Matthew 11:14
And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
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(14) This is Elias.—The words of Malachi (Malachi 4:5) had led men to expect the reappearance of the great Tishbite in person as the immediate precursor of the Christ. It was the teaching of the scribes then (Matthew 17:10; John 1:21); it has lingered as a tradition of Judaism down to our own time. A vacant chair is placed for Elijah at all great solemnities. Even Christian interpreters have cherished the belief that Elijah will appear in person before the second Advent of the Lord. The true meaning of the words of Malachi had, however, been suggested in the words of the angel in Luke 1:17, “He shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias,” and is here distinctly confirmed. The words “if ye will (i.e., are willing to) receive it” imply the consciousness that our Lord was setting aside a popular and strongly-fixed belief: “If you are willing and able to receive the truth that John was in very deed doing the work of Elijah, you need look for no other in the future.”

11:7-15 What Christ said concerning John, was not only for his praise, but for the people's profit. Those who attend on the word will be called to give an account of their improvements. Do we think when the sermon is done, the care is over? No, then the greatest of the care begins. John was a self-denying man, dead to all the pomps of the world and the pleasures of sense. It becomes people, in all their appearances, to be consistent with their character and their situation. John was a great and good man, yet not perfect; therefore he came short of glorified saints. The least in heaven knows more, loves more, and does more in praising God, and receives more from him, than the greatest in this world. But by the kingdom of heaven here, is rather to be understood the kingdom of grace, the gospel dispensation in its power and purity. What reason we have to be thankful that our lot is cast in the days of the kingdom of heaven, under such advantages of light and love! Multitudes were wrought upon by the ministry of John, and became his disciples. And those strove for a place in this kingdom, that one would think had no right nor title to it, and so seemed to be intruders. It shows us what fervency and zeal are required of all. Self must be denied; the bent, the frame and temper of the mind must be altered. Those who will have an interest in the great salvation, will have it upon any terms, and not think them hard, nor quit their hold without a blessing. The things of God are of great and common concern. God requires no more from us than the right use of the faculties he has given us. People are ignorant, because they will not learn.If ye will receive it - This is a mode of speaking implying that the doctrine which he was about to state was different from their common views; that he was about to state something which varied from the common expectation, and which therefore they might be disposed to reject.

This is Elias ... - That is, "Elijah." Elias is the "Greek" mode of writing the Hebrew word "Elijah." An account of him is found in the first and second books of Kings. He was a distinguished prophet, and was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, 2 Kings 2:11. The prophet Malachi Mal 4:5-6 predicted that "Elijah" would be sent before the coming of the Messiah to prepare the way for him. By this was evidently meant, not that he should appear "in person," but that one should appear with a striking resemblance to him; or, as Luke Luk 1:17 expresses it, "in the spirit and power of Elijah." But the Jews understood it differently. They supposed that Elijah would appear in person. They also supposed that Jeremiah and some other of the prophets would appear also to usher in the promised Messiah and to grace his advent. See Matthew 16:14; Matthew 17:10; John 1:21. This prevalent belief was the reason why he used the words "if ye will receive it," implying that the affirmation that "John" was the promised Elijah was a doctrine contrary to their expectation.

2. Now when John had heard in the prison—For the account of this imprisonment, see on [1261]Mr 6:17-20.

the works of Christ, he sent, &c.—On the whole passage, see on [1262]Lu 7:18-35.

God had told the Jews, Malachi 4:5,6, that he would send them Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest (saith he) I come and smite the earth with a curse. This prophecy related to John the Baptist, as our Saviour here teacheth us; so, Luke 1:17, it is confirmed by the angel to Zacharias, and Mark 9:11. From which last text it appeareth, that the scribes had a tradition, that Elias should come before the Messiah. Their mistake was that they looked for an Elias to come in person, whenas God meant no more (as the angel expounds it, Luke 1:17) than one in the spirit and power of Elias, as bold and free a preacher, who should no more fear the face of men in the discharge of his duty than Elias did. Saith our Saviour, if you will believe, this John was that Elias prophesied of by Malachi.

And if ye will receive it,.... The words carry in them some suspicion of unbelief and hardness of heart, as though they would not receive it: however, whether they would or not, it was a certain truth, that

this same person, "John the Baptist",

is Elias, which was for to come; who was appointed by God to come, and was prophesied of Malachi 4:5 that he should come; and even according to the doctrine of the Scribes and Rabbins, he was expected to come before the Messiah; only they in general thought that Elijah the Tishbite, in person, was meant; though some, as before observed (e), were of opinion, that some great prophet equal to Elijah, and endued with the same spirit, is intended; and which is true of John the Baptist, who came "in the Spirit" and "power" of Elias, Luke 1:17. And, as it was usual with the Jews (f), to call Phinehas by the name of Elias, and Elias Phinehas, because of his zeal for the Lord of hosts; for the same reason may John be called by the same name, there being a great resemblance between Elias and him; in their temper and disposition; in their manner of clothing, and austere way of living; in their very great piety and holiness; in their courage and integrity, in reproving vice; and in their zeal and usefulness in the cause of God, and true religion: in respect to which, Christ must be here understood, when he affirms John to be Elias; not Elias in person, but he that was intended by Elias, that was said should come: hence here is no contradiction to the words of the Baptist, in John 1:21 when he says, that he was not Elias; for the Jews, who put the question to him, whether he was Elias, or not? meant whether he was Elias in person, Elias the Tishbite, or not; and so John understood them, and very honestly and sincerely replies, he was not: but he does not deny that he was intended by this Elias, that was prophesied should come; yea, he says such things as might induce them to believe he was that person; hence, Christ, and he, say nothing contrary to, and irreconcilable, as the Jew (g) suggests, with each other.

(e) Vid. Pocock. not. in porta Mosis, p. 219. (f) Baal Hatturim in Numbers 25.12. Kimchi in 1 Chron. 20. Targum Jon. in Exod. vi. 18. (g) R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 1. c. 39. & par. 2. c. 15.

And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
14. if ye will receive it] The present unhappy circumstances in which John was placed seemed inconsistent with such a view of his mission (Meyer).

Matthew 11:14. Εἰ θέλετε, if ye will) It is your interest that is at stake. The expression, βιασταὶ (used in the last verse), is explained: it is the willing only who are compelled. All is prepared: it only remains that you should be willing.—Ἡλίας, Elias) The absence of the article shows that the word is used antonomatically.[525] John makes ΒΙΑΣΤΑῚ of both fathers and children. Cf. δε, but, in v. 16.[526] The prophecy of the Old Testament concludes with this Elijah at the end of Malachi. John is called Elias on account of the office of forerunner, which he had in common with the Tishbite.—ὁ μέλλων ἔρχεσθαι, who is about to come) The language is, as it were, that of one looking forward from the Old Testament into the New.[527]

[525] See Append. Antonomasia here applies the name Elias to John, not literally, but analogously; as Elias was in the O. Test., so John in preparing for the coming N. Test. kingdom.—ED.

[526] i.e. John I have likened to Elijah; but to whom shall I liken this generation?—ED.

[527] Moreover John is not called absolutely ὁ μέλλων ἔρχεσθαι, but Ἥλιας ὁ μέλλων ἔρχεσθαι.—V. g.

Verse 14 - In Matthew only. And if ye will receive it. Our Lord gives the information plainly, but doubts if it will be of any use to them. Will (θέλετε). For the reception of a truth depends upon the attitude of the will In this case to acknowledge John as Elijah would mean to accept the present consequences of that reformation which Elijah was to bring about (Malachi 4:6). But "the human will has a natural disinclination to cultivate and sharpen the conscience in combination with the knowledge of the law, has no desire to look into this mirror, and men as a rule desire to have quite a different picture of themselves from that which conscience shows them" (Marten-sen's 'Christian Ethics,' 1. § 119). It. My statement. Not him, i.e. John, with Revised Version margin. This (αὐτός). He and no other (ch. 1:21). Is Elias. In spiritual work, not in identity of person (John 1:21). (On the Jewish expectation of the return of Elijah, see Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.,' on Matthew 17:10.) Which was for to come; which is to come (Revised Version). The phrase ὁ μέλλων ἔρχεσθαι) is perhaps best understood, not as an independent remark by our Lord about Elijah, but as a current saying, representing the popular expectation of him, and adopted by our Lord, who gave it his own interpretation. It can hardly point also to a yet future coming of the prophet. But compare Bishop Westcott, on John 1:21, and Schurer, II. 2:156. Matthew 11:14If ye will (εἰ θέλετε)

More correctly, Rev., If ye are willing or disposed. For there would naturally be an unwillingness to receive the statement about John's high place, in view of John's imprisonment.

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