Vincent's Word Studies
And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
The preposition διά has a distributive force: giving to each his appropriate charge.
Their cities (αὐτῶν)
The towns of those to whom he came - the Galilaeans. Compare Matthew 4:23.
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
Two of his disciples (δύο)
But the correct reading is διά, by. He sent by his disciples. So Rev.
And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
Emphatic. Art thou "the Coming One?" - a current phrase for the Messiah.
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 to them.
The lame walk
Tynd., The halt go.
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Be offended (σκανδαλιοθῇ)
See on Matthew 5:29. Rev., shall find none occasion of stumbling. Compare Wyc., shall not be slandered.
And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
As they departed (τούτων δὲ πορευομένων)
Rev., more literal and better, as these went their way; or while they, John's disciples, were departing' thus giving the simultaneousness of Jesus' words with the act of departure.
To see (θεάσασθαι)
Rev., to behold. θεᾶσθαι, like θεωρεῖν, expresses the calm, continuous contemplation of an object which remains before the spectator. Compare John 1:14. Another verb is used in Christ's repetition of the question, Matthew 11:8, Matthew 11:9; ἰδεῖν in the ordinary sense of seeing. The more earnest expression suits the first question.
But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
Suffereth violence (βιάζεται)
Lit., is forced, overpowered, taken by storm. Christ thus graphically portrays the intense excitement which followed John's ministry; the eager waiting, striving, and struggling of the multitude for the promised king.
The violent take it by force (βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν)
This was proved by the multitudes who followed Christ and thronged the doors where he was, and would have taken him by force (the same word) and made him a king (John 6:15). The word take by force means literally to snatch away, carry off. It is often used in the classics of plundering. Meyer renders, Those who use violent efforts, drag it to themselves. So Tynd., They that make violence pull it unto them. Christ speaks of believers. They seize upon the kingdom and make it their own. The Rev., men of violence, is too strong, since it describes a class of habitually and characteristically violent men; whereas the violence in this case is the result of a special and exceptional impulse. The passage recalls the old Greek proverb quoted by Plato against the Sophists, who had corrupted the Athenian youth by promising the easy attainment of wisdom: Good things are hard. Dante has seized the idea:
"Regnum coelorum (the kingdom of heaven) suffereth violence
From fervent love, and from that living hope
That overcometh the divine volition;
Not in the guise that man o'ercometh man,
But conquers it because it will be conquered,
And conquered, conquers by benignity."
Parad., xx., 94-99.
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
If 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.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,
Diminutive, little children. The Rev. Donald Fraser gives the picture simply and vividly: "He pictured a group of little children playing at make-believe marriages and funerals. First they acted a marriage procession; some of them piping as on instruments of music, while the rest were expected to leap and dance. In a perverse mood, however, these last did not respond, but stood still and looked discontented. So the little pipers changed their game and proposed a funeral. They began to imitate the loud wailing of eastern mourners. But again they were thwarted, for their companions refused to chime in with the mournful cry and to beat their breasts....So the disappointed children complained: 'We piped unto you and ye did not dance; we wailed, and ye did not mourn. Nothing pleases you. If you don't want to dance, why don't yon mourn?...It is plain that yon are in bad humor, and determined not to be pleased'" ("Metaphors in the Gospels"). The issue is between the Jews (this generation) and the children of wisdom, Matthew 11:19.
From ἀγείρω, to assemble. Wyc., renders cheepynge; compare cheepside, the place for buying selling; for the word cheap had originally no reference to small price, but meant simply barter or price. The primary conception in the Greek word has nothing to do with buying and selling. Ἀγορά is an assembly; then the place of assembly. The idea of a place of trade comes in afterward, and naturally, since trade plants itself where people habitually gather. Hence the Roman Forum was devoted, not only to popular and judicial assemblies, but to commercial purposes, especially of bankers. The idea of trade gradually becomes the dominant one in the word. In Eastern cities the markets are held in bazaars and streets, rather than in squares. In these public places the children would be found playing. Compare Zechariah 8:5.
And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
Lit., beat or strike (the breast), as in oriental funeral lamentations.
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 winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
Mighty 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.
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, 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.
But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
Better Rev., howbeit, or as Wyc., nevertheless. Chorazin and Bethsaida did not repent; therefore a woe lies against them; nevertheless they shall be more excusable than you who have seen the mighty works which were not done among them.
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
In reply to something which is not stated.
I thank (ἐξομολογοῦμαι)
Compare Matthew 3:6, of confessing sins. Lit., I confess. I recognize the justice and wisdom of thy doings. But with the dative, as here (σοι, to thee), it means to praise, with an undercurrent of acknowledgment; to confess only in later Greek, and with an accusative of the object. Rev. gives praise in the margin here, and at Romans 14:11. Tynd., Ipraise.
Rev., understanding; Wyc., wary. From the verb συνίημι, to bring together, and denoting that peculiarity of mind which brings the simple features of an object into a whole. Hence comprehension, insight. Compare on Mark 12:33, understanding (συνέσεως). Wise (σοφῶν) and understanding are often joined, as here. The general distinction is between productive and reflective wisdom, but the distinction is not always recognized by the writer.
Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
Are delivered (παρεδόθη)
More lit., were delivered, as of a single act at a given time, as in this case, where the Son was sent forth by the Father, and clothed with authority. Compare Matthew 28:18.
The compound indicating full knowledge. Others behold only in part, "through a glass, darkly."
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Labor and are heavy-laden (κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι)
The first an active, the second a passive participle, exhibiting the active and passive sides of human misery.
Give rest (ἀναπαύσω)
Originally to make to cease; Tynd., ease; Wyc., refresh. The radical conception is that of relief.
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.
"These words, as recorded by St. Matthew, the Evangelist of the Jews, must have sunk the deeper into the hearts of Christ's Jewish hearers, that they came in their own old, familiar form of speech, yet with such contrast of spirit. One of the most common figurative expressions of the time was that of the yoke for submission to an occupation or obligation. Very instructive for the understanding of the figure is this paraphrase of Cant. 1:10: 'How beautiful is their neck for bearing the yoke of thy statutes; and it shall be upon them like the yoke on the neck of the ox that plougheth in the field and provideth food for himself and his master.'
"The public worship of the ancient synagogue commenced with a benediction, followed by the shema (Hear, O Israel) or creed, composed of three passages of scripture: Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41. The section Deuteronomy 6:4-9 was said to precede Deuteronomy 11:13-21, so that we might take upon ourselves the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and only after that the yoke of the commandments. The Saviour's words must have had a special significance to those who remembered this lesson; and they would now understand how, by coming to the Saviour, they would first take on them the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and then that of the commandments, finding this yoke easy and the burden light" (Edersheim, "Life and Times of Jesus," and "Jewish Social Life").
See on Matthew 5:5.
The word has a history. In the classics it is used commonly in a bad and degrading sense, of meanness of condition, lowness of rank, and cringing abjectness and baseness of character. Still, even in classical Greek, this is not its universal usage. It is occasionally employed in a way which foreshadows its higher sense. Plato, for instance, says, "To that law (of God) he would be happy who holds fast, and follows it in all humility and order; but he who is lifted up with pride, or money, or honor, or beauty, who has a soul hot with folly, and youth, and insolence, and thinks that he has no need of a guide or ruler, but is able himself to be the guide of others, he, I say, is left deserted of God" ("Laws," 716). And Aristotle says: "He who is worthy of small things, and deems himself so, is wise" ("Nich. Ethics," iv., 3). At best, however, the classical conception is only modesty, absence of assumption. It is an element of wisdom and in no way opposed to self-righteousness (see Aristotle above). The word for the Christian virtue of humility (ταπεινοφροσύνη), was not used before the Christian era, and is distinctly an outgrowth of the Gospel. This virtue is based upon a correct estimate of our actual littleness, and is linked with a sense of sinfulness. True greatness is holiness. We are little because sinful. Compare Luke 18:14. It is asked how, in this view of the case, the word can be applied to himself by the sinless Lord? "The answer is," says Archbishop Trench, "that for the sinner humility involves the confession of sin, inasmuch as it involves the confession of his true condition; while yet for the unfallen creature the grace itself as truly exists, involving for such the acknowledgment, not of sinfulness, which would be untrue, but of creatureliness, of absolute dependence, of having nothing, but receiving all things of God. And thus the grace of humility belongs to the highest angel before the throne, being as he is a creature, yea, even to the Lord of Glory himself. In his human nature he must be the pattern of all humility, of all creaturely dependence; and it is only as a man that Christ thus claims to be lowly; his human life was a constant living on the fulness of his Father's love; he evermore, as man, took the place which beseemed the creature in the presence of its Creator" ("Synonyms," p. 145). The Christian virtue regards man not only with reference to God, but to his fellow-man. In lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself (Philippians 2:3, Rev.). But this is contrary to the Greek conception of justice or righteousness, which was simply "his own to each one." It is noteworthy that neither the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, nor the New Testament recognize the ignoble classical sense of the word.
Ye shall find (εὑρήσετε)
Compare I will give you and ye shall find. The rest of Christ is twofold - given and found. It is given in pardon and reconciliation. It is found under the yoke and the burden; in the development of Christian experience, as more and more the "strain passes over" from self to Christ. "No other teacher, since the world began, has ever associated learn with rest. 'Learn of me,' says the philosopher, 'and you shall find restlessness.' 'Learn of me,' says Christ, 'and you shall find rest'" (Drummond, "Natural Law in the Spiritual World").
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Not a satisfactory rendering. Christ's yoke is not easy in the ordinary sense of that word. The word means originally, good, serviceable. The kindred noun, χρηστότης, occurring only in Paul's writings, is rendered kindness in 2 Corinthians 6:6; Titus 3:4; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 2:7 (Rev.), and goodness, Romans 2:4 (Rev.). At Luke 5:39, it is used of old wine, where the true reading, instead of better, is good (χρηστός), mellowed with age. Plato ("Republic," 424) applies the word to education. "Good nurture and education (τροφὴ γὰρ καὶ παίδευσις χρηστὴ) implant good (ἀγαθὰς) constitutions; and these good (χρησταὶ) constitutions improve more and more;" thus evidently using χρηστός and ἀγαθός as synonymous. The three meanings combine in the word, though it is impossible to find an English word which combines them all. Christ's yoke is wholesome, serviceable, kindly. "Christ's yoke is like feathers to a bird; not loads, but helps to motion" (Jeremy Taylor).