6. The business of mission, 11:1-12:50

ii] The condemned and the accepted


Having spoken of the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus goes on to condemn the unrepentant cities of Israel, and then, within the context of thanksgiving to the Father, he calls "the weary" to take upon themselves the easy yoke of the gospel.


Believers must face the reality of rejection, for the gospel will not find a place in many hearts - woe to those who hear, but do not believe. Yet, we have heard and know the truth and follow the one who carries our burdens and gives us rest.


i] Context: See 11:1-19.


ii] Structure: This passage, the condemned and the accepted, presents in two major parts:

The condemnation of unrepentant cities, v20-24:

Setting, v20;

Saying - oracle of judgment, v21-22:

Woe to Chorazin and Bethsaida.

Saying - oracle of judgment, v23-24:

Woe to Capernaum.

The acceptance of the weary, v25-30:

Saying, v25-26:

praise to the Father for his revelation to the "little children."

Saying, v27:

the authority of the Son.

Saying, v28-30:

"come to me ..... rest."

"take my yoke upon you ..... rest."


iii] Interpretation:

This passage presents in two parts. First, the condemnation of unrepentant cities, v20-24. In his mission charge to the apostles, cf. ch.10, Jesus warned them of rejection and persecution. We are not told how the mission fared, but the oracles of judgment on Israel indicate that rejection was the norm throughout Galilee. This pericope, paralleled in Luke 10:12-15, consists of a transitional editorial note followed by two parallel oracles formed by a similar syntax: a causal conditional clause, oJti ei, "because if", followed by plhn legw uJmin, "but I say to you."

Second, the acceptance of the weary, v25-30. This passage, consisting of three carefully stitched sayings, displays a strong integral unity. The passage serves as a commentary on v20-24. The opening sayings are paralleled in Luke 10:21-22. Verses 28-30 are possibly two stitched saying with the link word being "rest", but are more likely a two-part saying.


Election and Jesus' invitation, v25-30. The interpretation of this passage has long focused on the mystery of election, such that the poor response to the gospel by the people of Israel rests on the divine right, now administered by Jesus, to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom to those whom he chooses. Yet, v28-30 counters such an arbitrary exercise of the divine will. It is indeed true that God, as an act of his sovereign will, administers the gathering together of his people, but such is not based on an arbitrary selection of individuals, but rather the divinely ordained methodology of grace through faith (Christ's faithfulness appropriated through faith).

The language is reminiscent of John's gospel. Some commentators suggest it reflects Hellenistic mysticism, but Carson argues that it is "thoroughly Semitic." John's gospel probably evidences Jesus' more personal style of teaching and what we have here is a rare example of this style in a synoptic gospel, cf. Morris. D &A suggest that the language draws on Moses typology, making a distinction between "the Messiah and the law-giver", cf. Ex.33:12-13. Whatever we might say of the language, what we have here is a Christological high-point in this gospel. "The exclusive relationship between the Father and the Son begins to prepare the reader for the climax of the gospel where the Son will take his place alongside the Father and the Holy Spirit as the object of the disciples' allegiance", France.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 11:20

Condemnation and acceptance, v20-30: i] The condemnation of unrepentant cities, v20-24. a) Setting, v20. These words of reproach may well follow on from Jesus' recent Galilean mission.

tote adv. "then" - then. An adverb of time serving to introduce a temporal clause; "at that time."

oneidizein (oneidizw) pres. inf. "[Jesus began] to denounce" - [he began] to revile, upbraid, insult. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "began". "Reproach", possibly "condemn", because they are to blame; "censure", Williams; "denounced", REB. "Jesus was upset with them", CEV, is pathetic.

en + dat. "in [which]" - Local, expressing space / sphere.

pleistai (poluV) sup. adj. "most [of his miracles]" - much, many [mighty works of his]. Superlative = most, majority. Turner suggests an elative superlative, meaning that virtually all Jesus' miracles were performed in the cities that he now denounces. "Most" is better.

oJti "because" - that. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus denounced the cities of Israel.

ou metenohsan (metanow) aor. "they did not repent" - "Repent", not in the sense of being sorry, but of turning to God in Christ. "Repent" encapsulates the usual formula "repent and believe" and probably means much the same as "come to me" and "take my yoke upon you", v28, 29. "Refused to turn to God", CEV.


b) Woe to Chorazin and Bethsaida, v21-22. Chorazin, near Capernaum, and Bethsaida, the home of Andrew, Peter and Philip, are singled out for condemnation. The "woe" (pity, alas) declares their loss. Tyre and Sidon, Phoenician cities to the North, are singled out as pagan cities which would have repented if they had received the same revelation from God.

ouai + dat. "woe" - pity, alas. As usual, followed by a dative of interest, disadvantage, although it is interesting how the personal pronoun soi is used. There is the suggestion that the "you" is somewhat inclusive, drawing the hearer into the condemnation. "How terrible it will be", TEV.

Corazin "Korazin" - Mentioned only here and in the parallel Lukan passage. A village 2 miles from Capernaum identified with the modern town of Khibet-Keraseh.

oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why these towns face bad news.

ei .... an + aor. "if" - if. Forming a conditional clause, 2nd. class, where the condition is not true, ie. an unreal condition; "if, as is not the case, ...... then ....."

ai dunameiV (iV ewV) "the miracles" - the powers, strengths. The word is often used of Jesus' messianic signs, his "works of power" = "miracles".

aiJ genomenai (ginomai) aor. part. "that were performed" - the ones having become, been done. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting miracles; "miracles which were performed."

en + dat. "in [you]" - in, on. Local, expressing space / sphere; "among you", "in your midst", Cassirer.

en + dat. "[they would have repented long ago] in" - The preposition is most likely adverbial here, expressing manner.

sakkw/ (oV) "sackcloth" - heavy dark rough cloth suitable for mourning.


plhn prep. "but [I tell you]" - nevertheless, however, but / only... Here probably adversative, as NIV, but possibly "And still", JB.

anektoteron adj. "bearable" - endurable, tolerable. Carson's suggestion that there are "degrees of torment in hell" surely takes Jesus' words too literally when he is most likely just using an analogy to underscore the destructive judgment that awaits those who fail to heed his call to repent. There are two other theological ideas that can be developed from Jesus' words in this verse, but they also founder by putting too much weight on an analogy. i] Jesus knows how the pagan cities would have responded to the gospel. He is all-knowing, as God is all-knowing (omniscient); ii] God is not morally bound to reveal his truth to everyone, otherwise he could be accused of acting immorally in withholding it, especially from a people who would have responded to it.

Turw/ kai Sidwni dat. "for Tyre and Sidon" - Dative of interest, advantage. Powerful coastal cities north of Israel, cities which Israel had ongoing contact with.

en "on [the day of judgment]" - Temporal use of the preposition.

h] "than" - or. Here as a comparative, as NIV.

uJmin "for you" - to you. Dative of interest, disadvantage, as NIV.


c) Woe to Capernaum, v23-24. Alluding to Isaiah 14:15, Jesus compares Capernaum with Babylon, the epitome of evil. Their failure to repent will bring upon them the horror of "Hades"; they will be trapped in the place of the dead. Had the citizens of Sodom been given a comparable revelation from God, they would have repented and escaped the fire of divine retribution.

kai "and [you, Capernaum]" - Coordinative, "and", as NIV.

mh "no" - Introducing a question that expects a negative answer.

e{wV + gen. "to [the heavens]" - up to, as far as [heaven]. Local; of extension up to.

aJdou (hV ou) "[No, you will go down to] hades" - [you will go down as far as] a place or abode of the dead, including both the righteous and the unrighteous*. The NIV, as with NEB, is rather weak. "Go down to hell", CEV, expresses what the scripture says and is totally understandable to the modern reader, although "hades" was not really viewed as a place of punishment, as we view hell, but rather as a holding place. Possibly "Will you be lifted up to heaven? No, you will be driven down to the grave."

oJti ei ...... an + aor. "for if" - See v21.

aiJ genomenai (ginomai) aor. part. "that were performed" - the ones having become. Adjectival participle, see v21.

mecri + gen. "[it would have remained] to" - up to / until. Temporal use of the preposition; "until". "Sodom would have lasted to this day", Moffatt.

thV shmeron adv. "this day" - the today. "This very day", Cassirer, or just the adverbial sense "today", Barclay.


This verse virtually repeats v22.


ii] Acceptance of the weary, v25-30. "I thank you Father, that it was your good pleasure to reveal the divine knowledge of the kingdom / the gospel to children / the humble / repentant sinners, and to do this through my teaching. I alone can do it because this knowledge has been entrusted to me. None except you could know my Sonship, so as to reveal it to me; and none except myself, the Son, could know you, the Father. Thus I am well able to reveal the fullness of divine knowledge to all who seek it. So I say to all who are broken before God, come to me and I will refresh you; take to yourself the knowledge I bring and you will find rest for your souls, for the knowledge I bring is kindly and lightly borne", cf. McNeile.

a) Praise to the Father, v25-26. Jesus addresses God as "Father", underlining his sense of sonship, and then praises Him for his sovereign act of revelation. The mysteries of the messianic age are revealed to "little children", the humble repentant ones, rather than the "wise". Only believers can unlock the secrets of the kingdom and access its blessings. This predestined act of divine grace determines those who enter the kingdom. The blessings of the kingdom are not unlocked by the application of wisdom, power, status, goodness, piety......, but by humility. The "childlike", the lost and broken before God, those who seek divine mercy and forgiveness, only they "go home right before God." Jesus delights in his Father's gracious revealing and concealing, as does the Father himself.

en ekeinw/ tw/ kairw/ "at that time" - in that time. Temporal construction; a typical time signature, here of general time, cf. 12:1, 14:1.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[Jesus said]" - having answered [Jesus said]. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

exomologoumai (exomologew) mid. "I praise" - The word in the active means "agree fully / consent fully", or in the middle, "admit /confess / acknowledge." Here, in the middle, with a slightly stretched meaning of "praise" or "give thanks". Yet, "acknowledge", or "admit", would still suit the context. "I thank you", TEV.

soi dat. pro. "you [Father]" - Dative of direct object after the verb exomologew, "to praise."

tou ouranou (oV) gen. "[Lord] of heaven" - The genitive is adjectival, of subordination; "Lord over heaven and earth."

oJti "because" - that. Here expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus gives praise to the Father..

ekruyaV (kruptw) aor. "you have hidden" - you hid. The kingdom is gained, not by intellectual pursuit, but by a humble acceptance of God's grace. So, not an active hiding as such, but more like setting a riddle which intelligent / self-assured, secure / self-righteous people would not bother expending time to solve, but which little children, those who are humble / broken before God, are more than willing to apply themselves.

tauta "these things" - Undefined, but obviously the gospel concerning the coming kingdom.

apo + gen. "from [the wise]" - Expressing separation; "away from."

nhpoiV dat. adj. "little children" - infants, a minor. Dative of indirect object. Jesus tends to use the child image to illustrate a humble person, ie. a person who relies on the mercy of God for their salvation rather than on their own effort, or their status in the church/synagogue, or their birth/election (children of Abraham). The children are those who repent and seeks God's mercy rather than say "simple ones", Jeremias. For this reason Jesus' disciples are sometimes identifies as "little children."


oJti "for" - that. Taken as causal where an "I praise you" is assumed, "Yes indeed, Father, I praise you because ....", but possibly just explanatory; "Yes, Father, that was the very thing which it was your good pleasure to accomplish", Cassirer.

ou{twV adv. "this / this is what" - thus. Adverb of manner. The sense is "because doing it in this manner / in this way ....."

eudokia (a) "[was your] good pleasure / [you were] pleased to do" - [was] pleasing, satisfaction, favour, good-will...... Of God toward us. "That is what it pleased you to do", NJB.

emprosqen + gen. "-" - [it was pleasing] before [you]. Locative; "before". "A reverential way of expressing oneself when speaking of an eminent person", BAGD.


b) The authority of the Son, v27. The task and authority of revealing the secrets of the kingdom are committed to Jesus by the Father. This knowledge belongs only to the Father and the Son. As a divine act of grace, the Son has decided to reveal this knowledge to those who seek it. So now, the secrets of the kingdom belong to believers, to the "little children", to repentant seekers. Note how these words are very similar in style to Jesus' words in John's gospel.

panta (paV) "all things" - Given the context, it probably means "all knowledge", Morris.

paredoqh (paradidwmi) aor. pas. "have been committed" - were given, delivered to, handed over to. As of delivering / handing over a tradition, knowledge, revelation - that which is being delivered over to.

moi dat. pro. "to me" - Dative of indirect object.

uJpo + gen. "by [my Father]" - by, from [the father of me]. Expressing agency: my Father has committed everything into my hands", Cassirer.

epiginwskei (epiginwskw) pres. "knows" - The prefix may carry the sense "know very well / exactly", so "know who he really is." Possibly with a touch of knowing in the sense of union with.

ei mh "except [the Son]" - Introducing an exceptive clause which establishes a contrast; "no one really knows the Son except the Father", Barclay.

wJ/ ean + subj. "and those to whom [the Son chooses]" - [and the son may will to reveal] to whomsoever. The dative pronoun with the indefinite particle forms a relative clause, dative of indirect object, "to whomever" = "anyone to whom he wills." The sense that "there are individuals whom the Son chooses to reveal God to", reflects a doctrinal position rather than expressing the sense of the passage. The point is that Jesus is the unique source of divine knowledge, and that he is well able to reveal it to whomsoever / whoever, ie. to "all" who seek it, v28. Note, the sample sermon makes much of a false reading of v27. The interplay of the divine will and human free-will in salvation is a contentious one and only indirectly emerges from this passage. These notes adopt the view that God's sovereign will determines the existence of a people destined for salvation ("the elect"), and determines the method of inclusion in that people, namely "repentance and faith", but does not determine the individual membership. Those preaching on this passage will need to shape their words in a way that best reflects their own understanding of this thorny issue.

apokaluyai (apokaluptw) aor. inf. "to reveal him" - to reveal. The infinitive may be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verb "may will, chooses", but also, given that the verb is cognitive, the infinitive may be classified as introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what the "chooses", namely, to reveal the Father.


c) The Son's invitation, v28-30. Jesus now invites the "little children" to come to him for "rest". They are described as the "weary and burdened" ones. They are weighed down by law and sin. The function of the law is to expose sin, even make it more sinful. There is no relief from this burden; sin reigns and the curse of the law condemns. Jesus offers the lost and broken eternal rest in the presence of God.

oiJ kopiwteV (kopiaw) pres. part. "who are weary" - the ones becoming weary, hard pressed, tired. The participle serves as an adjective, attributive, limiting the substantive adjective panta, "all the ones", as NIV. "Suffering" is sometimes suggested as the intended sense, but a laboring image is better. It is possible that the "weary" are those who are oppressed by the piety of the Pharisees, their stress on ritual cleanliness, food laws, etc. Yet, it is more likely that Jesus is alluding to the law itself, its oppressive burden = the exposure and condemnation of sin. Jesus is not implying that the law is evil, rather that in exposing and accentuating sin it becomes a massive burden. Christ, through the cross, deals with the curse of the law and thus frees the believer from the burden of the law, ie. its accentuation of sin. The gospel serves to lift this burden. See Roman's chapter 7.

peforismenoi (forizw) perf. pas. part. "burdened" - The perfect tense serving to express a past state with ongoing consequences. The participle is adjectival, limiting "all". "Who are tired from carrying heavy burdens", CEV; "overburdened", NJB; "bent beneath your burdens", Barrett.

anapausw (anapauw) fut. "[and I] will give [you] rest" - [and I] will give rest [to you]. The "little children" find "rest" in Jesus in that they are no longer under the curse of the law, but are also no longer burdened by its demands, for the law's demands did not help them toward holiness, but rather exposed and accentuated their slavery to sin. "I will lift your load."


Christ's yoke, v29-30. Jesus calls on the "little children" to take his "yoke", to take to themselves the divine revelation he proclaims, namely, the gospel. He calls on them to set aside the yoke of the law and replace it with the yoke of grace. Listen to the message Jesus brings, the message of the free and gracious offer of salvation to all who reach out to God through him. This revelation is kindly and gentle, it is an easy yoke (good and comfortable); a light burden. It comes from a kind and gentle man, so how could it be otherwise?

arate (airw) aor. imp. "take" - take up, lift up.

ton zugon (oV) "yoke" - A symbol of subjection, so here an invitation to submit to Jesus as opposed to taking up the yoke of the law.

ef (epi) + acc. "upon [you]" - Spacial; "down upon, on."

maqete (manqanw) aor. imp. "learn" - "Become my disciple."

ap (apo) + gen. "from [me]" - Expressing source / origin.

oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why a person should take up Christ's "yoke" and "learn" from him.

prauV adj. "[I am] gentle" - meek, humble. The English words "meek" and "humble" now have a negative connotation and are best replaced by "gentle", "considerate".

tapeinoV adj. "humble" - poor, of low estate, lowly. In a negative sense, "servile", but used by Jesus to express a willing submission to the divine.

th/ kardia/ (a) dat. "in heart" - The dative is possibly local, expressing space / sphere, or adverbial, expressing manner; "gentle and humble of heart", Berkeley.

anapausin (iV ewV) "rest" - relief from trouble and related anxiety*. Rest from the burden of the law, and thus, the "soul", the true self, is set free.

taiV yucaiV (h) dat. "for [your] souls" - to/for the souls [of you]. Dative of interest, advantage.


gar "for" - Still in response to "take my yoke upon you", so causal, introducing a causal clause explaining why; "for the yoke I put upon men (people = disciples) is a kind one, and the burden I put upon their shoulders is lightly borne", Cassirer.

crhstoV adj. "easy" - comfortable, not pressing. Possibly "kindly", Moffatt; even "good", "pleasant".


Matthew Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]