Exploring Matthew 11-12

Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30 CSB).

These are some of the most beloved words of Jesus. By the Spirit, countless people have been brought to faith in Christ through this “great invitation”. It was one of the passages through which the Lord first spoke to me. It has spoken peace and spiritual refreshment to generations of followers of the Lord Jesus.

Yet how much do we know of the other passages in Matthew 11-12? Through many years of preaching and teaching God’s word, I cannot recall anyone ever saying that their soul was restored and reinvigorated by reading Matthew 12. I do know that the earlier parts of Matthew 11 have caused debate and that parts of Matthew 12 have garnered what little attention they have received for that same reason. While some sections of the Scriptures are hard to understand, we should still receive hope, joy, and peace from our meditation on them. So then, let’s go searching for what the Spirit can use to strengthen us. At a recent wedding I attended, the appetizers were at different bars around the entrance to the dining room (salad, pasta, mac & cheese, etc.) In this article, I want to point out where the “bars” are, with the intent that you will approach each one for spiritual nourishment.

Before I point out the “bars”, and I know some of you are looking for the dessert bar already, we should think about what the Spirit has breathed out in these chapters for our benefit. Chapters 11-12 develop the teaching in chapter 10 about varying responses to the good news about Jesus. Matthew chose several incidents that show questions, opposition, and acceptance to the message. All this will lead into chapter 13, where the Lord will explain what happens when the message of God’s kingdom is proclaimed. The two chapters are a bridge between what is taught in chapters 10 & 13.

The “bars” or records of responses to the Messiah are arranged in three groups of three. The last in each group provides a message of salvation and hope to followers of the Christ. Let’s take “a stroll around the room” to see what’s there.

First triad (11:2-30)

  • John the Baptist sent a couple of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah (11:2-19). This also has three parts: the apparent doubts of John the Baptist (or perhaps his disciples had doubts and John sent them to Jesus for answers), the testimony of Jesus about John, and the rejection of Jesus and John by the people.
  • The lack of repentance by towns in Galilee (11:20-24). Notice that in Jesus’ opinion, which is correct, their rejection of Jesus put them in a worse spiritual position than Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom!
  • Encouragement to Christ’s little ones; that is, those who trust in him as Lord and Savior (11:25-30). This encouragement is provided in three parts: teaching about God’s sovereignty in salvation, the glory of Christ, and the great invitation.

Second triad (12:1-21)

  • Rejection of the Messiah as Lord over the Sabbath (12:1-8). Notice how Jesus claims to be greater than the law covenant and its temple.
  • Rejection of the Messiah as the compassionate physician (12:9-14).
  • The Messiah is the humble Servant of the Lord, who will bring God’s victory to the nations (12:15-21). The opposition of the world cannot defeat the plan of God. Christ’s people can be sure of his tender care.

Third triad (12:22-50)

  • Controversy about how Christ did his mighty works (12:22-37). Notice that when the people started to think of Jesus in messianic terms, their religious leaders could not deny his power; they only railed against it. Jesus calmly answered their criticism.
  • Controversy over the Sign of Jonah (12:38-45). The religious leaders would not recognize the clear proofs that Jesus gave of his identity (cf. 11;4-6), yet they asked for another sign. Jesus had no reason to start a circus, so he told them to wait for something that would demonstrate that he is the Messiah, the Servant of the Lord.
  • Jesus’ true family (12:46-50) is not a matter of physical relationship, even close physical kinship, but depends on a believing response to his teaching that results in the doing of God’s will.

We have walked “around the room” and have seen where the various “bars” are located. Now, it is up to you to walk up to each one and learn from the words and actions of the Lord Jesus. As you do, be sure to see his glory displayed throughout these chapters.

Grace and peace, David