Matthew 11:20 – 12:21

Thursday Evening Bible Study

November 30, 2006

Matthew 11

Jesus had been ministering to greater and greater crowds. At one point early in His ministry, He said,

(Mat 9:37-38 NKJV) …"The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. {38} "Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

Jesus then spent the entire next night doing exactly that – praying.

The next morning He picked out twelve men from the group that had been following Him, gave them authority to perform miracles, and gave them instructions before sending them out on their own for a short term mission trip. We’re in the middle of His instructions to these twelve.

He’s already instructed them to speak only to Jews on this trip.
He’s prepared them to live by faith, to trust God to provide on this trip.
He’s taught them to give a blessing of peace to those who welcome them.
He taught them they will have difficulty and persecution when they go.
He taught them they ought to be more afraid of God what God thinks than what man thinks.
He told them that people who received them would be blessed.

Then He sent them out on their first experience of ministry away from Him.

We got a glimpse last week of John the Baptist being in prison and beginning to doubt whether Jesus was really the Messiah after all. But Jesus sent word back to reassure John that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. He reassured John by pointing John to the Word of God and to the works that Jesus was doing that matched the Word of God.

:20-24 Unbelieving cities rebuked

:20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent:

The cities Jesus is going to rebuke are places that have been blessed with seeing some pretty cool things. And yet for the most part, the cities did not choose to follow Jesus.

:21 "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, 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.

:22 "But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.

Tyre and Sidon – Ezekiel prophesied of their destruction because of their wickedness. They had been attacked by Nebuchadnezzar and then finally wiped out by Alexander the Great. By the time Jesus came, they had long since disappeared.

:23 "And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Capernaum was the home base for Jesus and His disciples while they did ministry in the northern area of Galilee. It was the city Jesus spent the most time in.

:24 "But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you."

If the cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom had Jesus doing miracles inside them, they might have repented.

Here are some things to think about:

1. Miracles aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Sometime we get to thinking that if we saw more miracles, that more people would believe. There may indeed be some honest people who would actually turn to God because of a miracle, but don’t forget the lessons Jesus learned in Capernaum. Miracles don’t make people instant believers.

2. Don’t be discouraged at difficult ministry.

There were places where Jesus did draw huge crowds. But some of the places He spent the most time in did not respond like we would think they should have.
Sometimes we think that if we just had that right thing to say, or could do something that would move the other person, that they would turn to Jesus. People have a free will. They have to choose on their own to follow Jesus. We see man’s free will at work in the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.

:25-30 Jesus’ Invitation to rest

:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.

The “wise and prudent” Pharisees and Sadducees had a difficult time accepting their Messiah. But the simple disciples gladly followed Him.

:26 "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.

:27 "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

:28 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

laborkopiao – to grow weary, tired, exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief); to labor with wearisome effort, to toil

heavy ladenphortizo – to place a burden upon, to load. It’s a “perfect” tense – meaning that the load has been placed on you, and you still feel the weight of it.

Perhaps Jesus is talking about people laboring under sin.

Perhaps He is talking about people laboring under the Law of Moses.

(Mat 23:4 NKJV) "For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

It doesn’t matter – He’s talking about people who are weary and burdened. He promises to give rest.

restanapauo (“again” + “to cease”, “to pause”) – to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength; to give rest, refresh, to give one’s self rest, take rest

:29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,

Jesus asks us to do two things – take His yoke and learn

More about the yoke in the next verse…

learnmanthano – to learn, be appraised. This is the root of the idea of a “disciple”, a “learner”.

We need to learn from Jesus.

We need Jesus to be our teacher. I think that if we allow Jesus to be our teacher, we’ll pick up on a few of His character traits, such as:

gentlepraos – gentle, mild, meek; it’s used of animals to mean “tame”; it’s the antonym (opposite) of “angry”. In the writings of the early Church Fathers, this was the essential character quality required of a bishop, a pastor.

lowly in hearttapeinos – not rising far from the ground; humble

I think that sometimes we have the wrong idea about humility. We think that humility means that we must demean and criticize ourselves. We think we have to beat ourselves up in front of others so they know how “lowly” we are.

I think that humility means that I simply don’t matter. I don’t beat myself up in front of you to get your sympathy. It doesn’t matter what happens to me. The first line in Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” is, “It’s not about you”. I think that’s a good working definition of humility. I don’t have to be the one getting attention. If I do a good thing, it doesn’t matter if I get credit for it. What really matters is God, not me.

:29 and you will find rest for your souls.

It seems that Jesus is quoting an old promise:

(Jer 6:16 KJV) Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

If you take His yoke and learn from Him, you will find rest.


Practicing for peace

There are things that lead to peace in life and things that don’t. In fact, there are things that lead to nothing but more worry and anxiety …

A German farmer with relatives in the US promised them some fresh pork sausages made by hand from his very own stock of pigs. But as the weeks went by they gave him a call to com- plain that the package had not yet arrived. He told them, “Don’t worry. The wurst is yet to come.”

We may try and look for new ways of finding peace – some people are convinced that the only way to find peace is through medication. Others try things like meditation.
But there are “old paths” that lead to peace, we need to find them and walk on them. We need to learn where the things are that lead to peace.
I think Paul had a grasp of what it means to learn the way of peace when he writes,
(Phil 4:6-9 NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; {7} and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. {8} Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things. {9} The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Prayer and thought life.

Peace comes from a proper prayer life. We need to learn to intercede instead of worry. We need to learn to pray with thanksgiving.

We need to be careful about the kinds of things we spent our time thinking about. Some things in life don’t meet Paul’s criteria of what to meditate on. Make the choice to spend time thinking about the better things.


these doprasso – to exercise, practice, to be busy with, carry on

Paul apparently modeled these qualities to the Philippians. He encourages them to practice these same disciplines. The result? The God of “peace” will be with you.

The right kind of lifestyle, the right kind of disciplines can lead to rest. Learn from Jesus.

:30 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

yoke – a yoke was a wooden frame placed on the neck of an ox or team of oxen to help it pull its load.

In the Scriptures, a yoke was often the symbol of another person’s rule over you.

Solomon’s rule over the people was called a “yoke” (2Chr. 10:4) and was “heavy”.
Jeremiah used a yoke to symbolize the coming Babylonian rule over the nation of Judah (Jer. 27, 28)

Sometimes a yoke was built for two oxen. I’m told that it was a practice to pair a younger ox with an older ox. The younger ox wants to drift off and go its own way. The older ox knows just where to go. The older ox trains the younger ox how to pull the plow.

This from William Barclay:

He says, “My yoke is easy.” The word easy is in Greek chrēstos, which can mean well-fitting. In Palestine ox-yokes were made of wood; the ox was brought, and the measurements were taken. The yoke was then roughed out, and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on. The yoke was carefully adjusted, so that it would fit well, and not gall the neck of the patient beast. The yoke was tailor-made to fit the ox.

There is a legend that Jesus made the best ox-yokes in all Galilee, and that from all over the country men came to him to buy the best yokes that skill could make. In those days, as now, shops had their signs above the door; and it has been suggested that the sign above the door of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth may well have been: “My yokes fit well.” It may well be that Jesus is here using a picture from the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth where he had worked throughout the silent years. Jesus says, “My yoke fits well.” What he means is: “The life I give you is not a burden to gall you; your task is made to measure to fit you.” Whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly. [1]

I like that.


His yoke

It seems that in modern Christianity we don’t want to offend people too much. We are worried so much about the dangers of legalism that we don’t have any rules at all. We give people the impression that all they need to do is say a magic prayer and that’s all that God will require of them for the rest of their life.
God wants us to serve Him. He wants us to learn to take His yoke on us. We need to let God rule and direct our lives.
It’s not an impossible yoke. It’s not a crushing burden.
But it is still a yoke. It is still a burden.

Matthew 12

:1-8 Lord of the Sabbath

It is interesting how Jesus has invited people to enjoy His rest.  And now He deals with the concept of “rest” that the Jewish people had.

For the Pharisee, “rest” was something you did on the Sabbath.

:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.

(Deu 23:25 NKJV)  "When you come into your neighbor's standing grain, you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor's standing grain.

It was lawful to eat from a person’s field to satisfy your hunger, just as long as you don’t go harvesting the field for yourself.

:2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!"

The Pharisees were the ultra-orthodox of the Jews. They followed the Law of Moses very strictly. They wrote volumes and volumes of commentaries explaining the implications of the Law of Moses. God said not to work on the Sabbath, but for a person with a legalistic mindset, they want to know just what “work” means.

To the Pharisees, plucking grains of wheat was the same as reaping. Rubbing the grains together in your hands to get the chaff off constituted threshing. Blowing the chaff out of your hand was the same as winnowing. Therefore the disciples were breaking the Sabbath.

:3 But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:

:4 "how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?

Jesus is going to give a response to the Pharisees.

Jesus could simply say, “Lighten up guys and get over yourselves”. But He doesn’t. The Pharisees reverence the Word of God and so does Jesus. Jesus will respond by teaching from the Scriptures.

The story here is found in 1Sam. 21, when David was a man on the run, fleeing from King Saul. David ran to the Tabernacle and the priests at the city of Nob. David basically lied to the priests about why he was there and asked for some bread to feed his men and himself. The priests ended up giving David and his men some of the sacred “showbread” which was only supposed to be eaten by priests and their families. And the story doesn’t end there. When Saul finds out the priests helped David, Saul has all the priests put to death.

Jesus is showing an example where the rules were broken. David felt that keeping he and his men alive was more important than keeping the rules.

:5 "Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?

According to the Law, there were certain sacrifices that were required to be made by the priests on the Sabbath (Num. 28:9-10, 18-19). Performing sacrifices was hard work. Yet the priests were supposed to do this.

:6 "Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.

:7 "But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless.

Jesus is quoting from Hos. 6:6.

God’s desire is that we cultivate mercy.

The Pharisees were more concerned about their rules being kept than they were about people being hungry.

Earlier, Jesus had been rebuked by the Pharisees because He had been hanging out with sinners.

(Mat 9:12-13 NKJV) When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. {13} "But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

It sounds to me that they didn’t do what Jesus had asked them. They still need to learn that God desires mercy.

If your interpretation of the one Scripture doesn’t fit the rest of the Scriptures, then something must be wrong with your interpretation of the Law.

:8 "For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

Jesus has the authority to decide what is lawful on the Sabbath.

:9-14 Healing on the Sabbath

:9 Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.

:10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"; that they might accuse Him.

The Pharisees considered “healing” to be work.

:11 Then He said to them, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?

Jesus appeals to common sense. A man would rescue one of his sheep, even on the Sabbath.

:12 "Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

A man is more important than a sheep.

:13 Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other.

:14 Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.

The Pharisees didn’t like what Jesus did to their interpretation of religion.

:15-21 The Servant

:15 But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all.

:16 Yet He warned them not to make Him known,

:17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

Matthew is going to quote from Isaiah 42:1-4.

:18 "Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He will declare justice to the Gentiles.

:19 He will not quarrel nor cry out, Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.

Jesus wasn’t looking for controversy, though controversy still found him.

Jesus wasn’t out to publicize Himself, crying out in the streets.

He blended into His world so much that when He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, the guards needed a sign from Judas to point out which one was Jesus.

:20 A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory;

You may feel bruised and crushed, but Jesus comes to heal, not to break.

You may feel like your flame is going out, but Jesus doesn’t come to quench what little fire you have – He came to fan the flames.

:21 And in His name Gentiles will trust."

Jesus showed compassion on broken people. He healed them.

[1]The Gospel of Matthew : Volume 2, ed. William Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, The Daily Study Bible, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 2000, c1975). 17.