Matthew chapter 11

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What does Matthew chapter 11 mean?

Matthew 11 comes immediately after Jesus has sent His twelve hand-picked apostles out on separate missionary journeys, in pairs (Matthew 10:1–4). Jesus Himself continues through Galilee, teaching and preaching (Matthew 11:1).

John the Baptist is in prison (Matthew 4:12). He has heard about what Jesus has been doing as He travels from place to place. John sends a message to Jesus through his own disciples, asking if Jesus is the "one who is to come." John wants to know if Jesus is really the Messiah, apparently because Jesus has not yet brought judgment on those who have not repented. Most likely, John expected Jesus to immediately bring an earthly kingdom. His question might not be an expression of doubt, so much as wondering why Jesus hasn't yet done what John expects Him to do (Matthew 11:2–3).

Jesus tells John's disciples to go and tell what they have seen Jesus do. He references Isaiah's prophecies about the Messiah: that He will heal the blind, the lame, lepers, and the deaf, as well as raise the dead and preach good news to the poor. Jesus means for John to be reassured by this. Even when God does not meet our exact expectations, we can be confident that He's fulfilling His promises (Matthew 11:4–6).

As John's disciples leave, Jesus turns to the crowd and reminds them of how strong and unmovable John was during his ministry to Israel. Jesus declares that not only was John a prophet, but he was the very one that Isaiah prophesied would come to prepare the way for the Messiah (Malachi 3:1). Among all human beings born up to that point, John is the greatest. Still, the lowest person in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John. The meaning here seems to be that John the Baptist more clearly understood God's plan than any prophet who came before. Jesus adds that, if His listeners can accept it, John is the spiritual fulfillment of the prophecy that Elijah would return (Matthew 11:7–11).

Jesus makes clear, though, that Israel mostly rejected the preaching of John the Baptist; Israel has also mostly rejected Jesus' message. Christ compares the Israelites of this generation to children complaining that their playmates won't participate in their games. No matter what they see, and no matter what God provides, they simply demand the opposite. Their real motive is to resist, not to submit. Instead of hearing John the Baptist and truly repenting, the people decided he had a demon because of his strange and restrictive lifestyle. Instead of hearing Jesus and repenting, this generation decided that Jesus was a glutton and a drunk because He did not lead a restrictive lifestyle. Jesus uses a proverb to show that both He and John will be proven right in the end (Matthew 11:12–19).

Next, Jesus pronounces judgment on the cities where the people did not repent, despite seeing Him perform great and powerful miracles. If the same miracles had been performed in the wicked Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon, those idol-worshippers would have repented in great humility. The Jewish cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida will find God's judgment less bearable than those pagan cities. The same is true of Jesus' own adopted hometown of Capernaum. Even wicked Sodom, which God utterly destroyed (Genesis 19:24–25), will have a more tolerable judgment than Capernaum. This suggests the people of Sodom are still subject to judgment, despite the end of their earthly lives. It also hints that somehow, there are levels of punishment or judgment for our earthly sins (Matthew 11:20–24).

Jesus thanks His Father, God, for hiding the truth from those who are wise and understanding, according to the world. His implication is that those who arrogantly assume their own wisdom will miss the truth—because they aren't really looking for it. Instead, God will reveal truth to those the world dismissed as "children." Jesus declares that He and God the Father know each other completely and that He can reveal the Father to anyone He chooses. He invites those listening who are weary and weighed down—in the sense of the Pharisees' extra rules and requirements—to take on His yoke and find rest for their souls (Matthew 11:25–30).
What is the Gospel?
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