Matthew 11
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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.


(The Gospel for the 3d Sunday in Advent: 11:2–10.—Parallels: Luke 7:18–35; 10:13–15, 21, 22)

CONTENTS:—While Christ’s blessed activity was bearing richest fruits, and during the course of His third journey, when passing along the shores of the Lake of Galilee, where His advent had been announced and prepared by His twelve Apostles, the great conflict between Him and the old secularized theocracy commenced. Hitherto the attacks of the Pharisees and scribes on the Lord had been at least isolated. But now commenced a series of contradictions, springing from opposition avowed, and on principle, and incited by the chiefs of the party at Jerusalem. The contest opens with the serious circumstance, that even John, the Baptist and forerunner of the Lord, seems for a moment in danger of being offended at Him. Christ feels, however, so certain of His victory over John, that immediately after replying to his inquiry, He publicly claims him as His associate and precursor. All the more, therefore, does He lay it to the charge of His cotemporaries, that they had disbelieved both John and Himself. The hopeless captivity of John was sufficient evidence that the people had given him up: while the unbelief of the cities of Galilee formed a plain indication that they were also ready to surrender the Lord. It is characteristic of the systematic method of Matthew, that he records on this occasion the sentence of condemnation pronounced by the Lord upon these cities, which, in the actual course of events, was uttered at a later period, when Christ finally left Galilee. But this unbelief and opposition evoke, in all its depth and fulness, Christ’s consciousness of His royal dignity, as it appears in the concluding sentences of this chapter. In Matthew 12 this conflict appears as one of principle,—the Pharisees meeting the Lord with the charge, that His disciples, and He Himself, broke the sabbath, and obliging Him to withdraw from their machinations against His life. At last, they come publicly forward with the accusation, which they had before spread in secret, that the Lord practised magic, was in league with Satan, and cast out devils by the prince of the devils. This daring accusation obliged the Lord publicly to rebuke and to warn them of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. In return, they insist on some sign from heaven to verify His Messianic claims, which His disciples had published as a secret. The Lord Jesus points them to the token from the deep, the sign of the prophet Jonas—the type of His death on the cross, and to the impending judgment of becoming subject to the sway of demons, which awaited them after His decease. The opposition to Jesus was now so great and general, that even His mother and His brethren were, in their mistaken kindness, offended at Him, and attempted to withdraw Him from His enemies under a pretext,—a circumstance to which the Evangelist faintly alludes. In this contest, the Evangelist records the seven parables concerning the kingdom of heaven ( Matthew 13), some of which had, however, been uttered at a former period. These parables also indicate the altered position of the Lord with reference to the people. He now requires to instruct them by parables in the kingdom of heaven. The offences still continue and increase. At the close of these parables, the Evangelist records, that the Lord was rejected even by His own city,—a circumstance which had occurred at an earlier period. Jesus then withdraws (though, chronologically, at an earlier period, see Matthew 12) from Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, who had shortly before ordered the execution of John the Baptist, and betakes Himself to the eastern shore of the sea ( Matthew 14), where He spreads a table for the multitudes. On several subsequent occasions. He teaches on the western shore; the last two times to be opposed by the Pharisees, Matthew 15 and 16. Only in passing, and preparatory to His journey to Jerusalem, does He again visit His own country ( Matthew 17–22).

We have been obliged, in some measure, to anticipate the course of this history, in order to exhibit the series of conflicts between the Lord and the unbelieving people. But there is another and higher fact to which this chapter points. We see in it the royal consciousness of Jesus gradually unfolding with increasing majesty. 1. Christ restores the wavering Baptist to the pristine confidence of his faith. 2. He presents the Baptist to the people as Elijah, who, according to Malachi, was to precede the advent of the royal Angel of the Covenant. 3. He places him by His own side, as sharing that rejection which Himself had met from His life. 4. In His indignation on account of the unbelief of Galilee, He manifests His royal dignity by announcing the coming judgment. 5. This dignity He manifests still further by a grand hymn of praise to His Father, and by the revelation of His own majesty. 7. He graciously invites those who are weary and heavy laden to find rest in Him in the kingdom of meekness, of patience, and of holy suffering.

1. The Baptist wavers, but the Lord remains stedfast, and restores His wavering friend. MATTHEW 11:1–6

1And 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. 2Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his [through his]1 disciples,3And said unto him, Art thou he that should come [that cometh],2 or do we look [shall we look]3 for another? 4Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again [report to John]4 those things which ye do hear and see:

5The 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. 6And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in [at] me.


Matthew 11:1. Thence.—From the place whence He had sent His disciples, somewhere to the south of Capernaum.

To teach and to preach.—It was during this journey that Jesus soon afterward reached Magdala, where He was anointed by the woman who had been a sinner, and then Nain, where He raised the widow’s son. During His onward course, a number of female disciples gathered around Him and ministered unto Him, Luke 8:2.—On this occasion He was overtaken by the messengers of John, who had been committed to prison in the later part of the autumn of the year 781. The journey closed with the appearance of Jesus at the festival of Purim in the year 782, after which the Baptist was executed.

In their cities, αὐτῶν.—Fritzsche (after Gerhard): In the cities where the Apostles had already preached. To this Meyer objects, that Jesus followed immediately upon His disciples. But if the disciples had distributed themselves over the different cities which Jesus afterward visited in succession, they must have been considerably in advance of Him. Meyer’s own explanation—in the cities of those to whom He went—amounts to a mere tautology. Euthym. Zigabenus: the birth-places of the Apostles.

Matthew 11:2. In the prison.—In the fortress of Machærus, Joseph. Ant. xviii. 5, 2.—The castle of Machærus, on the southern border of Peræa, toward Moabitis—probably the modern Mkaur—was, after Jerusalem, the strongest fortress of the Jews, being protected on all sides by deep valleys. It fell into the hands of the Romans after the destruction of Jerusalem (Joseph. De Bello Jud. vii. 6, 1).

The works of Christ.—Probably referring to His mode of working, and more especially to the events above recorded; His gracious intercourse with publicans and sinners ( Matthew 9, etc.). The Baptist would obtain from his disciples the latest reports of the works of Christ.

He sent.—Following the reading διά, instead of δύο, we might feel almost inclined with Meyer to take πέμψας absolutely, and to connect διὰτῶ ν, κ.τ.λ., with εῖπεναὐτῷ. He sent and said unto Him by his disciples. But this would scarcely give a good meaning. Accordingly, whatever view we may take of the reading διά, we must join πέμψας with the words that follow (de Wette).

Matthew 11:3. Art Thou He?Σύ is put first by way of emphasis.—Ὀἐρχόμενος, He that cometh, הַבָּא, a designation of the Messiah, which, according to Ps. 40:7,5 would be peculiarly suitable at that time, and especially in the circumstances of the Baptist; comp. John 1:27.

Προσδοκῶμεν, in the conjunctive, shall we look, or are we to look,6 and not in the indicative.—The old explanation of the passage (Origen, Chrysostom, etc.; Calvin, Beza, Melanchthon, Stier), that John himself felt no doubts at all, but that he sent this embassy to Jesus for the sake of his disciples, who doubted, is not supported by the text, and can only have originated in a desire to vindicate the Baptist, or else to obviate an objection against the doctrine of inspiration, since John had previously proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah [3:14, 16; John 1:29]. But these commentators ignore the fact, that if such were the case, John would have had recourse to the doubtful expedient of assuming a false appearance and simulating difficulties which he had not felt; they vindicate his orthodoxy at the expense of his morality. Similarly do they ignore the history of the Old Testament saints, all of whom stumbled at some one of the great critical periods in their lives (Moses, David, Elijah, Job). Specially striking here is the analogy between Elijah on Mount Horeb and his antitype John. But, on the other hand, we do not suppose (with Meyer, and many others, commencing even with Tertullian) that the Baptist had cherished any dogmatic doubt as to the Messiahship of Jesus. In our opinion, the two views must be combined,—that John, in the midst of his mental perplexities and trials, was offended by the kindly and gentle mode of Christ’s activity (Paulus, Olshausen, Ebrard, and others), and that his embassy was designed to determine the Lord to manifest Himself openly as the Messiah, by some. solemn act of judgment (Lightfoot, Hase, and others). Above all must we clearly realize the situation of the Baptist During a long and dreary winter had he been imprisoned in the lonely fortress of Machærus. Meantime Herod Antipas was in the immediate neighborhood, indulging in every kind of luxury; while Herodias, with whom he lived in adulterous connection, meditated vengeance upon the bold preacher who had denounced her sin. When preaching the baptism of the Spirit, John had also proclaimed the coming baptism of fire, or the impending judgment At this period the disciples of the Baptist returned from their visit to Jesus, full of indignation, and reported to the captive and offended ascetic that Jesus accepted invitations to feasts with publicans and sinners. It was impossible for John to doubt either his own mission, or the vision he had seen. But he might doubt the conduct of the Lord, whom he had owned as Messiah. Hence his, embassy. It was prompted by doubt and disappointment about Christ’s conduct; by an inordinate desire for His more public manifestation; by an Elijah-like wrath on account of the corruptness of the court and world; by a desire himself to witness the manifestation of that kingdom of heaven which he had announced; above all, by ardent longing for a decisive word. But the faithfulness and strength of this friend of Jesus, in the midst of his weakness, appears even in the form of his message—straightforward and directly to Jesus. This characteristic is the earnest of his victory.

Matthew 11:5. The blind see, etc.—The evidence of the Messiah’s working as given by the prophets, Isa. 35:5; 61:1. The cleansing of lepers and raising the dead, Ezek. 36 and 37. [Comp. the raising of the daughter of Jairus, 9:18–26, and of the widow’s son at Nain, which, in the Gospel of Luke, immediately precedes this embassy, Luke 7:11, 18. P. S.] Most commentators refer the expression poor to spiritual poverty; Meyer, to the national misfortunes of Israel. The statement with reference to these poor must, of course, be taken in a limited sense; just as that about the blind, the lame, etc.,—to all of whom it only applied on condition of their susceptibility to the influence of Christ.


1. As the representative of the law, the prophet is another Moses: he may call for lightning, for thunder, or for fire from heaven. As messenger of the gospel, the prophet is only a precursor of Christ; and hence has not attained the full height of Christianity, especially in regard to patience under suffering. In this respect, also, it holds true that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.—From the inquiry of the Baptist—shall we wait for another?—we learn the extent of his temptation. In the case of Israel, this query has, alas! been answered affirmatively, and they wait for “another,” to their own condemnation. But with John the difficulty arose from the knowledge that Messiah would also appear as Judge. And although he could not be ignorant of the difference between the suffering and the glorified Messiah, yet he was not aware of the distance intervening between the advent of the one and of the other; and his impatience was all the greater that he did not even see the Messiah suffering, in the strictest sense of the word. But the special object of his inquiry seems to have been, to urge Jesus publicly to declare Himself before all the people.

2. Formerly (in Matthew 9), Jesus had met the disciples of the Baptist by recalling to their minds the last testimony of the Baptist concerning Himself (the Bridegroom and His friend). He now replies to the Baptist, whose warrant was derived from the prophecies of Isaiah ( Matthew 40), by appealing to another part of these predictions ( Matthew 35 and 60), nay, by referring him even to the prophetic figure of the advent of the Lord through the wilderness. John impatiently longed for assistance, for retaliation, and for the vengeance of God. This was the occasion of his offence. Jesus replied by reminding him of the characteristics of Messiah in Isa. 35:5, which are intended to meet such impatience as that of the Baptist. For, in the verses preceding those quoted by Christ, we read: “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say ye to them that are of a fearful (hasty) heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God cometh to vengeance, even God cometh to a recompense, that He may save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,” etc.—The description of the Messiah which follows—the transition from physical to spiritual deliverance, and the connection between the two—the relation between these deliverances and the character of the Messiah as drawn by Isaiah—lastly, the connection between this description and that of his own situation,—could not but have a beneficial and quickening influence upon John, especially when taken along with the concluding words, which would recall the prediction in Isa 8:14.

3. The conclusion of Christ’s reply to the Baptist indicated that the miracles of Jesus were also intended as emblems of spiritual deliverance. This view has been entertained by all sound interpreters, and only called in question on insufficient grounds. Lastly, we infer from this passage, that the miracles of Jesus were also designed to serve as evidence of His Messianic mission and Divine nature.

4. Hitherto Jesus had carefully avoided publicly taking the name of Messiah. John now urged Him to assume that title. This might easily have led to a popular movement in favor of John. But in His reply, Jesus combined the highest wisdom with the highest power: He appealed to His works, by which John could not fail to recognize Him as the Messiah; while at the same time He refused to yield to the suggestion of John, and openly avow Himself the Messiah.


Jesus everywhere accompanies His honest messengers, to confirm their work.—Jesus teaches and preaches in the cities of His faithful witnesses (in their fields of labor: schools, churches, institutions, and works).—The call of the Lord penetrates everywhere, even within prison-walls.—The embassy of John the Baptist to the Lord, an evidence of strength in weakness. 1. An evidence of his weakness. Former joyous certitude of the Baptist; his present offence. Explained by his situation and his Old Testament character. Courage to bear suffering and the cross was only preparing. The temptations of saints. 2. Evidence of his strength: John addresses the Saviour, even as Christ Himself, in His last trial on the cross, appealed to the Father: My God, My God, etc.—The inquiry of the Baptist: Shall we look for another?—a wavering between truth and error: 1. True, in so far as it referred to the second advent of Christ; 2. false, as a misunderstanding of the first advent of Christ; 3. a doubt, or uncertainty as to the connection between the first and the second advent of Christ.—Glorious answer, by which the Lord in His strength restores His zealous friend in his weakness: 1. Glorious in its contents; 2. glorious in its humility and in its wisdom (He avoids the declaration that He did all this, and that He was the Messiah); 3. glorious in its mode of expression (reference to the passage in Isaiah in its context); 4. glorious in its promise (the dead are raised—which applied especially to John—and to the poor, etc.).—The miracles of Jesus an evidence of His claims and character.—The physical miracles of Jesus, signs and seals of His spiritual miracles: 1. Signs preceding them; 2. seals following them.—Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended at Me: 1. Deep import of this saying (Whosoever shall not be offended at My infinite patience with the world, at My readiness to suffer, at My delay of judgment); 2. solemn warning: to judge and decide hastily may lead even to apostasy; 3. the great promise: he that overcometh the temptation to be of fended in Christ, has conquered and is saved.

[1] Matthew 11:2.—The reading: διὰ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, through His disciples, adopted by Lachmann and Tischendorf, is strongly supported by Codd. B., C., D., etc. But even Origen and other fathers favor the reading: δύο, and this corresponds at all events with the actual fact as stated by Luke 7:19. [Διά is undoubtedly the original reading, supported by the oldest MSS., including the Cod. sinaitiens, and adopted also by Tregelles, Alford, Wordsworth; while δύο is a correction from Luke 7:19. Lection difficilior primatum tenet.—P. S.]

[2] Matthew 11:3.—[Or: the coming One, ὁ ἐρχόμενος, הַבִּא, i. e., the Messiah. See Com.—P. S.]

[3] Matthew 11:3.—[Προσδοκῶμεν is the conjunctive here. See Com.]

[4] Matthew 11:4.—[The word again in the E. V. does not mean here a second time, but represents the preposition ἀπό in [illegible]αγγείλατε. But report, make known to, is a better translation. See the Dictionaries, s. verbo.—P. S.]

[5][Olshausen derives the designation from Ps. 118:26: “Blessed is He that cometh;” Hengstenberg from Mal. 3:1: “Behold He cometh.”—P. S.]

[6][Dr. Lange and his Edinb. trsl. add here: “after the Vulgate, etc.” But this is an error. The Vulgate translates: expectamus (indicative). So also Tertullian (Adv. Marcionem, Ab. iv. chap. 18). Erasmus, Beza, Fritzsche. But Bengel, de Wette, and Meyer more correctly regard it as a deliberative conjunctive which agrees better with the psychological condition of John and his disciples at the time. Comp. Mark 12:14: δωμεν ἥ μὴ δωμεν. De Wette adds: “This question decidedly indicates doubt, if not concerning the Messianic mission, at least respecting His Messianic activity or mode of proceeding which did not fall in with the theocratic notions of the Baptist.” Others regard the question merely as a question of impatient zeal and indirect admonition to proceed faster. But even this would imply a certain discontent on the part of John. The same is true of Alford’s explanation that John, hearing the contradictory reports concerning the works of Christ, intended to bring him, through this embassy, to an open profession of His Messiahship, and thus incurred a share of the same rebuke which Mary received at Cana (John 2:4). Most of the fathers on the other hand, with the exception of Tertullian. Adv. Marc. 4:18. Opera omnis, ed orhler, tom. 2 p. 203 (not 4:5. as Dr. Wordsworth misquotes), especially Origen, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Jerome, Ambrose, Hilary, and Augustine, deny that John was in any doubt. Stier among the modern German, and Wordsworth among the English, commentators, elaborately defend the patristic view. The latter regards this sending of his disciples as the crowning act of the ministry of John, who thus guarded against a schism between his own disciples and those of Jesus, and bequeathed his disciples to Christ. I agree substantially with Dr. Lange’s view, viz: that John (like all saints in this world) was temporarily under a cloud of depression and doubt, not respecting the Messiahship of Christ (as Meyer in a long note, pp 244 and 245, 4th ed., asserts, contrary to Matthew 11:7 and 8), but respecting the slow and unostentatious mode of His manifestation, and the true nature of His kingdom. It is very plain, what Lang does not notice, that the answer of our Saviour is directed to John himself (ἀπαγγείλατε ̓Ιωάννῃ), and not to his disciples, which implies that he needed it as much as they, for his own spiritual comfort and encouragement. That the message of Christ had the desired effect upon both may be inferred from the martyrdom of John and from the action of his disciples, who “took up his body and buried it and came and told Jesus,” Matt. 14:12.—P. S.]

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?
2. The authority of the Baptist as preparing for way for the Messiah vindicated. MATTHEW 11:7–15

7And as they departed,7 Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see?8 A reed shaken with [by] the wind? 8But what [What then] went ye out for9 to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9But what went ye out for10 to see? A prophet?11 yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 11Verily 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 least12 in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence [is assaulted by storm],13 andthe violent take it by force. 13For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14And if ye will receive it, this is Elias [the Elijah], which was for to come [who was to come]. 15He that hath ears to hear,14 let him hear.


Matthew 11:7. Jesus began to say.—The Lord hastened by His commendation to restore the authority of the Baptist, which he himself by his embassy had endangered.

A reed.—The figure is derived from the lower banks of Jordan, where reeds grew in abundance; referring to a person wavering and easily influenced by outward circumstances (Olshausen, Meyer). With special allusion to what had just taken place: John will not waver in his faith, though on this occasion he seemed to do so. Some critics have taken the word in a negative sense: Surely ye would not see a reed, etc. (Grotius, de Wette, etc.). This, however, were not only idle, but would weaken the pregnant expression, “shaken by the wind.”

Matthew 11:8. What then.—̓Α λλά, but, implies a silent negation.

In soft raiment.—The μαλακὰ ἱμάτια, or only μαλακά, according to B., D., Z., etc., are a mark of effeminate and luxurious persons. Under the first simile, Christ shows that John was not wavering in his faith; by the second, He proves that he had not dispatched his embassy from selfishness, or cowardly fear for his life. Both similes presuppose the fact, that His hearers had formerly regarded John as a person entirely inaccessible to such motives. The Saviour would now recall their former feelings of veneration for the Baptist. The antithesis, they that wear soft clothing, alludes to the enemies of John at the court of Herod Antipas, who were the occasion of his imprisonment.

Matthew 11:9. One who is more than a prophet, περισσότερον.—Fritzsche takes this as masculine; Meyer, as neuter, which seems to agree better with the context John was more than the prophets, as being the precursor of the Messiah. The meaning is, You have seen one who is greater than the prophets, although you have not understood his character.

Matthew 11:10. Of whom it is written, Malachi 3:1.—In the original: “Behold, I will send My messenger, that he may prepare the way before Me: and suddenly cometh to His temple the Lord whom ye seek, and the Messenger of the Covenant, whom ye desire: behold, He cometh, saith the Lord of hosts.” In the Hebrew, Jehovah identified Himself with Messiah when announcing the forerunner; while in Matthew a distinction is made, and the text is presented as embodying a promise of God to the Messiah.

Matthew 11:11. Among those born of women.—Job 14:1, etc., יְלוּד אִשָּׁה, a general designation of man, more especially with reference to mankind before the coming of Christ. We must not overlook the use of the plural number. Gal. 4:4 is not a parallel passage, but rather indicates the contrast. The expression, “born of a woman,” differs from that, “born of women,” just as “Song of Solomon of Man” from “man.” The former expression is specially intended to refer to the human limitations of Christ, to His humiliation in the form of a servant.

There hath not risen a greater.—Not merely a greater prophet (Rosenmüller, etc.), but, in general, none greater than he. As preparing the way for the Messiah, John represented the highest perfection of the Old Covenant. The antithesis which follows: “He that is least in the kingdom of heaven,” etc., shows that the expression refers to superiority not in respect of moral righteousness, but of theocratic development and dignity. Hence it is needless to make an exception in favor of the patriarchs, as Olshausen proposes.

He that is less [least], ὁ δὲμι κρότερος.—Meyer: Not he that is least, as the comparative is never used for the superlative. See Winer’s Grammar (p. 21815). De Wette entertains a different opinion, and translates least. But the passage is so important, that unless forced by the use of the language, we are not warranted in deviating from the literal expression, though we do not deny that the rendering, he that is least, gives good sense. The meaning is, he who is comparatively less in the kingdom of heaven, according to the standard of that kingdom (Cyrill, Theodoret, and others), or who occupies a lower place in it, is greater than John, in respect of the development of his faith and spiritual life. Maldonatus [quotes the logical axiom]: “Minimum maximi majus est maximo minimi.” Even the least in the kingdom of the New Testament enjoys what John could not have had, viz., peace in the finished work of Christ, and, with it, patience in suffering and death, and quiet expectation of the second coming of Christ, when every wrong shall be righted. Other commentators have applied the expression, “less,” to Christ Himself (Chrysostom, Luther, Melanchthon, etc.). “The less,” who at the time was eclipsed by the glory of John, will in the kingdom of heaven be greater (the punctuation of the verse being changed), or will as the Messiah excel him. But this interpretation is evidently untenable, as there could be no comparison of the kind between Jesus and John, certainly not without express limitation.16

Matthew 11:12. And from the days.—The days of John’s great usefulness were past. Jesus intimates in passing the coming calamities. He also indicates the immense contrast between the days of the Baptist and His own advent.

Suffereth violence, is assaulted by storm, βιάζεται.—Explanations: 1. It is violently persecuted by the enemies, and the violent take it from men (Lightfoot, Schneckenburger, and others). But this is opposed to the context, which is evidently intended to explain the greatness of John, the contrast between the days of the Baptist and those of Christ, and the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven.—2. As referring to the advancement of the kingdom of heaven by violent means: (a) Taking βιάζεται in the middle sense, as meaning, it forcibly introduces itself, breaks in with violence (Melanchthon, Bengel, Paulus). But this is incompatible with the expression βιασταί which follows. (b) Passively: Magna vi prœdicatur (Fritzsche); but this is arbitrary, (c) It is taken by violence, or intense endeavors—in the good sense (Hesychius: βιαίως κρατεῖται).—The expression is evidently metaphorical, denoting the violent bursting forth of the kingdom of heaven, as the kernel of the ancient theocracy, through the husk of the Old Testament. John and Christ are themselves the violent who take it by force,—the former, as commencing the assault; the latter, as completing the conquest. Accordingly, this is a figurative description of the great era which had then commenced.

Matthew 11:13. For all the prophets.—Proof of what had just been stated. Difference between the character of the old period and the new era. All the prophets prophesied of that era, or predicted it; but they could not call it into existence. [The emphasis lies on prophesied, i. e., they only predicted the kingdom of heaven, as something future; while now, since the coming of Christ, it is an actual reality. In the Greek, the words, until John, precede the verb, and are connected with δνόμος. John still belonged to the dispensation of the law, but on the very threshold of the dispensation of the gospel, whose advent he proclaimed. “Usque ad Johannem lex, ab eo evangelium.” Comp. Luke 16:16.—P. S.]

Matthew 11:14. And if ye will receive it.—The antithesis with the preceding verse—the prophets have prophesied—is here hinted at: now is the time of the fulfilment. The idea itself was before expressed as the kingdom of heaven suffering violence. This then furnishes an explanation of the manner in which it suffereth violence. John was the Elijah who was to come as the precursor of Messiah, according to Mal. 4:5. The expression was metaphorical, and referred to the character of the precursor of Jesus as that of a prophet of judgment, even as the mission of Elijah had been symbolical of the coming judgment. The Jews, however, understood the passage literally, and expected that Elijah would arise from the dead, and actually appear among them (Wetstein, Lightfoot, Schöttgen). Jesus removed this mistake (comp. Matt. 17:12), by acknowledging John as the Elijah of whom Malachi had spoken. In one sense only may the prophecy have been still partially unfulfilled, as the second coming of Christ would also be preceded by judgments. But even then the character and mission of Elijah could only be metaphorical, not literal.

Matthew 11:15. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.—Comp. Matthew 13:9, 43; Rev. 2:7. A proverbial expression to evoke attention, or to mark a conclusion from certain premises. In the present instance, the inference was obvious. If the time of the first βιαστής was past, the second and greater must be at hand. Thus Christ complied as far as possible with the request of the Baptist to pronounce Himself the Messiah. Those who knew the Scriptures, and believed them, would be able to recognize Him; while at the same time He would not assume the title before the people, since in their minds it was still connected with ideas of rebellion and carnal conquest.


1. This passage affords a fresh view of the greatness of Jesus as compared with John, whom He first restores, and then acknowledges before the people, in whose presence John had almost reproved Him. The contrast appears most clear and distinct between John and Christ, between the Old and the New Testaments, between calm development and a stormy era. And as John had first testified of Christ, so Christ now bears testimony of John.

2. In truth, the Baptist himself was a sufficient reply to his own inquiry—Art Thou He? His being offended implied a doubt in his own mission. Hence also it could only be transient.

3. The violent manifestation of the kingdom of heaven upon earth was brought about by the holy violence of John and Jesus, who ushered this kingdom into a sinful world.

4. [Dr. THOMAS SCOTT: “In every age, ‘the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.’ … They who are determined at all adventures, to find admission, will surely succeed: but such as postpone the concerns of their souls to worldly interest, pleasures, and diversions, will be found to come short of it; as well as those who seek salvation in any other way than by repentance toward God and faith in his beloved Son.” MATTHEW HENRY: “The kingdom of heaven was never intended to indulge the ease of triflers, but to be the rest of them that labor.” Comp. Luke 13:24: “Strive (ἀγωνίζεσθε) to enter in at the strait gate.”—P. S.]


The glory of the Lord as it appears by the side of John.—Entire freedom from all jealousy in its full majesty (John and Christ).—The commendation of the Baptist as reflecting greater glory upon the Lord than even on John: 1. As exalting the Baptist; 2. still more the Lord (uttered at such a moment, after such experience, in such terms, with such reservations as to His own person).—In what sense those who are least in the New Covenant are greater than the greatest under the Old.—Every fresh manifestation of the kingdom of heaven requiring heroism of faith.—Christ bringing the kingdom of heaven to this earth and at the same time taking the kingdom of heaven by force for this earth.—The kingdom of heaven passing from its typical form into reality through the faithfulness of His witnesses.—Holy violence.—Christ’s perfect suffering constituting His perfect violence.17—Clearness of the Old Testament testimony about Christ.—He that hath ears to hear, let him hear: the loudest call to a life of faith: 1. As pointing to our original calling, to hear; 2. as condemning the sin, that man has ears, yet does not hear; 3. as an admonition to come to the knowledge of Christ by our hearing.—Properly to understand the Scriptures, is to know Christ.—Every call of God is at the same time both general and special.

Starke:—Does it become a servant of the cross of Christ to imitate the pomp of the world, or to trim his sails to the wind?—Wavering preachers cannot expect stable hearers.—They who are under the influence of the love of the world, will scarcely prove fit to root it out of the hearts of others, Luke 10:30.—Hedinger:—We must be thoroughly in earnest if we are ever to reach heaven.—As the substance exceeds the shadow, so the grace of the New, that of the Old Testament, Col. 2:17; Heb. 8:5; 10:1.—Gerlach:—Knowledge of Christ is the sole standard for measuring spiritual greatness.

Heubner:—Jesus commends John after his disciples have left His presence. Let this serve as an example.18—Jesus knew the Baptist better than the latter knew himself.—Human opinions are like the wind: beware of being their weathercock.—Independence a high honor and glory.


[7] Matthew 11:7.—[Lit.: And as these were departing, τούτων δὲ πορευομενων.—P. S.]

[8] Matthew 11:7.—[Conant and the revised N. T. of the Am. Bible Union: behold, for see, to express more fully the meaning of θεάσασθαι, to gaze, to look upon, as a public spectacle.—P. S.]

[9] Matthew 11:8.—[For is unnecessary; ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθετε ἰδεῖν.]

[10] Matthew 11:8.—[Correct as to the sense. The text rec. (with Cod. Alex, as edited by Cowper) reads ἱματίοις after μαλακοῖς, probably from Luke 7:25. Codd. Sinait., Vaticanus, the Latin Vulgate (mollibus), and other ancient authorities omit it. So Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Alford. Lachmann retains the noun, but in brackets.—P. S.]

[11] Matthew 11:9.—[After an ancient reading of Cod. B.: But why went ye out? to see a prophet? ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε; προφήτην ἰδεῖν; Lange, with Tischendorf Meyer, and Alford (who, however, omits the punctuation after ἐξήλθατε, regarding the whole as one sentence) adopt this reading, which has now the additional weight of the Cod. Sinaiticus; but Lachmann and Tregelles defend the usual reading: ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἱδεῖν; προφήτην; the only real difference is as to the position of ἰδεῖν.—P. S.]

[12] Matthew 11:11.—[Lit.: less, or the lesser, δ μικρότερος. So Lange, van Ess, the Latin Vulgate (minor), and all the older English versions. Wiclif’s, Tyndale, Cranmer, Geneva (less), the Rhemish (the lesser). But Luther (der Kleinste), de Wette (der Geringste), and the authorized English version (least) render the word in the superlative. Dr. J. A. Alexander ad loc. calls this “one of the few groundless innovations introduced by the translators of King James’ Bible.” But this is too hasty. The translation depends on what we supply to the comparative ὁ μικρότερος. If we supply: than John the Baptist, less or the lesser is the proper translation; but if we supply: than all others (τῶν ἅλλων) which is likewise allowable (see Winer, p. 218) and even preferable, the English idiom seems to require he that is least, or the least. See Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

[13] Matthew 11:12.—[In Greek: βιάζεται, Lange: wird mit Sturm angelaufen; Luther: leidet Gewalt (suffers violence). All English versions from Wiclif to that of King James have: suffereth violence after the Vulgate: vim patitur. See Exeg. Notes—P. S.]

[14] Matthew 11:15.—The verb ἀκούειν is omitted by Tischendorf [and Alford] after Codd. B., C., etc. [But Cod. Sinait. has it.—P. S.]

[15][Sixth German ed., Leip., 1855 (§ 35). The original quotes p. 280, which is no doubt an error of the printer. Winer says that we must supply to μικρότερος either (τῶν) ἅλλων, or ̓Ιωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ. Meyer (Com., p. 247) prefers the latter and explains (p. 248): “He who shall occupy a lower standpoint or degree of value and dignity in the kingdom of the Messiah, than John the Baptist now occupies in the old theocracy, is greater than he, of whom I have just said such great things.” I much prefer to supply των ἅλλων, and explain: John being nearest to Christ and standing at the very threshold of His kingdom is quoad statum the greatest of all Old Testament prophets and saints; but the least or humblest Christian who has actually entered into the gospel dispensation is quoad statum or as to his standpoint (not as to personal merit) greater than he. It is not denied, however, that John may hereafter enter into the kingdom of the Messiah, and then occupy a much higher position than millions of Christians. The comparison refers only to his present position in the αἰὼν οὑτος.—P. S.]

[16][Dr. Wordsworth, from respect for the fathers, endeavors to combine the interpretation of Chrysostom, Enthymius, Theophylact, with the other, but at the expense of clearness Alford declares the former to be entirely adverse to the spirit of the whole discourse, and agrees substantially with Meyer. Alexander is here very unsatisfactory, and weakens the force of this profound passage by reducing it simply to this: “All that is really asserted is, that one inferior to John in some respect is greater in another.” But a what respect?—P. S.]

[17][So also on the part of his disciples. Ambrose in Luke 11:5 (as quoted by Wordsworth): Vim facimus Domino, non compellendo, sed flendo; non provocando injuriis, see lacrymis exorando. O beata violentia! Hœc sunt arma fldei nostrœ.—P. S.]

[18][Comp. the remarks of Matthew Henry: “Christ spoke thus honorably of John, but as they departed, just as they were gone, Luke 7:24. He would not so much as seem to flatter John, nor have these praises reported of him. Though we must be forward to give to all their due praise for their encouragement, yet we must avoid everything that looks like flattery, or may be in danger of puffing them up. Pride is a corrupt humor, which we must not feed either in others or in ourselves.”—P. S.]

But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,
3. The Baptist and the Son of Man, as judged by a childish generation. MATTHEW 11:16–19

16But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows [to the others],19 17And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned [wailed, sung dirges] unto20 you, and ye have not lamented [beat the breast].21 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil [demon]. 19The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous [a glutton], and a wine-bibber,22 a friend of publicans and sinners. But Wisdom23 is justified of [on the part of]24 her children.


Matthew 11:16. But whereto shall I liken this generation?—It seemed as if John were about to identify himself with his generation in reference to the Lord. But Jesus restores him to his right place, and exhibits Himself and the Baptist as one in opposition to the spirit of the age. A transition from His verdict upon John to that on his contemporaries, with special reference to the present and impending fate of the Baptist. While John and Jesus were engaged in spiritual labors and warfare, the conquest of the kingdom of heaven, “this generation” would only seek childish amusement.

It is like unto children.—The common interpretation of this passage (first proposed by Chrysostom, and recently defended by Stier) is, that the expression, piping and mourning, refers to John and Jesus, and that the Jews were the other children who refused to give heed. But this is entirely untenable. For, 1. “this generation” is likened to children playing in the market-place. 2. These same children are represented as urging the objections which Christ subsequently puts into the mouth of the people. Both in the simile and in the explanation of it, the Jews are introduced as speaking. 3. If these terms had referred to Christ and John, the order of the figures would have been reversed; ἐθρηνήσαμεν—ηυλήσαμεν. 4. There is a manifest antithesis between the idea of children playing, and the former figure of taking the kingdom of heaven by violence. 5. The conduct of the children is represented as inconsistent and contradictory. 6. We have the fact, that this generation really expected that its prophets should be influenced by the passing whims of their carnal views and inclinations. Hence we conclude that the piping and mourning children represent the Jews, and the ἕτεροι, “the others,” John and Jesus. These ἕτεροι form no part of the company represented as playing in the market.

[So also de Wette, and Meyer, p. 251: “The παιδία are the Jews; the ἕτεροι are John and Jesus.” But I object to this interpretation, the reverse of the other, for the following reasons: 1. Because it is contrary to the parallel passage in Luke 7:32, where we have ἀλλήλοις, to one another, instead of ἐτέροις, so that the playing children and the silent children form but one company, although disagreed among themselves (as the Jews were in fact with their many sects and their contradictory carnal notions about the Messiah). The same is true, if we read with Lachmann: ἑταίροις. 2. Because it would represent Christ and John as the dissatisfied and disobedient party. 3. Finally, I reject both interpretations, that refuted, and that defended by Dr. Lange; because John and Christ could with no degree of propriety and good taste be represented as playmates and comrades of their wayward contemporaries. We conclude, therefore, that both classes of children refer to the wayward, capricious, and discontented Jews; the children who play the mock wedding and the mock funeral representing the active, the silent children who refuse to fall in with their playmates, the passive discontent, both with the austerity of John and with the more cheerful and genial conduct of Christ. So Olshausen: “The sense is this: the generation resembles a host of ill-humored children, whom it is impossible to please in any way; one part desires this, and the other that, so that they cannot agree upon any desirable or useful occupation.” Compare also the illustrative remarks of Wordsworth, who in this case dissents from his favorite Chrysostom: “By the children [or rather one class of the children] many interpreters understand the Baptist and our Lord. But this seems harsh. The γενεά itself is said to be ὁμοία παιδίοις, and the querulous murmur of the children, complaining that others would not humor them in their fickle caprices, is compared to the discontented censoriousness of that generation of the Jews, particularly of the Pharisees, who could not be pleased with any of God’s dispensations, and rejected John and Christ, as they had done the prophets before them. The sense, therefore, is, Ye are like a band of wayward children, who go on with their own game, at one time gay, at another grave, and give no heed to any one else, and expect that every one should conform to them. You were angry with John, because he would not dance to your piping, and with Me, because I will not weep to your dirge. John censured your licentiousness, I your hypocrisy; you, therefore, vilify both, and ‘reject the good counsel of God,’ who has devised a variety of means for your salvation (Luke 7:30).”—P. S.]

Matthew 11:17. We have piped unto you, etc.—Among the Jews, Greeks, and Romans, it was customary to play the flute especially at marriage dances: Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. Similarly, solemn wailing was customary at burials. The expression, danced, corresponds with piping, just as the funeral dirge was expected to evoke lamentation among the mourners, especially by beating the breast (hence the expression, Ezek. 24:16; Matt. 24:30, etc). The figure is that of children imitating the festivities or solemnities of their seniors, and expecting other children who take no part in their play to share their amusement.

Matthew 11:18. For John came neither eating not drinking.—A hyperbolical expression, referring to his abstinence and asceticism, as contradistinguished from Christ’s freer conduct. And they say, He has a demon [δαιμόνιον].—A demon of melancholy (John 10:20). The figure of piping, to which John responded not, is all the more striking, that the spurious marriage at the court of Herod was the occasion of John’s imprisonment; and again, the dance of the daughter of Herodias, that of his execution. In another place also, Jesus says that the Jews would have liked to use John, as it were, by way of religious diversion (John 5:35).

Matthew 11:19. The Son of Man came eating and drinking.—Referring to His more free mode of conduct, and with special allusion to the feast in the house of Matthew, in the company of publicans and sinners [and the wedding feast at Cana]. This induced the Pharisees to pronounce an unfavorable judgment of Christ. Accordingly, His contemporaries already commenced to condemn Him as a destroyer of the law. It has been suggested, that our Lord here hints at the occurrence formerly related, when He had admonished one of His disciples to “let the dead bury their dead.” But it seems more likely, that if the figure contains any allusion to a definite event, it referred to the imputation of John’s disciples, that during the captivity of their master, and until after his death, Jesus should abstain from taking part in any festivities. But we are inclined to take a broader view of the subject, and to regard the statement of the Lord as referring to the anger and sorrow of the people about their national position with which our Lord could not sympathize in that particular form. Their carnal mourning for the outward depression of Israel could meet with no response from Him.

Matthew 11:19. But Wisdom, etc.—Final judgment of the Lord as to the difference obtaining between the people, John, and Himself. The σοφία. Jerome: Ego, qui sum dei virtus et sapientia dei juste fecisse b apostolis meis filiis comprobatus sum. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Castellio: Wisdom, which has become manifest in Jesus. De Wette: A personification of the wisdom of Jesus.—The term undoubtedly refers to the spirit of the theocracy as manifested in John and in Christ, and which bears the name of Wisdom (Prov. 8 and 9; Sir. 24), because the conduct of John and of Jesus was guided by a definite object, and derived from the spirit of Wisdom in revelation.25

Is justified on the part (or, at the hands) of her children.—Elsner, Schneckenburger: Judged, reproved, i. e., by the Jews, who should have been its disciples.26 Ewald: Really justified by that foolish generation, since their contradictory judgments confuted each other, and so confirmed Wisdom. De Wette takes the aor.: in the sense of habit, and gives the statement a more general sense: The children of Wisdom (i. e., those who receive it, or My disciples) give, by their conduct, cause for approving Wisdom. Meyer, opposing de Wette’s view of the aor.: Wisdom has been justified on the part of her children, viz., by their having adopted it. The passage must be read in the light of Matthew 11:25 sqq. In both cases, a joyous prospect is being opened up to their view. Truth and Wisdom have been justified and owned, though neither by the men of this generation nor by the wise and the prudent. But in this passage sorrow seems still to predominate: 1. Wisdom has been traduced by this generation, and obliged to justify herself; 2. for this purpose, new children had to be born and trained. The word ἀπό might almost lead us to adopt another interpretation. Wisdom was obliged to justify herself by a judicial verdict from the accusation of her children (or rather, ironically, of those who should be her children). But then, this proposition only refers to the occasion or cause of a thing. It is not the children who justify Wisdom, but the means of proving her justification are derived from the testimony which appears in her children.


1. On this occasion, Jesus foretold the judgment which the world has at all times pronounced on the kingdom of heaven. To the men of this world, the preaching of the law appears too severe, too much opposed to the innocent and lawful enjoyments of life; while the message of pardon meets with the hostility of pharisaical legalists, who describe it as favoring carelessness and shielding sin.

2. The spirit of the world is also accurately delineated in the figure of successive piping and mourning: first, festive enjoyments, and then mourning for the dead. The Wisdom of the kingdom of heaven sanctions the opposite order: first the law, and then the gospel; first death, and then life; first penitence and sorrow, and then joy; first the Baptist, and then Christ.

3. Lastly, this passage serves to show the close connection between the Christology of the synoptical Gospels and the Logos of John, and the Σοφία of the Old Testament and the Jewish Apocrypha.

4. This is the second instance that Christ borrowed a similitude from the market.


Worldly-mindedness, in the garb of spirituality, attempting to make a farce of the solemn duties of spiritual life.—The contemporaries of Jesus, a figure of the common opposition to the gospel at all times.—The world insisting that the prophets of God should take their teaching from its varying opinions.—Puritanical strictness and moral laxity, the two great objections which the world urges against the preaching of the gospel.—From piping to mourning; or, the childish amusements of the world amid the solemnities of life.—Contrast between the wisdom of Chris and the folly of the world: 1. In the case of the latter, amusements are followed by mourning and death 2. in the case of the former, the solemnity of death by true enjoyment of life.—The Wisdom of the gospel is always justified in her children.—Those why are justified by Christ before God, should justify His by their lives before the world.

Starke:—From Hedinger:—When people dislike a doctrine, they abuse the teachers of it.—Majus:—Nobody is more exposed to sinful and rash judgments than ministers.—Cramer:—The children of God cannot escape the judgment of the world, whatever they may do.—If the conduct of Christ called down the rebuke of the world, how much more shall that of upright ministers be censured!—We are not to find fault with, but humbly to submit to, the teaching of heavenly wisdom.

Heubner:—John decried as a fanatic; Christ, as a man of the world: see how the world reads characters!


[19] Matthew 11:16.—Lachmann: τοῖς ἐταίροις [Vulg.: coœqualibus, companions, playmates], after G., S., U., V., etc. [Lachmann quotes as his authorities B. and C., as previously compared by others; but the printed edition of Cod. Ephræmi Syri (C.) by Tischendorf, and Angelo Mai’s ed. of the Cod. Vaticanus (B.) both read ἑτέροις. Buttmann’s edition of the latter, however, sustains Lachmann, and the ἀλλήλοις in Luke 7:32 favors ἐταίροις.—P. S.] Griesbach: τοῖς ἐτέροις aliis], after most Codd. [including Cod. Sinait.]. So also Tischendorf [and Tregelles. Alford does not read ἑτέροις, as stated by Conant, but ἑταίροις. So also Wordsworth. Lange’s interpretation requires ἑτέροις.—P. S.]

[20] Matthew 11:17.—Lachmann and Tischendorf omit the second ὑμῖν, following B., C., [Cod. Sinait.], etc.

[21] Matthew 11:17.—[Lange more literally: Wir haben (euch) die Todtenkluge gemacht, und ihr habt nicht (im Chor) gejammert; Scrivener: We have sung dirges unto you, and ye have not smote the breast; Andrew Norton: We have sung a dirge to you, and you have not beat your breasts; Conant and the revised version of the Am. Bible Union: We sang the lament, and ye beat not the breast. Θρηνεῖν refers to the funeral dirge, and κόπτεσθαι (middle verb) to the oriental expression of sorrow by beating the breast, comp. Ezek. 20:34 (Sept.: κόψεσθε τὰ πρόσωπα); Matt. 24:30; Luke 18:13; 23:48, and the dictionaries. The authorized version is very vague.—P. S.]

[22] Matthew 11:19.—[Wine-bibber is a felicitous translation of the Anacreontic οἰνοπότης. Dr. Conant and the N. T. of the Am. Bible Union: a glutton and a winedrinker. Luther and Lange stronger: ein Fresser und Weinsäufer.—P. S.]

[23] Matthew 11:19.—[We prefer capitalizing Wisdom as in older editions of the Bible. See Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

[24] Matthew 11:19.—[Lange: von Seiten ihrer Kinder. So also Meyer, and Conant, who quotes Meyer and refers to Acts 2:22 for the same use of ἀπό, instead of ὑπό (ἅνδρα ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἀποδεδειγμένον εἰς ὑμᾶς δυνάμεσι, κ.τ.λ.)—P. S.]

[25][Hence Wisdom should be capitalized, as in some editions of the English Version.—P. S.]

[26][In this case the sentence would be a solemn irony, or an indignant rebuke of the bad treatment of God’s wise and gracious Providence on the part of those who claimed to be its orthodox admirers and authorized expounders. Dr. J. A. Alexander leans to this interpretation. But no clear case of irony (nor of wit, nor of humor) occurs in the discourses of our Saviour. The childlike children of Wisdom in Matthew 11:19 seem to be opposed to the childish and wayward children of this generation in Matthew 11:16. Comp. Bengel, in Luc. 7:35: Huius Sapientiœ liberi non sunt Pharisœi horumque similes, sed apostoli, publicani et peccatores omnes ex toto populo ad Jesum conrersi: quos sic appellat, ad ostendendam suam cum illis necessitudinem et jus conversanti calumniatorum que perversitatem.—P. S.]

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.
5. The Son of God displaying the full consciousness of His royal dignity while rejected of men

MATTHEW 11:25–30

          25At that time Jesus answered and said,32

I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,

Because [That]33 thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent,

And hast revealed them unto [to] babes.

          26Even so,34 Father; for35 so it seemed good in thy sight.36

27All things are delivered unto me of [by, ἀπό] my Father:

And no man knoweth the Son, but the Father;

Neither [Nor] knoweth any man the Father, save [but] the Son,

And he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him [it].

28Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me [become my disciples]; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto [for] your souls. 30For my yoke is easy [good, wholesome], and my burden is light.


Matthew 11:24. Jesus answered.—̓Αποκρίνομαι, like עָנָח, to speak on some definite occasion. Meyer: This occasion is not here mentioned, and cannot be inferred. According to Luke 10:21, the return of the Seventy formed this occasion (Strauss and Ebrard); according to Ewald and older commentators, that of the Apostles. To this Meyer objects, that the expression ὲν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ implies that—however probable in itself—such was not the connection which Matthew had in view. In our opinion, the verses under consideration form, so to speak, a response to the denunciations in the preceding context. The two sections are intended as an antiphony by the Evangelist. Gerlach suggests that the words bear special reference to the disciples who stood before Him. Their presence was virtually an assurance on the part of His heavenly Father: Behold, I have given these unto Thee. And Jesus answered, I thank Thee, O Father, etc.—De Wette takes the expression in a more general sense, as equivalent to, He commenced: comp. Matt. 22:1; 28:5.37 We fully admit, however, that the outward and historical connection is more clearly marked in the Gospel of Luke than in that of Matthew.

I thank Thee [ἐξομολογοῦμαι, I fully confess, thankfully acknowledge the justice of Thy doings].—This thanksgiving refers equally to both the facts mentioned in the last clauses of the verse, to the ἀπέκρυψας and the ἀπεκάλυψας. “These are the two aspects of one and the same dealing on the part of God, the necessity of which Christ recognized (comp. John 9:39). Meyer. Some critics (as Kuinoel and others) hold, without good reason, that the first of these two antithetic clauses implies only permission.

O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.—The peculiar form of this address is determined by the idea of His administration. In hardening some and enlightening others, God manifests Himself as absolutely reigning both in heaven and on earth. The term πατήρ precedes κύριος, even as love absolute sovereignty.

[Observe that Christ does not address the Father as His Lord, but as the Lord of heaven and earth. We have four more (not two, as Alford says) instances of such a public address of our Saviour to His Father, John 11:41 (at the grave of Lazarus); 12:28 (Father, glorify Thy name); 17:1 (in the sacerdotal prayer); and Luke 23:34 (on the cross: Father, forgive them, etc.)—P. S.]

These things, ταῦτα.—From the preceding verses we gather that the expression refers to the principle of the great δυνάμεις, which He had revealed in the cities of Galilee, with special reference to Matthew 11:15 (He that hath ears to hear, let him hear). Accordingly, the expression alludes to the evidence of His Divine character as the Messiah and Son of God, derived from His word and works.38

To the wise and prudent.—Applying not merely to the Pharisees and scribes [Meyer], but also to the wise and prudent courtiers of Herod, and to the worldly-wise among the people generally. Babes, νήπιοι. Originally, the פְּתִאִים, or those unacquainted with Jewish wisdom; here, the believing followers of Jesus generally, or those whom the Pharisees despised; comp. John 7:49.

Matthew 11:26. For so, etc.—Gersdorf, Fritzsche, Meyer, suggest that ὄτι should be translated by that, as in Matthew 11:25. De Wette defends the common translation, which is more suitable, as the εὐδοκία of the Father forms the ultimate ground of consolation. The former apparent paradox is here resolved. But by translating the particle ὅτι by that, the difficulty would only be increased, and the whole stress would be laid on the authority of the preceding ναί of Christ. Comp. 3:17; Luke 2:14, etc.

Matthew 11:27. All things are delivered unto Me.—Grotius, Kuinoel, and others, apply this exclusively to the doctrine of Christ. De Wette refers it to His rule over men, as in John 13:3; Matt. 28:18. But Meyer rightly takes it in an absolute sense, as meaning that everything was committed to His government by the Father. This, however, does not imply that the rule of the Father had ceased, but that all things were by the Father brought into connection with, and subordination to, the economy instituted by Christ. His preaching of the gospel in Galilee had led to a twofold and contrary result. The salvation and the judgment initiated by it in that district were a pledge that the same results would follow in κόσμος generally. The main point lies in the idea, that not the saved only, but also the lost, are His. Their rejection of Christ might seem as if it arrested His arm and baffled His omnipotence. But even their unbelief becomes the occasion for a display of the full consciousness of His royal power. They also who rejected Him are subject to His power. Thus the gospel of Christ is absolute in its effects, and this fact is here clearly and pointedly brought out.

And no man knoweth.—̓Ε πι γινώσκειν means more than the simple γινώσκειν. The difference (to which Meyer rightly adverts) is similar to that between the words cognition (Erkenntniss) and knowledge (Kenntniss). Tholuck (Credibility of the Gospel History, against Strauss) has called attention to the affinity between this verse and the general import of the Gospel of John. In this respect, it may serve as an indirect evidence of the credibility of the Gospel according to John.39Connection with the preceding context: The unlimited and unique cognition of Christ is connected with His unlimited and unique power. Connection with the succeeding context: The consequence of His infinite power, and of His infinite cognition of the Father, are his ability and willingness to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.

Matthew 11:28. [Come unto Me, all, etc.—This is the great and final answer to the question of John, 11:3: “Art Thou He that should come, or shall we wait for another?” No mere man could have spoken these words. Alford.]

All ye that labor, κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι [the laboring and the burdened].—The first of these verbs refers to the idea of laboring and struggling, rather than to that of being wearied and faint. Both expressions refer to the burden of labor, only viewed from different aspects: 1. As voluntary, and undertaken by themselves; 2. as laid upon them by others. [The active and passive sides of human misery.] Both these remarks applied to the legal efforts of the Jews. Only those, however, who felt the spiritual import of the law of God realized the existence of such a burden. Accordingly, the expression is nearly akin to poverty in spirit. The law itself was a sufficient burden; add to this what was imposed by the traditions of the Pharisees and scribes (Matt. 23:4). Hence, in general, those laboring under a sense of sin.

And I, κἀγώ.—Emphatically, in opposition to the teachers who laid those burdens on them.

Matthew 11:29. My yoke.—“Allusion to the yoke of the law; a name commonly given to it by the Jews (Wetstein). Without any reference to the yoke which Christ Himself bore, or to His cross (Olshausen).” De Wette.—That is to say, it primarily refers not to the cross of Christ, but to His rule, doctrine, and leadership; which, however, also implies the bearing of His cross. The emphasis must be laid on the call, to learn of Him, in opposition to the legal teaching and the burden imposed by the Pharisees. This applies also to what follows.

For I am meek and lowly in heart.—In opposition to the meek and lowly appearance assumed by the scribes.40 These qualities were the reason why they should learn of Him, not the subject to be learned. They are, in the first place, to seek from Him rest for their souls, ἀνάπαυσιν, מַרְגּוֹצַ, Jer. 6:16,—the final aim of all religious aspirations.

[ALFORD: Our Lord does not promise freedom from toil or burden, but rest in the soul, which shall make all yokes easy, and all burdens light. The main invitation, however, is to those burdened with the yoke of sin, and of the law, which was added because of sin. Owing to our continued conflict with sin and evil in this world, the ἀνάπαυσις of Christ is still a yoke and a burden, but a light one. Comp. 2 Cor. 4:16, 17. The rest and joy of the Christian soul is to become like Christ.—P. S.]

Matthew 11:30. For My yoke is good.—Χρηστός, when applied to persons, kindly; here, good, beneficent. Meyer: salutary, or bringing safety. [Augustine, in one of his sermons, beautifully compares the yoke of Christ to a bird’s plumage, an easy weight which enables it to soar to the sky: “Hœc sarcina non est pondus onerati, sed ala volaturi.”—P. S.]


1. The spiritual elevation of the soul41 of Jesus appears in all its glory from the passage before us. From a denunciation of the cities of Galilee, He passes to a solemn thanksgiving to the Father, and to a declaration of His majesty. In other words, from a deep sense of the dishonor cast upon Him by this generation, He turns in full and blessed consciousness of His exaltation far above all humanity, and the world. Similar transitions from sorrow to joy appear at His last passover, in Gethsemane, and on Golgotha. On the other hand, there is a transition from highest joy to deepest sorrow in His utterances in the temple, when the Greeks desired to see Him, at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem over the Mount of Olives, and in that awful conflict in Gethsemane which followed on His intercessory prayer. In these solemn transactions the divinity of Christ was, so to speak, reflected in the mirror of His human soul, and the eternal Spirit of God in the eagle-like ascension and descension of His feelings.

2. Christ displayed, on this occasion, most fully the sense of His royal dignity, which, indeed, seems to have been specially evoked by the rejection of the world. Even in the case of great and truly humble men, reviling and ill-treatment evoke the native sense of dignity and power. Comp. the history of Paul and of Luther. But Christ could in perfect truthfulness first pronounce a woe upon the cities of Galilee, then declare His own superiority over all, and finally add, “I am meek and lowly in heart.”

3. No one knoweth the Son.—There is an absolute and unique mystery of spiritual community, both in reference to power and to knowledge, between the Father and the Son. Thence we also infer the spiritual community of their nature, or co-equality of essence. But, as formerly the hiding and revealing of these things had been ascribed to the Father, so it is now assigned to the Son. It is the province of Christology to define the co-operation of the two Persons of the Trinity in these acts. The Father executes the decree according to the calling of the Son, and the Son the calling according to the decree of the Father.

4. Come unto Me.—One of the most precious gospel invitations to salvation in the New Testament. The call is addressed to those who labor and are burdened, fatigued and worn out. The promise is that of rest to the soul; its condition, to take upon ourselves the gentle yoke of Christ, in opposition to the unbearable yoke of the law and traditions. Christianity, therefore, has also its yoke, and demands obedience to the supremacy of the word of Christ and the discipline of His Spirit. Nor is the burden wanting which ultimately constitutes our cross. But the yoke is good and beneficial, and the burden easy (ἐλαφρός, related to ἕλαφυς, light as a roe). This burden, which is to be drawn or borne in the yoke, becomes a lever, and ever raises him who bears it higher and higher.


The humiliation and exaltation in the consciousness of Christ, a sign of His external humiliation and exaltation.—The deepest sorrows of Christians must be transformed into highest praise.—Every affliction becomes transfigured by the gracious purpose of the Father, who rules sovereignly in heaven and on earth.—Even judgment.—Love is enthroned above righteousness, because it is holy love.—The judgments of God always go hand in hand with His deliverances; the hiding with the revealing.—What serves to form and open heaven to believers, forms and opens hell to unbelievers.—The great Divine mystery, ignorance of which turns the wise and the prudent into fools, while it imparts knowledge and experience to babes.—Self-confident wisdom closes against us the heaven of revelation, while humble longing after truth opens it.42—Spiritual self-elevation in its varied manifestations: 1. It assumes different forms (wisdom, righteousness, strength), but is the same in spirit (closed against the influence of Divine grace); 2. different effects (loss of revelation, of reconciliation, of salvation), but its ultimate destruction is the same.—Christ manifesting the sense of His royal dignity amid the contempt and rejection of the world.—How the Redeemer anticipated His advent as Judge.—The omnipotence of Christ appearing amid His seeming impotence.—The unique knowledge of Christ: the source of all revelation to the world.—Connection between the power and the knowledge of Christ: 1. In His Divine person; 2. in His work; 3. in the life of His people.—How the Father draws us to the Son, John 6:44, and the Son reveals to us the Father.—Come unto Me; or, the invitation of Jesus: 1. On what it is based; 2. to whom it is addressed; 3. what it demands; 4. what it promises.—Rest of soul the promise of Christ.—The yoke and the burden of Christ as compared with other yokes and burdens (of the law, the world, etc).—Relationship between the yoke and the burden: 1. The difference; 2. the connection; 3. the unity.—Anyhow, we are put into harness in this life; but we have our choice of the yoke and of the burden.—The gospel ever new to those who labor and are heavy laden.—Christ the aim and goal of all genuine labor of soul.—Christ the Rest of souls: 1. Their sabbath, or rest from the labor of their calling; 2. their sabbath, or rest from the labor of the law; 3. their resurrection day from the labor of death.—Christ gives rest to the soul by revealing the Father.

Starke:—God claims honor and praise, both in respect of His justice upon those who harden themselves, and of His mercy toward the small band of His believing people, 1 Cor. 1:26.—What the wisdom of God demands at our hands.—Quesnel: Let us adore with fear and trembling the holy government of God, in the way in which He dispenses His gifts. No man cometh to the Father but through Christ, John 14:6.—Cramer: Every search after rest or joy is vain without Christ.—The promises of the gospel are general; be alone is excluded who excludes himself.—Zeisius: There is no burden in the world more heavy than that of sin on the conscience.—Christ the Teacher in word and deed.—Let us learn meekness and humility in the school of Christ.—Quesnel: What Christ bestows, sweetens every affliction in the world.

Heubner:—Both the Christian faith and the Christian life are summed up in this: “revealed by God.”—Luther: We cannot instruct the heart.—God alone is its Teacher.—He that knoweth the Son knoweth the Father also, and vice versâ.

[Augustine: Tu nos fecisti ad Te, et cor nostrum inquietum est donec requiescat in Te. This famous sentence from the Confessions may also be so modified: Man is made for Christ, and his heart is without rest, until it rest in Him.—Christ’s invitation welcomes us back to the bosom of the Father, that original and proper home of the heart.—Comp. also the practical remarks of Matthew Henry, which are very rich, but too extensive to be transferred here.—P. S.]


[32] Matthew 11:25.—[We follow the division of Dr. Lange in the rhythmical arrangement of this incomparable prayer of our Saviour.—P. S.]

[33] Matthew 11:25.—[That is the proper meaning of ὅτι here. So Luther, de Wette, Meyer. Lange. All the older English versions from Wiclif to that of James have because, following the Latin Vulgata: quia.—P. S.]

[34] Matthew 11:26.—[Better: Yea, ναί; the Lat. Vulg. translates: ita; Luther, de Wette, Ewald, Lange: ja; Tyndale and Author. Vers.: even so; Cranmer and Geneva Vers.: verily; Rheims Vers. and Conant: yea.—P. S.]

[35] Matthew 11:26.—[Meyer renders ὅτι: that (dass), as in Matthew 11:25, and makes it dependent on ἐξομολογοῦμαί σοι. So also Conant. But Lange: with Luther, de Wette, and most other versions (Vulg, Wiclif, Tyndale, Rheims, Author. V.), translates denn, for. Comp. Lange’s note.—P. S.]

[36] Matthew 11:26.—[A far superior version of εὐδοκία ἕμπροσθέν σου, than that of the Romish N. T. of Rheims: for so hath it well pleased thee (Vulg.: sic fait placitum ante te); Tyndale: so it pleaseth thee; Cranmer and Geneva: so it was thy good pleasure. Lange translates: denn also geschah der Rathschluss, der vor dir stand. But Luther: denn es ist also wohlgefüllig gewesen vor dir; de Wette: denn also geschah dein Wille; Meyer: dass so geschah, was wohlgefällig ist vor dir; Ewald quite literally: dass (denn) solches ward ein Wohlgefallen vor dir.—P. S.]

[37][ALFORD: “The whole ascription of praise is an answer; an answer to the mysterious dispensations of God’s providence above recounted.” Unsatisfactory.—P. S.]

[38][Differently ALFORD: “ταῦτα, these mysterious arrangements, by which the sinner is condemned in his pride and unbelief, the humble and childlike saved, and God justified when he saves and condemns.”—P. S.]

[39][Alford and D. Brown likewise correctly observe, that “the spirit of this verse. and its form of expression,” are truly Johannean. We have here a connecting link between the synotists and John, and an incidental testimony of Matthew to the originality and credibility of the weighty discourses of Christ concerning His relation to the Father, which are only recorded in the fourth Gospel. Although the fourth Gospel may with the church fathers be emphatically called spiritual (πνευματικόν), and the synoptical Gospels corporeal (σωματικά), the difference is only relative, since John represents the real, incarnate, historical Christ, and the synoptists, especially in this passage and the corresponding section of Luke (10:21, 22), rise to the pure height of the spirituality and sublimity of John. The bearing of this striking resemblance against Strauss, Baur, and all who deny the genuineness of the Gospel of John, must be apparent to every unprejudiced mind.—P. S.]

[40][The word καρδία is only here used of Christ. There is, as Olshausen suggests, an essential difference between HUMILITY OF HEART, which Christ possessed in the highest degree from free choice and condescending lore and compassion, and POVERTY OF SPIRIT (Matt. 5:3) which cannot be predicated of Him, but only of penitent sinners conscious of their unworthiness and longing for salvation. Compare the rich remarks of Olshausen on this whole passage, for the elucidation of which his genial, lovely, gentle spirit peculiarly fitted him (in Kendrick’s revised translation, vol. i., p. 434–437). But Lange has gone still deeper in the doctrinal reflections and homiletical hints which follow.—P. S.]

[41][An imperfect rendering of religiöse Schwungkraft des Gemüths.—P. S.]

[42] [Compare the lines of Schiller, the best he ever wrote:

Was kein Verstand der Verstandigen usht,

Das übes [glaubst] in Einfalt sin sindlich Geüth.”—P. S.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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