Christ's preaching. (1) Christ's answer to John's disciples. (2-6) Christ's testimony to John the Baptist. (7-15) The perverseness of the Jews. (16-24) The gospel revealed to the simple. The heavy-laden invited. (25-30)
Verse 1 Our Divine Redeemer never was weary of his labour of love; and we should not be weary of well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
Verses 2-6 Some think that John sent this inquiry for his own satisfaction. Where there is true faith, yet there may be a mixture of unbelief. The remaining unbelief of good men may sometimes, in an hour of temptation; call in question the most important truths. But we hope that John's faith did not fail in this matter, and that he only desired to have it strengthened and confirmed. Others think that John sent his disciples to Christ for their satisfaction. Christ points them to what they heard and saw. Christ's gracious condescensions and compassions to the poor, show that it was he that should bring to the world the tender mercies of our God. Those things which men see and hear, if compared with the Scriptures, direct in what way salvation is to be found. It is difficult to conquer prejudices, and dangerous not to conquer them; but those who believe in Christ, their faith will be found so much the more to praise, and honour, and glory.
Verses 7-15 What Christ said concerning John, was not only for his praise, but for the people's profit. Those who attend on the word will be called to give an account of their improvements. Do we think when the sermon is done, the care is over? No, then the greatest of the care begins. John was a self-denying man, dead to all the pomps of the world and the pleasures of sense. It becomes people, in all their appearances, to be consistent with their character and their situation. John was a great and good man, yet not perfect; therefore he came short of glorified saints. The least in heaven knows more, loves more, and does more in praising God, and receives more from him, than the greatest in this world. But by the kingdom of heaven here, is rather to be understood the kingdom of grace, the gospel dispensation in its power and purity. What reason we have to be thankful that our lot is cast in the days of the kingdom of heaven, under such advantages of light and love! Multitudes were wrought upon by the ministry of John, and became his disciples. And those strove for a place in this kingdom, that one would think had no right nor title to it, and so seemed to be intruders. It shows us what fervency and zeal are required of all. Self must be denied; the bent, the frame and temper of the mind must be altered. Those who will have an interest in the great salvation, will have it upon any terms, and not think them hard, nor quit their hold without a blessing. The things of God are of great and common concern. God requires no more from us than the right use of the faculties he has given us. People are ignorant, because they will not learn.
Verses 16-24 Christ reflects on the scribes and Pharisees, who had a proud conceit of themselves. He likens their behaviour to children's play, who being out of temper without reason, quarrel with all the attempts of their fellows to please them, or to get them to join in the plays for which they used to assemble. The cavils of worldly men are often very trifling and show great malice. Something they have to urge against every one, however excellent and holy. Christ, who was undefiled, and separate from sinners, is here represented as in league with them, and polluted by them. The most unspotted innocence will not always be a defence against reproach. Christ knew that the hearts of the Jews were more bitter and hardened against his miracles and doctrines, than those of Tyre and Sidon would have been; therefore their condemnation would be the greater. The Lord exercises his almighty power, yet he punishes none more than they deserve, and never withholds the knowledge of the truth from those who long after it.
Verses 25-30 It becomes children to be grateful. When we come to God as a Father, we must remember that he is Lord of heaven and earth, which obliges us to come to him with reverence as to the sovereign Lord of all; yet with confidence, as one able to defend us from evil, and to supply us with all good. Our blessed Lord added a remarkable declaration, that the Father had delivered into his hands all power, authority, and judgment. We are indebted to Christ for all the revelation we have of God the Father's will and love, ever since Adam sinned. Our Saviour has invited all that labour and are heavy-laden, to come unto him. In some senses all men are so. Worldly men burden themselves with fruitless cares for wealth and honours; the gay and the sensual labour in pursuit of pleasures; the slave of Satan and his own lusts, is the merest drudge on earth. Those who labour to establish their own righteousness also labour in vain. The convinced sinner is heavy-laden with guilt and terror; and the tempted and afflicted believer has labours and burdens. Christ invites all to come to him for rest to their souls. He alone gives this invitation; men come to him, when, feeling their guilt and misery, and believing his love and power to help, they seek him in fervent prayer. Thus it is the duty and interest of weary and heavy-laden sinners, to come to Jesus Christ. This is the gospel call; Whoever will, let him come. All who thus come will receive rest as Christ's gift, and obtain peace and comfort in their hearts. But in coming to him they must take his yoke, and submit to his authority. They must learn of him all things, as to their comfort and obedience. He accepts the willing servant, however imperfect the services. Here we may find rest for our souls, and here only. Nor need we fear his yoke. His commandments are holy, just, and good. It requires self-denial, and exposes to difficulties, but this is abundantly repaid, even in this world, by inward peace and joy. It is a yoke that is lined with love. So powerful are the assistances he gives us, so suitable the encouragements, and so strong the consolations to be found in the way of duty, that we may truly say, it is a yoke of pleasantness. The way of duty is the way of rest. The truths Christ teaches are such as we may venture our souls upon. Such is the Redeemer's mercy; and why should the labouring and burdened sinner seek for rest from any other quarter? Let us come to him daily, for deliverance from wrath and guilt, from sin and Satan, from all our cares, fears, and sorrows. But forced obedience, far from being easy and light, is a heavy burden. In vain do we draw near to Jesus with our lips, while the heart is far from him. Then come to Jesus to find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:1-19 . THE IMPRISONED BAPTIST'S MESSAGE TO HIS MASTER--THE REPLY, AND DISCOURSE, ON THE DEPARTURE OF THE MESSENGERS, REGARDING JOHN AND HIS MISSION. ( = Luke 7:18-35 ).
1. And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciple--rather, "the twelve disciples,"
he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities--This was scarcely a fourth circuit--if we may judge from the less formal way in which it was expressed--but, perhaps, a set of visits paid to certain places, either not reached at all before, or too rapidly passed through, in order to fill up the time till the return of the Twelve. As to their labors, nothing is said of them by our Evangelist. But Luke ( Luke 9:6 ) says, "They departed, and went through, the towns," or "villages," "preaching the Gospel, and healing everywhere." Mark ( mark 6:12 mark 6:13 ), as usual, is more explicit: "And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils (demons) and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them." Though this "anointing with oil" was not mentioned in our Lord's instructions--at least in any of the records of them--we know it to have been practiced long after this in the apostolic Church (see James 5:14 , and compare Mark 6:12 Mark 6:13 )--not medicinally, but as a sign of the healing virtue which was communicated by their hands, and a symbol of something still more precious. It was unction, indeed, but, as BENGEL remarks, it was something very different from what Romanists call extreme unction. He adds, what is very probable, that they do not appear to have carried the oil about with them, but, as the Jews used oil as a medicine, to have employed it just as they found it with the sick, in their own higher way.
2. Now when John had heard in the prison--For the account of this
the works of Christ, he sent, &c.--On the whole passage,
Matthew 11:20-30 . OUTBURST OF FEELING SUGGESTED TO THE MIND OF JESUS BY THE RESULT OF HIS LABORS IN GALILEE.
The connection of this with what goes before it and the similarity of its tone make it evident, we think, that it was delivered on the same occasion, and that it is but a new and more comprehensive series of reflections in the same strain.
20. Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not.
21. Woe unto thee, Chorazin!--not elsewhere mentioned, but it must have lain near Capernaum.
woe unto thee, Bethsaida--"fishing-house," a fishing station--on the western side of the Sea of Galilee, and to the north of Capernaum; the birthplace of three of the apostles--the brothers Andrew and Peter, and Philip. These two cities appear to be singled out to denote the whole region in which they lay--a region favored with the Redeemer's presence, teaching, and works above every other.
for if the mighty works--the miracles
which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon--ancient and celebrated commercial cities, on the northeastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, lying north of Palestine, and the latter the northernmost. As their wealth and prosperity engendered luxury and its concomitant evils--irreligion and moral degeneracy--their overthrow was repeatedly foretold in ancient prophecy, and once and again fulfilled by victorious enemies. Yet they were rebuilt, and at this time were in a flourishing condition.
they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes--remarkable language, showing that they had done less violence to conscience, and so, in God's sight, were less criminal than the region here spoken of.
22. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you--more endurable.
23. And thou,
which art exalted unto heaven--Not even of Chorazin and Bethsaida is this said. For since at Capernaum Jesus had His stated abode during the whole period of His public life which He spent in Galilee, it was the most favored spot upon earth, the most exalted in privilege.
shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom--destroyed for its pollutions.
it would have remained until this day--having done no such violence to conscience, and so incurred speakably less guilt.
24. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee--"It has been indeed," says DR. STANLEY, "more tolerable, in one sense, in the day of its earthly judgment, for the land of Sodom than for Capernaum; for the name, and perhaps even the remains of Sodom are still to be found on the shores of the Dead Sea; while that of Capernaum has, on the Lake of Gennesareth, been utterly lost." But the judgment of which our Lord here speaks is still future; a judgment not on material cities, but their responsible inhabitants--a judgment final and irretrievable.
25. At that time Jesus answered and said--We are not to understand by this, that the previous discourse had been concluded, and that this is a record only of something said about the same period. For the connection is most close, and the word "answered"--which, when there is no one to answer, refers to something just before said, or rising in the mind of the speaker in consequence of something said--confirms this. What Jesus here "answered" evidently was the melancholy results of His ministry, lamented over in the foregoing verses. It is as if He had said, "Yes; but there is a brighter side to the picture; even in those who have rejected the message of eternal life, it is the pride of their own hearts only which has blinded them, and the glory of the truth does but the more appear in their inability to receive it. Nor have all rejected it even here; souls thirsting for salvation have drawn water with joy from the wells of salvation; the weary have found rest; the hungry have been filled with good things, while the rich have been sent empty away."
I thank thee--rather, "I assent to thee." But this is not strong enough. The idea of "full" or "cordial" concurrence is conveyed by the preposition. The thing expressed is adoring acquiescence, holy satisfaction with that law of the divine procedure about to be mentioned. And as, when He afterwards uttered the same words, He "exulted in spirit" probably He did the same now, though not recorded.
O Father, Lord of heaven and earth--He so styles His Father here, to signify that from Him of right emanates all such high arrangements.
because thou hast hid these things--the knowledge of these saving truths.
from the wise and prudent--The former of these terms points to the men who pride themselves upon their speculative or philosophical attainments; the latter to the men of worldly shrewdness--the clever, the sharp-witted, the men of affairs. The distinction is a natural one, and was well understood. (See 1 Corinthians 1:19 , &c.). But why had the Father hid from such the things that belonged to their peace, and why did Jesus so emphatically set His seal to this arrangement? Because it is not for the offending and revolted to speak or to speculate, but to listen to Him from whom we have broken loose, that we may learn whether there be any recovery for us at all; and if there be, on what principles--of what nature--to what ends. To bring our own "wisdom and prudence" to such questions is impertinent and presumptuous; and if the truth regarding them, or the glory of it, be "hid" from us, it is but a fitting retribution, to which all the right-minded will set their seal along with Jesus.
hast revealed them unto babes--to babe-like men; men of unassuming docility, men who, conscious that they know nothing, and have no right to sit in judgment on the things that belong to their peace, determine simply to "hear what God the Lord will speak." Such are well called "babes." (See Hebrews 5:13 , 1 Corinthians 13:11:14:20 , &c.).
26. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good--the emphatic and chosen term for expressing any object of divine complacency; whether Christ
in thy sight--This is just a sublime echo of the foregoing words; as if Jesus, when He uttered them, had paused to reflect on it, and as if the glory of it--not so much in the light of its own reasonableness as of God's absolute will that so it should be--had filled His soul.
27. All things are delivered unto me of my Father--He does not say, They are revealed--as to one who knew them not, and was an entire stranger to them save as they were discovered to Him--but, They are "delivered over," or "committed," to Me of My Father; meaning the whole administration of the kingdom of grace. So in John 3:35 , "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand" passages refer properly to the kingdom of grace, they of course include all things necessary to the full execution of that trust--that is, unlimited power. (So Matthew 28:18 , John 17:2 , Ephesians 1:22 ).
and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will--willeth
to reveal him--What a saying is this, that "the Father and the Son are mutually and exclusively known to each other!" A higher claim to equality with the Father cannot be conceived. Either, then, we have here one of the revolting assumptions ever uttered, or the proper divinity of Christ should to Christians be beyond dispute. "But, alas for me!" may some burdened soul, sighing for relief, here exclaim. If it be thus with us, what can any poor creature do but lie down in passive despair, unless he could dare to hope that he may be one of the favored class "to whom the Son is willing to reveal the Father." But nay. This testimony to the sovereignty of that gracious "will," on which alone men's salvation depends, is designed but to reveal the source and enhance the glory of it when once imparted--not to paralyze or shut the soul up in despair. Hear, accordingly, what follows:
28. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest--Incomparable, ravishing sounds these--if ever such were heard in this weary, groaning world! What gentleness, what sweetness is there in the very style of the invitation--"Hither to Me"; and in the words, "All ye that toil and are burdened," the universal wretchedness of man is depicted, on both its sides--the active and the passive forms of it.
29. Take my yoke upon you--the yoke of subjection to Jesus.
and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls--As Christ's willingness to empty Himself to the uttermost of His Father's requirements was the spring of ineffable repose to His own Spirit, so in the same track does He invite all to follow Him, with the assurance of the same experience.
30. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light--Matchless paradox, even among the paradoxically couched maxims in which our Lord delights! That rest which the soul experiences when once safe under Christ's wing makes all yokes easy, all burdens light.