1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their towns.
Jesus and John the Baptist
2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds Christ had done, he sent his disciples to ask a question: 3 “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Go tell John what you hear and see: 5 The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them. 6 Blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.”
7 While they were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What did you go out to see? A man dressed in fancy clothes? Look, those who wear fancy clothes are in the homes of kings! 9 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:
‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
11 “I tell you the truth, among those born of women, no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and forceful people lay hold of it. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John appeared. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, who is to come. 15 The one who has ears had better listen!
16 “To what should I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to one another,
17 ‘We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance;
we wailed in mourning, yet you did not weep.’
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, ‘Look at him, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
Woes on Unrepentant Cities
20 Then Jesus began to criticize openly the cities in which he had done many of his miracles, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles done in you had been done 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 exalted to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to Hades! For if the miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, it would have continued to this day. 24 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!”
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”
The Message Bible
John the Baptiser
1 When Jesus finished placing this charge before his twelve disciples, he went on to teach and preach in their villages.
2-3 John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?”
4-6 Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on:
The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.
“Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!”
7-10 When John’s disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pyjamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet? That’s right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear. He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, ‘I’m sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.’
11-14 “Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptiser; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him. For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God’s kingdom. But if you read the books of the Prophets and God’s Law closely, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the kingdom. Looked at in this way, John is the ‘Elijah’ you’ve all been expecting to arrive and introduce the Messiah.
15 “Are you listening to me? Really listening?
16-19 “How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a boozer, a friend of the misfits. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
The Unforced Rhythms of Grace
20 Next Jesus unleashed on the cities where he had worked the hardest but whose people had responded the least, shrugging their shoulders and going their own way.
21-24 “Doom to you, Chorazin! Doom, Bethsaida! If Tyre and Sidon had seen half of the powerful miracles you have seen, they would have been on their knees in a minute. At Judgment Day they’ll get off easy compared to you. And Capernaum! With all your peacock strutting, you are going to end up in the abyss. If the people of Sodom had had your chances, the city would still be around. At Judgment Day they’ll get off easy compared to you.”
25-26 Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”
27 Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
C H Spurgeon
Matthew 11:1-5. And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples. And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
These were Christ’s seals and proofs: he needed not to seek others. These were the very works of which prophecy had said they would be the marks of the Messiah. If then, these marks were found in him, he left John and his disciples to draw the inference that he was, indeed, the One that was to come. Christ is always best known by his works, and in his people especially; he is seen in their lives. There are two great precepts for the conquest of the world for Christ: the first is, preach the gospel; but the second is, live the gospel, and if we do not live the gospel we shall not succeed in preaching the gospel. In fact, those members of our churches who do not live the gospel undo through all the week what the preacher of the gospel endeavours to do on the Lord’s Day. It is a fine thing to preach with your mouth; but the best thing in the world is to preach with your feet and with your hands — in your walk and in your work; aid if you are enabled to do this, the people will be able to say very little against the preaching of the gospel when they see the result of it in those who accept it. God grant that we may be all preachers in some way or another.
Matthew 11:6. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Matthew 11:1-3. And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
Had John’s faith begun to waver? It is possible that it had. Elijah had his times of trembling and depression; then, why might not the second Elijah have the same sort of experience? Possibly, John wished to strengthen the faith of his followers, and therefore he sent two of his leading disciples to Jesus, that they might make the enquiry for themselves as to whether he was the Christ or not.
Matthew 11:4. Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
For the works of Christ are the proofs of his Messiahship. His teaching and his action must ever be the seals of his mission.
Matthew 11:5. The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
This is the last, but not the least, of the signs of his Messiahship, that Jesus Christ preached so that the poor understood him, and delighted to follow him wherever he went. Many despised his preaching for this reason; but the Saviour mentioned this among the signs of his being sent of God: “The poor have the gospel preached to them.”
Matthew 11:6-11. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. 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? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
His position was a very high one; he was the evening star of the old dispensation, and the morning star of the new; but the light which shines after the sun has risen is brighter than any that the morning star can bring. He who has the gospel to preach has a greater thing to do than John the Baptist, who did but herald the coming of the Saviour.
Matthew 11:12-15. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Let him listen to what the heaven-sent messenger has to say; let him especially pay attention to his accents when he says, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Matthew 11:16-17. But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
“You would not join in our game; whichever we chose to do, to imitate a festival or a funeral, you would not take part with us.”
Matthew 11:18-19. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
There was no pleasing them anyhow; they were prepared to find fault with any sort of man, whether he lived an ascetic life, or mixed with others as a man among men. “But wisdom is justified of her children.” She sends the right sort of men to do her work, and God will take care that those who reject them shall not be without guilt: “wisdom is justified of her children.”
Matthew 11:20. Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
That was the point that Christ aimed at,—their repentance. He did not seek to dazzle them with wonders and marvels, but to break their hearts away from their sins. This is what his mighty works ought to have done, for they proved him to be the Messiah; and those mighty works also warned those who witnessed them that God had come near to them; and that, therefore, it was time for them to turn from their evil ways.
Matthew 11:21-24. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee
There is a great depth of mystery here, which we cannot hope to fathom. The gospel was not preached to those who would have repented if they had heard it, and it was preached to those who did not repent when they listened to it even from the lips of Christ himself. Upon this latter class, the sole effect of the gospel preached to them was to plunge them into yet deeper depths of guilt because of their refusal of it. It is not for us to solve the mystery; it will be our wisdom to see that, being ourselves favoured with the plain declaration of the gospel, we do not put it from us, lest we perish even more miserably than those who never heard it.
Matthew 11:25. At that time Jesus answered and said,—
So he had been talking with his Father: “Jesus answered.” Very often, no doubt, the Saviour spoke with God when it is not recorded in the Gospels that he did so; but here a plain hint is given that Christ was in intimate communion and fellowship with God. At such times, great doctrines which, to the shallow minds of those who live at a distance from God, even seem dreadful, become delightful, and are lit up with unusual splendour. At that time, the doctrine of election was specially upon the heart of Christ because he was dwelling near to God himself: “Jesus answered and said,”—
Matthew 11:25-30. 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. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:20. Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
They listened; sometimes, they applauded; but they repented not; and there is nothing really accomplished until men have repented. In vain have we preached until men are brought to repent; so the Master said: —
Matthew 11:21-22. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
Listen to that, you gospel-hardened sinners, you who have heard, and heard, and heard, but have not repented. See how great is your sin, for you have rejected what others would have received if it had been presented to them. See how your guilt accumulates, and its punishment also.
Matthew 11:23-24. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
Sodom! — that is the blackest place of all. Ah, me! will that verse ever fall, like a millstone, upon any one of my hearers, to grind him to powder, because you heard the gospel, and rejected if, intending always to receive it, but never receiving it at all? From such a doom, may God in mercy deliver you!
Matthew 11:25-30. 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. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father.’ and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Just by way of contrast to what I am going to say in my sermon, let us read a few verses in Revelation 7.
Matthew 11:25-26. 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. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
“Jesus answered”: sovereign grace is the answer to abounding guilt. With rejoicing spirit Jesus sees how sovereign grace meets the unreasonable abounding of human sin, and chooses out its own, according to the good pleasure of the Fathers will. Here is the spirit in which to regard the electing grace of God: “I thank thee.” It is cause for deepest gratitude.
Here is the author of election: “ O Father.” It is the Father who makes the choice, and reveals the blessings. Here is his right to act as he does: he is “Lord of heaven and earth.” Who shall question the good pleasure of his will? Here we see the objects of election, under both aspects; the chosen and the passed-over. Babes see because sacred truths are revealed to them, and not otherwise. They are weak and inexperienced. They are simple and unsophisticated. They can cling, and trust, and cry, and love; and to such the Lord opens up the treasures of wisdom. The objects of divine choice are such as these. Lord, let me be one among them! The truths of the heavenly kingdom are hid, by a judicial act of God, from men who, in their own esteem, are “the wise and prudent.” They cannot see, because they trust their own dim light, and will not accept the light of God.
Here we see, also, the reason of election, the divine will: “So it seemed good in thy sight.” We can go no further than this. The choice seemed good to Him who never errs, and therefore it is good. This stands to the children of God as the reason, which is above all reason. Deus vult is enough for us. If God wills it, so must it be, and so ought it to be.
Matthew 11:27. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
Here we have the channel through which electing love works towards men: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father.” All things are put into the Mediator’s hands; fit hands both towards God and towards man; for he alone knows both to perfection. Jesus reveals the Father to the babes whom he has chosen. Only the Father can fill the Son with benediction, and only through the Son can that benediction flow to any one of the race of men. Know Christ, and you know the Father, and know that the Father himself loveth you. There is no other way of knowing the Father but through the Son. In this our Lord rejoiced; for his office of Mediator is dear to him, and he loves to be the way of communication between the Father whom he loves, and the people whom he loves for the Father’s sake. Observe the intimate fellowship between the Father and the Son, and how they know each other as none else ever can. Oh, to see all things in Jesus by the Father’s appointment, and so to find the Father’s love and grace in finding Christ! My soul, there are great mysteries here! Enjoy what thou canst not explain.
Matthew 11:28. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Here is the gracious invitation of the gospel in which the Saviour’s tears and smiles were blended, as in a covenant rainbow of promise. “Come:” he drives none away: he calls them to himself. His favourite word is, “Come.” Not-go to Moses; but, “Come unto me.” To Jesus himself we must come, by a personal trust. Not to doctrine, ordinance, or ministry are we to come first; but to the personal Saviour. All labouring and laden ones may come: he does not limit the call to the spiritually labouring, but every working and wearied one is called. It is well to give the largest sense to all that mercy speaks. Jesus calls me. Jesus promises “rest” as his gift: his immediate, personal, effectual rest he freely gives to all who come to him by faith. To come to him is the first step, and he entreats us to take it. In himself, as the great sacrifice for sin, the conscience, the heart, the understanding obtain complete rest. When we have obtained the rest he gives, we shall be ready to hear of a further rest, which we find.
Matthew 11:29-30. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
“Take my yoke and learn:” this is the second instruction; it brings with it a further rest which we “find.” The first rest he gives through his death; the second we find in copying his life. This is no correction of the former statement, but an addition thereto. First, we rest by faith in Jesus, and next we rest through obedience to him. Rest from fear is followed by rest from the turbulence of inward passion, and the drudgery of self. We are not only to bear a yoke, but his yoke; and we are not only to submit to it when it is laid upon us, but we are to take it upon us. We are to be workers, and take his yoke; and at the same time we are to be scholars, and learn from him as our Teacher. We are to learn of Christ and also to learn Christ. He is both Teacher and lesson. His gentleness of heart fits him to teach, to be the illustration of his own teaching, and to work in us his great design. If we can become as he is, we shall rest as he does. We shall not only rest from the guilt of sin,-this he gives us; but we shall rest in the peace of holiness, which we find through obedience to him. It is the heart, which makes or mar the rest of the man. Lord, make us “lowly in heart,” and we shall be restful of heart. “Take my yoke.” The yoke in which we draw with Christ must needs be a happy one, and the burden which we carry for him is a blessed one. We rest in the fullest sense when we serve, if Jesus is the Master. We are unloaded by bearing his burden; we are rested by running on his errands. “Come unto me,” is thus a divine prescription, curing our ills by the pardon of sin through our Lord’s sacrifice, and causing us the greatest peace by sanctifying us to his service. Oh, for grace to be always coming to Jesus, and to be constantly inviting others to do the same! Always free, yet always bearing his yoke; always having the rest once given, yet always finding more: this is the experience of those who come to Jesus always, and for everything. Blessed heritage; and it is ours if we are really his!