These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Matthew 11:20-30 Inductive Bible Study – The Call to Follow Jesus
I. Woe to unrepentant cities (20-24)
What do you think Jesus’ purpose is in denouncing these cities? What did he want His audience to understand?
Had any miracles recorded in the gospels occurred in Chorazin or Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-25, Luke 9:10-17)?
What can we learn from the fact that no recorded miracles were done in Chorazin?
Why does Jesus mention Tyre and Sidon? What were special about these cities?
John 21:25 – The world would not have room for the books that would be written.
- Verse 20 – John and Jesus had been preaching repentance and the kingdom of God is near. Many of the people in the crowds were intrigued. They were curious. They watched Jesus and talked about Him. They wanted Jesus to heal their diseases and sicknesses. But there was very little transforming repentance taking place. Jesus’ miracles should have convinced the people that He was truly the Messiah, the Son of God. Turning away from their sins, they should have thrown themselves on Jesus’ mercy. But they did not. Take note that in Jewish culture, repentance was often shown externally through sackcloth and ashes. But we see zero cases of sackcloth and ashes in the gospels. No one tears their hair out like Ezra did. No one mourns and weeps like the people of Nineveh did. Why is there no repentance? Because the people thought they were OK. The people thought they were righteous in God’s sight. Having become comfortable in their religious lives, they followed the ritual of religion, but their hearts were not changed.
- Chorazin – This was a town near Capernaum. It is not mentioned in the gospels as any place that Jesus did miracles. We can learn two simple lessons from this:
- Jesus did many miracles not mentioned in the gospels. See John 21:25.
- The disciples were not just making up or even editing what Jesus said. If they were trying to compose an account of Jesus’ words which fit the account they were recording, they would have considered editing this out since it seems there is no support for it. Statements like this are actual strong contextual arguments for the truth historical veracity of the account.
- Bethsaida – Some miracles were recorded which occurred there or very near there. Mark 8:22-25, Luke 9:10-17
- Tyre and Sidon – These were nearby cities to Israel on the north. They were seaports on the Mediterranean Sea. A number of prophecies of judgment were made against them in the OT (Isaiah 23, Jeremiah 25,27,47, Ezekiel 26-28, Joel 3). They were fulfilled as Tyre was completely destroyed by Alexander the Great in 322 BC and Artaxerxes (a Persian king) conquered Sidon. Jesus’ point is that though these were pagan cities they would have quickly repented of their sins if Jesus were in their midst doing miracles as He did in the Jewish towns mentioned in this passage. Highlighting Gentile and pagan towns as being more quick to repent of their sins than good Jewish towns would have enraged the Jews and helped to drive His point home. There are other examples of Gentile pagans and idol worshipers repenting more quickly than the Jews such as in the book of Jonah when he goes to Nineveh and they repent in sackcloth and ashes. See this explanation from https://www.gotquestions.org/Tyre-and-Sidon.html “Jesus used the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon to highlight the way God’s chosen people refused Him. The Israelites of Jesus’ day believed themselves to be righteously following God, yet they did not recognize God in their midst. Jesus, in essence, shamed Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum—they, who were supposed to be God’s representatives on earth, refused to listen; yet pagan cities would have quickly repented. Jesus’ comments demonstrate the importance of responsibility and stewardship. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48).”
- Capernaum is likewise being condemned as being even hard hearted and stubborn than Sodom. Jesus does not mince words. Sodom is known as perhaps the most evil city in the history of the world. Its utter wickedness was well known to the Jews. Jesus seems to want to shock them out of their complacency with this statement and yet we still don’t see people repenting as they should.
- Application: Discuss the Jews’ complacency and our complacency. Are we quick to repent? When we listen to the messages at church or Bible study are we quick to change our behavior and obey? Or do we go through the outward motions of following God while not changing our deeply rooted behaviors that are contrary to the Word?
II. Jesus’ intimate relationship with the Father (25-27)
Why do you think Jesus said this to the Father out loud in the hearing of everyone?
In what way does God hide these things from the wise and intelligent and reveal them to infants?
Why do you think God does this?
What kinds of things are included in the “all things” here in verse 27?
What does He mean that no one knows the Son except the Father and vice-versa? Do we not know Him?
How is God knowable to us?
1 Corinthians 1:17-25 – I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.
John 16:28 – I came from the Father and have come into the world and will go back to Him.
John 6:38 – I have come down from heaven to do His will.
John 5:19 – Whatever the Father does, the Son does in like manner.
John 10:15 – The Father knows Me and I know the Father.
Ephesians 1:22, 1 Corinthians 15:27 – Everything is put under His feet.
Verse by Verse Commentary
- Jesus appears to have said this out loud – Perhaps He wanted the crowds to hear this prayer so that they would desperately want to know these things. Desperately wanting to have these things revealed to them, they would seek for the truth and God would then show them as well. And yet even after hearing this, the people’s hearts remained unchanged.
- Jesus’ relationship with the Father – Here we get a glimpse of Jesus’ relationship with the Father. It is very close. They know each other intimately on a level no one else possibly can. Though there are no perfect terms in human’s language to describe this, we see that the Son had the perfect “trust” of the Father, who hands over everything to Him. The Father knows that the Son will do exactly as He would do with these things because the Son is in fact the image of the Father (Colossians 1:15). Here is one of the many verses which gives us some glimpse into the perfect Trinity. And the good news for us is that we too can know God (though not in the same complete way) if we come to Jesus, who will reveal the Father to us. Jesus is the Mediator who brings us to the Father and gives us a relationship with Him.
III. Jesus’ invitation to the weary (28-30)
What invitation does Jesus extend?
Who does it apply to? What kinds of people are weary? What kind of person is heavy-laden?
What claim/promise does Jesus make?
What is Jesus’ yoke?
What is our job (learn from Him?)
What is the result of taking His yoke upon us?
What is a yoke? How and why does He say it is easy and the burden light?
Does this mean following Jesus is easy? Is it easy or hard?
Task/role play: Split into pairs. One of you plays an unbeliever. One of you plays a believer. The unbeliever should roll play disbelief that the burden of following Jesus is light or easy. The believer explains this passage. The unbeliever should feel free to doubt or play devil’s advocate. Gather back together and share.
1 John 5:2-4 – His commands are not burdensome.
Verse by Verse Commentary
- The invitation – It is available. It requires an action, come.
- The called – The weary and heavy-laden are called. There could be different reasons for being weary. Weary of sin. Weary and tired by the burdens of this world. Weary and tired by the burdens of trying to keep so many man-made laws and traditions. Weary and tired of trying to be good enough to be accepted by God. For a Jew, it would have been wearisome to try to follow the countless rules which had been added to the Scriptures over the years and know you are never even close to good enough to reach the standard. Now the weary are people who are trying hard in life (perhaps as a Muslim or a Buddhist, perhaps as a nominal Christian or a works oriented Catholic, perhaps as someone who tries to earn the approval of people and lives for what others think, perhaps as a materialist), but are not achieving what they hope for. The goal is continually out of reach. An empty heart and dissatisfaction are ever present.
- The promise – I will give you rest. It is the same type of promise Jesus made when He said He is the bread of life and also living water. Jesus promises rest. Not physical rest. He Himself rested physically very little. But a rest from toiling on our own to achieve the unachievable. He gives us what we are longing for. He fills our hearts. And he gives it as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), which we do not and cannot earn.
- His yoke – He still expects us to learn from Him and follow His ways. And yet His yoke is not heavy. See 1 John 5:2-4. A command is not burdensome if you want to obey it. A command is not burdensome if you love the one who gave it. He is not a harsh master. He is loving. And though He is our Master, He is also our friend.
- I am gentle and humble in heart – See Philippians 2:4-10. Jesus is very humble. He is also gentle. When people mocked Him on the cross, He did not open His mouth to rebuke them. Neither did He call fire from heaven to consume them. We should understand that Jesus is also firm and tough when He needs to be, such as when Peter tempted Him not to go through with His mission to die on the cross or even in the above passage today. But He can be very gentle as well like when He asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” He asked this instead of chastizing Peter for his three times denial. Application: Fathers, are you only strict and tough to your kids, or are you also gentle? Are you a friend to them? Are your commands to your kids burdensome and wearisome or are they happy to obey because of the relationship you have with them? Husbands, can consider the same questions in relation to their wives. Are you gentle and loving to your wife? Do you make it easy for them to follow your leadership and submit to you?
- Application: If you are weary in this world, you need to come to Jesus. If you are striving to accomplish things with your own power, you need to come to Jesus. If you are trying to be good enough to be accepted by Him or by others, you need to come to Jesus. If you are stressed and your thoughts are in turmoil, then you need to come to Jesus. He is a shepherd who leads us to the green grass and quiet waters. Are you following Him to these or are we still like the sheep in Isaiah 53:6 who go their own way?
More to come soon
We want to help you study the Bible, obey the Bible, and teach the Bible to others. We have therefore created a library of almost one thousand (and growing) inductive Bible studies, which are available for free. This takes a lot of time and hard work.
Help us continue to create Bible study resources by supporting Study and Obey for as little as $1.