MATTHEW 11:20-30 THE KING’S WARNINGS, REJOICINGS, AND INVITATIONS
The wonderful portion of Scripture which makes up the rest of this chapter deals with three things, about which there has been great disputing: namely, the responsibility of man, the sovereign election of God, and the free invitations of the gospel. They are all here in happy combination.
20. Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not.
Some cities were more favored with the Lord’s presence than others, and therefore he looked for more from them. These cities ought to have repented, or Christ would not have upbraided them: repentance is a duty.
The more men hear and see of the Lord’s work, the greater is their obligation to repent. Where most is given most is required. Men are responsible for the way in which they treat the Lord Jesus and “his mighty works. ” There is a time for upbraiding: “Then began he. ” The most loving preacher will see cause for complaining of his impenitent hearers: HE upbraids, even he who also wept. Repentance is what we who are preachers drive at; and where we do not see it, we are sore troubled. Our trouble is not that our hearers did not applaud our ability, but because they repented not. They have enough to repent of, and without repentance woe is upon them, and therefore we mourn that they do not repent.
21. Woe 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.
Jesus knew what the doom of certain Jewish towns would be; and he knew what certain heathen cities would have done if they had been placed in their favorable circumstances.
He spoke infallibly. Great privileges were lost on Chorazin and Bethsaida, but would have been effectual had they been granted to Tyre and Sidon.
According to our Lord’s declaration, God gave the opportunity where it was rejected. and it was not given where it would have been accepted. This is true, but how mysterious! The practical point was the guilt of these favored cities, in that they remained unmoved by visitation which would have converted the heathen Sidonians; yes, and would have made them repent quickly “long ago ”; and in the most humiliating manner, “in sackcloth and ashes. ” It is a sad fact that our impenitent hearers do despite to a grace which would have brought cannibals to the Savior’s feet!
22. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of Judgment, than for you.
Terrible as the hell of these two sinful cities will be, their punishment will be more bearable than the sentence passed on cities of Galilee where Jesus taught and wrought miracles of love. The sin is in proportion to the light.
Those who perish with salvation sounding in their ears perish with a vengeance. Assuredly the day of judgment will be notable for surprises.
Who would have thought to see Bethsaida sink lower than Sidon?
Believers will not in the day of judgment be surprised, for they will remember in that day our Lord’s “I say unto you. ”
23. And 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.
The warning to Capernaum is, if possible, still more emphatic, for Sodom was actually destroyed by fire from heaven. Capernaum, his own city, the head-quarters of the army of salvation, had seen and heard the Son of God: he had done in it that which even Sodomites would have felt; and yet it remained unmoved. Those foul sinners of the accursed Sodom, had they beheld the miracles of Christ, would have so forsaken their sins that their city would have been spared. Jesus knew that it would have been so; and therefore he mourned to see Capernaum remain as hardened as ever.
Because of this rejection of special privilege, the city which had been exalted unto heaven would be brought as low in punishment as it had been raised high in privilege. May none of our favored English race perish in the same condemnation! Alas, how much we fear that millions of them will do so!
24. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee.
What Sodom will endure when the great Judge of all appoints the doom of the wicked, we may not try to realize; but it will be somewhat less than the penalty inflicted upon those who have sinned against the light, and rejected the testimony of the Lord from heaven. To reject the gospel of the Son of God-is to create for one’s self a sevenfold hell. Here, again, our Lord speaks from his own full authority, with “I say unto you. ” He speaks what he knows: he will himself be the Judge.
So far our Lord spake in heaviness of heart; but his brow cleared when he came to the glorious doctrine of election in the next verse.
25, 26. At 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. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
He turned to the other-side of truth. “Jesus answered ”: one doctrine answers to another: sovereign grace is the answer to abounding guilt. With rejoicing spirit Jesus sees how sovereign grace meets the unreasonable aboundings of human sin, and chooses out its own, according to the good pleasure of the Father’s will. Here is the spirit in which to regard the electing grace of God: “I thank thee. ” It is cause for deepest gratitude.
Here is the author of election: “O Father. ” It is the Father who makes the choice, and reveals the blessings. Here is his right to act as he does: he is “Lord of heaven and earth. ” Who shall question the good pleasure of his will? Here we see the objects of election, under both aspects; the chosen and the passed-over. Babes see because sacred truths are revealed to them, and not otherwise. They are weak and inexperienced. They are simple and unsophisticated. They can cling and trust, and cry, and love; and to such the Lord opens up the treasures of wisdom. The objects of divine choice are such as these. Lord, let me be one among them! The truths of the heavenly kingdom are hid, by a judicial act of God, from men who, in their own esteem, are “the wise and prudent. ” They cannot see, because they trust their own dim light, and will not accept the light of God.
Here we see, also, the reason of election, the divine will: “So it seemed good in thy sight. ” We can go no further than this. The choice seemed good to Him who never errs, and therefore it is good. This stands to the children of God as the reason which is above all reason. Deus vult is enough for us. If God wills it, so must it be, and so ought it to be.
27. All 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.
Here we have the channel through which electing love works towards men: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father. ” All things are put into the Mediator’s hands; fit hands both towards God and towards man; for he alone knows both to perfection. Jesus reveals the Father to the babes whom he has chosen. Only the Father can fill the Son with benediction, and only through the Son can that benediction flow to any one of the race of men. Know Christ, and you know the Father, and know that the Father himself loveth you. There is no other way of knowing the Father but through the Son. In this our Lord rejoiced; for his office of Mediator is dear to him, and he loves to be the way of communication between the Father whom he loves, and the people whom he loves for the Father’s sake.
Observe the intimate fellowship between the Father and the Son, and how they know each other as none else ever can. Oh, to see all things in Jesus by the Father’s appointment, and so to find the Father’s love and grace in finding Christ.
My soul, there are great mysteries here! Enjoy what thou canst not explain.
28. Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Here is the gracious invitation of the gospel in which the Savior’s tears and smiles were blended, as in a covenant rainbow of promise. “Come ”; he drives none away: he calls them to himself. His favorite word is “Come.” Not, — go to Moses, “Come unto me. ” To Jesus himself we must come, by a personal trust. Not to doctrine, ordinance, or ministry are we to come first; but to the personal Savior. All laboring and laden ones may come: he does not limit the call to the spiritually laboring, but every working and wearied one is called. It is well to give the largest sense to all that mercy speaks. Jesus calls me. Jesus promises “rest”, as his gift: his immediate, personal, effectual rest he freely gives to all who come to him by faith.
To come to him is the first step, and he entreats us to take it. In himself, as the great sacrifice for sin, the conscience, the heart, the understanding obtain complete rest. When we have obtained the rest he gives, we shall be ready to hear of a further rest which we find.
29, 30. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. “Take my yoke, and learn ”: this is the second instruction; it brings with it a further rest which we “find. ” The first rest he gives through his death; the second we find in copying his life. This is no correction of the former statement, but an addition thereto. First, we rest by faith in Jesus, and next we rest through obedience to him. Rest from fear is followed by rest from the turbulence of inward passion, and the drudgery of self. We are not only to bear a yoke, but his yoke; and we are not only to submit to it when it is laid upon us, but we are to take it upon us. We are to be workers, and take his yoke; and at the same time we are to be scholars, and learn from him as our Teacher. We are to learn of Christ and also to learn Christ. He is both teacher and lesson. His gentleness of heart fits him to teach, to be the illustration of his own teaching, and to work in us his great design. If we can become as he is, we shall rest as he does. We shall not only rest from the guilt of sin — this he gives us; but we shall rest in the peace of holiness, which we find through obedience to him. It is the heart which makes or mars the rest of the man. Lord, make us “lowly in heart ”, and we shall be restful of heart. “Take my yoke. ” The yoke in which we draw with Christ must needs be a happy one; and the burden which we carry for him is a blessed one. We rest in the fullest sense when we serve, if Jesus is the Master. We are unloaded by bearing his burden; we are rested by running on his errands. “Come unto me ”, is thus a divine prescription, curing our ills by the pardon of sin through our Lord’s sacrifice, and causing us the greatest peace by sanctifying us to his service.
Oh for grace to be always coming to Jesus, and to be constantly inviting others to do the same! Always free, yet always bearing his yoke; always having the rest once given, yet always finding more: this is the experience of those who come to Jesus always, and for everything. Blessed heritage; and it is ours!