Church of Christ
Locks Cross Roads
3) Matthew 11 - Verse 14 through 19
Matthew 11:14 - And if ye are willing to receive it, this is Elijah, that is to come. In this seemingly obscure verse,
lying half-hidden among so much more famous material, rests the most fundamental issue of real religion and,
ultimately, the judgement of the race: if you are willing to receive it. The willingness to be taught is the key of this
entire chapter, the crux of John's problem (Matthew 11:1-6) the failure of the Jewish people in general (Matthew
11:16-19). God' s revelation (11:25-30). Teachableness is not a matter of the understanding as though the
meaning of the revelation was unclear, but a question of the will (John 5:40, John 7:17, Matthew 23:37, Revelation
Jesus merely challenges their willingness to face the truth hereby introduced. Many would be most unwilling. But
the Lord did not force them to acknowledge these truths against their will.
This is Elijah that is to come. The reference here is Malachi's prediction (Malachi 3:1, Malachi 4:5-6) that, in a
period destitute of faith and true fear of Jehovah, God would raise up a prophet who would lead the ungodly
generation back to the God of the fathers. The appearance of this great prophet must shortly proceed some "great
and terrible day of the Lord" who will come with terrible judgment upon the nation.
As in these passages one cannot think of the return or resurrection of the David who had long been dead; but a
king is meant who will reign over the nation of God in the mind and spirit of David; so the Elijah to be sent can only
be a prophet with the spirit or power of Elijah. The second David was to be born from the family of David, because
to the seed of David there had been promised the eternal possession of the throne.
Malachi's prediction has been fulfilled. Any argument that Jesus could not be the Messiah, based on the
assumption that Elijah must first come before the appearance of the Christ and that he had not done so, is invalid.
The long-awaited Elijah had indeed come in the person and ministry of John the Baptist.
As a necessary consequence of this fulfillment of the great Elijah prophecy by John, the Kingdom of God must
shortly appear in the person of the Christ Himself who would bring in the Messianic age. So it was that the coming
of John that announced the conclusion of the Old Testament era, since the Messiah was sure to be right behind the
appearance of the coming "Elijah."
Matthew 11:15 - He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. This exclamation implies the willful guilt of people whose
ears were made to hear and understand what Jesus had been saying, but was deliberately inattentive.
This is demonstrated by the fact that Luke (Luke 7:29-30) inserts here the following theological comment: When
they heard this all the people and the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John; but
the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.
Matthew 11:16 - And whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places, who call
unto their fellows and say, we piped unto you, and ye did not dance; we wailed, and ye did not mourn. The quality
of this illustration lies in the fact that Jesus drew the outline of the features clearly while leaving the details, depth
and dimension somewhat unclear and puzzling. His meaning is clear: "You people are impossible to satisfy, since
you do not recognize the divine wisdom under which John and I follow different manners of life and work, but in both
cases our methods of operation are certain to be justified by the end result of each."
The Jews pipe; John did not dance. John was ascetic; Jews rejected him.
The Jews wailed; Jesus did not mourn, Jesus was normal; Jews rejected Him.
So either way they rejected God and His servants.
It sees the men of this generation (cf Luke 7:31), i.e. the Jews, as the fickle children who complain and are not
satisfied to let others follow their own chosen course.
It also lists the two objections in chronological order, not only in order of Jesus' application (Matthew 11:18-19), but
also in order of John's and Jesus' actual appearance in Israel.
The plain fact is that when people do not want to listen to the truth, they will easily enough find an excuse for not
listening to it. They do not even try to be consistent in their criticisms; they will criticize the same person and the
same institution from quite opposite grounds and reasons.
Matthew 11:18 - For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a demon. Luke (Luke 7:33) has
"eating no bread and drinking no wine." Since these items were the common food of common people, these who
object to John are complaining about his abstinence from things entirely normal and legitimate.
Matthew 11:19 - The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold, a gluttonous man and a
winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. The psychological impact of this application of Jesus' parable of the
playing children lies in the fact that it ends with Jewish rejection of Jesus, for this is the real issue.
And wisdom is justified by her works (Luke 7:35: "Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.") Wisdom is seen as a
divine mother who produces children which, in turn, represent the faithful minority who have welcomed John and
Christ, or even these two themselves; it is much simpler to see Jesus as applying the test to the ministries both of
John and Himself. While there were critics enough who stood around ready to sneer at the different approaches
used by John and Jesus, the Lord is willing to submit both to the judgment of ultimate results and final fruits.