The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Matthew 11

Mat 11:1

Mat 11: "The Master departs on a solitary preaching mission. He freed himself partly of the inconvenience and pressure of having multitudes coming for healing, and devoted himself to teaching. It was on this background that his great forerunner, John Baptist sought for confirmation of his ministry. Held in prison for condemning the marriage actions of Herod, who had taken his brother's wife. John expected the advent of the kingdom, as did the apostles (Act 1:9), and did not perceive the greater work of redemption, even though his words announced the coming of the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. So the Lord took the opportunity to demonstrate the need to listen carefully, and used words in Mat 11:15 that later were directed to the seven ecclesias of Asia (Rev 2;3). As the nation would not respond, so the Lord turned to individuals" (GEM).

Mat 11:3

Perhaps John sought to dispel doubts in his followers, not in himself. Or, 'How can this popular miracle-worker possibly be the suffering lamb of God (ie Isa 53)?' (Xd 121:373).

Mat 11:5

BLIND... LAME...: Jesus is healing those people who previously would have been excluded from the Lord's service (Lev 21:17-21; cp 2Sa 5:8) -- those people who, if they had been animals, would have been imperfect sacrifices (Lev 22:22-24; Mal 1:8,13,14). So here is emphasized the fact that we are all imperfect specimens and imperfect "sacrifices" -- and we all need the only One who is perfect to heal and cleanse us! And he can do this: through the forgiveness of sins -- which he only can provide -- he can present us, as a radiant bride or church, "without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish" (Eph 5:27).

THE GOOD NEWS IS PREACHED TO THE POOR: The last point on Jesus' list... "the poor have the gospel preached to them"... is the greatest miracle of all! Because it lifts Jesus' work out of the physical realm and puts it into the spiritual. In fact, it comprehends all the other "miracles" in one: because the gospel believed does -- in the most meaningful sense -- give sight to the spiritually blind, give strength to the weak, and cleanness to those who were "leprous" with sin, and hearing to the spiritually deaf. So here is Jesus' way of lifting his work out of the ordinary (if any miracles can be ordinary!) and putting it on the highest plain: the greatest "miracle" (and such miracles are occurring all around us) is a life changed by true belief in Jesus Christ. Which means... the greatest work of God's Holy Spirit has never ceased from among men, and never will, so long as sinners hear the Word of God and repent.

Mat 11:6

BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO DOES NOT FALL AWAY ON ACCOUNT OF ME: Nothing that was 'blemished' was fit for the animal sacrifice, for it would be offensive. Jesus had outward scars, but his life was perfect, and so he could make the perfect sacrifice.

One might look at Jesus, even then, and say: "He's not perfect"... and of course, and especially, when he might see that same man, beaten and broken, on his way to the cross, it was painfully true that "he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isa 53:2,3). To all outward signs and human expectations, Jesus couldn't be the perfect sacrifice either... because of his physical appearance. And thus the observer -- who saw only the surface of things -- might be offended, and fall away (cp Isa 8:12-15).

But the heart, and the life, of Jesus was perfect -- and that was what the Father saw. And that is what we must see, with the "eye of faith", as well.

Even the cross itself was -- as Paul said -- "foolishness to those who are perishing" (1 Co 1:18), and the man who looked at the mere "letter of the Law" would undoubtedly be offended by the whole process: "This just CAN'T be right!"

But the man of faith sees his own sins "mirrored" in the face of the suffering Saviour, and his own deserved punishment reflected in the bruises of his Lord. And he realizes the absolute perfection that is necessary to cleanse, and forgive, and pardon him.

And so he sees the beauty of this divine arrangement, and thankfully embraces it, and joyfully proclaims, as does Isaiah himself, prophetically: "Surely he took up OUR infirmities and carried OUR sorrows... he was pierced for OUR transgressions, he was crushed for OUR iniquities; the punishment that brought US peace was upon him, and by his wounds WE are healed" (Isa 53:4,5). If Jesus appeared to be a blemished and imperfect offering, we need not be "offended" nor "stumble" at this. Instead, we need only remember that such blemishes and imperfections were inflicted, and accepted, on OUR behalf. He was made "sin" for us, so that we might be made "righteousness" in him (2Co 5:21).

Mat 11:8

FINE CLOTHES: Associated with king's palaces: 2Sa 1:24; 13:19.

ARE IN KINGS' PALACES: While John was in a king's dungeon! -- cp Luk 6:22,26.

Mat 11:11

In this verse, Jesus points out the great demarcation between the time of "the prophets and the law", on one hand, and the time of "the Messiah" on the other. So, to paraphrase: "The least of the disciples -- who preach the kingdom of God NOW -- are greater (more able) than was John the Baptist -- the greatest of the prophets -- because, while he brought Israel up to the brink of the new 'age', they have actually entered it: they NOW know Jesus as the Messiah!" (This distinction is borne out by v 13 here as well.)

Mat 11:12

General context: John the Baptist was earnest, heroic, and strong; and so must those be who would enter the kingdom of God!

FORCEFULLY ADVANCING: Gr "biazomai" = compel, or force. Poss Christ is saying that revolutionaries (the Zealots and Sicarii) have been attempting to bring the kingdom of God by forceful means. But, more likely, given the context, this v points out the line of demarcation: before John came, all men (even "prophets") were looking forward -- tentatively -- to the coming of the Messiah. But now -- after he HAS come -- all men who preach him (even the least of the disciples: v 11) can be bold, because they have seen and heard of him!

FORCEFUL MEN LAY HOLD OF IT: "It required a certain kind of individual, a 'violent' one!... The truth is a call to courage and faithfulness, not for those of an apathetic countenance. It needs a virility of mind and heart; a determination to overcome the obstacles of flesh, and to press on regardless. Many profess such a character, but fail to demonstrate it when courage is required under trial and pressure. When the Truth is challenged, it is only the 'forceful' who are prepared to continue the challenge, knowing that their strength comes from the Father. In the days of Christ it required much moral courage to defy the Jewish leaders (cp Joh 9:22). Today it requires moral courage to continue that character in the days of Gentile compromise. To those who reject such wisdom, the Lord utters a series of 'Woes' (Mat 11:20-24). It is not those who profess greatness, but those who reveal humility and a will to follow him (the 'babes' of Mat 11:25-30) to whom his strength is given" (GEM).

Mat 11:13

FOR ALL THE PROPHETS... PROPHESIED UNTIL JOHN: And more would have prophesied the same, had Jesus not come.

Mat 11:14

...And all the prophecies would have been fulfilled... IF the Jews had received it.

THE ELIJAH: No def article: "AN Elijah".

Mat 11:17

Cp the complaint of Michal, who despised the dancing of David: 2Sa 6:16-23.

Weddings/funerals: austere John/convivial Jesus: both approaches were alike despised by "Jews".

Mat 11:18

HE HAS A DEMON: A campaign of same sort against Jesus: Mat 12:24; Joh 7:20; 8:48; 10:20.

Did not such a "rebellious son" deserve to be stoned?: cp Luk 5:30; Deu 21:20,21.

Mat 11:19

GLUTTON AND DRUNKARD: Cp Luk 5:30. And did not such a man deserve to be stoned (Deu 21:20,21)?

WISDOM IS PROVED RIGHT BY HER ACTIONS: In this case, the end justifies the means: the end = preaching of gospel, glory of God; the means = either suffering or rejoicing. (Notice: the personification of "wisdom": Pro 8:22,31-33; 9:1-6.)

Mat 11:21

There is comfort in this -- that the finest preacher who ever lived -- backed by Holy Spirit power -- could achieve nothing in some of the cities he visited. So why should we ever be discouraged?

KORAZIN... BETHSAIDA: These cities of Galilee were homes of some of Jesus' disciples.

SACKCLOTH AND ASHES: Eze 27:30,31. See Eze 3:6: "Surely if I had sent you to them..."

Mat 11:22

TYRE: See Act 21:3,4; cp Mar 3:8.

These Galilean towns were the homes of Jesus' own disciples, the settings of many fond memories.

Mat 11:23

DEPTHS: "Hades", or grave. A city could not be cast into a burning hell. Refers to its total destruction, as happened to Sodom. Cp Mt 16:18.

Mat 11:24

SODOM: Israel is likened to Sodom (Deu 32:32; Isa 1:10; Rev 11:8), and even worse than Sodom (Lam 4:6; Eze 16:46-49).

Mat 11:25

"Out of mouths of babes and sucklings": Psa 8:2; cp Isa 11:8.

Mat 11:28

COME TO ME: "Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God" (Exo 3:18).

WEARY AND BURDENED: As those who were under bondage in Egypt, and esp having additional burdens laid upon them (Exo 1:12; 5:9).

I WILL GIVE YOU REST: Christ was the embodiment of the Sabbath-rest, and "Lord" of the Sabbath: Mat 12:8; cp Heb 4.

Mat 11:29

TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU AND LEARN OF ME: "It's not 'Here; take this new yoke that I made in Joseph's carpentry shop for you.' It's 'share the yoke that I'm carrying.' Yes, he made dozens of yokes, and every one was a masterpiece in comfort and load-bearing efficiency, from the big double-oxer to the dairymaid's model. Speaking of which, when I joined Esso as a young man and went to Boston (Lincolnshire) as an agricultural salesman, I used to watch the driver of our small-deliveries truck as he struggled to the back of farmhouses and little country stores where the paraffin was kept -- all 40 gallons of it -- with a heavy, awkward 5-gallon can of paraffin in each hand. Then later I was at a farm effects sale where one of my fuels customers was retiring and had sold the place; I needed to make sure the new guy also bought from me! One of the hundred or so lots was a dairy yoke, and I suddenly thought, 'If I can get that for a pound or two I'll offer it to Jeff and see how he gets on with it'... Jeff laughed at me: 'Okay, since you went to the trouble to get it for me I'll give it a couple of days.'

"For those two days they all laughed at Jeff. ('Where are you going to, my pretty maid?') Then he had a week's holiday, and someone else had to take his truck out. For two days the guy stuck the yoke on the other seat and ignored it. Then, with the kind of backache you get from strange, heavy lifting and carrying, he also 'gave it a go'. And kept using it until Jeff came back. By which time no-one was laughing any more, and Jeff became a firm friend from then on.

"The Word knows but two yokes: the prisoner's iron bondage yoke, in two halves or hinged and clamped round the neck, and the ox-yoke, whereby two oxen are harnessed together to pull loads, by a wooden pole between them to which is fastened a crosspiece, padded to go in front of each. Frequently a young ox is put alongside a long-serving one, to help in its training.

"The prisoner's yoke is the one Jesus took on himself, and broke in Golgotha. The ox-yoke? That's the yoke Jesus invites us to share with him. It forms a curious shape, doesn't it? If it were not for the padding and the harness it could so easily be a cross. It isn't 'Learn ABOUT me'; it's 'Learn FROM me.' That's a far more practical 'course' than book knowledge! And what is it we need to learn? 'For I am meek and lowly in heart.' Meekness is hard to learn -- except from a master practitioner who himself learned obedience the hard way. 'And you will find rest unto your soul.' By taking on a big yoke and pulling a heavy load? Do me a favour! But YES... if Jesus is on the other side of it! And he is, by the way" (Brian Morgan).

FOR I AM GENTLE: See Lesson, Gentleness.


Mat 11:30

"A yoke is specifically designed to divide and share a labour... together... with Christ. Old horses were yoked together with youngsters to help understand how to pull a plow... and to steady down their eagerness!!" Cp Deu 22:10. Ct Pharisees in Mat 23:4.

'Put off your old works (cease doing your own works: Isa 58:13,14), and put on the new yoke by beginning to do the work of God!'

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