Matthew

11:20-30

6. The business of mission, 11:1-12:50

ii] The condemned and the accepted

Synopsis

Having spoken of the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus goes on to condemn the unrepentant cities of Israel, and then, within the context of thanksgiving to the Father, he calls "the weary" to take upon themselves the easy yoke of the gospel.

 
Teaching

Believers must face the reality of rejection, for the gospel will not find a place in every heart - woe to those who hear, but do not believe. Yet, for those who have found the truth, their burdens are lifted and their rest assured.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 11:1-19.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, the condemned and the accepted, presents in two major parts:

The condemnation of unrepentant cities, v20-24:

Setting, v20;

Saying - oracle of judgment, v21-22:

Woe to Chorazin and Bethsaida.

Saying - oracle of judgment, v23-24:

Woe to Capernaum.

The acceptance of the weary, v25-30:

Saying, v25-26:

praise to the Father for his revelation to the "little children."

Saying, v27:

the authority of the Son.

Saying, v28-30:

"come to me ..... rest."

"take my yoke upon you ..... rest."

 

iii] Interpretation:

This passage presents in two parts: the condemnation of unrepentant cities, and the acceptance of the weary.

 

First, the condemnation of unrepentant cities, v20-24. This pericope, paralleled in Luke 10:12-15, consists of a transitional editorial note followed by two parallel oracles formed by a similar syntax: a causal conditional clause, oJti ei, "because if", followed by plhn legw uJmin, "but I say to you."

In his mission charge to the apostles, cf., ch.10, Jesus warned the disciples of rejection and persecution. We are not told how the mission fared, but the oracles of judgment on Israel indicate that rejection was the norm throughout Galilee. The gospel of the coming kingdom demands of the hearer repentance and faith, but the Galilaean cities of Jesus' own country have rejected the message, both in word and sign. The residents of those evil cities in the Old Testament age, towns like Sodom and Gomorrha, Tyre and Sidon, will stand a better chance in the day of judgment than the Galilaeans who have rejected the works and words of the messianic age.

 

Second, the acceptance of the weary, v25-30. This passage, consisting of three carefully stitched sayings, displays a strong integral unity. The passage serves as a commentary on v20-24. The opening sayings are paralleled in Luke 10:21-22. Verses 28-30 are possibly two stitched saying with the link word being "rest", but are more likely a two-part saying.

The interpretation of this passage has long focused on the mystery of election, such that the poor response to the gospel by the people of Israel rests on the divine right, now administered by Jesus, to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom to those whom he chooses. Yet, v28-30 counters such an arbitrary exercise of the divine will. It is indeed true that God, as an act of his sovereign will, administers the gathering together of his people, but such is not based on an arbitrary selection of individuals, but rather the divinely ordained methodology of grace through faith (Christ's faithfulness appropriated through faith).

The language is reminiscent of John's gospel. Some commentators suggest it reflects Hellenistic mysticism, but Carson argues that it is "thoroughly Semitic." John's gospel probably evidences Jesus' more personal style of teaching and what we have here is a rare example of this style in a synoptic gospel, cf., Morris. D &A suggest that the language draws on Moses typology, making a distinction between "the Messiah and the law-giver", cf., Ex.33:12-13. Whatever we might say of the language, what we have here is a Christological high-point in this gospel. "The exclusive relationship between the Father and the Son begins to prepare the reader for the climax of the gospel where the Son will take his place alongside the Father and the Holy Spirit as the object of the disciples' allegiance", France.

 

iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 11:20

Condemnation and acceptance, v20-30: i] The condemnation of unrepentant cities, v20-24. a) Setting, v20. These words of reproach may well follow on from Jesus' recent Galilean mission.

tote adv. "then" - then. A temporal adverb (of time) serving to introduce a temporal clause which establishes a step in the narrative / transitional; "at that time."

oneidizein (oneidizw) pres. inf. "[Jesus began] to denounce" - [he began] to revile, upbraid, insult, reproach. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to begin". "Reproach", possibly "condemn", because they are to blame; "censure", Williams; "denounced", REB. "Jesus was upset with them", CEV, is pathetic.

en + dat. "in [which]" - [the cities] in [which]. Local, expressing space.

pleistai (poluV) sup. adj. "most [of his miracles]" - [the] much, many [mighty works of his were performed]. Superlative = most, majority. Turner suggests an elative superlative, meaning that virtually all Jesus' miracles were performed in the cities that he now denounces. "Most" is better.

oJti "because" - that. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus denounced the cities of Israel.

ou metenohsan (metanow) aor. "they did not repent" - "Repent", not in the sense of being sorry, but of turning to God in Christ. "Repent" encapsulates the usual formula "repent and believe" and probably means much the same as "come to me" and "take my yoke upon you", v28, 29. "Refused to turn to God", CEV.

 
v21

b) Woe to Chorazin and Bethsaida, v21-22. Chorazin, near Capernaum, and Bethsaida, the home of Andrew, Peter and Philip, are singled out for condemnation. The "woe" (pity, alas) declares their loss. Tyre and Sidon, Phoenician cities to the North, are singled out as pagan cities which would have repented if they had received the same revelation from God.

ouai + dat. "woe" - pity, alas [to you]. As usual, this interjection is followed by a dative of interest, disadvantage, although it is interesting how the personal pronoun soi is used. There is the suggestion that the "you" is somewhat inclusive, drawing the hearer into the condemnation. "How terrible it will be", TEV.

Corazin "Korazin" - chorazin [who to you bethsaida]. Mentioned only here and in the parallel Lukan passage. A village 2 miles from Capernaum identified with the modern town of Khibet-Keraseh.

oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why these towns face bad news.

ei .... an + aor. "if" - if. Introducing a conditional clause, 2nd. class, where the condition is untrue, ie., it is an unreal condition; "if, as is not the case, ...... then ....."

ai dunameiV (iV ewV) "the miracles" - the powers, strengths [were performed in tyre and sidon]. Nominative subject of the verb "to become" = "perform". The word is often used of Jesus' messianic signs, his "works of power" = "miracles".

aiJ genomenai (ginomai) aor. part. "that were performed" - the ones having become, been done. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting miracles; "miracles which were performed."

en + dat. "in [you]" - Local, expressing space; "among you", "in your midst", Cassirer.

en + dat. "[they would have repented long ago] in" - The preposition is most likely adverbial here, modal, expressing manner.

sakkw/ (oV) "sackcloth" - [in] sackcloth [and ashes]. Heavy dark rough cloth suitable for mourning.

 
v22

plhn prep. "but [I tell you]" - nevertheless, however, but / only... [to you]. Here probably adversative, as NIV, but possibly "And still", JB. The dative pronoun, uJmin, "you", serves as a dative of direct object, "to you."

anektoteron comp. adj. "more bearable" - [it will be] more endurable, tolerable. Predicate adjective. Carson's suggestion that there are "degrees of torment in hell" surely takes Jesus' words too literally when he is most likely just using an analogy to underscore the destructive judgment that awaits those who fail to heed his call to repent. There are two other theological ideas that can be developed from Jesus' words in this verse, but they also founder by putting too much weight on an analogy. i] Jesus knows how the pagan cities would have responded to the gospel. He is all-knowing, as God is all-knowing (omniscient); ii] God is not morally bound to reveal his truth to everyone, otherwise he could be accused of acting immorally in withholding it, especially from a people who would have responded to it.

Turw/ kai Sidwni dat. "for Tyre and Sidon" - Dative of interest, advantage. Powerful coastal cities north of Israel, cities which Israel had ongoing contact with.

en "on [the day of judgment]" - Temporal use of the preposition.

h] "than" - or. Here as a comparative, as NIV.

uJmin "for you" - to you. Dative of interest, disadvantage, "for you", as NIV.

 
v23

c) Woe to Capernaum, v23-24. Alluding to Isaiah 14:15, Jesus compares Capernaum with Babylon, the epitome of evil. Their failure to repent will bring upon them the horror of "Hades"; they will be trapped in the place of the dead. Had the citizens of Sodom been given a comparable revelation from God, they would have repented and escaped the fire of divine retribution.

kai "and [you, Capernaum]" - Coordinative, "and", as NIV.

mh "no" - not. Introducing a question that expects a negative answer.

e{wV + gen. "to [the heavens]" - up to, as far as [heaven were you lifted up]. Local; of extension up to.

aJdou (hV ou) "[No, you will go down to] hades" - [you will go down as far as] a place or abode of the dead*. The NIV, as with NEB, is rather weak. "Go down to hell", CEV, expresses what the scripture says and is totally understandable to the modern reader, although "hades" was not really viewed as a place of punishment, as we view hell, but rather as a holding place. Possibly "Will you be lifted up to heaven? No, you will be driven down to the grave."

oJti ei ...... an + aor. "for if" - The causal conditional clause as in v21.

aiJ genomenai (ginomai) aor. part. "[the miracles] that were performed" - [the miracles / powers] the ones having been performed [in = among you, had been performed in sodom]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting miracles, as NIV.

mecri + gen. "[it would have remained] to" - [they would have remained] up to / until. Temporal use of the preposition; "until". "Sodom would have lasted to this day", Moffatt.

thV shmeron adv. "this day" - the today. The article turns the adverb "today" into a substantive; "this very day", Cassirer.

 
v24

This verse virtually repeats v22.

 
v25

ii] Acceptance of the weary, v25-30. "I thank you Father, that it was your good pleasure to reveal the divine knowledge of the kingdom / the gospel to children / the humble / repentant sinners, and to do this through my teaching. I alone can do it because this knowledge has been entrusted to me. None except you could know my Sonship, so as to reveal it to me; and none except myself, the Son, could know you, the Father. Thus I am well able to reveal the fullness of divine knowledge to all who seek it. So, I say to all who are broken before God, come to me and I will refresh you; take to yourself the knowledge I bring and you will find rest for your souls, for the knowledge I bring is kindly and lightly borne", cf. McNeile.

a) Praise to the Father, v25-26. Jesus addresses God as "Father", underlining his own sense of sonship, and then praises the Father for his sovereign act of revelation. In doing so he makes the point that the mysteries of the messianic age are revealed to "little children", the humble repentant ones, rather than the "wise", the "righteous" (self-righteous). God determines that only the little ones, believers, can unlock the secrets of the kingdom and access its blessings. This predestined act of divine grace determines those who enter the kingdom and receive its blessings. So, the blessings of the kingdom are not unlocked by the application of wisdom, power, status, goodness, piety......, but rather, by humility. It is the "childlike", the lost and broken before God, those who seek divine mercy and forgiveness, it is only they who "go home right before God." Such is the Father's plan, one he is "pleased" to implement in His Son.

en ekeinw/ tw/ kairw/ "at that time" - in that time. Temporal construction; a typical time signature, here of general time, cf. 12:1, 14:1.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[Jesus said]" - having answered [jesus said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to say", redundant.

exomologoumai (exomologew) mid. "I praise" - The word in the active means "agree fully / consent fully", or in the middle, "admit /confess / acknowledge." Here, in the middle, with a slightly stretched meaning of "praise" or better, "give thanks". Yet, "acknowledge", or "admit", would still suit the context. "I thank you", TEV.

soi dat. pro. "you [Father]" - Dative of direct object after the verb exomologew, "to praise."

tou ouranou (oV) gen. "[Lord] of heaven" - [lord] of heaven [and of earth]. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / subordination; "Lord over heaven and earth."

oJti "because" - that. Here introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus gives praise to the Father..

ekruyaV (kruptw) aor. "you have hidden" - you hid. The kingdom is gained, not by intellectual pursuit, but by a humble acceptance of God's grace. So, not an active hiding as such, but more like setting a riddle which intelligent / self-assured, secure / self-righteous people would not bother expending time to solve, but which little children, those who are humble / broken before God, are more than willing to apply themselves.

tauta "these things" - Undefined, but obviously the gospel concerning the coming kingdom.

apo + gen. "from [the wise]" - from [wise and intelligent]. Expressing separation; "away from."

nhpoiV dat. adj. "little children" - [and revealed them] to infants, minors. Dative of indirect object. Jesus tends to use the child image to illustrate a humble person, ie., a person who relies on the mercy of God for their salvation rather than on their own effort, or their status in the church/synagogue, or their birth/election (children of Abraham). The children are those who repent and seeks God's mercy rather than define them as "simple ones", so Jeremias. For this reason Jesus' disciples are sometimes identifies as "little children."

 
v26

oJti "for" - [yes o father] that = for. Taken as causal where an "I praise you" is assumed, "Yes indeed, Father, I praise you because ....", but possibly just explanatory; "Yes, Father, that was the very thing which it was your good pleasure to accomplish", Cassirer.

ou{twV adv. "this / this is what" - thus. Adverb of manner. The sense is "because doing it in this manner / in this way ....."

eudokia (a) "[was your] good pleasure / [you were] pleased to do" - [it was] pleasing, satisfying, favorable. Predicate adjective. Of God toward us. "That is what it pleased you to do", NJB.

emprosqen + gen. "-" - before [you]. Locative, expressing space, "before", but metaphorically serving as "a reverential way of expressing oneself when speaking of an eminent person", BAGD.

 
v27

b) The authority of the Son, v27. The task and authority of revealing the secrets of the kingdom are committed to Jesus by the Father. This knowledge belongs only to the Father and the Son. As a divine act of grace, the Son has decided to reveal this knowledge to those who seek it. So now, the secrets of the kingdom belong to believers, to the "little children", to repentant seekers. Note how these words are very similar in style to Jesus' words in John's gospel.

panta (paV) "all things" - Nominative subject of the verb "to give." Given the context, it probably means "all knowledge", Morris.

paredoqh (paradidwmi) aor. pas. "have been committed" - were given, delivered to, handed over to. As of delivering / handing over a tradition, knowledge, revelation - that which is being delivered over to.

moi dat. pro. "to me" - Dative of indirect object.

uJpo + gen. "by [my Father]" - by, from [the father of me]. Expressing agency: "my Father has committed everything into my hands", Cassirer.

epiginwskei (epiginwskw) pres. "knows" - [no one] knows [except the father, nor the father anyone] knows. The prefix may carry the sense "know very well / exactly", so "know who he really is." Possibly with a touch of knowing in the sense of union with.

ei mh "except [the Son]" - Introducing an exceptive clause which establishes a contrast by designating an exception; "no one really knows the Son except the Father", Barclay.

wJ/ ean + subj. "and those to whom [the Son chooses]" - to whomsoever [son may will]. The dative pronoun with the indefinite particle introduces an indefinite relative clause, dative of indirect object, "to whomever" = "anyone to whom he wills." The sense that "there are individuals whom the Son chooses to reveal God to", reflects a doctrinal position rather than expressing the sense of the passage. The point is that Jesus is the unique source of divine knowledge, and that he is well able to reveal it to whomsoever / whoever, ie., to "all" who seek it, v28. Note, the sample sermon makes much of a false reading of v27. The interplay of the divine will and human free-will in salvation is a contentious one and only indirectly emerges from this passage. These notes adopt the view that God's sovereign will determines the existence of a people destined for salvation ("the elect"), and determines the method of inclusion into that people, namely by "repentance and faith", but does not determine the individual membership. Those preaching on this passage will need to shape their words in a way that best reflects their own understanding of this thorny issue.

apokaluyai (apokaluptw) aor. inf. "to reveal him" - to reveal. The infinitive may be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verb "may will, chooses", but also, given that the verb is cognitive, the infinitive may be classified as introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what he "chooses", namely, to reveal the Father.

 
v28

c) The Son's invitation, v28-30. Jesus now invites the "little children" to come to him for "rest". They are described as the "weary and burdened" ones, weighed down by law and sin. As Matthew has made clear from Jesus' teachings, the function of the law is to expose sin, even make it more sinful. The law, of itself, gives no relief from this burden; sin reigns and the curse of the law condemns. Jesus offers the lost and broken a way apart from the law which provides eternal rest in the presence of God. The way is the easy yoke, the light burden, of grace through faith; "come unto me."

oiJ kopiwteV (kopiaw) pres. part. "who are weary" - [come unto me all] the ones becoming weary, hard pressed, tired. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the substantive adjective panta, "all / everyone [who ...]", as NIV. "Suffering" is sometimes suggested as the intended sense, but a laboring image is better. It is possible that the "weary" are those who are oppressed by the piety of the Pharisees, their stress on ritual cleanliness, food laws, etc. Yet, it is more likely that Jesus is alluding to the law itself, its oppressive burden = the exposure and condemnation of sin. Jesus is not implying that the law is evil, rather that in exposing and accentuating sin it becomes a massive burden. Christ, through the cross, deals with the curse of the law and thus frees the believer from its burden, ie., its accentuation of sin. The gospel serves to lift this burden. See Roman's chapter 7.

peforismenoi (forizw) perf. pas. part. "burdened" - [and] being burdened. The perfect tense serving to express a past state with ongoing consequences. The participle as for "the ones becoming weary." The single article oiJ, "the", associates the two descriptors, so "if you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me", CEV. "Overburdened", NJB; "bent beneath your burdens", Barrett.

anapausw (anapauw) fut. "[and I] will give [you] rest" - [and i] will give rest [to you]. The "little children" find "rest" in Jesus for they are no longer burdened by the law and its tendency to accentuate sin rather than holiness. In Christ, a believer walks by the Spirit and so begins to "put to death the misdeeds of the body", Rom.8:13. "I will lift your load."

 
v29

Christ's yoke, v29-30. Jesus calls on the "little children" to take his "yoke", to take to themselves the divine revelation he proclaims, namely, the gospel. He calls on them to set aside the yoke of the law and replace it with the yoke of grace. Listen to the message Jesus brings, the message of the free and gracious offer of salvation to all who reach out to God through him. This revelation is kindly and gentle, it is an easy yoke (good and comfortable); a light burden. It comes from a kind and gentle man, so how could it be otherwise?

arate (airw) aor. imp. "take" - take up, lift up.

ton zugon (oV) "yoke" - the yoke [of me]. A symbol of subjection, so here an invitation to submit to Jesus as opposed to taking up the yoke of the law.

ef (epi) + acc. "upon [you]" - Spacial; "down upon, on."

maqete (manqanw) aor. imp. "learn" - [and] learn. "Become my disciple."

ap (apo) + gen. "from [me]" - Expressing source / origin.

oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why a person should take up Christ's "yoke" and "learn" from him.

prauV adj. "[I am] gentle" - [i am] meek, humble. Predicate adjective, emphatic by position. The English words "meek" and "humble" now have a negative connotation and are best replaced by "gentle", "considerate".

tapeinoV adj. "humble" - [and] poor, of low estate, lowly. Predicate adjective. In a negative sense, "servile", but used by Jesus to express a willing submission to the divine.

th/ kardia/ (a) dat. "in heart" - The dative is local, expressing space, metaphorical; "gentle and humble of heart", Berkeley.

anapausin (iV ewV) "rest" - [and you will find] relief from trouble and related anxiety*. Accusative direct object of the verb "to find." "Rest" from the burden of the law, and thus as a consequence, the "soul", the true self, is set free.

taiV yucaiV (h) dat. "for [your] souls" - to/for the souls [of you]. Dative of interest, advantage.

 
v30

gar "for" - Still in response to "take my yoke upon you", so introducing a causal clause explaining why; "for the yoke I put upon men (people = disciples) is a kind one, and the burden I put upon their shoulders is lightly borne", Cassirer.

crhstoV adj. "easy" - [the yoke of me is] comfortable, not pressing [and the load of me is light]. Predicate adjective. Possibly "kindly", Moffatt; even "good", "pleasant".

 

Matthew Introduction

Exposition

 

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