Matthew 11

Matthew 11:3

and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”

John the Baptist said the Messiah would bring judgment in the form of a winnowing fork (Matt. 3:12). But instead of ridding Israel of Romans and riff-raff, Jesus went to their houses for dinner. The only fork he wielded was a dinner fork. “He eats with sinners” (Matt. 9:11). Jesus’ acceptance of sinners and Romans not mesh with the Jews’ picture of a judgmental Deliverer, hence John’s confusion. “Are you the Messiah?”

Jesus said the kingdom had come, but how could that be so if evil was still present? “The wheat and tares are growing side by side,” said Jesus (Matt. 13:30). The new has come, but the old remains. But one day Jesus will come with a winnowing fork and then the tares will be removed forever (Matt. 13:41).

Matthew 11:10


(a) My Messenger is John the Baptist.

(b) Prepare your way. Jesus is quoting Malachi 3:1 which is a prophecy about two messengers, and the first one (John) clears the way for the second (Jesus, the herald of the new covenant). According to the prophet Malachi, the latter follows the former suddenly, like a two-punch combination. First one, then the other. And this is what we see in the gospels; first John then Jesus.

Matthew 11:11

“Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

(a) Born of women. How could Jesus not be greater than John? Jesus was not being modest. Jesus was made of a woman (ginomai) while John was born (gennetos) of a woman. See entry for Gal. 4:4.

(b) John the Baptist; see entry for Mark 1:4.

(c) Least. The lowliest and most humble believer.

(d) Greater than he. As an old covenant prophet, John had only a partial glimpse of God’s redemption plan. He foretold that the Messiah would come with a winnowing fork (Matt. 3:12). He expected Jesus would come to harvest, but Jesus came to sow (Matt. 13:37). (The harvest will come later (Matt. 13:39).) He was one of those prophets and righteous men who desired to see what we see and hear what we hear (Matt. 13:17), that is the fulfillment of God’s redemption plan at Calvary. But John died before he had a chance to see it.

We who live this side of the cross are privileged indeed for we have a clearer revelation of God’s grace than any of the Old Testament prophets. While they were credited with a righteousness that had not yet been given, we are made righteous with the righteousness of God.

(e) The kingdom of heaven; see entry for Matt. 3:2.

Matthew 11:12

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.

(a) John the Baptist was the first to preach “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). He was saying the time of waiting is over. At the start of his ministry, Jesus echoed that claim (Matt. 4:17).

(b) The kingdom of heaven suffers violence. Hungry, desperate people are coming to the kingdom.

Jesus is speaking to the crowds (Matt. 11:7). Crowds followed Jesus because he preached the good news of the kingdom come (Matt. 4:17, 10:7). With signs and wonders, Jesus revealed the kingdom of God to a people who had been oppressed by the burdensome yoke of the law, and they responded with faith.

(c) Violent. The original word (biastes) is related to a word (biazo) that means to force or crowd oneself. Picture Jesus being crowded by hungry people desperate to hear the good news or receive healing (Luke 5:15). There was nothing timid or restrained about their desire. The people trampled over each (Luke 12:1) or tore roofs apart to get close to him (Luke 5:18–19). They were like an army besieging Jesus and the kingdom of heaven (John 6:15).

Matthew 11:13

“For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.

The Law refers to the Law of Moses, the commandments, ordinances, punishments, and ceremonial observances given to the nation of Israel through Moses (Jos. 8:31). This law is sometimes referred to as the law of commandments (Eph. 2:15) or the law of the Jews (Acts 25:8). See entry for The Law.

(b) Until John. John was both the last prophet of the old covenant and the messenger who prepared the way for the herald of the new covenant (Jesus; see Matt. 11:10).

Matthew 11:15

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Ears to hear. “This is important. You need to hear and receive this.” It’s not enough that were merely hear the word of the kingdom; we need to receive it in our hearts and hold fast to it (Luke 8:15).

This phrase, which comes from Ezekiel 3:27, was one that Jesus often used (Matt. 11:15, 13:9, 43, Mark 4:9, 23, 7:16, Luke 8:8, 14:35). Jesus utters a variation of this phrase – “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says” – at the end of each of his letters to the seven churches. See entry for Rev. 2:7.

Matthew 11:17

and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

(a) You did not dance. Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom and you did not believe.

(b) You did not mourn. John the Baptist preached the bad news of judgment and you did not repent.

Matthew 11:19

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

(a) The Son of Man; see entry for Matt. 8:20.

(b) Tax collectors and sinners; see entry for Matt. 9:10.

(c) Sinners. If the original language did not lack punctuation marks, the word “sinners” would be in quotation marks. Religious people called them sinners; Jesus called them lost sheep (Matt. 10:6, 15:24).

Matthew 11:20

Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.

Repent. To repent means to change your mind. In context, it means changing your mind about Christ and the goodness of God (Rom. 2:4). “Change your unbelieving mind and believe the glad tidings of God’s grace and forgiveness” (see Mark 1:15). Jesus is talking about people who heard the gospel but refused to believe it.

Matthew 11:22

“Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.

The day of judgment. Judgment Day is the end of days, the day when the Lord returns to separate the sheep from the goats (Matt. 25:31–32). See entry for Matt. 10:15.

Matthew 11:23

“And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.

Hades is the Greek word for Sheol, the Old Testament abode of the dead. The word can be translated as pit or grave. See entry for Matt. 16:18.

Matthew 11:28

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

(a) Heavy-laden. Many people bear heavy loads of expectation, duty, and dead religion. “I have to do this to get that.” “I have to work hard to please God.” Or they carry the weight of guilt and condemnation. These loads cripple us, robbing us of joy and peace. Jesus offers us a swap; our heavy loads for his light one. He takes all the guilt and the pressure to perform and gives us peace with God. It’s a wonderful exchange.

(b) Rest. The gospel is not an invitation to pick up tools, but to drop them (Heb. 4:10-11). It’s not a job advertisement, but a holiday. It’s not a day of work; it’s a day of rest.

Grace declares, “It is finished, the work is done,” and faith responds, “Thank you, Jesus!” Faith is not something you must do or manufacture. Faith is resting in the restful persuasion that God is at rest and in him so are we.

See entry for “Rest

Matthew 11:29

“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.

(a) My yoke. Jesus invites us to join with him in koinonia-fellowship (1 John 1:3). To take his yoke is to give him the reins of your life. It’s saying, “Lord, not my will but thy will be done.”

We are all yoked to something. We may be yoked to the demands of our bosses, or the expectations of our customers. We may be yoked to duty and religion. The yokes we bear are burdensome. They wear us out and grind us down. But when we yoke ourselves to Jesus, we find true rest for our souls.

See entry for Union.

(b) You will find rest. In Christ, we find lasting rest. In contrast with the endless demands of life and religion, God asks but one thing of us – that we put our faith in his Son (1 John 3:23). The only “work” that counts with God is believing in the One he sent (John 6:29).

Jesus offers us his rest. A faith-response is one that says, “I am done with self-improvement and DIY religion. I choose to rest in the finished work of the cross.” If you are resting in the Lord, you will be free from condemnation and the need to impress. Safe and secure in the Lord’s hands, you will know peace and joy.

Matthew 11:30

“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

(a) My yoke is easy. In contrast with the heavy yoke of Moses (Act 15:10), Jesus’ yoke is light and easy to bear. To live under the ceaseless demands of the law is burdensome, but Jesus is easy to obey (1 John 5:3). His sweet words and gentle call to you are your doorway to the life you were born for.

(b) My burden is light. Obeying the Lord is the most enjoyable and rewarding thing you can do.

This world will try to bury you with heavy demands, but the burdens of the Lord are easy to bear. An easy burden is one that is a pleasure to carry. It’s living in the sweet spot where your God-given talents are aligned with God’s call on your life. It’s shining in a dark world and doing the thing you were put on this earth to do.

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