11:1-6 John’s purpose was to be the forerunner, announcing to the world Jesus’ arrival. Yet he is asking if Jesus is the promised Messiah. There are four possible motives for this question.
1. John may have asked the question merely to encourage Jesus to be more outspoken about being the Messiah.
2. John may have been in duress from his imprisonment causing him to have doubts (John 1:29-34). Note v. 6.
3. John may have sent his disciples with this question for their sake, so they’d hear Jesus’ answer and follow Him (John 3:26-30).
4. John may have wanted confirmation that his job was finished. He could die in peace.
Whatever the motive, John’s disciples received an emphatic answer to the question. Jesus was undoubtedly the Christ.
11:7-15 Jesus praised John. He had done his job well. John was not in the kingdom because the kingdom had not yet come, but John’s ministry helped bring the kingdom to fruition. He was the Elijah, though not literally (John 1:21).
11:16-19 This common children’s rhyme illustrates a despondent attitude toward the message of Christ. When people don’t like the message they criticize the messenger. Verse 19 assures us that truth eventually bears itself out.
11:20-24 Bethsaida and Korazin were Jewish cities north of the Sea of Galilee. Tyre (Acts 21:3) and Sidon (27:3) were Phoenician cities that did later respond to Christ. Capernaum was in the same region but in greater danger on Judgment Day than Sodom. One could interpret this as various degrees of hell. If so, it does not mean there are degrees of heaven as Jesus illustrates in ch. 20.
11:25-30 Jesus would commonly break into spontaneous prayer, an excellent habit for us as well. He was not implying that wise people cannot know the things of God, merely that many choose not to where humble, childlike people are more eager to know God. The link between the Father and Son is inseparable. Accepting one means accepting the other. All the more reason to accept Jesus’ invitation.
Additional Thoughts on Matthew 11:12
This verse poses a challenge for Bible translators. Examine the difference in these 6 translations. What do you see being emphasized in regard to “forceful men?”
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. (KJV)
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven has been taken by storm and eager men are forcing their way into it. (Phillips)
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. (NASB)
From the time of John the Baptist until now, violent people have been trying to take over the kingdom of heaven by force. (CEV)
And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people attack it. (NLT)
Since the time John the Baptizer came until now, the kingdom of heaven has been going forward strongly. People using force have been trying to get the kingdom. (ERV)
Some translators understood Jesus to be saying the kingdom was being aggressively advanced by the faithful. Others saw it in a negative vain, that persecutors were trying to stop the coming of the kingdom, 13:19. Still others imply a combination of the 2 views. Both interpretations are consistent with the times as well as the context. Jesus had been praising the progress of John. As a result of John’s ministry, forceful (biastai) people were ardently working to stop the kingdom’s progress. The 2nd view also makes good sense. Followers were seizing the kingdom with both hands and speeding forth its coming. These “forceful” subjects were loyal servants pressing the issue, though not always using the best tactics (John 6:15). There is merit in both views. Apparently, there is not enough textual evidence to determine which point Jesus was making, but it makes little difference. Both approaches are correct.