Setting

After sending out the twelve disciples, the Lord Jesus continued in His ministry. Once again we read about John the Baptist and his role in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus, seeing the unrepentant heart of the people, began to denounce the cities in that region. But even then, He still called out to the people to come to Him for rest.

Key Verse

(11:28,29)

Did You Know...?

  1. Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum (11:21,23): all three near the Sea of Galilee’s northwest shore. [ref] The doom pronounced against Capernaum and the other unbelieving cities (Matt. 11:23) has been remarkably fulfilled. Tell Hum, its generally accepted site, is an uninhabited place two and a half miles SW of where the Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee. [ref]
  2. Tyre and Sidon (11:21) were large Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean, not far away, and often denounced by OT prophets for their Baal worship (Isa 23; Ezek 26-28; Joel 3:4; Amos 1:9-10; Zech 9:2-4). [ref]
  3. Sackcloth and ashes (11:21): The Israelites used sackcloth as a ritual sign of repentance or a token of mourning. The dark color and coarse texture of this goat’s hair material made it ideal for that use. [ref] Ashes were added in cases of deep emotion (cf. Job 42:6; Dan 9:3), whether one put them on the head (2 Sam 13:19; Lam 2:10), sat in them (Jonah 3:6), lay on them (Esth 4:3), or even rolled in them (Jer 6:26; Mic 1:10). [ref]
  4. Hades (11:23): is the place of the dead. [ref]
  5. Yoke (11:29): A yoke was a piece of timber or a heavy wooden pole, shaped to fit over the neck with curved pieces of wood around the neck fastened to the pole, and was used to hitch together a team of draft animals so that they could pull heavy loads evenly. [ref]

Outline

  • Jesus and John the Baptist
    (11:2-19)
  • John’s question and Jesus’ response
    (11:2-6)
  • Jesus’ testimony to John’s ministry
    (11:7-15)
  • Unresponsive generation
    (11:16-19)
  • Woe to the Unrepentant
    (11:20-24)
  • Acceptance of the Weary and Burdened
    (11:25-30)
  • Revelation of the Father through the Son
    (11:25-27)
  • Coming to Jesus and learning from Him
    (11:28-30)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    List the verses that indicate the people’s reluctance in accepting the gospel.

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    6, 14, 15, 16-19, 20-21, 25, 27.

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  • 2.

    According to Jesus’ words in this passage, what is the purpose and role of miracles?

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    Jesus’ response to John’s question teaches us that miracles serve to strengthen our faith in the Lord. Jesus’ rebuke on the unrepentant cities teaches us that miracles ought to lead us to a change of heart and returning to God (cf. Jn 10:37,38). If we do not accept Christ despite the miracles we have seen, the miracles will become a basis of our judgment.

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Segment Analysis

  • 11:2-6

    1.

    Why was John thrown into prison?

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    See 14:1-5

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  • 2a.

    What did John’s question imply?

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    John was perplexed about whether Jesus was actually the one to whom John once testified, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I” (3:11).

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  • 2b.

    What might have led him to ask this question?

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    Read 3:11-12. John had probably anticipated the Christ to bring immediate judgment and blessings. If so, the work of Christ had turned out to be quite different from his expectation.

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  • 2c.

    Do you sometimes have doubts about God’s power and promise? What enables you to renew your faith in such circumstances?

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  • 11:2-6

    3a.

    How did Jesus’ response answer John’s question? (see Isa 35:5-6; 61:1).

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    The ministry of healing and preaching speaks for Jesus and shows that He is indeed “the Coming One.”

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  • 3b.

    How was Jesus’ response encouraging?

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    He did not rebuke John or the disciples for lack of faith. He gently pointed them to the right direction so that they may see the answer for themselves.

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  • 11:2-6

    4.

    Explain verse 6 and apply it to ourselves.

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    Our Lord is the cornerstone of our faith. But if we reject Him, He becomes to us a stumbling block (1Pet 2:4-8). We cannot be neutral about Jesus’ teachings. We either trust in Him and be saved or reject Him and fall away.

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  • 11:7-19

    5.

    Record Jesus’ comments about John.

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    He was much more extraordinary than the reeds, and more rugged and powerful than those in the palace. He was more than a prophet. He was the one of whom the prophets spoke of. He was greater than anyone born of women. He was the Elijah. He came, neither eating nor drinking.

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  • 6.

    What truths are taught about the kingdom of heaven in these verses? a. Verse 11; b. Verse 12:

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    a. Verse 11: The ministry of Jesus Christ (establishing the kingdom of heaven) was greater than that of John, even though John was the greatest of all prophets. In the same way, those who accept the gospel are more blessed than even the prophets of the past (13:16,17; 1Pet 1:10-12).
    b. Verse 12: There are two possible interpretations to this verse. The first refers to the opposition to the kingdom from the “violent.” Violent men constantly attacked the gospel while it was being spread.
    The second interpretation takes on a positive side. Through the powerful ministry of John and Christ, the kingdom of heaven had been “forcefully advancing” (NIV). The message of the kingdom called for new attitudes and actions that require thorough repentance. So only those who are willing to undergo drastic changes (the “violent”) are able to come into God’s kingdom.

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  • 7.

    Explain the significance of verse 13

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    Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophecies under the Old Testament up to the time of John (Rom 10:4; Gal 3:24).

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  • 8.

    How were the people of those days like the children in Jesus’ analogy? (see verse 20).

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    The people of those days did not accept John’s preaching of repentance. Neither did they accept the good news of the kingdom. Instead, they charged Jesus with gluttony (cf. 9:10,11). Whether it was John’s call to repentance or Jesus’ grace of forgiveness, the people remained indifferent.

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  • 9.

    Compare this paragraph to Luke 7:29-35. What do you think Jesus meant by the children (or actions) proving wisdom right?

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    Two interpretations have been offered. First, the wisdom and righteousness of God had been proven by the works of John and Jesus. Second, only those who are humble (true children of wisdom) will accept the message of the kingdom.

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  • 10.

    According to verses 11-19, how can we come into the kingdom of heaven?

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    We need to accept the good news of the kingdom with strong faith (6). We must be humble and be open to the call (14). We must listen (15).

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  • 11:20-24

    11.

    Why would the judgment on these cities be worse than those of the pagan cities in the Old Testament?

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    They should have repented much more readily because they had seen the deeds of Christ which the pagan cities did not have the privilege to witness. God is just in His judgments (cf. Lk 12:48).

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  • 12.

    What does Jesus’ denouncement teach us about our attitude and response toward miracles?

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    We should not take miracles at their face value and think that they are an end in themselves. Miracles should lead to faith in Christ, demonstrated in repentance and change of behavior.

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  • 11:25-30

    13.

    How is this paragraph related to the entire passage?

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    The ministry of Jesus was “hidden” to many in that they either did not understand or refused to accept it. But even then, Jesus calls out and welcomes those who are willing to come to Him. God will reveal His will to those who do so.

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  • 14a.

    Who are the “wise and prudent” and who are the “babes”?

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    The wise and prudent are those who are wise in their own eyes. The babes are the simple and humble.

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  • 14b.

    Why does God hide His will and deeds from the wise and prudent but reveal them to babes?

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    Humility is necessary for faith in the Lord. God opposes the proud but blesses the humble (Prov 3:34). By revealing His will to the simple, God also manifests His wisdom and glory (1Cor 1:18-25).

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  • 15.

    Explain verse 27 in light of John 14:6

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    Jesus is the manifestation of God and is God Himself (Jn 14:9) We can only know and accept God if we accept Jesus Christ (Jn 1:18).

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  • 16a.

    Who are those who “labor and are heavy laden”?

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    They are the “sick” and the “sinners” (9:12,13), those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (5:3,4,6). They labor and are heavy laden because they have found themselves spiritually broken and cannot help themselves through their own efforts.

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  • 16b.

    How should we come to Jesus?

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    We must listen to the voice of Jesus, humbly accept His words, and change ourselves to conform to His will.

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  • 17a.

    What is Jesus’ yoke?

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    It is the cross that every follower of Jesus must carry (10:38). It refers to the sufferings that we will go through for His sake.

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  • 17b.

    Why is it easy?

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    It is easy because it is His yoke. He will always be with us and help us. He will also fulfill God’s righteousness in us (19:23-26; Rom 8:3-4).

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  • 17c.

    “Yoke” and “rest” usually do not go together. But why did Jesus tell us to take up His yoke in order to find rest for our souls?

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    When we take up Jesus’ yoke and learn from Him, not only will He put away our burden of sin, He will also help us be at peace with God through our changed behavior and attitude. Conformity to God’s way brings rest to our soul.

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  • 18.

    How can we also be “gentle and lowly” in heart?

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    Gentleness leads to submission, and lowliness leads to repentance and obedience. We need to be “babes” who humbly accept and practice God’s will.

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