Matthew 11 - "Come Unto Me . . ."
A. Jesus and John the Baptist.
1. (1-3) John the Baptist's disciples ask a question on behalf of John to Jesus: are You really the Messiah (the Coming One)?
Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"
a. Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another? Why did John, who previously recognized Jesus as Messiah (John 1:29-36), ask this question? Perhaps he himself had misunderstood the ministry of the Messiah, thinking that if Jesus was really the Messiah, He would perform works connected with a political deliverance of Israel - or at least the deliverance of John, who was in prison.
b. He sent two of his disciples: It is more likely that John did not ask this question for his own sake, but for the sake of his disciples - he wanted them to go to Jesus and ask the question for themselves, causing them to focus their attention on Jesus.
i. This is in keeping with John's heart in ministry: that Jesus would increase, and that he would decrease (John 3:30).
2. (4-6) Jesus' answer to John the Baptist's disciples: tell John that prophecy regarding the Messiah is being fulfilled.
Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me."
a. Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: Jesus wants to assure both John and his disciples that He is the Messiah. But He also reminds them that His power will be displayed mostly in humble acts of service, meeting individual needs - not in a spectacular display of political deliverance.
b. Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me: Jesus knows that this is offensive to the expectation of the Jewish people, who longed for political deliverance from Roman domination. But there was a blessing for those who were not offended because of the Messiah who came against the expectation of the people.
3. (7-15) Jesus' discourse about John.
As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.' Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
a. A prophet . . . and more than a prophet: Jesus reminds the people that John is God's chosen herald of the Messiah, not a man-pleaser or a self-pleaser. He was in fact more than a prophet, because he alone had the ministry of serving as the Messiah's herald. For that, he is the greatest of prophets and the greatest of men (among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist).
b. He who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he: Though John was great, he was not born again under the New Covenant. This is because he lived and died before the completion of Jesus' work at the cross and empty tomb. Therefore, he did not enjoy the benefits of the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:6-13).
c. The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force: Jesus' reference to violence refers to both the intensity of spiritual warfare surrounding the ministry of Jesus and His herald, and also to the intensity required to persevere in following God and "taking" the kingdom into our hearts.
i. The kingdom will never be received passively. It is always founded on God's work on our behalf, but God's work will always produce a response in us.
d. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John: Jesus sees an era ending with John; all the prophets and the law anticipated John and his ministry as a herald. There is a sense, in which he speaks for every prophet who heralded Jesus' coming.
e. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come: John may also be seen as Elijah, in a partial fulfillment of Malachi 4:5. John was not actually Elijah, but he ministers in the same in spirit and power of Elijah, thus fulfilling his "office" (Luke 1:17). Because John was Elijah in this symbolic sense, Jesus added "if you are willing to receive it."
i. Elijah did come in fact during Jesus' ministry, during the transfiguration (Matthew 17:3). But he will come again before the Second Coming of Jesus, likely as one of the two prophets of Revelation 11:3-12.
4. (16-19) Jesus rebukes those who refuse to be pleased by either John the Baptist's or Jesus' ministry.
"But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying: 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not lament.' 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, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."
a. We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not lament: Those who have a heart to criticize, will find something to criticize. Many people wouldn't be pleased with either John or Jesus.
b. But wisdom is justified by her children: However, the wise man is shown by his wise actions (her children), such as the wisdom to accept both Jesus and John for what they were and what were called to be.
B. The condemned and the accepted.
1. (20-24) Jesus rebukes the cities that did not repent in light of both John the Baptist's ministry and Jesus' own ministry.
Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you."
a. He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: Because most of His mighty works were done in these cities, they experienced a greater light - which required a greater accountability.
i. Of course, we in the Western world have a tremendous accountability before God. We have had an access to the gospel that no other society has, yet we are in desperate need of repentance.
b. It will be more tolerable: When Jesus says that it will be more tolerable for certain cities in the day of judgment, He implies that there are in fact different degrees of judgment. Some will be punished more severely in the final judgment than others.
c. Chorazin . . . Bethsaida . . . Capernaum: God's judgment was fulfilled against these cities. Each one of them has been desolate for generations upon generations.
2. (25-27) Jesus praises those who do receive His message.
At that time Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."
a. You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes: If we do respond to Jesus, it is because the Father has revealed these things to babes like us.
b. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him: As well, the Father can only be known through the Son, as He chooses to reveal the Father to us.
3. (28-30) Jesus' invitation.
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
a. Come unto Me: Jesus shows His authority when He says come unto Me. This invitation is unthinkable in the mouth of anyone else but God, and woe to the men who call people to themselves instead of Jesus!
b. All you who labor and are heaven laden: Jesus directs His call to those who are burdened. He calls those who sense they must come to Him to relieve their need, instead of living in self-sufficiency.
c. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me: Jesus makes a wonderful offer, inviting us to take My yoke upon you and learn from Me. We must come as disciples to learn, willing to be guided by His yoke - not merely to "receive" something.
d. For I am gentle and lowly in heart: Jesus displays His nature when He describes Himself as gentle and lowly of heart. It is His servant's heart, displayed throughout His ministry, that qualifies Him to be the one who bears our burdens.
e. And you will find rest for your souls: Jesus describes His gift to His followers as rest for your soul. This gift is as simple as it is powerful and profound.
f. My yoke is easy and My burden is light: Jesus summarizes this wonderful call with this. The yoke is light and the burden is easy because He bears it with us.
i. When training a new animal (such as an ox) to plow, ancient farmers would often yoke it to an older, stronger, more experienced animal who would bear the burden and guide the young animal through his learning.
ii. If your yoke is hard and your burden is heavy, then it isn't His yoke or burden, and you aren't letting Him bear it with you. Jesus said it plainly: My yoke is easy and My burden is light.