Matthew 11


‘After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Matthew 11:1-3

Jesus And John The Baptist

While the disciples went off on their own to preach, Mark 6:12-13 / Luke 9:6, Jesus went on to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee, Luke 7:18-35.

Whilst Jesus was preaching in this area, John the Baptiser, who was still in prison, and put there by Herod, Luke 3:19-20 / Mark 6:17-18, heard about what Jesus was doing, John 3:2, and wanted to confirm that He indeed was the Messiah.

Earlier in John’s ministry, he had no doubts whatsoever that Jesus was the Messiah, John 1:29 / John 3:27-36, but here it’s difficult to tell if John was lacking any faith or because he was in prison he just wanted some assurance that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, Genesis 49:10 / Daniel 9:24 / John 6:14.

‘Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Matthew 11:4-6

Notice how Jesus responds to John’s question concerning His Messiahship, He doesn’t outright say yes or no, He simply tells John’s disciples to go back and tell them what they have heard and seen.

The miracles which Jesus was performing, such as the bling receiving their sight, the lame are now walking, the lepros have been cleansed, the deaf can now hear, the dead being raised to life and the good news is now being preached to the poor, Isaiah 29:18-19 / Isaiah 35:4-6 / Isaiah 61:1, are all signs that Jesus is the Messiah, John 20:30-31 / Acts 2:22.

Dummelow, in his commentary, says the following.

‘By a reference to Isaiah 61:1, he declared plainly enough, and yet not too plainly, that he was the Messiah. He worked several miracles in their presence in proof of his Messianic claims, Luke 7:21, and finally sent them back to John with a message in which he expressly mentioned his miracles, and promised a blessing to those who should attach themselves to him. The spectacle of Christ’s miracles must have been particularly impressive to the disciples of John, who performed no miracles, John 10:41.’

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This verse might be rendered, ‘Happy is he to whom I shall not prove a stumbling block.’ That is, happy is he who shall not take offence at my poverty and lowliness of life, so as to reject me and my doctrine. Happy is the one who can, notwithstanding that poverty and obscurity, see the evidence that I am the Messiah, and follow me. It is not improbable that John wished Jesus publicly to proclaim himself as the Christ, instead of seeking retirement. Jesus replied that he gave sufficient evidence of that by his works; that a man might discover it if he chose; and that he was blessed or happy who should appreciate that evidence and embrace him as the Christ, despite his humble manner of life.’

‘As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “ ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Matthew 11:7-10

As John’s messengers go back to tell John what they heard and saw Jesus doing, He turns His attention to the crowd and begins to speak to them about John the Baptiser. He asks a series of questions, concerning the character of John.

Jesus declares that John wasn’t an unstable man in his beliefs, like a reed being swayed by the wind, Ephesians 4:14. John wasn’t a rich man dressed in fine clothes which were fit for a king to wear.

John wasn’t just a prophet, he was more than a prophet, Matthew 14:5 / Matthew 21:26 / Luke 1:76 / Luke 20:6. He was the very prophet which Malachi prophesied was to come, Malachi 3:1.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘John was the last and greatest of the prophets, foretelling.

1. The near approach of the kingdom of God.

2. That Jesus would take away the sin of the world.

3. That the Jewish nation would be destroyed for rejecting him, Matthew 3:10.

He was more than a prophet in that he did not merely foretell the Messiah but presented him to the people and identified him. He was greatest also in his proximity to Christ, which is the final, ultimate test of greatness.’

‘Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’ Matthew 11:11-15

Jesus declares that there ‘has never’ been a greater ‘man’ than John the Baptist, Job 14:1 / Job 15:14 / Job 25:4.

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the kingdom.

‘By the kingdom of heaven in this verse is meant, the fulness of the blessings of the Gospel of peace, which fulness was not known till after Christ had been crucified, and had risen from the dead. Now the least in this kingdom, the meanest preacher of a crucified, risen, and glorified Saviour was greater than John, who was not permitted to live to see the plenitude of Gospel grace, in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.

1. That the kingdom of heaven here does not mean the state of future glory, Matthew 3:2.

2. That it is not in holiness or devotedness to God that the least in this kingdom is greater than John.

3. That it is merely in the difference of the ministry.

The prophets pointed out a Christ that was coming; John showed that Christ was then among them, and the preachers of the Gospel prove that this Christ has suffered, and entered into his glory and that repentance and remission of sins are proclaimed through his blood. There is a saying similar to this among the Jews, ‘even the servant maid that passed through the Red Sea, saw what neither Ezekiel nor any other of the prophets had seen’.’

McGarvey, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Jesus here pictures the kingdom of heaven as a besieged city. The city is shut up, but the enemies which surround it storm its walls and try to force an entrance. The gates of Christ’s kingdom were not opened until the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, but men, hearing it was about to be opened, sought to enter it prematurely, not by the gates which God would open, but by such breaches as they sought to make in its walls.’

The prophets and the law both told the Jews that John would come, Malachi 4:4-6. Jesus tells the crowd that if they are willing to accept it, they would understand that Elijah was to come, Matthew 17:10-13 / Mark 9:11-13.

John wasn’t Elijah, despite some claiming he was raised from the dead, John 1:21, John would come in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17.

Jesus encouraged the crowd to listen very closely to what He had just told them, Matthew 13:9 / Mark 4:9 / Luke 8:8 / Revelation 2:7.

‘To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” Matthew 11:16-19

There’s no doubt that Jesus loved children and later will tell us we must become like them to enter the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 18:1-6, because God’s kingdom belongs to the children, Matthew 19:14. It’s interesting here because Jesus now compares that generation to unruly children, who are misbehaving in the marketplace.

It appears that this generation was playing games, while some wanted to play happy wedding songs, but they were considered too happy, others wanted to play sad funeral songs, but they were considered too unhappy and mournful.

Gill, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The allusion is to Jewish children, who having seen their parents and friends at their festivals and weddings, some play upon the pipe, and others dance to them, mimicked the same in their diversions; and also having observed, at funerals, the mourning women, making their doleful ditties, and others answering to them, acted the part of these persons, expecting their fellows would make their responses but did not.’

John’s life was one of self-denial and yet the people said he had a demon, he was a madman. In contrast to John, Jesus tells the crowd what the people are thinking about Him. The Son of Man came eating and drinking and yet they called Him a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following

‘The following criticisms were directed against Christ.

1. He was called a glutton.

2. He was called a winebibber.

3. They said he cast out demons by the prince of demons, Matthew 9:34.

4. They called him Beelzebul, Matthew 10:25.

5. They called him a sinner, John 9:24.

6. They said he had a demon, John 7:20.

7. They said he was a Samaritan, John 8:48.

8. They charged him with violating the sabbath, Matthew 12:2.

9. They referred to him as a ‘deceiver’, Matthew 27:63.

10. They accused him of friendship with publicans and sinners, Luke 15:2. In that last calumny, they overreached themselves, because what they intended as slander is, in fact, the glory of our Lord, namely, that he is a friend of publicans and sinners.’

Wisdom would tell people that both John and Jesus were carrying out the will of God and teaching God’s will to the people.

Woe On Unrepentant Towns

‘Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.’ Matthew 11:20-22

It’s a heart-breaking thought that Jesus preached and taught in these cities and even performed many miracles, Luke 4:23 / John 20:30-31 / John 21:25, but still, they refused to repent, hence, why Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith.

Jesus demonstrated His miraculous powers in Chorazin and Bethlehem and says they had more of an opportunity to repent than the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon, Isaiah 23:7-18 / Ezekiel 26:14 / Ezekiel 27:1-11 / Ezekiel 28:1-10. Sackcloth and ashes were worn when a person was repenting, they were a sign of submission to God, Isaiah 58:5 / John 3:5.

McGarvey, in his commentary, says the following.

‘When the time came for evangelizing the Gentiles, Tyre and Sidon accepted the gospel, and verified the words of the text, Acts 21:3-6 Acts 27:3.’

Jesus appears to imply that some people’s punishment will not be as bad as others. Whatever, we understand Him to mean here, it’s clear that all who end up being punished, will feel it and know they are being punished. An eternity in hell is surely punishment enough, despite the sin a person may have committed.

Smith, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The greater understanding and light that a man receives, the greater will be the judgment of that individual. And so when God does judge, it will be according to the understanding of the knowledge that God has given. According to the grace they have been exposed to, will be the degree of judgement by which they will be judged.’

‘And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” Matthew 11:23-24

Jesus lived in Capernaum and performed many miracles whilst preaching and teaching. It was a favoured city because Jesus lived there, but Jesus tells them they will go down to Hades.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This does not mean that all the people would go to hell, but that the city which had flourished so prosperously would lose its prosperity, and occupy the ‘lowest place’ among cities. The word ‘hell’ is used here, not to denote a place of punishment in the future world, but a state of ‘desolation and destruction’. It stands in contrast with the word ‘heaven’. As their being exalted to heaven did not mean that the ‘people’ would all be saved or dwell in heaven, so they’re being brought down to ‘hell’ refers to the desolation of the ‘city’. Their privileges, honours, wealth, etc., would be taken away, and they would sink as low among cities as they had been before exalted.’

Once again, we read Jesus saying that it will be more bearable for the city which was destroyed by God, Sodom, Genesis 19:24-25 / Genesis 19:34 / Ezekiel 16:48-49, on Judgment Day, than it will be for Capernaum.

The Father Revealed In The Son

‘At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ Matthew 11:25-27

Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

‘In these verses, we have Christ looking up to heaven, with thanksgiving to his Father for the sovereignty and security of the covenant of redemption and looking around him upon this earth, with an offer to all the children of men, to whom these presents shall come, of the privileges and benefits of the covenant of grace.’

Jesus praises God that the ‘hidden things’, that is, the Gospel message which the apostles have preached has been understood and gladly received by the simple and unlearned people, that is, the little children.

The so-called wise and learned are the scribes and Pharisees who thought they were wise and learned, but they were the ones who actually rejected Jesus’ message, 1 Corinthians 1:19 / 1 Corinthians 1:21-25 / 1 Corinthians 2:8 / 2 Corinthians 3:14.

The Father was pleased that the simple and unlearned had the Gospel revealed to them. Jesus was given authority by the Father, and He declares the only way to know the Father, John 1:18 / John 6:46 / John 10:15, is through Christ, His Son, John 14:6 / John 7:29 / John 10:15 / John 17:25 / 1 Timothy 2:5.

Dummelow, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Having just called the Father ‘Lord of heaven and earth,’ Matthew 11:25, He now declares that the same authority belongs to Himself because all created things have been committed to Him by God. This supreme authority over the universe which was committed to Him at the creation was exercised by Him to some degree even during the humiliation of His life on earth, John 3:35 / John 13:3 / John 17:2, and was fully restored at His resurrection, Matthew 28:18, with all the glory pertaining to it.’

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus’ invitation to the crowd was simply to come to Him, John 6:35-51 / John 7:37, all who were weary and burdened and He will give them rest.

The invitation goes out to everyone who is tired of the stresses and worries of this world. The invitation goes out to all who are in need of some real rest, Matthew 5:3 / Matthew 23:4 / Acts 15:10 / Galatians 5:1 / 1 Peter 5:6-7.

Jesus’ yoke wasn’t like the yolk which was a heavy burden for the oxen to carry when they were ploughing the fields. The teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees were like this, Acts 13:39 / Acts 15:10 / Romans 3:28 / Romans 8:4 / Hebrews 7:19.

Dummelow, in his commentary, says the following.

‘My yoke does not consist of a multitude of burdensome ordinances like that of the Law and the Pharisees. It can hardly be called a yoke at all, it is so light. True, there are certain ordinances which every Christian must observe, but they are few and simple. The essence of My religion is that men should be humble, and meek and loving and tender-hearted as I am, not hard and proud like the Pharisees. Practise these things, and you will find your lives easy, your religion a joy, and your souls at rest.’

Go To Matthew 12