Matthew 11:20
Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
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(20) Then began he to upbraid.—The rebuke is inserted by St. Luke in our Lord’s charge to the Seventy (Luke 10:13-15). As in the case of the passages common to both Evangelists in Matthew 10 and Luke 10, we need not assume that the former has compiled a discourse from fragments collected separately. It is far more natural and probable to believe that our Lord in this case, as in others, used at different times the same, or nearly the same, forms of speech.

Matthew 11:20-24. Then began he to upbraid the cities — Which he had often blessed with his presence, and in which he had preached many awakening sermons, and performed many astonishing miracles. It is observable, he had never upbraided them before. Indeed, at first they had received him with all gladness, Capernaum in particular. Wo unto thee, Chorazin, &c. — That is, miserable art thou. For these are not curses or imprecations, as has been commonly supposed; but a solemn, compassionate declaration of the misery they were bringing on themselves. Chorazin and Bethsaida were cities of Galilee, standing by the lake of Gennesareth, in which and the neighbouring places Jesus spent a great part of his public life. See notes on chap. Matthew 4:13-16. If the mighty works — The great miracles, which were done in you, had been done [of old] in Tyre and Sidon — Though cities inhabited by heathen, and remarkable for their luxury, pride, and contempt of religion, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes — That is, they would have exercised the deepest repentance, for sackcloth and ashes were used by the Jews in token of the bitterest grief. But I say unto you — Besides this general denunciation of wo to those stubborn unbelievers, I declare particularly that the degree of their misery will be greater than even that of Tyre and Sidon, yea, of Sodom. And thou, Capernaum, &c. — He mentions Capernaum separately by itself, and last of all, because, being the place of his ordinary residence, it had been blessed with more of his sermons and miracles than any other town. Nevertheless it abounded with wickedness of all kinds, and therefore he compared it to that city which, on account of the greatness of its crimes, had been the most terrible example of the divine displeasure that ever the world had beheld. It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, &c. — That is, the condition of the inhabitants even of the land of Sodom, in the day of the final judgment, shall be more tolerable than thy condition. For thy condemnation shall rise in proportion to thy more aggravated guilt, and to those more valuable mercies and privileges which thou hast abused. Dr. Hammond understands this passage as referring to the temporal calamities to come on those places by the Romans; who did indeed shortly after overrun the whole country, and made dreadful ravages in some of those cities. But, as Doddridge justly observes, “There is no evidence that the destruction of those cities was more dreadful than that of Tyre and Sidon, and it was certainly less so than that of Sodom and Gomorrah: besides, our Lord plainly speaks of a judgment that was yet to come on all these places that he mentions.” From this passage, therefore, we learn “two important particulars: 1st, That the punishments to be inflicted upon wicked men in the life to come shall not be all equal, but in exact proportion to the demerit of the sins of each. 2d, That great and signal punishments, befalling sinners in this life, will not screen them from the wrath of God in the life to come; for Jesus Christ, the judge, here declares that Sodom, though burned by fire and brimstone from heaven, shall suffer such dreadful things, that, in speaking of the pains of the damned, he mentions this city as an example of very great punishment.” — Macknight.

11:16-24 Christ reflects on the scribes and Pharisees, who had a proud conceit of themselves. He likens their behaviour to children's play, who being out of temper without reason, quarrel with all the attempts of their fellows to please them, or to get them to join in the plays for which they used to assemble. The cavils of worldly men are often very trifling and show great malice. Something they have to urge against every one, however excellent and holy. Christ, who was undefiled, and separate from sinners, is here represented as in league with them, and polluted by them. The most unspotted innocence will not always be a defence against reproach. Christ knew that the hearts of the Jews were more bitter and hardened against his miracles and doctrines, than those of Tyre and Sidon would have been; therefore their condemnation would be the greater. The Lord exercises his almighty power, yet he punishes none more than they deserve, and never withholds the knowledge of the truth from those who long after it.Then began he to upbraid ... - That is, to reprove, to rebuke, to denounce heavy judgment. Mt 11:20-30. Outburst of Feeling Suggested to the Mind of Jesus by the Result of His Labors in Galilee.

The connection of this with what goes before it and the similarity of its tone make it evident, we think, that it was delivered on the same occasion, and that it is but a new and more comprehensive series of reflections in the same strain.

20. Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not.

Our Lord had hitherto spent most of his time in Galilee, and the cities belonging to that province: there both John the Baptist and himself had preached the gospel, there he had wrought many miracles, by both aiming at their repentance; but there were multitudes that did not receive him, nor would be brought to any sight of their sins, or any acknowledgment of him as the Messias. He now begins to reprove them smartly, not that they did not applaud and commend him, but because they did not repent. This was Christ’s end in all his preaching, and in all his miraculous operations, to bring men to repentance, and to receive him as the Messias; and this should be the great end pursued by all his ministers.

Then began he to upbraid the cities,.... When he had sent forth his disciples to preach, and had been in these several cities hereafter mentioned himself, and had taught and preached in them, and confirmed his doctrine by many wonderful works; when he had observed how ill they had used both John and himself, representing the one as having a devil, and the other as a licentious person; when they could not be pleased with the ministry of the one, nor of the other, he very seasonably and righteously began to reproach them with their ungenerous treatment of him, their ingratitude to him, their unbelief in him, the hardness and impenitence of their hearts; which could not be moved to repent of their evil ways, and believe in him, and acknowledge him as the Messiah, by all the instructions he gave them, and miracles he wrought among them: for the cities he has a view to, were such,

wherein most of his mighty works were done; the most for number, and the greatest in their kind; as particularly at Capernaum; where he cured the centurion's servant, recovered Peter's wife's mother from a fever, healed the man sick of a palsy, raised Jairus's daughter from the dead, made whole the woman that had a bloody issue, opened the eyes of two blind men, and cast out a devil from a dumb man, possessed with one: all these, and more, he did in this one city, and therefore he might justly upbraid them,

because they repented not: not because they did not commend him, and speak well of his works, for he sought not his own glory, but their good: all he did was, in order to bring men to repentance of their sins, and faith in himself, that they might be saved.

{5} Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:

(5) The proud reject the gospel offered to them (to their great hurt and pain) which leads to the salvation of the simple.

Matthew 11:20 ff. Then He began, and so on (ἤρξατο). Luke introduces this upbraiding of the cities at a later stage—that is, on the occasion when the instructions were addressed to the Seventy (Matthew 10:13-15), for which he is assigned the preference by Schleiermacher, Schneckenburger, Holtzmann; while de Wette and Keim are justified in going against Luke, who generally uses considerable freedom as to the connection in which he introduces the sayings which in this chapter are all connected with the same subject.

The Gospels make no further mention of the miracles in Chorazin and Bethsaida (not far from Capernaum; Robinson, neuere Forsch. p. 457 ff.), John 20:30.

ἐν Τύρῳ κ. Σιδ., κ.τ.λ.] Even these wicked heathen cities would have been brought to amendment long ago with deep sorrow for their sins. The penitent sorrow is represented by ἐν σάκκ. κ. σποδῷ, a form of mourning in popular use among the Jews (comp. on Matthew 6:16).

ἐν σάκκῳ] i.e. in the dark, sack-shaped mourning attire, made of coarse cloth, and drawn over the naked body; Gesenius, Thes. III. p. 1336.

Matthew 11:22. πλήν] however, in the sense of ceterum, that is, to add nothing more, I tell you. Frequently used in this way by classical writers, and comp. note on Ephesians 5:33.

Matthew 11:23. And thou, Capernaum, who hast been exalted to heaven, i.e. raised to the highest distinction through my dwelling and labouring within thee, wilt be brought down to Hades, namely, on the day of judgment, to undergo punishment in Gehenna; see Matthew 11:24. Grotius, Kuinoel, Fritzsche interpret the exaltation of Capernaum as referring to its prosperity, derived from trade, the fisheries, and so on. But this is not in keeping with the connection as indicated by ἐν αἷς ἐγένοντο αἱ πλεῖσται δυνάμεις αὐτοῦ in Matthew 11:20.

Still more humiliating than the comparison with Tyre and Sidon, is that with Sodom; because the responsibility was greatest in the case of Capernaum.

ἔμειναν ἄν] This ἄν, here and in Matthew 11:21, is simply according to rule, because the antecedent clauses contain a sumtio ficta (Ellendt, Lex. Soph. I. p. 488).

Matthew 11:24. Comp. on Matthew 10:15.

ὑμῖνσοί] Euth. Zigabenus: τὸ μὲν ὑμῖν πρὸς τοὺς πολίτας τῆς πόλεως ἐκείνης εἴρηται· τὸ δὲ σοὶ πρὸς τὴν πόλιν. The ὑμῖν, that is, does not refer to the audience (see Matthew 11:22).

Observe further in Matthew 11:21-24, first, how the passage assumes the form of a weighty climax; and then, secondly, the solemn parallelism of the antecedent clauses in Matthew 11:21; Matthew 11:23, and of the threatened punishments in Matthew 11:22; Matthew 11:24.

Matthew 11:20-24. Reflections by Jesus on the reception given to Him by the towns of Galilee (Luke 10:13-15).

20–24. The Cities that repented not

St Luke 10:13-15, where the words form part of the charge to the seventy disciples. It is instructive to compare the connection suggested by the two evangelists. In St Matthew the link is the rejection of Christ by the Jews—then by these favoured cities; in St Luke, the rejection of the Apostles as suggestive of the rejection of Jesus.

Matthew 11:20. Τότε ἤρξατο, then He began) He had not previously upbraided them. This upbraiding is the prelude to the Last Judgment. Every hearer of the New Testament is either much more blessed (v. 11) or much more miserable than them of old time.—δυνάμεις, mighty works) See Matthew 11:5. [Repentance and the knowledge of Jesus Christ are always conjoined.—V. g.]

Verses 20-24. - Woe on those who reject him. The parallel passage, Luke 10:12-15, comes almost at the close of the commission to the seventy. It is represented in the commission reported by St. Matthew by Matthew 10:15 alone, which is almost verbally identical with ver. 24. It is possible that St. Matthew or the author of the source used by him did not care to interrupt the subject of ch. 10. by inserting more of these verses there, even though that place more nearly represented their original position. Observe that here they are connected with the rejection of John and of our Lord; in Luke, with the rejection of his disciples and of himself in them. Verse 20. - In Matthew only. It seems to be a kind of introduction, like ver. 7a, perhaps marking vers. 20-24 as a fresh section in the discourses. It serves more particularly as an explanation why our Lord especially mentioned these cities. Then began he to upbraid (Matthew 5:11, note; comp. also Mark 16:14) the cities wherein most of his mighty works (Matthew 7:22, note) were done, because they repented not. "Quilibet auditor Nov. Test. est nut multo beetler (ver. 11) ant multo miserior antiquis" (Bengel). Matthew 11:20Mighty works (δυνάμεις)

The supernatural works of Christ and his apostles are denoted by six different words in the New Testament, exhibiting these works under different aspects and from different points of view. These will be considered in detail as they occur. Generally, a miracle may be regarded: 1. As a portent or prodigy (τέρας); as Acts 7:36, of the wonders shown by Moses in Egypt. 2. As a sign (σημεῖον), pointing to something beyond itself, a mark of the power or grace of the doer or of his connection with the supernatural world. So Matthew 12:38. 3. As an exhibition of God's glory (ἔνδοξον), Luke 13:17; glorious things. 4. As a strange thing (παράδοξον), Luke 5:26. 5. As a wonderful thing (θαυμάσιον), Matthew 21:15. 6. As a power (δύναμις); so here: a mighty work.

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