|<< Matthew 11 >>|
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Christ, having finished his instructions to his disciples, departs to preach in different cities, Matthew 11:1. John sends two of his disciples to him to inquire whether he were the Christ, Matthew 11:2-6. Christ's testimony concerning John, Matthew 11:7-15. He upbraids the Jews with their capriciousness, Matthew 11:16-19. The condemnation of Chorazin, and Bethsaida, and Capernaum, for their unbelief and impenitence, Matthew 11:20-24. Praises the Divine wisdom for revealing the Gospel to the simple-hearted, Matthew 11:25, Matthew 11:26. Shows that none can know God but by the revelation of his Son, Matthew 11:27. Invites the distressed to come unto him, and gives them the promise of rest for their souls, Matthew 11:29-30.
1And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
This verse properly belongs to the preceding chapter, from which it should on no account be separated; as with that it has the strictest connection, but with this it has none.
To teach and to preach - To teach, to give private instructions to as many as came unto him; and to preach, to proclaim publicly, that the kingdom of God is at hand; two grand parts of the duty of a Gospel minister.
Their cities - The cities of the Jews.
2Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
John had heard in the prison - John was cast into prison by order of Herod Antipas, Matthew 14:3, etc., (where see the notes), a little after our Lord began his public ministry, Matthew 4:12; and after the first passover, John 3:24.
3And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
Art thou he that should come - Ο ερχομενος, he that cometh, seems to have been a proper name of the Messiah; to save or deliver is necessarily implied. See on Luke 7:19 (note).
There is some difficulty in what is here spoken of John. Some have thought he was utterly ignorant of our Lord's Divine mission, and that he sent merely for his own information; but this is certainly inconsistent with his own declaration, Luke 3:15, etc.; John 1:15, John 1:26, John 1:33, John 3:28, etc. Others suppose he sent the message merely for the instruction of his disciples; that, as he saw his end approaching, he wished them to have the fullest conviction that Jesus was the Messiah, that they might attach themselves to him.
A third opinion takes a middle course between the two former, and states that, though John was at first perfectly convinced that Jesus was the Christ, yet, entertaining some hopes that he would erect a secular kingdom in Judea, wished to know whether this was likely to take place speedily. It is very probable that John now began, through the length of his confinement, to entertain doubts, relative to his kingdom, which perplexed and harassed his mind; and he took the most reasonable way to get rid of them at once, viz. by applying to Christ himself.
Two of his disciples - Instead of δυο, two, several excellent MSS., with both the Syriac, Armenian, Gothic, and one copy of the Itala, have δια, by; he sent by his disciples.
4Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
Go and show John the things - ye do hear and see - Christ would have men to judge only of him and of others by their works. This is the only safe way of judging. A man is not to be credited because he professes to know such and such things; but because he demonstrates by his conduct that his pretensions are not vain.
5The blind receive their 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.
The blind receive their sight, etc. - Αναβλεπωσι, look upwards, contemplating the heavens which their Lord hath made.
The lame walk - Περιπατωσι, they walk about; to give the fullest proof to the multitude that their cure was real. These miracles were not only the most convincing proofs of the supreme power of Christ, but were also emblematic of that work of salvation which he effects in the souls of men.
1. Sinners are blind; their understanding is so darkened by sin that they see not the way of truth and salvation.
2. They are lame - not able to walk in the path of righteousness.
3. They are leprous, their souls are defiled with sin, the most loathsome and inveterate disease; deepening in themselves, and infecting others.
4. They are deaf to the voice of God, his word, and their own conscience.
5. They are dead in trespasses and sins; God, who is the life of the soul, being separated from it by iniquity.
Nothing less than the power of Christ can redeem from all this; and, from all this, that power of Christ actually does redeem every penitent believing soul. Giving sight to the blind, and raising the dead, are allowed by the ancient rabbins to be works which the Messiah should perform, when he should manifest himself in Israel.
The poor have the Gospel preached to them - And what was this Gospel? Why, the glad tidings that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners: that he opens the eyes of the blind; enables the lame to walk with an even, steady, and constant pace in the way of holiness; cleanses the lepers from all the defilement of their sins; opens the ears of the deaf to hear his pardoning words; and raises those who were dead in trespasses and sins to live in union with himself to all eternity.
6And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me - Or, Happy is he who will not be stumbled at me; for the word σκανδαλιζεσθαι, in its root, signifies to hit against or stumble over a thing, which one may meet with in the way. The Jews, as was before remarked, expected a temporal deliverer. Many might he tempted to reject Christ, because of his mean appearance, etc., and so lose the benefit of salvation through him. To instruct and caution such, our blessed Lord spoke these words. By his poverty and meanness he condemns the pride and pomp of this world. He who will not humble himself, and become base, and poor, and vile in his own eyes, cannot enter into the kingdom of God. It is the poor, in general, who hear the Gospel; the rich and the great are either too busy, or too much gratified with temporal things, to pay any attention to the voice of God.
7And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
What went ye out into the wilderness to see? - The purport of our Lord's design, in this and the following verses, is to convince the scribes and Pharisees of the inconsistency of their conduct in acknowledging John Baptist for a divinely authorized teacher, and not believing in the very Christ which he pointed out to them. He also shows, from the excellencies of John's character, that their confidence in him was not misplaced, and that this was a farther argument why they should have believed in him, whom the Baptist proclaimed as being far superior to himself.
A reed shaken with the wind? - An emblem of an irresolute, unsteady mind, which believes and speaks one thing to-day, and another to-morrow. Christ asks these Jews if they had ever found any thing in John like this: Was he not ever steady and uniform in the testimony he bore to me? The first excellency which Christ notices in John was his steadiness; convinced once of the truth, he continued to believe and assert it. This is essentially necessary to every preacher, and to every private Christian. He who changes about from opinion to opinion, and from one sect or party to another, is never to be depended on; there is much reason to believe that such a person is either mentally weak, or has never been rationally and divinely convinced of the truth.
8But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.
A man clothed in soft raiment? - A second excellency in John was, his sober and mortified life. A preacher of the Gospel should have nothing about him which savours of effeminacy and worldly pomp: he is awfully mistaken who thinks to prevail on the world to hear him and receive the truth, by conforming himself to its fashions and manners. Excepting the mere color of his clothes, we can scarcely now distinguish a preacher of the Gospel, whether in the establishment of the country, or out of it, from the merest worldly man. Ruffles, powder, and fribble seem universally to prevail. Thus the Church and the world begin to shake hands, the latter still retaining its enmity to God. How can those who profess to preach the doctrine of the cross act in this way? Is not a worldly-minded preacher, in the most peculiar sense, an abomination in the eyes of the Lord?
Are in kings' houses - A third excellency in John was, he did not affect high things. He was contented to live in the desert, and to announce the solemn and severe truths of his doctrine to the simple inhabitants of the country. Let it be well observed, that the preacher who conforms to the world in his clothing, is never in his element but when he is frequenting the houses and tables of the rich and great.
9But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
A prophet? yea - and more than a prophet - That is, one more excellent (περισσοτερον) than a prophet; one greatly beyond all who had come before him, being the immediate forerunner of Christ, (see below), and who was especially commissioned to prepare the way of the Lord.
This was a fourth excellency: he was a prophet, a teacher, a man divinely commissioned to point out Jesus and his salvation; and more excellent than any of the old prophets, because he not only pointed out this Christ, but saw him, and had the honor of dying for that sacred truth which he steadily believed and boldly proclaimed.
10For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
Behold, I send my messenger - A fifth excellency of the Baptist was, his preparing the way of the Lord; being the instrument, in God's hand, of preparing the people's hearts to receive the Lord Jesus; and it was probably through his preaching that so many thousands attached themselves to Christ, immediately on his appearing as a public teacher.
11Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
A greater than John the Baptist - A sixth excellency of the Baptist - he was greater than any prophet from the beginning of the world till that time: -
1st. Because he was prophesied of by them, Isaiah 40:3, and Malachi 3:1, where Jesus Christ himself seems to be the speaker.
2ndly. Because he had the privilege of showing the fulfillment of their predictions, by pointing out that Christ has now come, which they foretold should come. And
3dly. Because he saw and enjoyed that salvation which they could only foretell. See Quesnel.
Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven - By the kingdom of heaven in this verse is meant, the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel of peace; which fullness was not known till after Christ had been crucified, and had risen from the dead. Now the least in this kingdom, the meanest preacher of a crucified, risen, and glorified Savior, was greater than John, who was not permitted to live to see the plenitude of Gospel grace, in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Let the reader observe,
1st. That the kingdom of heaven here does not mean the state of future glory. See Matthew 3:2.
2dly. That it is not in holiness or devotedness to God that the least in this kingdom is greater than John; but
3dly. That it is merely in the difference of the ministry.
The prophets pointed out a Christ that was coming; John showed that that Christ was then among them; and the preachers of the Gospel prove that this Christ has suffered, and entered into his glory, and that repentance and remission of sins are proclaimed through his blood. There is a saying similar to this among the Jews: "Even the servant maid that passed through the Red Sea, saw what neither Ezekiel, nor any other of the prophets had seen."
12And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence - The tax-gatherers and heathens, whom the scribes and Pharisees think have no right to the kingdom of the Messiah, filled with holy zeal and earnestness, seize at once on the proffered mercy of the Gospel, and so take the kingdom as by force from those learned doctors who claimed for themselves the chiefest places in that kingdom. Christ himself said, The tax-gatherers and harlots go before you into the kingdom of God. See the parallel place, Luke 7:28-30. He that will take, get possession of the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and spiritual joy, must be in earnest: all hell will oppose him in every step he takes; and if a man be not absolutely determined to give up his sins and evil companions, and have his soul saved at all hazards, and at every expense, he will surely perish everlastingly. This requires a violent earnestness.
13For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
All the prophets and the law prophesied until John - I believe προεφητευσαν means here, they taught, or continued to instruct. They were the instructers concerning the Christ who was to come, till John came and showed that all the predictions of the one, and the types and ceremonies of the other were now about to be fully and finally accomplished; for Christ was now revealed. The word is taken in this sense, Matthew 7:22.
14And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
This is Elias, which was for to come - This should always be written Elijah, that as strict a conformity as possible might be kept up between the names in the Old Testament and the New. The Prophet Malachi, who predicted the coming of the Baptist in the spirit and power of Elijah, gave the three following distinct characteristics of him. First, That he should be the forerunner and messenger of the Messiah: Behold I send my messenger before me, Malachi 3:1. Secondly, That he should appear before the destruction of the second temple: Even the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, ibid. Thirdly, That he should preach repentance to the Jews; and that, some time after, the great and terrible day of the Lord should come, and the Jewish land be smitten with a curse, Malachi 4:5, Malachi 4:6. Now these three characters agree perfectly with the conduct of the Baptist, and what shortly followed his preaching, and have not been found in any one else; which is a convincing proof that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
15He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear - As if our Lord had said, These things are so clear and manifest that a man has only to hear them to be convinced and fully satisfied of their truth. But neither the Jews of that time nor of the succeeding times to the present day, have heard or considered, these things. When spoken to on these subjects, their common custom is to stop their ears, spit out, and blaspheme; this shows not only a bad, but a ruined cause. They are deeply and willfully blind. They will not come unto the light, lest their deeds should become manifest, that they are not wrought in God. They have ears but they will not hear.
16But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,
But whereunto shall I liken this generation? - That is, the Jewish people - την γενεαν ταυτην, this race: and so the word γενεα is often to be understood in the evangelists.
In the markets - Or, places of concourse, αγοραις, from αγειρω, I gather together; not a market-place only, but any place of public resort: probably meaning here, places of public amusement.
Calling unto their fellows - Or, companions. Instead of εταιροις, companions, many of the best MSS. have ετεροις, others. The great similarity of the words might have easily produced this difference.
There are some to whom every thing is useful in leading them to God; others, to whom nothing is sufficient. Every thing is good to an upright mind, every thing bad to a vicious heart.
17And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced - We have begun the music, which should have been followed by the dance, but ye have not attended to it.
We have mourned - and ye have not lamented - Ye have not smote the breast: ουκ εκοψασθε, from κοπτομαι, to strike, or beat the breasts with the hands, particularly in lamentation. So used, Nahum 2:7; Luke 18:13; Luke 23:48, and by the best Greek and Roman writers. There is an allusion here to those funeral lamentations explained Matthew 9:23.
18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
For John came neither eating nor drinking - Leading a very austere and mortified life: and yet, he did not receive him. A sinner will not be persuaded that what he has no mind to imitate can come from God. There are some who will rather blame holiness itself, than esteem it in those whom they do not like.
He hath a devil - He is a vile hypocrite, influenced by a demon to deceive and destroy the simple.
19The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
The Son of man came eating and drinking - That is, went wheresoever he was invited to eat a morsel of bread, and observed no rigid fasts: how could he, who had no corrupt appetites to mortify or subdue?
They say, Behold a man gluttonous, etc. - Whatever measures the followers of God may take, they will not escape the censure of the world: the best way is not to be concerned at them. Iniquity, being always ready to oppose and contradict the Divine conduct, often contradicts and exposes itself.
But wisdom is justified of her children - Those who follow the dictates of true wisdom ever justify, point out as excellent, the holy maxims by which they are guided, for they find the way pleasantness, and the path, peace. Of, here, and in many places of our translation, ought to be written by in modern English. Some suppose that our blessed Lord applies the epithet of η σοφια, that Wisdom to himself; as he does that of Son of man, in the first clause of the verse: and that this refers to the sublime description given of wisdom in Proverbs 8. Others have supposed that by the children or sons (τεκνων) of wisdom our Lord means John Baptist and himself, who came to preach the doctrines of true wisdom to the people, and who were known to be teachers come from God by all those who seriously attended to their ministry: they recommending themselves, by the purity of their doctrines, and the holiness of their lives, to every man's conscience in the sight of God. It is likely, however, that by children our Lord simply means the fruits or effects of wisdom, according to the Hebrew idiom, which denominates the fruits or effects of a thing, its children. So in Job 5:7, sparks emitted by coals are termed בני רשף beney resheph, the children of the coal. It was probably this well known meaning of the word, which led the Codex Vaticanus, one of the most ancient MSS. in the world, together with the Syriac, Persic, Coptic, and Ethiopic, to read εργων, works, instead of τεκνων, sons or children. Wisdom is vindicated by her works, i.e. the good effects prove that the cause is excellent.
The children of true wisdom can justify all God's ways in their salvation; as they know that all the dispensations of Providence work together for the good of those who love and fear God. See on Luke 7:35 (note).
20Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
Then began he to upbraid the cities - The more God has done to draw men unto himself, the less excusable are they if they continue in iniquity. If our blessed Lord had not done every thing that was necessary for the salvation of these people, he could not have reproached them for their impenitence.
21Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
Wo unto thee, Chorazin - Bethsaida! - It would be better to translate the word ουαι σοι, alas for thee, than wo to thee. The former is an exclamation of pity; the latter a denunciation of wrath. It is evident that our Lord used it in the former sense. It is not known precisely where Chorazin was situated; but as Christ joins it in the same censure with Bethsaida, which was in Upper Galilee, beyond the sea, Mark 6:45, it is likely that Chorazin was in the same quarter. Though the people in these cities were (generally) impenitent, yet there is little doubt that several received the word of life. Indeed, Bethsaida itself furnished not less than three of the twelve apostles, Philip, Andrew, and Peter. See John 1:44.
Tyre and Sidon - Were two heathen cities, situated on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, into which it does not appear that Christ ever went, though he was often very nigh to them; see Matthew 15:21.
They would have repented long ago - Παλαι, formerly, seems here to refer to the time of Ezekiel, who denounced destruction against Tyre and Sidon, Ezekiel 26, 27, and 28. Our Lord, then, intimates that, if Ezekiel had done as many miracles in those cities as himself had in Chorazin and Bethsaida, the inhabitants would have repented in sackcloth and ashes, with the deepest and most genuine sorrow.
A Hindoo who renounces the secular life, and becomes a religious mendicant, often covers himself with a coarse cloth sprinkled over with ashes. This is the sackcloth and ashes which our Lord refers to; and this covering was the outward sign of deep repentance, and forsaking of sin.
22But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
But - it shall be more tolerable - Every thing will help to overwhelm the impenitent at the tribunal of God - the benefits and favors which they have received, as well as the sins which they have committed.
23And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
Thou, Capernaum - exalted unto heaven - A Hebrew metaphor, expressive of the utmost prosperity, and the enjoyment of the greatest privileges. This was properly spoken of this city, because that in it our Lord dwelt, and wrought many of his miraculous works.
Shalt be brought down to hell - Perhaps not meaning, here, the place of torment, but rather a state of desolation. The original word is Hades, Αδης, from α, not, and ιδειν, to see; the invisible receptacle or mansion of the dead, answering to שאול sheol, in Hebrew; and implying often, 1st. the grave; 2dly. the state of separate souls, or unseen world of spirits, whether of torment, Luke 16:23, or, in general, Revelation 1:18; Revelation 6:8; Revelation 20:13, Revelation 20:14. The word hell, used in the common translation, conveys now an improper meaning of the original word; because hell is only used to signify the place of the damned. But, as the word hell comes from the Anglo-Saxon, helan, to cover, or hide, hence the tiling or slating of a house is called, in some parts of England (particularly Cornwall) heling, to this day; and the covers of books (in Lancashire) by the same name: so the literal import of the original word Αδης was formerly well expressed by it. Here it means a state of the utmost wo, and ruin, and desolation, to which these impenitent cities should be reduced. This prediction of our Lord was literally fulfilled; for, in the wars between the Romans and the Jews, these cities were totally destroyed, so that no traces are now found of Bethsaida, Chorazin, or Capernaum. See Bp. Pearce.
24But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
But - it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom - Γη Σοδομων, the land of the Sodomites; i.e. the ancient inhabitants of that city and its neighborhood.
In Jude, Jde 1:7, we are told that these persons are suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah happened A. M. 2107, which was 1897 years before the incarnation. What a terrible thought is this! It will be more tolerable for certain sinners, who have already been damned nearly four thousand years, than for those who, live and die infidels under the Gospel! There are various degrees of punishments in hell, answerable to various degrees of guilt, and the contempt manifested to, and the abuse made of; the preaching of the Gospel, will rank semi-infidel Christians in the highest list of transgressors, and purchase them the hottest place in hell! Great God! save the reader from this destruction!
Day of judgment - May either refer to that particular time in which God visits for iniquity, or to that great day in which he will judge the world by the Lord Jesus Christ. The day of Sodom's judgment was that in which it was destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven, Genesis 19:24; and the day of judgment to Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, was the time in which they were destroyed by the Romans, Matthew 11:23. But there is a day of final judgment, when Hades itself, (sinners in a state of partial punishment in the invisible world) shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death. See Revelation 20:14.
25At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
I thank thee - Εξομολογουμαι σοι, I fully agree with thee - I am perfectly of the same mind. Thou hast acted in all things according to the strictest holiness, justice, mercy, and truth.
Wise and prudent - The scribes and Pharisees, vainly puffed up by their fleshly minds, and having their foolish hearts darkened, refusing to submit to the righteousness of God (God's method of saving man by Christ) and going about to establish their own righteousness, (their own method of saving themselves), they rejected God's counsel, and God sent the peace and salvation of the Gospel to others, called here babes, (his disciples), simple-hearted persons, who submitted to be instructed and saved in God's own way. Let it be observed, that our Lord does not thank the Father that he had hidden these things from the wise and prudent, but that, seeing they were hidden from them, he had revealed them to the others.
There is a remarkable saying in the Talmudists, which casts light upon this: "Rab. Jochanan said: 'From the time in which the temple was destroyed, wisdom was taken away from the prophets, and given to fools and children.' Bava Bathra, fol. 12. Again: 'In the days of the Messiah, every species of wisdom, even the most profound, shall, be revealed; and this even to children.'" Synop. Sohar. fol. 10.
26Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
Even so, Father - Ναι ο πατηρ. An emphatical ratification of the preceding address.
It was right that the heavenly wisdom, despised, rejected, and persecuted by the scribes and Pharisees, should be offered to the simple people, and afterwards to the foolish people, the Gentiles, who are the children of wisdom, and justify God in his ways, by bringing forth that fruit of the Gospel of which the Pharisees refused to receive even the seed.
27All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
All things are delivered unto me of my Father - This is a great truth, and the key of the science of salvation. The man Christ Jesus receives from the Father, and in consequence of his union with the eternal Godhead becomes the Lord and sovereign Dispenser of all things. All the springs of the Divine favor are in the hands of Christ, as Priest of God, and atoning Sacrifice for men: all good proceeds from him, as Savior, Mediator, Head, Pattern, Pastor, and sovereign Judge of the whole world.
No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man, etc. - None can fully comprehend the nature and attributes of God, but Christ; and none can fully comprehend the nature, incarnation, etc., of Christ, but the Father. The full comprehension and acknowledgment of the Godhead, and the mystery of the Trinity, belong to God alone.
28Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Come unto me - This phrase in the new covenant implies simply, believing in Christ, and becoming his disciple, or follower.
All ye that labor and are heavy laden - The metaphor here appears to be taken from a man who has a great load laid upon him, which he must carry to a certain place: every step he takes reduces his strength, and renders his load the more oppressive. However, it must be carried on; and he labors, uses his utmost exertions, to reach the place where it is to be laid down. A kind person passing by, and, seeing his distress, offers to ease him of his load, that he may enjoy rest.
The Jews, heavily laden with the burdensome rites of the Mosaic institution, rendered still more oppressive by the additions made by the scribes and Pharisees, who, our Lord says, (Matthew 23:4), bound on heavy burdens; and laboring, by their observance of the law, to make themselves pleasing to God, are here invited to lay down their load, and receive the salvation procured for them by Christ.
Sinners, wearied in the ways of iniquity, are also invited to come to this Christ, and find speedy relief.
Penitents, burdened with the guilt of their crimes, may come to this Sacrifice, and find instant pardon.
Believers, sorely tempted, and oppressed by the remains of the carnal mind, may come to this blood, that cleanseth from all unrighteousness; and, purified from all sin, and powerfully succored in every temptation, they shall find uninterrupted rest in this complete Savior.
All are invited to come, and all are promised rest. If few find rest from sin and vile affections, it is because few come to Christ to receive it.
29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Take my yoke upon you - Strange paradox! that a man already weary and overloaded must take a new weight upon him, in order to be eased and find rest! But this advice is similar to that saying, Psalm 55:22. Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee; i.e. trust thy soul and concerns to him, and he will carry both thyself and thy load.
I am meek and lowly in heart - Wherever pride and anger dwell, there is nothing but mental labor and agony; but, where the meekness and humility of Christ dwell, all is smooth, even, peaceable, and quiet; for the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever. Isaiah 32:17.
30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
For my yoke is easy - My Gospel imposes nothing that is difficult; on the contrary, it provides for the complete removal of all that which oppresses and renders man miserable, viz. sin. The commandments of Christ are not grievous. Hear the whole: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself. Can any thing be more congenial to the nature of man than love? - such a love as is inspired by God, and in which the soul rests supremely satisfied and infinitely happy? Taste, and know, by experience, how good the Lord is, and how worthy his yoke is to be taken, borne, and loved. This most tender invitation of the compassionate Jesus is sufficient to inspire the most diffident soul with confidence. See on Mark 8:34 (note).
Creeshna, the incarnate God of the Hindoos, is represented in the Geeta addressing one of his beloved disciples thus: "I am the creator of all things, and all things proceed from me. Those who are endued with spiritual wisdom, believe this, and worship me: their very hearts and minds are in me; they rejoice among themselves, and delight in speaking of my name, and teaching one another my doctrine. I gladly inspire those who are constantly employed in my service with that use of reason by which they come unto me; and, in compassion, I stand in my own nature, and dissipate the darkness of their ignorance with the light of the lamp of wisdom." Bhagvat Geeta, p. 84.
The word עול aval, among the Jews, which we properly enough translate yoke, signified not only that sort of neck-harness by which bullocks drew in wagons, carts, or in the plough; but also any kind of bond, or obligation, to do some particular thing, or to do some particular work. By them it is applied to the following things: -
1. The yoke of the Kingdom of heaven, עול מלכות השמים obedience to the revealed will of God.
2. The yoke of the Law, עול הורה the necessity of obeying all the rites, ceremonies, etc., of the Mosaic institution.
3. The yoke of the Precept, עול מצוה the necessity of performing that particular obligation by which any person had bound himself, such as that of the Nazarite, etc.
4. The yoke of Repentance, עול של השוכה without which, they knew, they could not enter into the kingdom of heaven. With the Jews, repentance not only implied forsaking sin, but fasting, mortification, etc.
5. The yoke of Faith, עול אמונה the necessity of believing in the promised Messiah.
6. The Divine yoke, עול רלעילא the obligation to live a spiritual life; a life of thanksgiving and gratitude unto God.
In Shemoth Rabba it is said: "Because the ten tribes did not take the yoke of the holy and blessed God upon them, therefore Sennacherib led them into captivity."
Christ's yoke means, the obligation to receive him as the Messiah, to believe his doctrine, and to be in all things conformed to his Word and to his Spirit.