What does Matthew 11 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
Matthew 11:1–19 deals with John the Baptist, who is in prison at this point (Matthew 4:12). John sends his own disciples to ask if Jesus is really the Messiah. Jesus gives them an answer and then upholds John to the crowds. He reminds them of John's strength and affirms that John was the prophet who fulfilled the prophecy about the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. This generation, though, rejected John's message of repentance, saying that John had a demon and that Jesus was a glutton and a drunkard. Jesus insists He and John will be proved right in the end.
Matthew 11:20–24 contains Jesus' pronouncement of judgment on the Jewish cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. The people of those cities saw the powerful miracles of Jesus with their own eyes, but they did not repent. Demonstrating godly knowledge of both what is, as well as what could have been, Jesus notes that wicked, pagan Gentile cities such as Tyre and Sidon would have repented in the same circumstances. He quips that these Gentiles will find God's judgment more bearable than Chorazin and Bethsaida will. Sodom would not have been wiped out if they had seen Jesus do what Capernaum saw. Sodom's judgment will be more tolerable than that of Capernaum.
Matthew 11:25–30 begins with Jesus' prayer of thanks to His Father for hiding the truth from those thought to be wise by the world's standards. Instead, the gospel has been revealed to those the unbelieving world dismisses as virtual children. Jesus declares that He and the Father know each other completely and that He can reveal the Father to anyone He chooses. He offers rest for the souls of all who are weighed down and weary if they will take on His yoke, saying that His burden is easy and light.
Chapter Summary:
John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask if Jesus is really the Messiah. Jesus gives them a specific answer to use to reassure John and then upholds John to the crowds. John fulfills the prophecy about the one who would prepare the people for the Messiah. This generation, though, refused to hear John or Jesus, deciding John had a demon and Jesus was a glutton and drunkard. Jesus condemns the cities that refuse to repent and thanks the Father for revealing the truth to little children. He offers rest for those who are weary and burdened.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 11 follows Jesus' instructions to the apostles about taking His message and miracles to the towns of Israel with His own continued ministry of teaching (Matthew 10). Jesus answers a question from John the Baptist's followers, and upholds John's ministry. Jesus condemns several cities in Galilee for rejecting His teaching, despite obvious signs. He thanks His Father for hiding the truth from those who arrogantly think they are wise. He offers rest for those who will take His yoke. This leads to further confrontations with critics, recorded in chapter 12.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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