Sunday, June 25, 2023

A Study of Matthew Chapter 11

by Stan Feldsine (

Matthew 11:1-6 - John's Question

Mat 11:1-6 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. (2) When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples (3) to ask him, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" (4) Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: (5) The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. (6) Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me."

Following Jesus's discourse on the coming persecution and the response to it, He continues teaching about Himself, as the coming King per the prophets, and preaching (proclaiming) the coming Kingdom.

John the Baptist was still in prison, as had been previously announced.

Mat 4:12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.

He had been put in prison by Herod after John chastised him for having his brother's wife.

Mat 14:3-4 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, (4) for John had been saying to him: "It is not lawful for you to have her."

From his cell in prison, John had been hearing reports about the work of Jesus. He sent two of his disciples to Jesus to get an up to date report. John had been expecting the Kingdom to be established but was hearing Jesus was meeting stiff resistance from the leadership. After remaining in prison for some time expecting to be released, he was starting to question whether he had the right person as Messiah.

John's disciples asked Jesus up front if He was the coming King that the Jews had been expecting according to the Hebrew Scriptures.

The response Jesus gave was for John's disciples to remind John about His power and authority as displayed in His healings and miracles, which were also predicted in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Isa 35:5-6 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. (6) Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.

Isa 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, (2) to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,

The preaching of the good news to the poor was a reference to Isa 53:1-12 in which the suffering of Christ would bring about the forgiveness of sin.

Isa 53:2-5 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. (3) He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (4) Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. (5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

These three passages among others would have given John the understanding of who Jesus was and given more comfort that just an acknowledgment of being the Messiah.

The "blessing upon those who do not stumble on account of Jesus" is speaking of developing an inaccurate picture of who Jesus was thus having false expectations. In other words, those who expected the Kingdom to be established at this time could stumble over false expectations as the reality of the rejection of the Kingdom unfolded. The stumble would be loosing faith because things were not working out the way we expected them to. False expectations could come from Rabbinical teachers and popular legends, or even from changing circumstances.

Carson makes the following observation, pertinent for us today:

"It is therefore an implicit challenge to reexamine one's presuppositions about what the Messiah should be a do in light of Jesus and his fulfillment of Scripture and to bring one's understanding an faith into line with him."

Glasscock adds:

"Truly this same warning applies to contemporary Christianity, where Jesus has often been misrepresented and many false assumptions have led to discouragement and stumbling."

Matthew 11:7-15 - John's Character

Mat 11:7-15 As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? (8) If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. (9) Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. (10) This is the one about whom it is written: "'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you. (11) 'Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (12) From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. (13) For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. (14) And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. (15) Whoever has ears, let them hear.

After addressing John's disciples, Jesus turned to the people watching and gave them an evaluation of John.

  1. Not "A reed swayed by the wind". John was dogmatic about what he was saying without doubt or ambiguity. Everyone knew just where John stood.

  2. Not "clothed in fine clothes". John was not accustomed to luxurious living.

  3. He was "a prophet". John received direct revelation from God.

  4. He was "much more than a prophet". John was the forerunner to the Messiah. Jesus quoted Mal 3:1 and said that John was the fulfillment of that prophecy.

    Mal 3:1 "I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty.

  5. He was "the greatest among OT prophets". Jesus claimed that John the Baptist was the greatest of all of the OT prophets. Jesus went further though and said that although John was the greatest of the OT prophets, he was would be the least of those in the new kingdom program, probably referring to the indwelling of the Spirit that would be characteristic of the coming age.

Jesus was declaring to the people that the time of the Kingdom had come, and now was the time to accept and enter the Kingdom. Jesus had arrived, and John had been sent as the forerunner according to prophecy. Jesus points out the attributes and characteristics of John as that forerunner again.

Jesus points out that the Kingdom has been pressed forward by the teaching to repent for the kingdom is at hand, and Jesus and His disciples are teaching and preaching the kingdom forcefully. Since the beginning it has been subjected to violence and rejection rather than accepted.

The prophecies and law pointed to the future with this coming of John, but now that he was here they are to be concerned with the future giving way to the present in the form of the kingdom. The kingdom is not in abeyance yet, but it is headed that way. John was in prison and Jesus was teaching about coming persecution.

With regards to the comment that John could have been the Elijah that the Israelites were awaiting. Jesus here states that John the Baptist could have fulfilled the role of Elijah had the Jewish people accepted Jesus as Messiah. Due to their rejection, however, Elijah's arrival would be in the future along with the King and Kingdom.

Elijah's role according to prophecies that announce his arrival in the future is to resolve conflicts between parents and their children.

Mal 4:5-6 "See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. (6) He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction."

Mat 17:11-13 Jesus replied, "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. (12) But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." (13) Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

Mat 11:14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.

With regards to the coming of Elijah, a detailed look at this is found here: (

The conclusion of this pericope is usually given after an ambiguous or parabolic statement. Here it refers to the teaching Jesus just gave about John and Elijah. These words are a solemn warning to pay close attention to what is said. Failure to respond can result in judgment.

Matthew 11:16-19 - This Generation of Rejectors

Mat 11:16-19 "To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: (17) "'We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' (18) For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' (19) The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is proved right by her deeds."

The target of this discourse, "this generation" is going to be important, and indeed Jesus speaks about "this generation" several times going forward. It is "this generation" that is going to come under judgment for the rejection of the King and His Kingdom.

The definition of "this generation" in this context refers to Jews born in this particular time when Messiah was revealed. The use of "this generation" is related to the rejection of the King and Kingdom, and the application of the unforgivable sin.

Luk 9:41 "You unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? ..."

Luk 11:29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.

Luk 11:50-51 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, (51) from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

Luk 17:24-25 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. (25) But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

Mat 12:41-42 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. (42) The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.

In this pericope Jesus presents an analogy of children playing games to address "this generation". This generation is like children in the marketplace playing games while their parents are busy about their business. This is compared to the Jews playing at religion while denying the reality of God's redemptive plan for mankind through His Kingdom. They were more interested in their own entertainment than having it upset with the real business of redemption.

In this analogy, the flute is used for both joyous and sad occasions. Jesus is saying that nothing would please the Jews. When the flute was played for a happy time, they would not response with dancing. When it was played for a sad occasion they would not mourn. They were just unresponsive.

John came as a stoic solemn man, like the dirge, but the unbelieving Jews were not happy with him. They threw him in prison, persecuted him, and eventually called him demon possessed, and killed him.

Jesus came as a sociable man friendly with tax collectors and sinners like the piper. The unbelieving Jews called Him a glutton and drunkard.

Neither of these two approaches was acceptable to the unbelieving Jews, as they rejected both.

Ultimately, the wisdom of what John and Jesus spoke of would be vindicated when the King is finally accepted and the Kingdom is established.

Matthew 11:20-24 - Woe to Unrepentant Cities

Mat 11:20-24 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. (21) "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (22) But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. (23) And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. (24) But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

In light of the coming persecution and rejection of King and Kingdom Jesus juxtaposes Israel, who is increasingly violent in its rejection of Jesus, and evil Gentile nations who have heard nothing of the King or Kingdom.

Charazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum were Jewish cities who through a lack of faith rejected Jesus and His signs and miracles which authenticated His person as Messiah.

Tyre, Sidon and Sodom were evil Gentile cities who knew nothing of Jesus or His Kingdom, and made war against Israel.

Jesus is rebuking Israel and pointing out that they are worse than the evil Gentile cities for their lack of faith. Jesus is foreseeing that had the evil Gentile cities received the same light as Israel, they would have repented and changed their ways. Israel on the other hand, is digging in, and accordingly, the day of Judgment will be more severe for Israel. I.E. Sodom will receive a less severe judgment than Capernaum.

Luk 12:48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Matthew 11:25-27 - Proclamation of Divine Revealing

Mat 11:25-30 At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. (26) Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. (27) "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

The context for this statement does not flow from the preceding text, but rather from the return of the 72 that were sent out earlier. Luke provides the context:

Luk 10:17-22 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." (18) He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. (19) I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. (20) However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (21) At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. (22) "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

"These things" refer to the ultimate defeat of Satan and his rulership over earth. The "wise and learned" refers to worldly wise who are blinded from truth. The context of "babes" conveys the sense of spiritual need, or helplessness and the humility to admit it. "God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud" (1Pe 5:5).

Jesus reveals spiritual truth to "babes", and hides it from the "wise", who do not feel a need for spiritual enlightenment.

1Co 1:18-27 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (19) For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." (20) Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (21) For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (22) Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, (23) but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, (24) but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (25) For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (26) Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. (27) But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Jesus is rebuking Israel for their willful ignorance of the truth.

The final verse in this pericope is again either extremely arrogant, or the truth. Jesus is claiming mutual and intimate relationship with the Father. He claims that "all things" are given to Him, meaning that the Father, who previously kept things as a mystery, is now revealing them through Jesus. The Pharisees found such a claim to be shocking and blasphemous. Jesus further makes the claim that He has the authority to determine who to reveal the mysteries to, and this motivated the Pharisees all the more to wish to kill Him.

Joh 10:30-33 I and the Father are one." (31) Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, (32) but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" (33) "We are not stoning you for any good work," they replied, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

Matthew 11:28-30 - Come to Me and I Will Give You Rest

Mat 11:28-30 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

The appeal here is given to those who are spiritually humble (babes), not those who think themselves strong. It also speaks to those under the orally perversion of the Law of Moses. Jesus, much to the angst of the Pharisees was standing against the oral law, and those following Him were experiencing freedom. Service to Christ does not bring weariness or heavy burdens, but rest.

Christ's yoke is not burdensome because He Himself is gentle and humble in heart. Service to Christ flows from gratitude, not legalism. Christ's yoke is service to Him, not freedom from obligation.

No comments:

Post a Comment