Matthew 11 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of Matthew 11)


1. And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciple--rather, "the twelve disciples,"
he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities--This was scarcely a fourth circuit--if we may judge from the less formal way in which it was expressed--but, perhaps, a set of visits paid to certain places, either not reached at all before, or too rapidly passed through, in order to fill up the time till the return of the Twelve. As to their labors, nothing is said of them by our Evangelist. But Luke (Lu 9:6) says, "They departed, and went through, the towns," or "villages," "preaching the Gospel, and healing everywhere." Mark (Mr 6:12, 13), as usual, is more explicit: "And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils (demons) and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them." Though this "anointing with oil" was not mentioned in our Lord's instructions--at least in any of the records of them--we know it to have been practiced long after this in the apostolic Church (see Jas 5:14, and compare Mr 6:12, 13) --not medicinally, but as a sign of the healing virtue which was communicated by their hands, and a symbol of something still more precious. It was unction, indeed, but, as BENGEL remarks, it was something very different from what Romanists call extreme unction. He adds, what is very probable, that they do not appear to have carried the oil about with them, but, as the Jews used oil as a medicine, to have employed it just as they found it with the sick, in their own higher way.

2. Now when John had heard in the prison--For the account of this imprisonment, see on Mr 6:17-20.
the works of Christ, he sent, &c.--On the whole passage, see on Lu 7:18-35.


The connection of this with what goes before it and the similarity of its tone make it evident, we think, that it was delivered on the same occasion, and that it is but a new and more comprehensive series of reflections in the same strain.

20. Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not.

21. Woe unto thee, Chorazin!--not elsewhere mentioned, but it must have lain near Capernaum.
woe unto thee, Bethsaida--"fishing-house," a fishing station--on the western side of the Sea of Galilee, and to the north of Capernaum; the birthplace of three of the apostles--the brothers Andrew and Peter, and Philip. These two cities appear to be singled out to denote the whole region in which they lay--a region favored with the Redeemer's presence, teaching, and works above every other.
for if the mighty works--the miracles
which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon--ancient and celebrated commercial cities, on the northeastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, lying north of Palestine, and the latter the northernmost. As their wealth and prosperity engendered luxury and its concomitant evils--irreligion and moral degeneracy--their overthrow was repeatedly foretold in ancient prophecy, and once and again fulfilled by victorious enemies. Yet they were rebuilt, and at this time were in a flourishing condition.
they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes--remarkable language, showing that they had done less violence to conscience, and so, in God's sight, were less criminal than the region here spoken of.

22. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you--more endurable.

23. And thou, Capernaum--(See on Mt 4:13).
which art exalted unto heaven--Not even of Chorazin and Bethsaida is this said. For since at Capernaum Jesus had His stated abode during the whole period of His public life which He spent in Galilee, it was the most favored spot upon earth, the most exalted in privilege.
shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom--destroyed for its pollutions.
it would have remained until this day--having done no such violence to conscience, and so incurred speakably less guilt.

24. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee--"It has been indeed," says DR. STANLEY, "more tolerable, in one sense, in the day of its earthly judgment, for the land of Sodom than for Capernaum; for the name, and perhaps even the remains of Sodom are still to be found on the shores of the Dead Sea; while that of Capernaum has, on the Lake of Gennesareth, been utterly lost." But the judgment of which our Lord here speaks is still future; a judgment not on material cities, but their responsible inhabitants--a judgment final and irretrievable.

25. At that time Jesus answered and said--We are not to understand by this, that the previous discourse had been concluded, and that this is a record only of something said about the same period. For the connection is most close, and the word "answered"--which, when there is no one to answer, refers to something just before said, or rising in the mind of the speaker in consequence of something said--confirms this. What Jesus here "answered" evidently was the melancholy results of His ministry, lamented over in the foregoing verses. It is as if He had said, "Yes; but there is a brighter side to the picture; even in those who have rejected the message of eternal life, it is the pride of their own hearts only which has blinded them, and the glory of the truth does but the more appear in their inability to receive it. Nor have all rejected it even here; souls thirsting for salvation have drawn water with joy from the wells of salvation; the weary have found rest; the hungry have been filled with good things, while the rich have been sent empty away."
I thank thee--rather, "I assent to thee." But this is not strong enough. The idea of "full" or "cordial" concurrence is conveyed by the preposition. The thing expressed is adoring acquiescence, holy satisfaction with that law of the divine procedure about to be mentioned. And as, when He afterwards uttered the same words, He "exulted in spirit" (see on Lu 10:21), probably He did the same now, though not recorded.
O Father, Lord of heaven and earth--He so styles His Father here, to signify that from Him of right emanates all such high arrangements.
because thou hast hid these things--the knowledge of these saving truths.
from the wise and prudent--The former of these terms points to the men who pride themselves upon their speculative or philosophical attainments; the latter to the men of worldly shrewdness--the clever, the sharp-witted, the men of affairs. The distinction is a natural one, and was well understood. (See 1Co 1:19, &c.). But why had the Father hid from such the things that belonged to their peace, and why did Jesus so emphatically set His seal to this arrangement? Because it is not for the offending and revolted to speak or to speculate, but to listen to Him from whom we have broken loose, that we may learn whether there be any recovery for us at all; and if there be, on what principles--of what nature--to what ends. To bring our own "wisdom and prudence" to such questions is impertinent and presumptuous; and if the truth regarding them, or the glory of it, be "hid" from us, it is but a fitting retribution, to which all the right-minded will set their seal along with Jesus.
hast revealed them unto babes--to babe-like men; men of unassuming docility, men who, conscious that they know nothing, and have no right to sit in judgment on the things that belong to their peace, determine simply to "hear what God the Lord will speak." Such are well called "babes." (See Heb 5:13; 1Co 13:11; 14:20, &c.).

26. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good--the emphatic and chosen term for expressing any object of divine complacency; whether Christ Himself (see on Mt 3:17), or God's gracious eternal arrangements (see on Php 2:13).
in thy sight--This is just a sublime echo of the foregoing words; as if Jesus, when He uttered them, had paused to reflect on it, and as if the glory of it--not so much in the light of its own reasonableness as of God's absolute will that so it should be--had filled His soul.

27. All things are delivered unto me of my Father--He does not say, They are revealed--as to one who knew them not, and was an entire stranger to them save as they were discovered to Him--but, They are "delivered over," or "committed," to Me of My Father; meaning the whole administration of the kingdom of grace. So in Joh 3:35, "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand" (see on Joh 3:35). But though the "all things" in both these passages refer properly to the kingdom of grace, they of course include all things necessary to the full execution of that trust--that is, unlimited power. (So Mt 28:18; Joh 17:2; Eph 1:22).
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--willeth
to reveal him--What a saying is this, that "the Father and the Son are mutually and exclusively known to each other!" A higher claim to equality with the Father cannot be conceived. Either, then, we have here one of the revolting assumptions ever uttered, or the proper divinity of Christ should to Christians be beyond dispute. "But, alas for me!" may some burdened soul, sighing for relief, here exclaim. If it be thus with us, what can any poor creature do but lie down in passive despair, unless he could dare to hope that he may be one of the favored class "to whom the Son is willing to reveal the Father." But nay. This testimony to the sovereignty of that gracious "will," on which alone men's salvation depends, is designed but to reveal the source and enhance the glory of it when once imparted--not to paralyze or shut the soul up in despair. Hear, accordingly, what follows:

28. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest--Incomparable, ravishing sounds these--if ever such were heard in this weary, groaning world! What gentleness, what sweetness is there in the very style of the invitation--"Hither to Me"; and in the words, "All ye that toil and are burdened," the universal wretchedness of man is depicted, on both its sides--the active and the passive forms of it.

29. Take my yoke upon you--the yoke of subjection to Jesus.
and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls--As Christ's willingness to empty Himself to the uttermost of His Father's requirements was the spring of ineffable repose to His own Spirit, so in the same track does He invite all to follow Him, with the assurance of the same experience.

30. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light--Matchless paradox, even among the paradoxically couched maxims in which our Lord delights! That rest which the soul experiences when once safe under Christ's wing makes all yokes easy, all burdens light.