort of preacher will be found fault with by the ungodly world; but every truly devout and wise preacher will he justified by the effects of his ministry.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 11:2 f. The stern law that exercise is necessary to health, bodily, mental, and spiritual, enforces itself even in a case of involuntary idleness.

Matthew 11:2-6. Is Christianity divine? (1) Reasons for inquiring. (a) Christianity, as a power in the world, has to be accounted for. (b) Our own need. (c) The need of others. (2) Evidences. (a) The effects of Christianity are beneficent, to body and soul. (b) They correspond to the O. T. predictions as to its character and results. (3) Occasions of stumbling. (a) Slow progress of Christianity in the world. (b) Its highest benefits are not seen and temporal, but spiritual and eternal. (c) Many faithful. workers seem to fail, and are left to suffer (like John). Happy he who earnestly presses the inquiry, wisely appreciates the convincing evidences, and rises above all the obstacles. Compare Peter, (Matthew 16:15 f.) Martha, (John 11:37) Thomas. (John 20:28)

Matthew 11:6. Stumbling at Jesus. Calvin: "Every man builds for himself a heap of stumbling-stones, because men are malignantly anxious to keep aloof from Christ." Plumptre: "How tenderly our Lord dealt with the impatience implied in John's question. A warning was needed, but it was given in the form of a beatitude which it was still open to him to claim and make his own."

Matthew 11:7-9. Henry: "They who attend on the word will be called to an account, what their intentions and what their improvements were. We think when the sermon is done the care is over; no, then the greatest of the care begins."

Matthew 11:11. John the Baptist. (1) The dignity and importance of his work as a forerunner. (2) His transitional relation to the kingdom of heaven. (3) In what respects the humblest Christian now is more favoured than John.

Matthew 11:11-15. John the Baptist. (1) Coming as the climax of prophecy, and the new Elijah. (2) More than a prophet, and unsurpassed among mankind, Matthew 11:9, Matthew 11:11. (3) Belonging to the Messianic reign, yet not enjoying its highest privileges, Matthew 11:11. (4) Awakening that Great Revival, in which Christianity was born, Matthew 11:12.

Matthew 11:14. Comparison of John and Elijah. (1) In outward circumstances and mode of life. (2) In temper and spirit. (3) In work. (a) Evils to be corrected; (b) opposition encountered; (c) good done.

Matthew 11:16 f. Those who reject Christianity are without excuse; for it sings joyous strains and mournful strains, presents a bright side to win and a dark side to warn, calls to repentance and welcomes to faith, offers heaven and threatens hell—and they find fault still.

Matthew 11:18 f. We often see precisely the same spirit manifested now. Let a minister, or other active Christian, be grave and serious, and people will at once complain of him as sour or dull; let him be cheerful, and they will say, "Entirely too much levity." If he is careful about his affairs, they charge that he is worldly, too fond of money; if he silently allows himself to be cheated, rather than seem to stickle for pecuniary interests, they say compassionately, "Very good sort of man, very—but doesn't know much about business—hasn't much common sense."And, alas! it still continues true that many will quite disregard the intrinsic value of the truths proclaimed, and will treat them with respect or neglect, according as they fancy or not the habits and manners of the preacher. Henry: "It is some comfort to faithful ministers, when they see little success of their labours, that it is no new thing for the best preachers and best preaching in the world to come short of the desired end."—Christianity and social life. (1) In some respects antagonizing social usages. (2) In other respects conforming to social usages. (3) In both cases often misjudged and rejected. (4) In all cases justified by its fruits.


Verses 20-30

Matthew 11:20-30.
Upbraiding The Impenitent Cities, And Inviting The Heavy Laden

The remainder of the discourse given by Matthew as occasioned by the message from John the Baptist, (Matthew 11:2) consists of two main divisions.—Matthew 11:20-24 is given also by Luke (Luke 10:12-15) as spoken with reference to the mission of the Seventy. As (Compare Matthew 10:15) to Matthew 11:25-30, see on "Matthew 11:25". Some recent commentators coolly take for granted that Matt. has wrongly located a passage really belonging where it is given by Luke. But it is perfectly natural that a religious teacher, going from place to place, should repeat favourite thoughts. (Compare at beginning of Matthew 5.) The present passage is as appropriately connected in Matt. as in Luke—Matthew 11:20. Then would naturally mean immediately or soon after what precedes, but is sometimes used quite generally. (See on "Matthew 3:13".) The same is true of the stronger expression in Matthew 11:25, 'on that occasion,' 'at that season.' (Compare on Matthew 12:1) It is easy here to trace an internal connection. The thought of the unreasonable conduct of the people towards John and himself (Matthew 11:16-19) would naturally suggest the kindred fact that even the cities in which the greater part of his miracles occurred, were still refusing to repent. (Matthew 11:20-24.) (See further as to the connection on Matthew 11:25.) Began is perhaps nothing more than a touch of that circumstantiality of description for which the Hebrew style is remarkable. (Compare on Matthew 5:2) So probably in Matthew 16:22 while in other cases we can see that 'begin' adds something to the sense; as in Matthew 11:7, Matthew 16:21, Matthew 24:49, Matthew 26:22, Matthew 26:37, Matthew 26:74. To upbraid, rendered 'reproach' in Matthew 5:11, Matthew 27:44. This strong term, and the language of the following verses, shows that he felt not only pitying grief, but also indignation. It was not mere childish folly,—as some might perhaps have thought from Matthew 27:16,—it was a wicked and shameful thing, that they so acted. Stier : "Gracious as is the Son of man in his exhibition of himself as the friend of publicans and sinners, (Matthew 11:19) he can also insist upon repentance, and threaten judgments upon the impenitent as severely as John himself; yea, more vigorously and severely than he, since he is himself the Judge."Wherein most of his mighty works were done, or 'occurred,' the word explained on Matthew 1:22, Matthew 5:18, Matthew 6:9, etc. Mighty works, or miracles, (see on "Matthew 12:38"), literally powers, works of power, and hence rendered by Com. Vet. 'mighty works.' But Tyndale and his followers here translated it 'miracles', (Matthew 11:20-21, Matthew 11:23) and that word ought to be restored, as in Bible Un. Ver., and Noyes. Repented, see on "Matthew 3:2". Our Lord's main object, in working his numerous and striking miracles, was to convince men of his divine mission, and thus induce them to repent, that they might become subjects of the Messianic reign. If they did not repent, they had witnessed his miracles in vain, yea, with aggravated guilt, so that they were more blameworthy than the most wicked heathen. Bengel: "Every hearer of the New Testament is either much happier, (Matthew 11:11) or much more wretched than the men who lived before Christ's coming."' Most of his miracles' may mean only a majority of those which occurred in that part of the country. We have no record of any miracles wrought at Chorazin or Bethsaida, though we read of many at Capernaum (see on "Matthew 11:23"). The great mass of the miracles are unnoticed except by some such general expression as this (compare on Matthew 4:21, Matthew 8:16, and see John 20:30). That Matthew and Luke should record this saying without having described any miracles as wrought at Bethsaida or Chorazin, is really a proof (Plumptre) that the words are genuine, for they would not have been introduced into a pre-existing narrative without examining whether any miracles had been referred to those places.

Matthew 11:21 f. Examples of the upbraiding. Woe unto thee. See in "Matthew 23:13 ff." Chorazin, not mentioned elsewhere in New Testament, save the similar passage in Luke 10:13. Eusebius and Jerome tell us that it was now deserted, and two Roman miles from Capernaum. If the latter be placed at Tel Hum, as is of late the almost universal opinion (see on "Matthew 4:13"), then there can be little doubt that Chorazin is the extensive ruin called Kerazeh, which is up among the hills, two miles from Tel Hum; and the Arabic name would be the singular form, corresponding to Chorazin, as Aramaic plural. So Wilson, Guerin, McGarvey. Bethsaida probably signifies 'house of fishing,' English fish-town, indicating that it began as a fishing-station. There seem to have been two places of that name on or near the Lake of Galilee. The well-known Bethsaida Julias, near to which the five thousand were fed, was on the northeastern side of the lake; in fact on the eastern bank of the River Jordan, some distance above its mouth (see on "Matthew 14:13"). The Bethsaida here and most frequently mentioned, the native place of Andrew and Peter and of Philip, (John 1:44, John 12:21) was in the land of Gennesaret, (Mark 6:45, Mark 6:53) on the northwestern side of the lake. (See on "Matthew 14:34".) This fact seems to preclude the otherwise plausible suggestion of Dr. Thomson ("Land and Book"), that Bethsaida was originally on both sides of the Jordan, and that the eastern part, being (as we know) greatly favoured by the tetrarch Philip, gradually drew everything away from the western part, which thus entirely disappeared. The question of its exact location depends on the extent of the land of Gennesaret, and may never be settled. But there is now little doubt that there were two towns of this name on opposite sides of the lake or the river—a thing very natural upon a lake so abounding in fish, and in districts seldom under the same rule. Observe that John 12:21, 'Bethsaida of Galilee,' seems clearly to indicate that there was another Bethsaida from which this needed to be distinguished. Before Reland suggested this idea (Palestina, A. D. 1714), the allusions to Bethsaida were a vexed question, and no doubt gave rise to many charges of hopeless "discrepancy" between the Gospels.

Tyre and Sidon were doubtless chosen because they lay close by, had long been famous for the splendid wickedness which so often marks commercial centres, and were intimately associated with the Baal worship which had wrought such evil in Israel. Their wickedness was often denounced by the prophets, Joel, Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and particularly that of Tyre by Ezekiel 26-28. Repeated in sackcloth and ashes, as the people of Nineveh actually did at the preaching of Jonah. (Matthew 3:5 ff.) The sackcloth so often mentioned in Scripture was roughly woven from the short hair of camels, cattle, etc., and was worn as an expression of great grief—sometimes instead of the ordinary garments, (Jonah 3:6) oftener under them, next to the flesh, (2 Kings 6:30) and loosely girt around the waist. (2 Samuel 3:31, Joel 1:8) Sometimes the person spread it under him and sat on it, (Isaiah 53:5) or lay on it at night. (1 Kings 21:27) (As to the similar coarse garments of hair, habitually worn by Elijah and some other prophets, see on "Matthew 3:4".) On occasions of extraordinary mourning they often added ashes, which were sometimes put on the head, (2 Samuel 13:19, Lamentations 2:10) and at other times the mourner sat in ashes, (John 3:6) lay in them, (Esther 4:3) even wallowed himself in them. (Jeremiah 6:26; Micah 1:10) Accordingly Job says, (Job 42:6) "I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes," and Daniel prayed long, (Daniel 9:3)" with fasting and sackcloth and ashes." (Compare above on Matthew 6:16) It should be remarked that these and various other modes of manifesting grief among the Israelites (such as rending the garments, tearing the hair, etc.), were not a matter of divine appointment, but were natural to the impassioned Oriental character, and are still customary among Eastern nations.

Matthew 11:22. But I say unto you. The connecting word rendered 'but' or 'nevertheless' (Tyndale and followers) seems to imply some such idea as this: "It is true that Tyre and Sidon did not have the opportunity of witnessing these miracles, and you may thus regard yourselves as peculiarly favoured; but it shall be more tolerable even for them in the day of judgment than for you; therefore be not proud of your privilege, but tremble at your responsibility and guilt." The words Tyre and Sidon are so placed in the Greek as to be emphatic. The 'woe' denounced against Chorazin and Bethsaida seems to combine the ideas of temporal calamity to the cities, and future punishment to individuals, as in Matthew 3:10-12; but Matthew 11:22 seems to show (Godet) that the latter idea is the prevailing one. Day of judgment. This phrase appears in Matthew 10:15, Matthew 11:22, Matthew 11:24, Matthew 12:36; 2 Peter 2:9, 2 Peter 3:7; 1 John 4:17, and compare Acts 17:31; Judges 1:6. It is also called the day of God, of the Lord, of Christ, the last day, the day of wrath, that day, (Matthew 7:22; 1 Thessalonians 5:4) and (simply) the day, (Hebrews 10:25) also the judgment. (Matthew 12:41 f.) He who here foretells the decisions of the day of judgment will himself be the King and Judge. (Matthew 7:22, Matthew 25:34)

This declaration of Jesus was no doubt startling to the Jews, accustomed to think themselves safe for eternity because they were Abraham's descendants, and to look down with contempt upon all Gentiles. And to us, in general, there is here brought out the great truth that men's lot in the world to come will have degrees proportioned to their advantages in this world. (Compare on Matthew 12:41, Matthew 23:13, and consult Luke 12:47 f.) This truth throws some rays of light athwart the dark, sad question of the fate of the heathen. Men will be judged and punished according to their opportunities of knowing truth and duty. The heathen will not be condemned for rejecting Jesus if they had no opportunity to know of him; but only for disregarding their own conscience, (Romans 2:14-16) the light of external nature, (Romans 1:20 ff.) and any true religious ideas which may in whatsoever way have reached them. On the other hand, those who know of Jesus, and live surrounded by Christian influences, and yet will not repent, incur an unspeakable aggravation of guilt and punishment. But the expression 'more tolerable,' or more endurable, easier to bear, is general and indefinite, and does not warrant any attempt to determine precise degrees of punishment.

Matthew 11:23 f. The same thing is here said, and in yet stronger terms, of Capernaum, which was a more prosperous city than Chorazin or Bethsaida, and more favoured with the Saviour's residence, miracles, and teaching. Stier: "To the two cities, two others are first opposed; and then one city to the one." Capernaum, see on "Matthew 4:13". Numerous miracles (Plumptre) have been described as occurring at Capernaum (besides the allusion in Luke 4:23): the nobleman's son; (John 4:46-54) the demoniac in the synagogue; (Mark 1:23-28) with Peter's wife's mother, and mention of a multitude of other healings; (Matthew 8:14-17) the paralytic borne by four; (Matthew 9:2-8) Jairus' daughter and the woman with the issue of blood, together with the two blind men and the dumb demoniac; (Matthew 9:18-33) and the centurion's servant. (Matthew 8:5, Matthew 8:13) Which art, etc., rather, Shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? thou shalt go down unto Hades.(1) In the question a Greek particle is used which implies that the answer must be negative. Capernaum, already prosperous, was cherishing, like Babylon, (Isaiah 14:13) arrogant hopes of unlimited prosperity in future. But this expectation is delusive. The result, as in the case of Babylon, (Isaiah 14:15) will on the contrary be utter destruction, as the penalty of privileges abused. The contrasted expressions 'exalted to heaven' and 'brought down to Hades' seem here to indicate the temporal prosperity and destruction of the city, as they do in the passage of Isaiah from which the imagery is derived. This destruction might have been obviated. Capernaum might have continued to exist and prosper if it had listened to the miracle-working Teacher, and repented, as even the wicked Sodom would have done. We might not be able to decide whether Matthew 11:23 indicated, besides temporal destruction of the city, the future punishment of individuals; but this thought is brought out clearly in Matthew 11:24.

Hell. The Greek word Hades, which etymologically means 'the unseen (land),' 'the invisible (world),' is in accordance with its classical use, and with that of the Hebrew Sheol, employed in Septuagint and New Testament to denote the receptacle of departed spirits, without reference to differences of condition between good and bad. It was conceived of as far under the ground, and so 'brought down to Sheol' (Hades) was contrasted with 'exalted to heaven.' (Compare Job 11:8; Psalms 139:8; Amos 9:2; Romans 10:6-7) Some have proposed to render it 'the underworld' (Bible Un. Ver., Noyes), which, though inadequate, is perhaps the best translation our language now affords. The word 'hell' formerly translated Sheol and Hades, for it originally signified (Skeat), a concealed or hidden (place.) But it has come to be associated so exclusively with the idea of torment, that Rev. Ver. properly uses it only to translate Gehenna (see on "Matthew 5:22"), and borrows Hades whenever that term occurs in the New Testament (So Darby, Davidson.) In like manner the Hebrew Sheol, substantially equivalent to Hades, is borrowed by Rev. Ver. in many passages of Old. Test., and ought by all means (as by Aroer. Revisers,) to have been used everywhere, instead of sometimes retaining 'grave' and 'hell,' which are both misleading. Hades is used in some passages of the New Testament where the connection does not suggest any idea either of happiness or misery—it is simply the abode of the departed; (Acts 2:27, Acts 2:31, Revelation 1:18) one passage has 'in Hades, being in torment.' (Luke 16:23) It is also employed in Matthew 16:18 (see below), in 1 Corinthians 15:55 (common Greek text, but the correct reading is 'death' in both clauses); and in Revelation 6:8, Revelation 20:13 f. In 2 Peter 2:4, still another Greek word is used, derived from Tartarus, and signifying, like Gehenna, the place of torment.

Matthew 11:24. Sodom was a still more conspicuous example than Tyre and Sidon, of wickedness and punishment. All the world knows how it was suddenly and completely destroyed. Its indescribable abominations and its terrible doom have always thrilled men with horror whenever it has been mentioned. And yet Sodom would have repented, and remained through two thousand years till our Saviour's day, had its people seen the miracles which took place in Capernaum. (Compare Ezekiel 16:48) Is this a mere hyperbole, like the precept to turn the other cheek, or to go two miles with the impressing officer? We are hardly warranted in saying so. If then one should ask why the messenger Jehovah, who stayed behind with Abraham, did not go with the two angels to Sodom, work miracles, teach repentance, and save it from destruction, we may see two things to reply. (1) We may answer as Paul does in Romans 9:18-20, that God is sovereign, doing what he pleases, and always doing right. (2) We may observe that the divine plan required that the permanent appearance of the Son of God should take place only among the Jews, and only "when the fulness of time was come ", (Galatians 4:4) and this divine plan, whether we can see it or not, was doubtless best for total humanity, and for the moral government of the universe. When the time came, many of the Jews had been hardened by disregarding previous divine influences, so that they were slower to believe Christ, with all his mighty miracles, than wicked heathen cities would have been. (Compare John 1:11-13) The land of Sodom, the district belonging to the city, and not simply the city itself. (Compare Matthew 4:15, Acts 7:11) I say unto you.... than for thee. In Matthew 11:22, each clause has the plural, which must then refer to the people of the two cities; therefore the opening plural here probably refers to the people of Capernaum, and not generally to the hearers of the discourse. If we suppose the discourse to have been delivered at Capernaum or in the plain of Gennesaret—which is probable, but the point cannot be determined—then the hearers were mainly people of those three cities, and that would account for the ambiguity of the expression. 'Thee' of course means Capernaum, but with reference to the eternal destiny of its individual inhabitants. For but (howbeit), more tolerable, and day of judgment, see on "Matthew 11:22". Stier: "We read of no enmity or persecution to which he was subjected in Capernaum; but the careless reception of his word and works was yet worse, and more condemnable than any eruption of malice would have been; it bespoke that slothful, dead, impassive indifference, for which nothing more could be done."

Matthew 11:25 f. The remaining division of the discourse given by Matthew as occasioned by the message from John (compare on Matthew 11:2 and Matthew 11:20), viz., Matthew 11:25-30, consists of two distinct portions. Matthew 11:25-27 is also given by Luke, (Luke 10:21 f.) as spoken immediately after the return of the Seventy: Matthew 11:28-30 is found in Matthew only, but is closely connected with the end of Matthew 11:27.

At that time, 'on that occasion'(1). This answers to 'then' in Matthew 11:20, and connects all with the message from John the Baptist. (Matthew 11:2) Our Lord has been speaking of the unreasonable and determined rejection of both John and himself by the Jews, (Matthew 11:16-19) and the impenitence of even the cities in which most of his miracles occurred. (Matthew 11:20-24) Yet these Jews, especially the religious teachers and other leading men, were wise and intelligent, well acquainted with many aspects of religious truth. It seemed strange that they should fail to comprehend and appreciate Christ's teachings, which were understood and received by the lowly and comparatively ignorant. This is the point to which he now addresses himself. He not only submits to this state of things, but he recognizes the propriety of it, and gives thanks for it.

Answered. By a peculiar Hebrew idiom, this word is often used in the Scriptures where there is no previous question, nor even any thing that has been said by another. "Yet in probably all cases, we can see something in the foregoing connection to which the words are in some sense a response, or which formed the occasion for their being spoken." (compare Matthew 17:4, Matthew 26:63, Matthew 28:5) In response to, or as suggested by, the sad truths just uttered, (Matthew 11:16-19, Matthew 11:20-24) Jesus states the comforting thoughts which follow. I thank thee. The word originally signifies to make open or full confession or acknowledgment, as above in Matthew 3:6; derivatively, like a corresponding Hebrew word, and somewhat like our phrase" to make acknowledgments, "it signifies to thank and hence to praise. (Romans 14:9) The early and the recent Eng. versions are here about equally divided between praise and thank. The idea seems to be, "I fully recognize the propriety of thy course, I rejoice over it, (consult Luke 10:21) and praise thee for it." O Father. We find a similar direct address to his Father in John 11:41, John 12:28, Luke 23:34. The added form of address, Lord of heaven and earth, is impressively appropriate. It is the Sovereign of the universe that does this; who shall hesitate to acknowledge that what he does is right? Our Lord here sets us the example of employing in prayer such names of God, and phrases descriptive of him, as are appropriate to the special subject of the prayer, or of each particular portion of it—a thing manifestly proper and important, but often neglected. That thou hast hid these things, viz, the things taught by Jesus, as for example, the teachings of this discourse. From the wise and prudent—understanding, or 'intelligent.' 'Prudent' was a good translation in the Latin and early English versions (though Geneva gave 'men of understanding'), but in modern English it is too restricted in meaning (see also in Acts 13:7, 1 Corinthians 1:19). Bible Union Ver. and Noyes give 'discerning'; Davidson retains 'prudent.' The Greek has no article, 'from wise and intelligent (persons'), compare on Matthew 9:13, Matthew 11:5. The expression is general, but here applies especially to the Scribes and Pharisees, and other religious teachers (compare on Matthew 11:16). The reference is of course to wisdom and intelligence misused, perverted through pride, separated from a child-like spirit. Unto babes, literally, infants, those who cannot speak.(compare Romans 2:20) This surely does not, as some imagine, designate simply the apostles, but the disciples of Jesus in general. Those who were not wise and intelligent, but had a child's simplicity and humble docility, understood and delighted in the teachings of Jesus (compare Psalms 19:7, Psalms 116:6, John 7:48 f.; 1 Corinthians 1:26 ff.). We often now witness the same state of things. Intelligent and reflecting men frequently overlook the simple beauty and perfect fitness of the plan of salvation, which is plain enough to those who are consciously and confessedly weak, and who gladly receive the Lord's teachings without cavil or difficulty. The gospel is so intensely practical that it can he understood at the outset only by persons willing to receive it, and will be thoroughly known only in proportion as it is truly loved. Here, as everywhere, we see the adaptation of the gospel to mankind. Not all men can become wise and intelligent, but all may, by the grace of God, become babes. (compare 1 Corinthians 3:18) The most useful Christians will be those who are 'wise and intelligent,' and are also 'babes'—intellectual and cultivated as possible, but childlike in spirit. And when the wise and intelligent fail to discover the significance and value of Christ's teachings, it is not the fault of their intelligence, but of this lack of a right spirit. Paul says 'not many wise after the flesh'; (1 Corinthians 1:26) there have always been some. Observe that Jesus makes acknowledgment to the Father both for hiding these things from the one class, and for revealing them to the other. We may say that the latter is the chief subject of thanksgiving, yet the former is here the immediate occasion of introducing the topic. Meyer justly says that both propositions form the ground of the thanksgiving and praise, being two sides of one great truth. So in Romans 6:17, which is often compared with this passage.

Our Lord enters into no explanations of God's sovereign dealings with men. He simply adds, Even so (or yea) Father,(2) for so it seemed good (or, was well-pleasing) in thy sight. (Compare Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 1:9, Philippians 2:13) 'Well-pleasing,' as in Matthew 3:17; Luke 2:14 (Rev. text). If with some of the ablest expositors and Rev. Ver. margin, we render 'that' instead of 'for' (the original word meaning either according to the connection), the sense is substantially the same: 'Yea, Father, (I thank and praise thee) that so it was well-pleasing in thy sight.' Notice that this is not, as often quoted, an expression of mere resignation. Our Lord acknowledges the propriety of the sovereign Father's course, and praises him for it. Whatever pleases God ought to please us.

Matthew 11:27. Having referred to the fact that not the wise and intelligent, but babes, understand his teachings, Jesus now presents himself as Teacher; declaring that only he can give a true knowledge of the Father, (Matthew 11:27) and inviting all to come and learn from him. (Matthew 11:28-30) All things were delivered to me of (by) my Father. At some past time, not specified, say when he entered upon his earthly mission—or, perhaps, when the covenant of redemption was formed in eternity (compare on Matthew 3:17)—all things were committed to him, viz., all that pertains to the instruction of men in religious truth. (Compare John 16:15) It is another and distinct fact that all authority in heaven and earth was given to him as the Mediatorial King. (Matthew 28:18, 1 Corinthians 15:24 f.) Jesus is the authorized instructor in the knowledge of God. No man (no one) knoweth. The verb is compounded with a preposition, so as to mean 'knows fully,' as in Matthew 7:16; and so Davidson here translates. Luke in the similar passage (Matthew 10:22) has the uncompounded verb 'know.' On the one hand, no one really and thoroughly knows the Son except the Father, so that he must not be considered a mere ordinary human teacher, and so that we need not wonder if the wise and intelligent of earth fail, in their proudly speculative and merely theoretical study, to comprehend and appreciate his teachings. (Compare 'reveal' here and in Matthew 11:25) On the other hand, no one knows the Father, with that real knowledge which is eternal life, (John 17:3) except the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will (willeth to) reveal him. In old English 'will reveal' expressed the idea, but that phrase has become a simple future, and the Greek must now be translated 'willeth to,' 'is pleased to,' or the like. (See especially John 7:17, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9) All their wisdom and intelligence will not avail to gain a true knowledge of the Father, unless the Son chooses to reveal him to them. To him, then, let all come. (Compare John 8:19, John 10:15, John 14:9, John 16:15) Keim : "This self-enclosed world of the Father and the Son opens itself to the lower world, to men, only by its own free act, because it wills to open itself and to admit to companionship whom it will." Jerome: "It is one thing to know by equality of nature, and another by the condescension of him who reveals." On another occasion also (Luke 10:22) he adds to his thanksgiving that the Father had hid these things, etc., the same statement as here, 'All things were delivered,' etc.; which shows that the two ideas are very closely related. The Son approves the Father's will as to hiding and revealing, and the Father has authorized him to reveal or not, according to his wilt. (Weiss.) Meyer says that this statement (Matthew 11:27) "bears the stamp of superhuman consciousness." Only here (with Luke 10:22) and in Mark 13:32 (with perhaps Matthew 24:30) do the three first Gospels contain the expression 'the Son.' This whole passage (Matthew 11:25-30) has often been remarked upon as resembling the Gospel of John, and suggests to us that great mass of similar sayings of Jesus which only the Fourth Gospel contains. John's mental and spiritual constitution peculiarly fitted him to be the medium of communicating to us those discourses, as may be seen from his employing in his Epistles a style which so closely resembles them. But such passages as this show that that class of ideas and expressions was not foreign to the other Gospels, and that the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel is not essentially different from the Jesus of the other three.

Matthew 11:28-30. He stands as the Great Teacher, who alone can give true, saving knowledge of God (Matthew 11:27), whose teachings, while hid from the wise and intelligent, are revealed to babes. (Matthew 11:25.) Though rejected by many (Matthew 11:20-24), and even slandered and reviled (Matthew 11:16-19), still he stands, in the fullness of his wisdom, and the gentleness of his love, and invites all the toiling and burdened to come to him, to wear the easy yoke of his instruction, and they shall find rest for their souls, Notice how the invitation follows immediately upon the statement that no one knows the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son chooses to reveal him. To his mind there was no contradiction between sovereign, electing grace, and the free invitations of the gospel. Come unto me, literally, hither to me, the word in the original being an adverb much used in animated invitations. (Compare Matthew 4:19, Matthew 19:21, Matthew 21:38, Matthew 22:4, Matthew 25:34, Matthew 28:6) It expresses lively interest on the part of the speaker, and invites them to come at once and heartily. 'Me' is not emphatic, as the original shows; the point is, I alone can give knowledge of the Father; come to me, and receive my instruction. All, together with the whole connection, suggests a general audience (Weiss); and if we understand all since Matthew 11:2 to be one discourse, then we know that 'multitudes' were present. (Matthew 11:7) All ye that labour and are h envy laden, or more literally, all the toiling and burdened. 'Toiling' denotes active effort to perform difficult and painful duties, while 'burdened' denotes passive endurance.(1) The Jewish teachers of the time promised rest on condition of minute attention, not only to all the ceremonies of the written law, but also to all the traditions of the eiders. This was declared by Peter (Acts 15:10) to be "a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear." And Jesus said of the Scribes and Pharisees, (Matthew 23:4) "They bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger." Our Lord does not mean to exclude any from the privilege of coming to him, who are not toiling and burdened; but no one would care to learn from him who did not desire saving knowledge of God, or who was satisfied with the knowledge already possessed, and he addresses his invitation to those who in the nature of the case would be likely to accept it. The most natural tendency with any one who has become painfully conscious of sin, is to seek God's favour by his own doings and sufferings. And I will give you rest. The original makes 'I' emphatic; he would do what the Scribes and other Rabbis did not do. The great difference between Jesus and other religious teachers is that he can give power to be and do what he requires; we find rest not simply in the superiority of his precepts, but in the supports of his grace.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of (from) me. Among the Jews a pupil who submitted himself to the instruction of a certain teacher was sometimes said to take his yoke. Compare Sirach (Ecclus.) Sirach 51:25, where Wisdom says, "I opened my mouth and spoke, acquire for yourselves without money; put your neck under the yoke, and let your soul receive instruction..... see with your eye that I toiled a little, and found for myself much rest"—'toil' and 'rest' being also the same words as here. Compare also Sirach 6:24. The later Jewish writers frequently speak of taking or rejecting the yoke of the law, the yoke of the kingdom of heaven. (Compare Acts 15:10) 'Take my yoke upon you' is therefore only a figurative way of saying, Become my pupils (disciples), submit yourselves to my instruction; which is then stated again in unfigurative terms, 'and learn from me.' To interpret this last as meaning simply, learn from my example, is not natural to the expression, nor appropriate to the connection. For I am meek and lowly in heart. 'Meek' as opposed to the haughty and harsh teachers to whom they were accustomed. (Compare James 1:5) 'Lowly (or 'humble') in heart,' not proud and repulsive, and not ambitions of domination over the minds of men. Accustomed to haughtiness and pride in their teachers, (John 1:49) his hearers might be slow to come to him; and he condescends to assure them that he is meek and humble, and they need not shrink from him. Remember also that some teachers may be outwardly meek and humble without being so in heart. Stier: "I am meek in heart, although I spoke words of such stern condemnation, Matthew 11:20, Matthew 11:24. I am lowly in heart, notwithstanding that I have borne witness to myself as the Son of the Father, Matthew 11:25-27." Here also, as in Matthew 11:26, it is possible to render 'that' instead of 'for,' learn from me that I am meek, etc. So the Peshito, and possibly (though less naturally) the Latin versions; and so Augustine interpreted, with many Latin followers. (See Aquinas, Maldonatus.) This, however, is an artificial interpretation, and not suitable to the connection—which makes it all the more natural that Matthew Arnold should receive it. And ye shall find rest unto (for) your souls. This expression is drawn from Jeremiah 6:16, according to the Hebrew, not the Septuagint. Remember that our Lord used two expressions from the Psalms when on the cross, (Matthew 27:46, Luke 23:46) and made three quotations from Deuteronomy during the Temptation. (Matthew 4:4 ff.) All religions profess to give rest for the spirit—Christianity alone can truly fulfil the promise. Others may give a kind of repose, but it is that of self-righteousness, or other self-Delusion.—christianity affords a well-founded and lasting repose, as to our guilt, our inability to gain God's favour, and our sinfulness of nature. How Jesus will do this, he does not here set forth; indeed it could be fully understood only after his atoning death and ascension, and the special coming of the Holy Spirit, and so the complete explanation of it was left for the inspired writings of his apostles (e. g., Romans 5:1 ff.; Romans 8:1 ff.) From them we know that our guilt may be cancelled through the Saviour's atonement, that we may be accepted into God's favour through his perfect righteousness, that the dominion of sin within us can be broken by his regenerating Spirit, and by degrees completely destroyed by that Spirit's sanctifying grace. Even the painful consciousness of remaining tendencies to sin need not prevent a certain repose of spirit, since we have the assurance of God's word that in the truly regenerate and believing soul these tendencies shall at last he completely overcome. Yet, even now the Saviour's invitation and promise, in the unexplained and concrete form, brings rest and joy to many a trusting heart. A loving reliance on the personal Jesus, a loving submission to his authority, and obedience to his commandments, is the very essence of Christian piety.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. There is no particular emphasis on 'my'; the contrast with other teachers has been sufficiently indicated before, and is not here expressed. 'For' presents this as a reason for what precedes, in general, but especially for the promise just given: 'Ye shall find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy,' etc. The word rendered 'easy' means agreeable and serviceable—a yoke that does not gall the neck, nor cramp so as to hinder the drawing. The Latin version and Peshito render by words signifying sweet, pleasant, and Davidson 'good.' He requires of his pupils only what is possible to do and bear, so that they will actually find rest, and not be vainly seeking it. Still we must really take his yoke upon us—must receive his instructions, and submit to his directions—must set ourselves to do what he bids us, whether it seems likely to be pleasing or painful. He not only teaches what to do, but can give us strength to do it. And in proportion as we do really submit, and conform and trust, we shall find his requirements "not grievous", (1 John 5:3) but helpful and pleasant. If Christ's yoke ever galls the neck, it is because we do not work steadily in it. Augustine: "This burden is not the weight upon one that is laden, but the wing of one that is about to fly." And if it ever feels like a weight and an incumbrance, that is when the soul has soiled this heavenly plumage with the mire of earth. It is true that the morality enjoined by Jesus was more spiritual, and thus in one sense more severe than that taught by the Scribes and Pharisees, (compare Matthew 5:17 ff.) but a morality depending on a multitude of minute outward observances and imperfectly known traditions must necessarily he burdensome, while spiritual morality grows increasingly easy to the spiritually minded. Observe that our Lord's invitation is supported, not only by the great promise, 'ye shall find rest for your souls,' but by two encouragements; one, the personal character of the Teacher, 'meek and humble in heart'; the other, the fact that his requirements are not severe and oppressive: 'my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.'

The most exactly parallel application of this invitation now, is to persons who vainly strive in other than gospel ways to obtain salvation and find rest; as, for example, by an upright and charitable life, or by the diligent observance of religious ceremonies—toiling to make the exterior of their life correct in the sight of men and acceptable to God, while within, the pollution of sin is not removed, the power of sin is unbroken, the guilty conscience can find no true relief; so also to those who are trying to obtain rest through false religions, or perversions of the true religion, or any of the forms of would-be philosophic infidelity. All such persons, if deeply earnest in their quest, are assuredly "toiling and burdened." Oh, that they would listen to the Great Teacher! But the invitation may be naturally and reasonably extended to all who desire religious repose in the knowledge of God. Jesus, and he only, can give it, and he has left a standing invitation: "Come to me, take me as your religious Teacher, and ye shall find rest for your souls."—When we come to Jesus now, that is not a bodily removal from one place to another; for he is present whenever and wherever we seek him. But the object in coming, the feeling with which we come, may be the same now as when he was on earth. Whenever we want anything from Jesus, let us draw near to him in heart, and ask him for it as if bodily present.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 11:20. Gospel-hardened! Henry: "He began to preach to them long before, (Matthew 4:17) but he did not begin to upbraid till now. Rough and unpleasing methods must not be taken, till gentler means have first been used."

Matthew 11:22. Meeting the heathen on the day of judgment. (1) The doom of all will be proclaimed as a thing unalterably determined. (2) Men will be judged according to their opportunities in this life; and the condemnation of the impenitent from Christian countries will be unspeakably more terrible than that of the heathen. (3) Then should we not avoid sending the gospel to the heathen? Nay, for on that principle we ought to keep our own children ignorant of the gospel, ought to wish there had never been any gospel. (4) Will not the heathen pour upon us deserved upbraidings because we left them in ignorance of the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent? (John 17:3)

Matthew 11:25. Mankind are prone to find fault with God's mode of procedure in every respect. All rulers are blamed; and the only perfect ruler is blamed most of all. The pious heart should sympathize with this utterance of Jesus, and make acknowledgment to the Father that he is right in all his doings. But this does not mean that we are to be indifferent to the fate of our fellow-men. This same Jesus wept over ruined Jerusalem. gregory the great (Aquinas): "In which words we have a lesson of humility, that we should not rashly presume to discuss the counsels of heaven concerning the calling of some, and the rejection of others; showing that that cannot be unrighteous which is willed by Him that is righteous."—The gospel offered to all. (1) Not all can be rich, but all may be poor, and poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3) (2) Not all can be wise and intelligent, but all may be babes. (3) No one can commend himself to God by his natural good works, but any one may believe in Christ, and gain the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 11:25-30. Sovereignty and Invitation. (1) The sovereign Father reveals the Son only to the lowly. (2) The sovereign Son reveals the Father only to such as he chooses. (3) All who need and desire the rest-giving knowledge of the Father are invited to learn from this sovereign, yet meek and lowly Teacher.

Matthew 11:27-30. Full knowledge of God. (1) It can be had only through the Son of God. (2) It is conferred by the Son upon such only as he willeth. (3) He willeth to confer it upon all who will come and take him as religious Teacher. (4) He is a gentle Teacher, and his requirements are easy and pleasant. (5) To accept his teaching will bring rest to the soul.

Matthew 11:27 f. True knowledge of God, and true rest in God.

Matthew 11:28. Alexander: "Inviting men to come to him, not in the way of speculation, but of penitent submission, not as philosophers to be enlightened, but as sinners to be saved. There is exquisite beauty in this sudden but not harsh transition from the mysteries of the Godhead to the miseries of man. The Son is the Revealer of the Father, not to stimulate or gratify a mere scientific curiosity as to the mode of the divine existence, but to bring the Godhead into saving contact with the sin-sick, ruined soul." Melanchthon(in Meyer): "In this all thou shouldst include thyself also, and not think that thou dost not belong therein; thou shouldst seek no other list of them that are God's." Luther: "They are words of majesty when he says, I will give you rest. No angel, let alone a man, would undertake to promise that."

Matthew 11:28-30. The Great Invitation. (1) The gentle Teacher. (2) The easy yoke. (3) The assured rest. Chrysostom: "Christ did not mention the gracious things only, and then hold his peace, nor the painful things only, but set down both. Thus he both spake of a yoke, and called it easy; both named a burden, and added that is was light; that thou shouldst neither flee from them as toilsome, nor despise them as over easy." Hilary: "And what is easier than his yoke, what lighter than his burden? To become praiseworthy, to abstain from wickedness, to choose the good and refuse the evil, to love all and hate none, to gain eternal things and not be taken with things present, to be unwilling to bring upon another what yourself would find hard to endure."—To be toiling and burdened does not confer the right to come to Christ, but should produce the disposition to come. Some persons come truly to Christ without any long and conscious toiling to save themselves otherwise; such persons are not specially addressed in this particular invitation, but are amply invited elsewhere.

Matthew 11:29. We are freed from the yoke of sin by taking the yoke of Christ. Henry: "The way of duty is the way of rest." Augustine: "Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it rests in thee."

Matthew 11:30. Henry: "It is a yoke that is lined with love." Augustine: "All things are light to love." Luther: "Christ's burden is light because he helps us to bear it, and when it becomes too heavy for us he puts himself under the load with us. The world thinks it heavy and unbearable; but not so, for one has a good comrade. You two can easily bear a load, though one by himself cannot."

 


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Bibliography Information
Broadus, John. "Commentary on Matthew 11:4". "John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jbm/matthew-11.html. 1886.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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