The Message from John the Baptist.
SUMMARY.--John Sends from Prison to Christ.
The Character of John the Baptist.
None Greater Before Him.
The Least in the Kingdom.
The Criticisms of John and Christ.
The Woes of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.
Wisdom Hid from the Wise, but Given unto Babes.
The Sweet Invitation.
2. When John had heard in the prison. Compare
Mark 6:14-29 and Luke 7:19-28.
John had now been a year in prison, to which he had been sent by Herod
Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, because he had rebuked his adulterous
marriage with his brother Philip's wife
Josephus says that Machærus, a strong fortress built by Herod the
Great, the father of Antipas, about ten miles east of the Dead Sea, was
He sent his disciples. To make the inquiry found in the
The course of Jesus was so different from what John himself, in common
with other Jews, expected of the Messiah, that after lying in a dungeon
for a year, he began to be uncertain. If Jesus was the Christ, why
did he not proclaim himself the Messiah King, destroy the power of the
Romans and of Herod, and release John himself from prison? So he
3. Art thou he that should come? John the Baptist had predicted
the coming One
Perhaps John, impatient of the long delay, hoped to incite Jesus to
proclaim his Messiahship.
4. Jesus answered and said.
states that at that same hour he cured many of their infirmities.
After permitting the messengers to see his work, he pointed to it as
Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see. To
John's question Jesus gives no direct reply. There is something severe
in the whole of our Lord's demeanor and language, as if reproving this
shaking of John's higher faith in God.
5. Dead are raised. In
the raising of the widow's son at Nain immediately precedes this
message; and in
we have seen the ruler's daughter raised.
The poor have the gospel preached to them. It adds to the force
of this testimony that the poor had always been overlooked by Pharisees
and the Jewish doctors. The ancient philosophers and theologians had no
gospel for those who could not pay for it. The climax is preaching the
gospel to the poor. Jesus answers John by pointing to his works. They
were a more convincing answer than words. What he has done for mankind
is still a most convincing demonstration.
6. Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me. This is
suggested by John's seeming to have stumbled, not fallen, because
Christ had not publicly declared his mission. The Lord does not
upbraid, but gives in this way a tender rebuke, implying that he knew
what to do with reference to his kingdom.
7. What went yet out into the wilderness to see? An allusion to
John's ministry in the wilderness, which had been attended by most of
A reed shaken with the wind. The reed of Egypt and Palestine is
a very tall cane, growing twelve feet high, and is easily bent by the
wind. John was not like the reed. He could not be bent by every breath
of applause or displeasure.
8. A man clothed in soft raiment? Were you attracted into the
wilderness of Judea to see an effeminate courtier? Had he been a pliant
courtier he would have flattered Herod, and would not have been thrown
into prison for his rebuke of sin in high places.
9. More than a prophet. He was more than a prophet, because he
was a reformer, forerunner and way-preparer, as well as prophet. No
other prophet ever had so honored an office.
10. This is he, of whom it is written. Of whom
prophesied. See note on
11. Among them that are born of women. Among all of the human
race that were before John the Baptist. The world thinks that kings,
generals, and statesmen are the greatest of men. But God measures
differently. Time, too, measures differently. Herod, now, would hardly
be known at all if he had not imprisoned John the Baptist.
He that is least in the kingdom of heaven. This shows, (1) That
John was not in the kingdom of God. (2) That, as none greater than John
has been born of women, no one had yet entered the kingdom. (3) That,
therefore, it had not yet been set up, but as John himself, Jesus, and
the Twelve under the first commission, preached, was "at hand."
(4) All in the kingdom, even the humblest, have a superior station to
John, because they have superior privileges.
12. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of God
suffereth violence. The idea is, that from the time when John
began preaching, men of violence were trying to force their way into
the kingdom. It is compared to a walled city that men try to storm and
enter. They tried a little later to make Jesus a king by force.
13. The prophets and the law prophesied until John. For the
meaning we must turn to
where the same words occur with the addition, "since that time the
kingdom of God is preached." Then first began the announcement that
John was the way-preparer, the forerunner of the King, that the kingdom
was at hand, that the old dispensation was about to close.
14. This is Elias, who was to come. Malachi predicted that
Elijah would come to prepare the way for the Lord. Christ explains that
this was fulfilled in John. He was not the literal, but a spiritual
15. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. A formula used by
Christ to give emphasis to an utterance of especial importance.
16. Whereunto shall I liken this generation? Compare
The Jewish nation is meant. The Lord shows that they were as capricious
Children sitting in the markets. All ancient towns had an open
market place, which was the great place of resort.
17. We piped unto you. One set of children is represented as
having invited another set to play, first in a mock wedding, then in a
mock funeral, but the dissatisfied children were pleased with neither,
and would neither dance nor lament.
18. John came neither eating nor drinking. At feasts. He lived
abstemiously and austerely.
He hath a demon. They accused him of being under the influence
of evil spirits; of being a crank, or fanatic.
19. The Son of man came eating. Like other men. He was at the
wedding feast of Cana
at Matthew's feast,
A wine-bibber. There was nothing singular about his social
habits. Like all the people, he drank the light, harmless wine of
Palestine, either free from, or with a very slight percentage of,
alcohol. Our modern wines are very different.
A friend of publicans and sinners. See note on
Matt. 9:12, 13.
Wisdom is justified of her children. Those who are wise will
approve both the course of John and his Lord.
20. Then he began to upbraid the cities, etc. Compare
The cities in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee had, thus far, heard
and seen the most of the Lord and had the least excuse for rejecting
him. In all the reproofs of Jesus there is sadness in the severity. The
very denunciations seem to mourn.
Wherein most of his mighty works were done. We know of a number
of miracles which had been wrought in these cities, the healing of the
centurion's servant, of the son of the nobleman, of the diseased woman, of
two blind men, and the raising of the daughter of Jairus. The
Scriptures assure us that these were only a very small part of the
mighty works he did. See
Because they repented not. The great end proposed by the gospel
is repentance and a new life.
21. Woe unto thee, Chorazin. Chorazin has long been extinct, and
its site is not certainly known. It is named only here and in
Situated about two miles from the ruins of Tell-Hum, thought to be
Capernaum, there are ruins now called Kerazeh, including a synagogue,
columns and walls of buildings, supposed to mark the site of Chorazin.
Woe unto thee, Bethsaida. The word means "House of fish," and the
name would imply that it was a fishing town, and it was the home of the
fishermen, Peter, Andrew and Philip
Its locality is in dispute. It was probably situated on both sides of
the Jordan, where it emptied into the Sea of Galilee. The ruins of a
city lie there, mostly on the east side of the river.
For if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon. These
were rich Phoenician trading cities on the east shore of the
Mediterranean. Tyre was long the chief commercial city of the world; it
still exists as a wretched town.
In sackcloth and ashes. The symbols of mourning and repentance.
on the repentance of Nineveh. Sackcloth was a kind of coarse cloth,
woven of camel's hair.
22. It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of
judgment. These solemn words teach: 1. That there will be a day of
judgment for all, cities, nations and men. 2. That men will be judged
according to their opportunities; that those who have had and neglected
opportunities will be held most guilty. 3. That there will be
different degrees of future punishment, according to guilt and
opportunities; that those whose opportunities have been greatest will
receive the greater punishment, if these are neglected. Every man will
be judged and punished according to his opportunities and works. The
idea of a hell of the same severity for all the unsaved is nowhere
taught by Christ.
23. And thou, Capernaum. Capernaum was at that time a city of
30,000 inhabitants. Its site also is disputed. Most locate it on the
lake shore, at the ruins called Tell-Hum, but others locate it about
three miles north of the ruins of Tell-Hum. It enjoyed signal
advantages as being the Galilean home of Christ, who taught in its
streets, houses and synagogue, and worked many miracles there.
Art exalted unto heaven. By the privilege of having Christ as an
Shalt be brought down to hell. Not hell, but hades, the
unseen. Capernaum shall disappear from human view. Within less than
Capernaum was destroyed by the Romans, and for many centuries has not
had an existence.
And remained until this day. Note the inference: 1. Sodom was
destroyed for its sins. 2. Had it not been sinful it would have
"remained." 3. Therefore it is sins that destroy cities and nations.
Jerusalem, Babylon, Sodom, Capernaum, and other extinct ancient cities
have perished on account of their sins. 4. Modern cities which scoff
at God and revel in iniquity will "be brought down to hades" also.
Permanent temporal prosperity depends on righteousness.
24. More tolerable for Sodom in the day of judgment. Because it
had poor opportunities. Sodom had fallen two thousand years before
Christ, and had been extinct ever since, yet the Lord speaks of a
future day of judgment for both Sodom and Capernaum. Therefore, 1.
There is a judgment after death. 2. Temporal punishment for wickedness
does not satisfy eternal justice. The Sodomites were held to a future
judgment. 3. The inhabitants of Sodom had not been annihilated, but
were alive, waiting for the judgment.
25. At that time. Immediately after this judgment upon the
impenitent cities was denounced.
O Father, Lord of heaven and earth. Christ addresses God as his
Father, not as his Lord. The obedience he yields is that of a Son, not
of a subject. Four more times, in deep emotion, Christ thus addresses
12:28; 17:1; Luke 23:34).
That thou didst hide these things from the wise and prudent.
From the worldly wise Pharisees and Jews. God had hid these things from
this latter class through the natural operation of their own corrupted
hearts and perverted minds.
Babes. The simple and believing.
26. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good, etc. "Even so" is
better rendered "Yea."
27. All things have been delivered unto me of my Father. The
Lord speaks, in part, in anticipation. It was the divine purpose, in
sending the Son, to deliver "all things," the gospel, salvation,
judgment, the rule of heaven and earth, to him.
No one knoweth the Father but the Son. He only is in the secret
of the Divine counsels.
And he to whom the Son willeth to reveal him. Christ is the
revelation of God to man. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."
Those who "know" Christ by humble obedience and docility learn to know
the Father also.
28. Come unto me. This is one of the sweetest passages in the
New Testament. It shows the willingness of the Lord. The kings and
earth and the great are usually difficult of access, while Jesus is not
only willing, but invites us, to come to him. Note how gracious is the
invitation! 1 It is the Lord who speaks. 2. He invites to come to
him. 3. The invitation is to those who labor and are heavy laden. 4.
He promises, to all these weary ones who come, rest. The offer is not
that of a man, but of the Divine Savior. Millions in all ages since can
bear witness that the promise is sure.
Labor and are heavy laden. Feel heavily the burdens of life,
of sin and sorrow.
Rest. Peace of soul.
29. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me. He has first asked
us to come, and made a gracious promise. He next shows us how to come.
We are to come by taking his yoke upon us. Taking on the yoke is a
symbol of submission. The two steps by which we come, and secure the
promise of "rest unto our souls" are then 1. Submission to Christ. 2.
Becoming his disciples.
30. For my yoke is easy. The yoke that sin imposes is heavy, and
bearing it brings no rest. So, too, the yoke of false or corrupted
religion is burdensome; but Christ's yoke is easy. It is not hard to
bear it because it is borne in love. His burden, even if it be the
cross, is light, because he helps us to bear it. Note: That one
rejecting Christ in the midst of light is worse than a heathen. Christ
graciously invites all to come to him. He is the rest of the soul.