The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
We have come to the day of the crisis in the life of the Lord Jesus. It was the day when the full manifestation of Israel's enmity against the Lord was made known and the Kingdom was rejected. By His miraculous birth and the circumstances surrounding it; by the message of the forerunner, John the Baptist; by the proclamation of the Kingdom, its constitution, and the startling signs of power which accompanied His ministry; by all these things, our Lord had shown conclusively that He was Messiah, the King, God manifest in the flesh. But as had been prophesied, Israel had no heart for the Lord Jesus; and, typical of that which should follow, He found more faith among the Gentiles, the wise men and the centurion whose servant was ill, than among His own. "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." "Then (rejected by His people) began He to upbraid the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done." Then He brought a new message: "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Then, on the same day, "went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the seaside," a breaking off of His relationship with Israel and a turning to the Gentiles.
"Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto Him, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" (Matt. 11:2, 3). John the Baptist was he of whom it had been written, "Behold I send My messenger before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee" (Matt. 11:10; cf Mal. 3:1). John, the forerunner, had previously testified of our Lord: "This is He of Whom I said, after me cometh a Man Who is preferred before me: for He was before me. ... And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the Same is He Who baptizeth with the Holy Spirit. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God" (John 1:30, 33, 34). It is hard to say of such an one as John the Baptist that he doubted the Lord. He had known, he had visible proof from on high, that He was the Son of God, and he testified to that effect. Yes, it is not easy to say "He doubted" of one of whom our Lord said, "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist" (Matt. 11:11). But there is only one sinless One, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the very fact that John's faith was weak and failed him is sure evidence that "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." John had been in prison a long time (see Matt. 4:12); while he was there he "heard the works of Christ." We have pointed out in a previous chapter that John was the last of the Old Testament prophets and was confused between the first and second coming of our Lord. Of Him John had said: "Now also the axe is laid unto that root of the trees. ... "Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:10, 12). This is Second coming truth, when our Lord shall return in glory to rule on the throne of His father David. John looked for the Kingdom now, and judgment; he did not understand the Lord's present ministry.
Contrast John's imprisonment with Paul's. There was no doubt in Paul's heart. "I, Paul, the prisoner of the Lord," and there follow rejoicing and praise. What is the difference? Paul was of the Age of Grace; the Lord Jesus Christ indwelt him by His Holy Spirit, and that is also our position in Christ. How did our Lord answer John? By freeing him through a great miracle, and earthquake? No. "Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the 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 unto them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me" (Matt. 11:4-6). "Tell him again; these signs should prove Who I am" -- that is the message of the Lord, and then "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me." Many were offended with the Lord Jesus, many did not understand Him because they did not know the Scriptures. John wondered, the scribes and Pharisees rejected Him, His disciples forsook Him at the Cross, and after the resurrection, "When they had heard He was alive, ... believed not." Doubts as to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ today are the result of the same ignorance of the Scriptures. These are they which testify of Him. "Art Thou He Who should come?" Yes, praise be to God, it is He, and by His death and resurrection all who believe have been saved and justified. "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me."
That the enemies of the Lord Jesus and of John the Baptist might not think that by these words our Lord was criticising John, and that they might see the love and grace of God, the Lord added the wonderful words of praise which we have quoted above; and then: "notwithstanding he that is least in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than he (John)" (Matt. 11:11). "Positionally greater, not morally," says Dr. Scofield in his Reference Notes. Our Lord was speaking of the Kingdom of the heavens which was then "at hand" and which will at His return be fully established upon the earth. The little ones who are in the Kingdom will be greater than John who announced it. It seems almost incredible, but because our Lord said so, it is true. The wonderful blessings we have in Christ Jesus our Lord!
"Whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children."
About to pronounce judgment upon Israel, about to turn to the Gentiles, our Lord told the multitude what they were like. They were like children playing. Some say to others: "Let's play wedding!" But these fellows did not want to. Then others say: "Let's play funeral!" And they do not want to. "John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a demon. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." They wanted their own way, their own religion. God's way they would not accept. Yes, He is the Friend of sinners. He "came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Matt. 9:13). But there were some who believed, who were His children, and of them, He (Wisdom is an Old Testament name of the Lord Jesus; see Proverbs eight) is justified.
"Then began He to upbraid the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not" (Matt. 11:20). The King had presented Himself to Israel, and the cities in which He did His greatest works, rejected Him. The rejection in its finality took place at Calvary (Matt. 27), but here our Lord acknowledged the renouncement, and pronounced judgment which speaks for itself (Vss. 21-24). In passing, let us note that there shall be degrees of punishment for the unsaved, just as there shall be degrees of reward for the saved (1 Cor. 3:12-15).
"At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of the heavens 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" (Matt. 11:25, 26). "In everything ... with thanksgiving" -- that is perfect obedience. No if or why, but in everything, thanksgiving.
"No man knoweth the Son but the Father" -- "now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Cor. 13:12). We must think and speak reverently when we think of the Lord Jesus Christ -- only the Father knows Him fully. "Neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son. ... The Son will reveal Him." "Revealing the Father is what our Lord did and is doing. In resurrection He is Son of God with power, and all who receive Him are brought to God and become children of God, to know the Father" (A. C. Gaebelein).
"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). Then began the new message, the first invitation. Judgment had been pronounced, but at the same time the symbol of the Gospel of Grace, which was to follow after His death and resurrection, was offered. "Come unto Me, all ye. ..." To Jew and Gentile alike this message was and is given. "I will give you rest." That is the fulness of Christ. How wonderful these words have been, through the ages. "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." The yoke is that which was used to join together in teamwork two beasts of burden. "Take My yoke upon you." "Be linked together with Me." What a marvellous thought: To be united with our Lord. His yoke is easy (light) and His burden is light. Coming to Him, and living with Him, we have rest to our souls. Is it not true, Christian?