Gospel of Matthew Chapter Eleven Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
He Is Your Rest
Verse 1: "When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities." You may not feel like you are first on God's priority list, or on anybody else's, for that matter, but you are indeed God's first priority, and amazingly it applies to each one of us. He is instructing you, bringing you to faith in the Lord, and is healing you in ways too deep to perceive. His instruction manual, His textbook for your progress, is what we call the "Bible," a word from the ancient Greek that meant—"the books." It is God's homework, His heart work, for you—giving you hope, leading you to the Son of God and—into His rest.
Verses 2-3: "Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples3and said to Him, 'Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?'" John the Baptist is a fascinating character. Unlike others, he was "filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15). When John's mother, Elizabeth, met with Mary the soon-to-be mother of Jesus, "the babe (John) leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit." John recognized and responded to Jesus before either of them was born into this world. And such responses are contagious, spreading to others, like his mother, Elizabeth. John was the one who later baptized Jesus, and witnessed the Holy Spirit descending upon Him (Mark 1:8-11). But even though God is with and IN the faithful in Christ, we can be caught up in what we consider our negative circumstances to the point where we begin to doubt, and that was what happened to John, who was now in prison.
Verses 4-6: "Jesus answered and said to them, 'Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive 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. 6 And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.'" Jesus did not condemn John, but instead the Bible records that He comforted him. The Bible is like that—it is essentially a book of eye-witness testimonies, written by those who encountered the Lord within a variety of settings and circumstances. Abraham, Moses, David, Matthew and the rest, met the Lord in their hearts and lives; then told and wrote what happened. Jesus reminded His earthly cousIn, John, through John's disciples, of restored sight, reversal of paralysis, healing of leprosy, the gift of hearing to the deaf, and life from the dead. Best of all, is that we, the poor of this world, hear the gospel, the good news, and are made right with God. When things seem "wrong" to you, remember these eye-witnesses and do not be offended by God who loves you.
Verses 7-11: "As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,'What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,
‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.’ 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." Jesus spoke to the people about John, and notice that even though John's earthly situation was bad from both our perspective and his, nevertheless God loved this man. Just like Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus out of all the women in history, John was chosen from all men to announce the advent of God the Son, fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi 3:1. In life, most want to please themselves and other people, but your greater need is to please the Lord. Our greatest need of all is to enter the "kingdom of heaven," accomplished through faith in Jesus Christ. It's not the works we do that save us—it's faith in what the Lord has done.
Verses 12-15: "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear." This world is a place of violence, filled with bad thoughts, vile words and horrible actions. Nice things happen, also, but they are often not reported. Notice that not only the prophets themselves spoke of things to come, but the Law itself was a prophecy, revealing the heart, the nature of fallen humanity. The words of Jesus about John the Baptist seem clear—he is Elijah, but we should also take into account the words of Luke 1:17, that John appeared "in the spirit and power of Elijah." John is the fulfillment of Malachi 4:6—"I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." Who is John? Who is Elijah? Who are we? The true identity of everyone is in the hand of the Lord. He defines who and what we are.
Verses 16-17: "But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17 and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’" A key problem with seemingly unanswered prayer, is that we often try to give God orders without realizing what we are doing. A key Scripture is 1 John 5:14-15... "If we ASK anything according to His will, He hears us. And... we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." Prayer includes asking God for help, but it's also right to ask Him to show us what to pray for. People often pray like the words of these verses in Matthew. Prayer is not like playing some kind of "flute" and then expecting Him to "dance" to our tune—instead, His perspective, His responses are so much better than ours. Yes, pray, but also ASK: How should I pray?
Verses 18-19: "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, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.'" No matter what we do, someone will disapprove of us. They scoffed at John the Baptist for one reason and at Jesus for another. So don't perform for people—you won't please them. Look to God and please Him.
Verses 20-24: "Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 'Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 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. 24 Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” It could also be said, woe to you, New York, woe to you, Beijing, or Berlin, Tokyo, Moscow, or any other place—the Bible contains eye-witness testimony of the actions, words, death and resurrection of our Lord. We are to understand that God works miracles. And we can glimpse in places like Romans 2:15, that the Law of God is written in our hearts. We in humanity have no excuse. And when you place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will begin to see miracles, sometimes small, within the fabric of our lives, other times spectacular... He is God and He knows what is needed. He is real and it is time to find out what He wants from you.
Verses 25-27: "At that time Jesus said,'I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.'" Infants are prone to faith. They EXPECT their parents or other care-givers to feed them, change them, and otherwise give them everything—that's faith. We do well when we approach God, BELIEVING He will answer. The natural state of mankind is to prefer to be thought of as wise and intelligent, not requiring the demands of infancy. But God sees us as we really are: needy, petulant, demanding and helpless, and He will allow circumstances in our lives that prompt us to seek Him. Is it the will of the Son that you will know the Father?—Fall on your knees before Him in helpless abandon and find out!
Verses 28-30: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.'" These verses, along with Proverbs 3:5-6, I consider my life verses—God's personal message of love to me; and a lot of others claim them like I do. Are you overwhelmed by life, tired and you can't go on? Come to Jesus and He WILL give you the REST you have needed all your life. HIS yoke is upon us with the metaphor that we are like oxen treading out the grain, but it is not a heavy burden—He treads out the "grain" in and through us. He is gentle and kind. He truly LISTENS like nobody else and will comfort you. He is your rest.
Lord, I need You so. Life becomes so confusing, so burdensome, and I need Your REST. You are my Friend, who gives me the rest I have needed all this time. I am Yours, Lord. Please help me learn to pray. In Jesus Name. Amen.