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Matthew 11

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Messengers of John the Baptist John the Baptist Sends Messengers Narratives Illustrate the Authority Claimed by Jesus The Messengers from John the Baptist  
(10:40-11:1)   (11:2-15:50)    
  11:1-19   11:1 11:1
        The Baptist's Question; Jesus Commands him
11:2-15   11:2-6 11:2-3 11:2-6
      11:4-6  
    11:7-15 11:7-15 11:7-10
(10b)
        11:11-15
        Jesus Condemns his Contemporaries
11:16-19   11:16-19 11:16-19 11:16-19
(17)
Woes to Unrepentant Cities Woes to the Impenitent Cities   The Unbelieving Towns Lament Over the Lake-Towns
11:20-24 11:20-24 11:20-24 11:20-24 11:20
        11:21-24
Come to Me and Rest Jesus Gives True Rest   Come to Me and Rest The Good News Revealed to the Simple. The Father and the Son
11:25-30 11:25-30 11:25-27 11:25-26 11:25-27
      11:27 The Gentle Mastery of Christ
    11:28-30 11:28-30 11:28-30

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND TO MATTHEW: 11:1-30

A. This chapter has often been described as unrelated stories, but the unifying factor seems to be the answer to the question, "Why was Jesus' ministry not more outwardly successful?"

 

B. John the Baptist is a central character in this chapter (cf. John. 1:6-8, 19-36). He was the last of the Old Testament prophets (cf. Matt. 11:9).

 

C. Isaiah lists several actions by which the Jews could recognize the Messiah, of whom John the Baptist was forerunner (i.e., Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1; 4:5b). These are the very actions of Jesus recorded in Matthew 8 and 9.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:1
 1When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.

11:1 "When Jesus had finished giving instructions" This was a phrase which Matthew used to outline his book. It occurred at the end of Matthew's five literary units (cf. Matt. 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1).

▣ "to teach and preach in their cities" This is Jesus' main mission, to communicate the gospel, not to heal (cf. Matt. 4:23; 9:35). Healing was meant to confirm and validate the gospel, not to become the focus of His ministry. Healing was a way to (1) show God's love; (2) show Jesus' power; and (3) fulfill OT prophecy about the Messiah (cf. Matt. 11:5).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:2-6
 2Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?" 4Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you see: 5the 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. 6And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me."

11:2 "John, while imprisoned" John the Baptist was imprisoned in Machaerus (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews. 18.5.2), one of the fortresses of Herod Antipas. It is on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. Herod had imprisoned John for preaching against his marriage to Herod Phillip's former wife, Herodias. Antipas wooed her away from Phillip during a visit to Rome (cf. Josephus'Antiq. 18:5:2).

▣ "Christ" The term "Christ" equals the OT term Messiah which meant "an Anointed One." It was used in the sense of God's special call and equipping. In the OT, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed. Jesus fulfills all three of these anointed functions (cf. Heb. 1:1-3). King Cyrus of the Persian Empire, who was an unbeliever, was even called God's anointed (cf. Isa. 44:28; 45:1).

11:3 "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else" This was a Messianic title (cf. Ps. 118:26; alluded to often, Matt. 21:9; 23:39; Mark 11:9; Luke 13:35; 19:38; John 6:14; 11:27; 12:13; and Heb. 10:37). See Special Topic at Matt. 8:20.

In Luke 1:15 John was filled with the Spirit, but he still had doubts. Several theories explain John's doubting.

1. John was discouraged because he was in prison

2. John Calvin says that this was his way of referring his disciples to Jesus

3. Jesus was not acting in the expected manner (cf. Matt. 3:7-12)

"Someone else" is the Greek term heteros which meant, in Classical Greek, "another of a different kind." John expected a message of judgment from the Messiah, instead Jesus offered salvation to all.

11:4-5 "Jesus answered and said to them" Verse 5 is a quote from Isaiah. It is debated whether it was from 26:19; 29:18,19; 35:5-6; or 61:1. It does emphasize the ministry of the Messiah as a ministry of compassion and the healing of the poor and outcast.

11:5 "Gospel" The noun form (euangelion, over 60 times in Paul's writings) is found in Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; and 26:13. The verb form (euangelizumai) is found only here in Matthew (not in John). This word describes the contents of Jesus' message, "good news." It includes the "bad news" of the sin and separation of all humans from God, but continues in the offer of forgiveness, restoration, and eternal salvation for all in faith in Christ. The good news of victory in the spiritual conflict!

11:6 This was a gentle rebuke of John's lack of faith. The Bible depicts its characters in both positive and negative ways. This shows its credibility. It was not propaganda, but true historical people and their feelings and faults!

Matthew chose to record this because it gets back to the major theological issue-who is Jesus?

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:7-15
 7As 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? 8But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings'palaces! 9But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written,
 Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
 Who will prepare Your way before You.'
 11Truly 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. 12From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. 13For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

11:7 "A reed shaken by the wind" Notice the threefold parallelism, "what did you go out to see?" John was like Elijah; he fulfilled the predictions fo Mal. 3:1 and Isa. 40:3 (cf. Mark 1:2-3).

This may relate to (1) John's doubt which had just been expressed publicly in his question (i.e., Matt. 11:3) or (2) John's steadfast character and moral courage in denouncing sin (i.e., the Pharisees'and Herod's).

11:9 "and one who is more than a prophet" John was not the first gospel preacher, but the last OT prophet predicted by Isaiah and Malachi. It is difficult to compare OT prophets with NT prophets. OT prophets wrote Scripture, but not NT prophets. Some of the Apostles, like Paul, claimed to be a prophet, but not all. What then is the purpose of the NT gift? See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY

11:10 "this is the one about whom it is written" This is a quote from Mal. 3:1. It was a reference to a royal visit and the feverous preparation which preceded it. Mark 1:2-3 is a composite quote from Mal. 3:1 and Isa. 40:3. This same concept is found in Isa. 57:14; 62:10.

Matthew collects the life and teachings of Jesus to convince Jews that He is the Messiah (the Coming One). This is done by quoting many OT texts. They are introduced in a variety of ways.

1. a prophet is unnamed or alluded to

a. the prophet, Matt. 1:22 (unnamed, Isa. 7:14)

b. the prophet, Matt. 2:5 (unnamed, Micah 5:2

c. the prophet, Matt. 13:35 (unnamed, Ps. 78:2)

d. the prophet, Matt. 21:4 (unnamed, Isa. 62:11)

2. a prophet is named

a. Isaiah -- Matt. 3:3; 4:14; 12:17; 13:14; 15:7

b. Jeremiah -- Matt. 2:18; 27:9

3. it is written (perfect passive), Matt. 4:6,10; 11:10; 21:13; 26:24,31

4. God said, Matt. 15:4; 22:31

5. have you not read, Matt. 19:4; 21:16,42

6. Moses said, Matt. 22:24

7. David in the Spirit, Matt. 22:43

Jesus' birth, life, death, resurrection, and return were fulfillments of OT prophecy (cf. Matt. 26:54-56).

11:11 "Truly" This is literally "amen," the Hebrew word for faith (cf. Hab. 2:4). Its original etymology meant "to be firm" or "to be sure." It was often used initially by Jesus to introduce a significant statement. See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

▣ "among those born of women" This verse is not a put down of John the Baptist, but an affirmation that he was the last of the OT prophets (cf. Matt. 13:16, 17). In a sense this was Jesus' way of affirming the significance of the new age (New Covenant, Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38), inaugurated by Himself.

11:12

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV" the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force"
TEV" the Kingdom of heaven has suffered violent attacks, and violent men try to seize it"
NJB"The Kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm"

There has been much discussion about what this verse meant and how it should be translated. The first phrase can (1) in a positive sense, indicate that the kingdom of heaven is vigorously pressing forward, or (2) in a negative sense, refer to the violent reaction of the Jewish leaders to both John and Jesus' preaching.

The second phrase seems to be a play on the word " vigorous" and was used of sinners eagerly grasping, or responding to, the gospel (cf. Luke 16:16). The Septuagint uses this verb in the sense of a "strong invitation" (cf. Gen. 33:11; Jdgs. 19:7). See Special Topic: The Kingdom of God at Matt. 4:17.

11:13 "for all the prophets and Law" The Hebrew canon was divided into three sections, "the Law," " the Prophets," and "the Writings." This was the NT way of indicating the entire OT (cf. Luke 24:44). The OT pointed toward Jesus and the gospel.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HEBREW CANON

11:13 "until John" This seems to imply that the old covenant comes to an end (cf. Galatians 3 and the book of Hebrews) with the preaching of John the Baptist, who was the last old covenant prophet. Something radically new has come in Jesus. John is His forerunner! The new age of the Spirit; the new covenant; the promise of Gen. 3:15; 12:3 has come!

11:14 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

▣ "John himself is Elijah who was to come" This is implied in Luke 1:17. In John. 1:20-25, John denied that he was Elijah, but this was in the context of the specific questioning by the Pharisees. John was denying that he was Elijah reborn. Jesus asserted that John fulfilled the prophecy of the return of Elijah before the Messiah from Mal. 3:1 and 4:5, (cf. Matt. 11:10).

11:15 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" This idiom (present participle and present imperative) refers to the fact that unless the Holy Spirit aids believers'insight they cannot understand spiritual truth (cf. Isa. 6:9-10; 50:5; Matt. 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; Luke 8:8; 14:35; very similar to Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22; 13:9). However, it also implies that the willingness of the individual to hear and respond is also necessary. Revelation involves a divine sender and a human hearer/responder (i.e., covenant).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:16-19
 16"But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.'19The 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."

11:16 "like children sitting in the market place" This is paralleled in Luke 7:31-32. Even though John the Baptist came as an ascetic (i.e., a prophet from the desert, like Elijah), the Jews rejected him. Jesus came as one who readily associated with humans of all social levels and yet they rejected Him too. This either speaks of the fickleness of the Jewish leaders or shows their preconceived biases.

11:17 "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance" This social approach referred to the way Jesus interacted with people (cf. Matt. 11:19). The flute could be used for dancing (Matt. 11:17a) at both a party or a funeral (Matt. 11:17b).

▣ "we sang a dirge, but you did not mourn" This somber approach referred to the ministry of John the Baptist (cf. Matt. 11:18).

11:18 "He has a demon" This same charge is made against Jesus in Matt. 9:34 and 12:24 (cf. John. 7:20; 8:48-49,52; 10:20). This is the only text that accuses John of having a demon. The Jews could not deny the power of either John or Jesus, but claimed that their source of authority and power was the evil one. This, ultimately, is the unpardonable sin.

11:19 "The Son of Man" This was Jesus' self-chosen title because it had no militaristic nor nationalistic implications. It combined the human and divine aspects of Christ's nature (cf. Ezek. 2:1; Ps. 8:4; Dan. 7:13). The combination of aspects became a crucial NT truth (cf. 1 John 4:13).

▣ "a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners" Jesus acted in a very unexpected way. He befriended the same people the religious leaders rejected (cf. Matt. 9:11; Luke 5:30; 7:34; 15:2). This fulfills the Messianic predictions of Isaiah.

Religious legalism and asceticism have been such a spiritual/theological struggle for the church that I would like to quote a brief section from New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 1, p. 495.

"Viewed as a whole, however, asceticism in the sense of renunciation of possessions, sexual activity, and food-restrictions is not generally enjoined by the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels. This does not mean that renunciation by a particular person in a concrete situation is excluded (cf. the story of the rich young ruler, Matt. 19:21). It is only that from such passages (cf. Matt. 11:19; 9:14ff; Mk. 2:18f; Lk. 5:33ff.), one cannot deduce a basic attitude on the part of Jesus, just as one cannot deduce his will for the overall validity of an ascetic ethic. Renunciation is only demanded where something stands in the way of following Jesus."

11:19

NASB, NRSV"Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds"
NKJV"But wisdom is justified by her children"
TEV"God's wisdom, however, is shown to be true by its results"
NJB"Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions"

The mention of "wisdom" alludes to Proverbs 8, where it is personified. Jesus is that personification. An example of this imagery is seen in Matt. 12:42, where Jesus is greater than the wisdom of Solomon (also note He is greater than the temple, Matt. 12:6 and greater than Jonah, Matt. 12:41). Even Jesus' use of "yoke" in Matt. 11:29 may be a reference to wisdom teachings.

There is a Greek manuscript variation here. By her " deeds" is found in the ancient Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, and W, while " children" is found in the Corrector of Vaticanus B2, C, D, K, and L. " Children" is the parallel in Luke 7:35 and seems to be added here by scribes to make the passages agree. "Deeds" may refer to Matt. 11:2. The UBS4 gives " deeds" a "B" rating (almost certain). The same truth is expressed in the phrase " by their fruits you shall know them" (cf. Matt. 7:16,20; 12:33). This is true of Jesus and of all people. The acts of Jesus in Matthew 8-9 revealed to those who would see that He was the promised Messiah (cf. Isa. 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1-2).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:20-24
 20Then 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. 23And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."

11:20-24 "He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done" This showed the universal truth that to whom much is given, much is required (cf. Luke 12:48). The cities of Jesus' day are compared with the OT cities. They had seen His miracles and heard His teachings. Nineveh had repented at the preaching of Jonah, while Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, and Gomorrah did not, yet the Galilean cities of Jesus' day had much greater light by which to respond. Those who have greater light are more responsible!

Jesus' comments were introduced by "woe" (cf. Matt. 18:7; 23:13,15,16,23,25,27,29; 24:19; 26:24). This was one of the three usual literary forms by which the OT prophets communicated their messages (promise oracle, court scene, and funeral dirge or lament). This form represented a funeral dirge (lament).

▣ "repent" Repentance is a turning from sin and self, the negative aspect of salvation, while faith is a turning to God in Christ, the positive aspect of salvation (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, 19; 20:21). By combining the meanings of the Greek and Hebrew words, the meaning of repentance is a change of mind followed by a change of action. Repentance is more than feelings (cf. 2 Cor. 7:8-11). It must result in a lifestyle change. See complete note at Matt. 4:17.

11:21,23 "if" This is a second class conditional sentence which is called "contrary to fact," a false statement is made to show the false premise drawn from it.

11:21 "Chorazin" This shows our limited knowledge of the works of Jesus, for we have no Gospel record of Jesus' miracles in this town. We must remember that the Gospels are selected theological truths to reveal Jesus to selected audiences (i.e., Jews, Romans, Gentiles), and not western histories (cf. John. 20:30-31).

▣ "Bethsaida" There were two Bethsaidas. One was somewhere close to Capernaum and one at the place where the Jordan River flowed into the Sea of Galilee.

▣ "if" This is a second class conditional sentence , see note at Matt. 11:23.

▣ "Tyre and Sidon" Tyre and Sidon were OT types of sinful, prideful nations or mankind. The phrase found in Matt. 11:23 related this to Isa. 14:13-15 and Ezek. 28:12-16. In these verses the pride of the Kings of Babylon and Tyre were used as examples of the pride of Satan.

▣ "in sackcloth and ashes" In context this may refer to a sign of repentance (cf. Jonah 3:5-8).

SPECIAL TOPIC: GRIEVING RITES

11:22 There are degrees of both reward and punishment based on the amount of light to which the hearers have been exposed (cf. Luke 12:47, 48; Matt. 10:15). See Special topic at Matt. 5:12.

11:23 "And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you" This grammatical construction expects a "no" answer. This may be an allusion to Isa. 14:13-14 and Ezek. 28:2,5-6,17, which magnifies the pride of the kings of Babylon and Tyre.

▣ "descend to Hades" This may be an allusion to Isa. 14:15 or Ezek. 26:20; 28:8; 31:14; 32:18,24. This referred to the realm of the dead (cf. Luke 16:23) in Hebrew Sheol. According to the rabbis, there was a righteous part, called Paradise and a wicked part, called Tartarus. This may be true. Jesus' words to one of the criminals crucified with Him in Luke 23:43 seem to imply a righteous part of Hades because Jesus did not return to heaven until Pentecost. At Jesus' resurrection He took the righteous part of Hades (Sheol) to be with Him. Therefore, Paul can now say in 2 Cor. 5:8b that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Be careful not to combine the concepts of Hades and Gehenna. They are distinct in the New Testament. See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at Matt. 5:22.

▣ "if" This is a second class conditional sentence which is called "contrary to fact" (as was Matt. 11:21). This should then be translated, "If the miracles had occurred in Sodom, which occurred in you (but they did not), then it would have remained to this day, (which it did not)."

11:24 "the land of Sodom" The word "land" may be the Aramaic phrase for "the city." Modern archaeologists believe this OT city was located on the southern end of the Dead Sea.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:25-27
 25At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27All 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."

11:25 In Luke 10:21 these words of Jesus are spoken after the return of the mission of the seventy. Remember the Gospels are not necessarily in chronological order! See Gordon Fee and douglas Stuart, How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 127-148.

▣ "I praise You" This compound term in this context can mean to make open avowal (cf. Matt. 3:6; Phil. 2:11), to praise, or to celebrate. This same Greek term translated the Hebrew term for "praise" in the Septuagint. The Aramaic possibly meant "openly agree."

▣ "Lord of heaven and earth" This is a Hebraic idiom for physical creation. This affirms God as creator of all things. Interestingly, John, John 1:3,10; Paul, 1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:16; and the author of Hebrews, Heb. 1:2; 2:10, assert that Jesus is the Father's agent in creation.

▣ "You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants" This is a Semitic idiom meaning the things that all humans, not just the religious or worldly elite, can know about God. "Infants" referred to new believers (cf. Matt. 18:6). It is still surprising that the Jewish religious leaders who knew the OT did not recognize Jesus and put their faith in Him (cf. Romans 9). Isaiah 50:5 must occur before the result of sin (Isa. 6:9-10) can be reversed!

11:26 "for this was well-pleasing in Your sight" This is a Hebrew idiom for "it was God's will" (cf. Luke 10:21).

11:27 "all things have been handed over to Me by My Father" This was a strong affirmation of Jesus' self-understanding and sense of unique authority given very early in His ministry (cf. Matt. 28:18, John 3:35; 13:3; Eph. 1:20-22, Col. 1:16-19; 2:10, and 1 Pet. 3:22). Jesus makes such strong statements about Himself (i.e., John 10:1-18; 14:1-24). He cannot be a great teacher, a religious genius! He is either the incarnated Son of God or a lunatic or a liar! There is no middle ground here! The NT is true or Christianity is a lie (cf. 1 Cor. 15:12-19). You must decide!

This verse sounds like John's Gospel (cf. John 3:35; 10:15; 13:3; 17:2). Yet this same truth is repeated in Matt. 28:18.

▣ "nor does anyone know the Father" The intensified term "know," used twice, meant full, complete, and personal knowledge (i.e., epiginoskō). No one knows the Father but the Son (cf. John. 1:18; 17:25; 1 John 5:1-12).

▣ "and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" This is not a proof-text for Jesus choosing some and not choosing others. Verse 28 shows that God, by choosing Christ, chose all humans (cf. John 3:16; 4:42; 1 Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 2:1; 4:14). It also asserts that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of the invisible, eternal God (cf. John 1:1,18; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). He is the only way (1) to know the Father (cf. John 1:18; 3:11) and (2) to the Father (cf. John 10:1-9; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:28-30
 28"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

11:28-30 These verses are unique to Matthew. Verse 28 affirms the doctrine of justification, while verse 29 affirms progressive sanctification.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT HOLINESS/SANCTIFICATION

11:28 "Come to Me" "Come" is an adverb used as an aorist active imperative. It denotes an immediate faith response to Jesus Himself and His radical new covenant message. Notice the emphasis was on personal relationship, not on doctrinal content or ritual only. This same truth was repeated often in the Gospel of John.

▣ "weary" This is a present active participle. The terms "weary" and "heavy-laden" in this verse describe hard labor. They are synonymous.

▣ "heavy-laden" This is a perfect passive participle. These two terms related culturally to the heavy obligations of rabbinical Judaism (cf. Acts 15:10). This same idea is expressed by the Hebrew idiom "yoke" (cf. Matt. 11:29,30; Matt. 23:4; Luke 11:46). This was also used metaphorically for the Oral Tradition of the Jews (Talmud), which had become such a burden that it separated mankind from God rather than bringing them to Him. Judaism had become a barrier instead of a bridge!

The new covenant in Jesus has requirements just like the old covenant. However, they do not bring us to God and make us acceptable. They become the natural result of knowing Him in Christ. God still wants a righteous people who reflect His character to the world. I usually state the NT requirements as

1. repentance

2. faith

3. obedience

4. perseverance

 

▣ "I will give you rest" This is an emphatic grammatical construction. Jesus was saying, "I, myself, will lead you into rest." " Rest" did not refer to perpetual inactivity, but to a time of refreshment and training so as to move out into useful service for Christ. This concept of a rest goes back to the seventh day rest of Genesis 1. For a good discussion of the different ways this term was used in the OT see Hebrews, Matthew 3 and 4.

11:29 "learn" This is an aorist active imperative. It is etymologically related to the word " disciples" found in Matt. 11:1. Believers are commanded to learn and mature.

▣ "I am gentle and humble" These were not virtues in the Greek world, but Jesus made attitude the key. Humility and gentleness became the catch-words of the new kingdom of God.

11:30 "for My yoke is easy and My burden is light" There are new covenant tasks to be performed. Faith and repentance in Jesus' name are the first step; the second is obedience and maturity; the third is perseverance. Jesus changed the burdensome task of the Pharisees (cf. Matt. 23:4; Luke 11:46) into a life of gratitude and service in His name (cf. 1 John 5:3).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did John the Baptist doubt that Jesus was the promised coming Messiah?

2. Why did Jesus say that John the Baptist was not in the new kingdom of God?

3. How does verse 17 apply to Jesus and John the Baptist?

4. Will there be degrees of punishment?

5. Does Jesus invite all men to come unto Him or just certain chosen ones?

6. Define the terms "burden" and "yoke" in their cultural/religious setting.

 

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