Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Matthew 11:1. Jesus preaches the Gospel probably unaccompanied by the Twelve
And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,2–19. Concerning John the Baptist
His message to Jesus 2–6. His position as a Prophet 7–14. His relation to Jesus and to his contemporaries 15–19.
St Luke 7:18-352. in the prison] At Machærus. See note, ch. Matthew 14:3. For “two of his disciples” read, on the best MS. authority, by means of his disciples.
And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?3. he that should come] Literally, He that cometh. One of the designations of the Messiah; in every age the prophet said “He cometh.”
It is often disputed whether John sent this message (1) from a sense of hope deferred and despondency in his own soul; he would ask himself: (a) Is this the Christ whom I knew and whom I baptized? (b) Are these works of which I hear, the works of the promised Messiah? or (2) to confirm the faith of his disciples, or (3) to induce Jesus to make a public profession of His Messiahship. (1) The first motive is the most natural and the most instructive. In the weariness and misery of the prison the faith of the strongest fails for a moment. It is not doubt, but faith wavering: “Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.” (2) The second has been suggested and found support rather from the wish to uphold the consistency of the Baptist’s character than because it is the clearest inference from the text. (3) The third motive would have been hardly less derogatory to John’s faith than the first. And would not our Lord’s rebuke Matthew 11:6 have taken a different form, as when He said to Mary, “Mine hour is not yet come”?
Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
The blind receive their sight, 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.5. Comp. Isaiah 35:5; Isaiah 61:1. The first passage describes the work of God, who “will come and save you.”
the poor have the gospel preached to them] In earthly kingdoms envoys are sent to the rich and great. Compare the thought implied in the disciple’s words, “Who then can be saved?” If it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom, how much more for the poor?
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.6. And blessed is he] Blessed are all who see that these works of mine are truly the works of the Messiah. Some had thought only of an avenging and triumphant Christ.
blessed] A term that denotes spiritual insight and advance in the true life.
And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?7. A reed shaken with the wind] If the first suggestion (Matthew 11:3) be adopted, the words have a corroborative force. It was no waverer that ye went out to see—his message was clear, his faith was strong then.
Others give the words a literal sense—the reeds on the banks of Jordan—and observe a climax, a reed—a man—a prophet—more than a prophet—the greatest of them.
But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.8. A man clothed in soft raiment] Mr Plumptre (Smith’s Bib. Dic. i. 1166) suggests that there may be a historical allusion in these words. A certain Menahem, who had been a colleague of the great teacher Hillel, “was tempted by the growing power of Herod, and with a large number of his followers entered the king’s service … they appeared publicly in gorgeous apparel, glittering with gold.” (See Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr., on Matthew 22:16.)
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.9. more than a prophet] Other prophets foresaw the Messiah, the Baptist beheld Him, and ushered in His kingdom: he was the herald of the King. Further, John was himself the subject of prophecy.
For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.10. Behold, I send, &c.] Quoted from the Hebrew of Malachi 3:2. The LXX. rendering of the passage is different.
Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.11. he that is least in the kingdom of heaven] Literally, he that is less, either (1) than John or (2) than others. Those who are in the kingdom, who are brought nearer to God and have clearer spiritual knowledge of God, have higher privileges than the greatest of those who lived before the time of Christ.
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.12. And from] Translate but from: another point shewing the greatness of John, and also the beginning of the Kingdom: it was from the time of John’s preaching that men began to press into the kingdom, and the earnest won their way in. For the preaching of John was the epoch to which all prophecy tended.
suffereth violence] is forced, broken into, as a ship enters a harbour by breaking the boom stretched across the harbour’s mouth. John’s preaching was the signal for men to press into the kingdom—to adopt eagerly the new rule and life heralded by John and set forth by Christ.
the violent take it by force] The eager and enthusiastic followers of Christ seize the kingdom—win it as a prize of war.
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.13. For] gives the reason why the wonderful growth of the kingdom should be witnessed now.
And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.14. if ye will receive it] The present unhappy circumstances in which John was placed seemed inconsistent with such a view of his mission (Meyer).
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,16. But whereunto shall I liken this generation?] The children who complain of their companions are the Jews who are satisfied neither with Jesus nor with John. This generation is out of sympathy with the prophets in whatever guise they come. They blamed John for his too great austerity, Jesus for neglect of Pharisaic exclusiveness and of ceremonial fasting.
And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.19. But wisdom is justified of her children] Wisdom = “divine wisdom”—God regarded as the All Wise. Justified = “is accounted righteous”—“is acquitted of folly.” Of her children = “by the divinely wise.” The spiritual recognise the wisdom of God, both in the austerity of John and in the loving mercy of Jesus who condescends to eat with publicans and sinners.
The word translated but should be and. Either the adversative force lies rather in the whole sentence than in the particle, or the Greek καί is put for the Hebrew connecting particle vau, which is sometimes adversative.
Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:20–24. The Cities that repented not
St Luke 10:13-15, where the words form part of the charge to the seventy disciples. It is instructive to compare the connection suggested by the two evangelists. In St Matthew the link is the rejection of Christ by the Jews—then by these favoured cities; in St Luke, the rejection of the Apostles as suggestive of the rejection of Jesus.
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, 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.21. Chorazin] is identified with Kerazeh, two and a half miles N. of Tell Hum. The ruins here are extensive and interesting; among them a synagogue built of hard black basalt and houses with walls still six feet high. Recovery of Jerusalem, p. 347.
Bethsaida] (House of Fish) called Julias in honour of Julia daughter of Augustus, was rebuilt and beautified by Herod Philip, in whose dominions the town was situated.
But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.23. Capernaum] See map. Although Capernaum was truly exalted unto heaven in being our Lord’s “own city,” the thought is rather of self-exaltation. The expressions recall Isaiah 14:13-15. Capernaum has exalted herself like Babylon—like Babylon she shall be brought low. Possibly too Capernaum was on a height at Tell Hum or Khan Minyeh. This would give force to the expression in the text.
According to the Sinaitic and Vatican MSS. this verse should be read: “Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? Thou shalt be brought down to hell.”
But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.25. answered and said] A Hebraism=“spake and said.”
prudent] Rather, intelligent, acute. The secrets of the kingdom are not revealed to those who are wise in their own conceit, but to those who have the meekness of infants and the child-like eagerness for knowledge. In a special Jewish sense “the wise and prudent” are the Scribes and Pharisees.
25–27. The revelation to “Babes.”
St Luke 10:21-22, where the words are spoken on the return of the Seventy.
Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.26. Even so, Father: for] Translate: “yea Father [I thank thee] that, &c.”
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: 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 reveal him.27. are delivered] Rather, were delivered.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.28. Come unto me] Jesus does not give rest to all the heavy laden, but to those of them who show their want of relief by coming to Him.
28–30. Rest for the heavy laden
These words of Jesus are preserved by St Matthew only. The connecting thought is, those alone shall know who desire to learn, those alone shall have rest who feel their burden. The babes are those who feel ignorant, the laden those who feel oppressed.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.29. learn of me] i. e. “become my disciples;” an idea also conveyed by the word “yoke,” which was used commonly among the Jews for the yoke of instruction. Stier quotes from the Mishna, “Take upon you the yoke of the holy kingdom.” Men of Belial=“Men without the yoke,” “the uninstructed.”
for (or, because) I am meek and lowly in heart] The character of Jesus described by Himself; cp. 2 Corinthians 10:1, “the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” It is this character that brings rest to the soul, and therefore gives us a reason why men should become His disciples.
rest unto your souls] Cp. Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.”
unto your souls] Not relief from external bodily toil.
my burden is light] Contrast with this the burden of the Pharisees, ch. Matthew 23:4, “heavy burdens and grievous to be borne.”
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.