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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-30

Throughout Israel now the Lord carries on an intensive teaching and preaching in their cities. John the Baptist hears of this in the prison, but he is deeply puzzled, for he sends two of his disciples to Him to ask, "Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" Yet this same John had said of Him, "I saw and bear record that this is the Son of God" (John 1:34). No doubt John expected Him to very soon take His place of royal dignity as Messiah of Israel. Yet John's testimony to His glory had been silenced, and He to whom John bore witness was now travelling as a loving teacher through the land. This does not seem to be consistent with the great glory that John had (rightly) ascribed to Him.

Yet John had heard, not only of His teaching and preaching, but of His works, which of course none other had ever done. The Lord therefore instructed the disciples to show John again the things they saw and heard, works of marvellous grace and power as well as words such as had never before been spoken observe that all the miracles of verse 5 are significant of that which is spiritual. First, the blind received their sight, this itself being an evidence of His Messiahship (Isaiah 42:5-7), and typical of the totally ignorant being enlightened. The lame are the impotent, healed in order to walk before God. Lepers are typically those corrupt, cleansed from this loathsome state. The deaf are those indifferent to the voice of God, now made to hear. The dead are the dormant, with no life toward God, but quickened by divine power. Finally, the poor are these desolate spiritually, but enriched by the Gospel of grace preached to them.

It is precious to see the gentleness with which the Lord encourages John, rather then to reprove His questioning: "Blessed is he , whosoever shall not be offended in Me." He leaves no question as to who He is, though He does not explain why He continues to take a lowly place.

Before the crowds, however, He speaks highly of John; asking first, did they go into the wilderness to see a reed shaken with the wind? Was John merely a weakling moved by the forces of nature? They know this could not be so: nothing natural could explain either the penetrating Message he brought nor the fact of crowds going to the wilderness to hear him.

Or, on the other hand, was he a man clothed in soft clothing? But they knew that men of this kind, popular celebrities, were found in circumstances of luxury, not in the desolate wilderness.

What then? was he a prophet? The Lord affirms it to be absolutely true; and more then this, for he had a place that no other prophet was ever given, the unique privilege of announcing the Messiah of Israel. Malachi 3:1 had prophesied specifically of him as the messenger sent before the Lord to prepare His way. The Lord strongly affirms that among all mankind there had not arisen a greater then John the Baptist. He certainly does not speak of any public display of greatness as in the eyes of the world, for John had none of this. Nor does He speak of moral greatness, though his moral character was exemplary, no doubt. He speaks rather of the greatness of the place John was given as the forerunner of the Messiah. This explains also His last statement, that a lesser one in the kingdom of heaven was greater than John. He is speaking of the greatness of the position believers are given today in contrast to any position possible previous to the presentation of Christ Israel in grace.

John had announced the kingdom of heaven to be at hand. In the person of Christ, the King, it had come. But the King was not recognized, in fact was rejected. In this way the kingdom of heaven: suffered violence, and those who entered it would have to do so by virtually forcing themselves in over the determined opposition of the religious leaders Of Israel. Compare Matthew 23:13.

Verse 13 is a plain statement that the dispensation of law, with its witness of all the prophets, was effective until John. Jerusalem was the centre of this system of things, that is, an earthly centre of an earthly administration. The kingdom of heaven was introduced by the Lord from heaven, the headquarters of this being in heaven, not on earth. In John was the culmination of prophetic ministry, all of which pointed to Christ.

John Was the Elijah promised in Malachi 4:5; not literally the same man (John 1:21), but a prophet of the same character (Luke 1:17). The expression "if ye will receive it" indicates this spiritual explanation, as does the following verse, "He that both ears to hear, let him hear."

But where was the fitting response to either John's ministry calling men to repentance, or that of the Lord Jesus introducing the precious dispensation of grace? Instead of recognizing God's voice in both cases, "this generation" were like children sitting in the markets, that is, they were childish and also idle, though surrounded by the serious realities Of life. Calling to others they complained that they had not danced to their music, and on the other hand had not lamented when they mourned.

The application is clear. John did not dance to their music: he came neither eating nor drinking, that is, not partaking in their festivities, for he had a solemn message of repentance to proclaim. They resented this. On the other hand, the Son of Man had come among men in grace, eating and drinking with them, and they resented the fact that He was not mourning; daring to accuse Him of being a gluttonous man and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. They treated His grace with scorn and dishonest abuse. Their attitude was that of claiming that Israel was not really corrupt, as John declared; and Jesus was wrong In showing grace to corrupt Israelites!

But wisdom was justified of her own children. These (children of wisdom) at least recognized God's distinct and different means of dealing as being in perfect order, recognizing God's righteousness in John's Ministry and His great grace in that of the Lord Jesus.

The works of His grace had been most marked in the cities on the shares of Galilee, yet they had been no more receptive than Jerusalem. His censure of these cities is most solemn because they did not repent. He affirms that if Tyre and Sidon (Gentile cities) had witnessed there the mighty works He had done in Chorazin and Bethsaida, the Gentiles would have repeated in sackcloth and ashes long before. Why then did He not do these works there? Because He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and would give them every opportunity to repent. Tyre and Sidon's judgment therefore would be more tolerable then theirs.

Capernaum, where He had mainly dwelt, therefore being exalted to heaven as regards the magnitude of this privilege, would be brought down to the desolation of hades If the mighty works done there had been done in Sodom, the Lord says it would have remained to that day. In verse 24 the Lord must be referring to eternal judgment, for Sodom was totally destroyed, thereby receiving a complete temporal judgment. It will be more tolerable for her in the day of judgment then for Capernaum. Luke 12:47-48 shows that though all unbelievers will be consigned to hell, yet there will be different degrees of punishment for them, depending on the measure of responsibility.

In all of these pronunciations of judgment there is every indication that the heart of the Lord Jesus was deeply moved and burdened; for judgment is His strange work, a work in which His heart can have no pleasure.

"At that time" of His having to foretell the judgment of these guilty cities, the Lord Jesus found precious comfort in the wisdom and grace of His Father, thanking Him who is Lord of heaven and earth that He had hidden from the wise and prudent the knowledge of those things that manifest the glory of His Son, and had revealed them to babes. For the matter of greatest importance was what seemed good in the Father's sight. The wise and prudent prided themselves on their knowledge, and dismissed the thought of the lowly Son of Man being any more then man in spite of His mighty works and His words of unequalled grace.

But in these verses He speaks, not as Men, but as the Son of the Father, who had delivered all things into the hand of His Son. For though Matthew presents Him as King, yet he must make it fully clear that the King can be no less than God (as John specially presents Him). Compare Psalms 47:2; Psalms 47:6-8.

In the inscrutability of His great Godhead only the Father could know the Son. John the Baptist had to fully admit "I knew Him not" (John 1:31; John 1:33). Similarly, only the Son could possibly know the great glory of Him who is God of the universe. Only God can know God in the essential reality of His being. Yet, since He is the Son of God, He is fully capable of revealing God as He deems fitting to do so. He reveals Him, not to the wise and prudent, but to babes, those who take the place Of submission to Him, realizing their own dependence.

Verse 28 is therefore most beautiful in this connection. His heart of great love goes out to those weary and oppressed, to invite them to find rest, not simply in His teaching, but in Himself personally. Many false prophets today foist themselves on the public with doctrines that appeal to Men's fleshly appetites, and they give such men great honour; but being more sinful creatures like themselves. they can give no rest to a troubled heart. Indeed, they could never utter words like these of our Lord, "Come unto me,----- and I will give you rest."

Those who labour are those honestly concerned about pleasing God, as law taught men to be. Labouring to keep the law, they found it too hard because of the sinfulness of their flesh. This caused a sense of a heavy load laid on their shoulders which they were unable to bear. All men's labour can never relieve this: the best of man's works can never give rest to a troubled conscience. He Must have this burden taken by Another, that is, the Lord Jesus, whose work alone can totally remove this load, and give rest. He tenderly invites every such troubled conscience to simply come to Him: this is enough. He requires no good works from the person, for He it is alone who lifts the load.

Verse 28 then is the way of rest for a troubled conscience. But verse 29 goes further. In place of an unbearable yoke, He invites us to take His yoke upon us. This yoke certainly implies submission to Him, with its necessary restraint, but its sure result will be rest, not simply for the conscience, but for the soul. The first rest is connected with salvation from the guilt of sin, but the second is a practical, daily tranquillity of soul just in the measure that a believer submits to the yoke of Christ and learns of Him.

His yoke is easy in contrast to that of law (Acts 15:10). But He must have the authority. It is not, as some have suggested, that both the Lord and the believer are sharing the same yoke, pulling together; for Christ is "the red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never come yoke" (Numbers 19:2). His yoke therefore is that which He rightly puts upon us, the restraint of which we need, as He did not, and which we willingly accept. The burden would speak of spiritual responsibility also willingly assumed. But it is light: indeed the more wholeheartedly we accept it, the more light it will seem.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Matthew 11:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/matthew-11.html. 1897-1910.

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Friday, December 6th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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