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The Book of Matthew : Chapter Eleven

A verse-by-verse commentary by Max Klein

Matthew 11: the continuation of the 9th chapter


Matthew 11:1


Καὶ ἐγένετο ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς διατάσσων τοῖς δώδεκα µαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, µετέβη ἐκεῖθεν τοῦ διδάσκειν καὶ κηρύσσειν ἐν ταῖς πόλεσιν αὐτῶν.


When Jesus had finished giving instructions to [a briefing] his twelve disciples, he departed from there to teach [doctrine emphasized] and proclaim [himself as Savior and Messiah] in their cities.


The Greek noun keruks is a herald of a king. The keruks proclaims (kerusso) the king.



Matthew 11:2


Ὁ δὲ Ἰωάννης ἀκούσας ἐν τῷ δεσµωτηρίῳ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ Χριστοῦ πέµψας διὰ τῶν µαθητῶν αὐτοῦ


Now when John, in prison heard of the works of Christ [Messiah], he sent word by his disciples.


John was imprisoned thanks to Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas A.D. 6–39 was the full but younger brother of Herod Archelaus. As a ruler he was regarded as sly and ambitious but not as able as his father. Of him Jesus said, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons’ ” (Luke 13:32). After the death of his father, Herod the Great, Herod Antipas was made the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, (Since Perea was located on the east side of the Dead Sea, it was separate from the main portion of the tetrarchy) which combined locations embraced but one-fourth of the original territory of Herod the Great.


John the Baptizer was imprisoned because he dared to criticize Herod Antipas. You see, Herod Antipas was first married to the daughter of Aretas, an Arabian king of Petraea. Nevertheless, he was intrigued with the beautiful Herodias, the wife of his half-brother, Philip I who politically had no future, and since Herodias was quite ambitious, she eloped with Herod Antipas. Her marriage to Herod Antipas (himself divorced), after her divorce from his half-brother, was censured by John as a transgression of the Mosaic Law. “But when Herod the tetrarch was reproved by him on account of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and on account of all the wicked things which Herod had done, he added this also to them all [his evil], that he locked John up in prison” (Luke 3:19–20). John’s argument was that rulers should adhere and enforce the Laws of Establishment, not attack them. Herodias reacted bitterly to John’s point and would have had him killed but could not because Herod, her husband feared killing John the Baptizer:


Mark 6:18-20, “For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly perplexed; yet he liked to listen to him.”


Eventually, Herodias through intrigue, got her revenge:


Matthew 14:1-5, “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Although Herod wanted to put John to death, he feared the crowd because they considered John a prophet.”

Even though John is alive at this point, he will shortly be beheaded. Matthew 14:6-12, “On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much 7 that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” 9 The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted 10 and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. 12 John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.”



Matthew 11:3


εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Σὺ εἶ ὁ ἐρχόµενος ἢ ἕτερον προσδοκῶµεν;


and said to him [through his disciples], “Are you the One who is coming [technical expression for the Messiah], or shall we look for another [that is not you]?”


This expression “the One who is coming” is also used in Mark 11:9, “Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, Hosanna [deliverer, one who will deliver from the Romans] “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” also in Luke 19:38, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” 

John recognized the Lord Jesus Christ as both the Savior and the Messiah. So, why this question?


As Savior:


John 1:29, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”


As Messiah:


Matthew 3:11-13, “On the one hand I baptize you [believers] by means of water because of a change of thinking [about Christ], but the one coming after me, He is mightier than I whose sandals I am not worthy to lace [loosen, remove].  He himself will baptize by means of the Holy Spirit [a reference to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in the Church Age] and by means of fire [a reference to the Baptism of Fire at the 2nd Advent]. (12) His winnowing-shovel is in his hand, and He [the Lord Jesus Christ at the 2nd Advent] will thoroughly clean [separating the unbelievers from the believers] his threshing floor [analogous to the earth], and he will gather his wheat [believers] into his granary [the Millennium], but he will burn up the chaff [the unbelievers] with unquenchable fire.” [The Baptism of Fire] (13) Then [while John was talking about the coming of Christ at the 2nd Advent] Jesus arrived [made his public appearance] from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John to be baptized by him.”


John 3:28, 29, “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him [as the herald].’ 29 The bride [the church] belongs to the bridegroom. The friend [John] who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him and is full of happiness when he hears the bridegroom’s voice [John met the Messiah]. That happiness is mine, and it is now complete.”

Since John has already recognized Jesus as Christ, he is asking for vindication via the miracles of Messiahship. So, Jesus tells the disciples of John that they should go and communicate to John regarding these miracles in order that John will know that My Messiahship has been vindicated.



Matthew 11:4


καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰωάννῃ ἃ ἀκούετε καὶ βλέπετε


Jesus answered and said to them [John’s disciples], “Go and report to John what you hear [the Lord’s commands regarding the miracles] and see [the results of his commands]:


They were to stick around to witness His miracles and then to report back to John.  In this way, John will know before he is executed that he had fulfilled his responsibility as the Lord’s herald.  



Matthew 11:5


τυφλοὶ ἀναβλέπουσιν καὶ χωλοὶ περιπατοῦσιν, λεπροὶ καθαρίζονται καὶ κωφοὶ ἀκούουσιν, καὶ νεκροὶ ἐγείρονται καὶ πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται  


The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up [resuscitated], and the poor have the gospel preached to them [the poor get what they need the most].


There will always be poor people especially where religion is well entrenched. The best thing that a Christian can do for a poor person is to give him the gospel. If he should respond to the gospel, he then comes under the love of God and God’s logistical provision. Furthermore, as he advances spiritually, he will develop the motivation and ability to think which in some cases will allow him to leave poverty. In addition to giving the gospel, one may help such a person find meaningful employment if he is so inclined, but just giving a handout is not really helping the poor person.



Matthew 11:6


καὶ µακάριός ἐστιν ὃς ἐὰν µὴ σκανδαλισθῇ ἐν ἐµοί


“And blessed is he who does not take offense at me.”


Most were offended by His grace message due to their religious influence. Religion is a system of works and so religious people are always at odds with a grace system. However, there are always those who are under a religious system and come to understand its evil and so are open to the gospel message of grace.  


The evaluation of the ministry of John: verses 7-11


Matthew 11:7


Τούτων δὲ πορευοµένων ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγειν τοῖς ὄχλοις περὶ Ἰωάννου, Τί ἐξήλθατε εἰς τὴν ἔρηµον θεάσασθαι; κάλαµον ὑπὸ ἀνέµου σαλευόµενον;  


As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the desert to see: a reed shaken by the wind [a pleasing personality: personality makes the man]?  


Personality is not an important issue, but the truth. Since truth was not communicated in the temple in Jerusalem, nor in the synagogues, the Jewish unbelievers who were seeking the truth had to go to hear John. They didn’t go into the desert to meet a person with a nice personality, a personality that was pleasing from the human viewpoint, but one who communicated the truth of God.



Matthew 11:8


ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἰδεῖν; ἄνθρωπον ἐν µαλακοῖς ἠµφιεσµένον; ἰδοὺ οἱ τὰ µαλακὰ φοροῦντες ἐν τοῖς οἴκοις τῶν βασιλέων εἰσίν.


“But what did you go out to see: a man dressed in soft clothing?  Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in Kings’ palaces.


Matthew 11:9


ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἰδεῖν; προφήτην; ναί, λέγω ὑµῖν, καὶ περισσότερον προφήτου


“But what did you go out to see: a prophet?  Yes, I tell you and one who is more than a prophet.


Did they go out to see a prophet? Those Jewish unbelievers seeking the truth did not walk miles to visit a well-dressed aristocrat or member of the royal family. Although he did some prophesying, he was not a prophet by office.  



Matthew 11:10


οὗτός ἐστιν περὶ οὗ γέγραπται, Ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν µου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου ἔµπροσθέν σου


“This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold I [God the Father] send my messenger [John] ahead of you [the Messiah], who will prepare your way before you’” [quoting from Malachi 3:1 and John was the messenger as the herald of the Messiah],’


John became the human herald for the 1st Advent, whereas Elijah will be one of the human heralds of the 2nd Advent. If Jesus Christ had not been rejected at the 1st Advent, there would not have been a need for a 2nd Advent. If there had not been a need for a 2nd Advent there would have been a need for John, the Baptizer as a herald. Thus, the Jews were somewhat confused about the role of John the Baptizer as per John 1:21, “They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet [the Messiah]?" He answered, "No." Since the Jews had rejected the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Messiah, there became a need for two advents and heralds for both advents.




Malachi 4:5, 6, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of that great and dreadful day of the Lord.”


Matthew 3:3, “For this is what was communicated through Isaiah, the prophet saying, “The voice of one [John the Baptizer] proclaiming loudly in the desert [of Judea].  Prepare [the aorist tense is a one time-decision] the way of the Lord [an idiomatic expression for salvation].  Keep on making upright [Rebound followed by the development of experiential righteousness] His paths!’” Taken from Isaiah 40:3, “A voice [John the Baptizer] proclaiming in the desert [of Judea], prepare the way of the Lord [believe in Him]; make straight in the desert a highway to our God [after salvation execute the spiritual life].”



Matthew 11:11


ἀµὴν λέγω ὑµῖν, οὐκ ἐγήγερται ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν µείζων Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ· ὁ δὲ µικρότερος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν µείζων αὐτοῦ ἐστιν


Truly I say to you, among those who have been born of women there has not risen a greater one than John the Baptist. But the one who is least [Paul, the greatest person of grace and doctrine] in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he [John; a prophecy of Saul of Tarsus].


John had the record up until the time of Paul.  Until Paul came on the scene John had the record for being the greatest believer.  Paul oriented to the grace of God more than any believer in history.  ‘Least’ refers to Paul’s orientation to grace as well as to John’s (John 3:30).  Paul said that he was the least of all in 1 Corinthians 15:10. Grace and humility make the man.



Matthew 11:12


ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν ἡµερῶν Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ ἕως ἄρτι ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται, καὶ βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν


And from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence [great believers are persecuted], and the violent ones take it by force [evil people bring violence upon great believers namely opposition to grace and truth]


A grace-oriented believer is going to have opposition. This is bona fide opposition.  Self-righteous Christians also suffer persecution, but they ask for it, and deserve it. The son of the bond woman . . .


Matthew 11:13


πάντες γὰρ οἱ προφῆται καὶ ὁ νόµος ἕως Ἰωάννου ἐπροφήτευσαν


For all the Prophets and the Law [the Old Testament] prophesied [about the Messiah] until John.



Matthew 11:14.


And if [1st class condition of assumption] you are willing to accept it [the gospel and so the Kingdom], this is Elijah who is about to come. [If you do not then John is John and Elijah is yet to come.]


καὶ εἰ θέλετε δέξασθαι, αὐτός ἐστιν Ἠλίας ὁ µέλλων ἔρχεσθαι.


If the Jews had responded to the gospel message of our Lord there would have been no need for John, only Elijah since only one advent would have been necessary. However, since you will not believe in Jesus Christ and his kingdom, John is John and Elijah will come later.



Matthew 11:15


ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκουέτω


He who has ears, he must keep on listening [persistence is important].



The condemnation of the Jews: verses 16-24


Matthew 11:16


Τίνι δὲ ὁµοιώσω τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην; ὁµοία ἐστὶν παιδίοις καθηµένοις ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς ἃ προσφωνοῦντα τοῖς ἑτέροις


But to what shall I compare this generation [this generation of Jewish religious unbelievers]? It [that generation] is like little children sitting in the markets and calling to their playmates, [that generation of Jews were like children]


They are calling to their friends in a sulking way. They are complaining to their friends about the treatment they are receiving from their friends.  



Matthew 11:17


λέγουσιν, Ηὐλήσαµεν ὑµῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε· ἐθρηνήσαµεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκόψασθε


saying, “We [the generation of Jews at the 1st Advent] played the flute to you, and you did not dance [John didn’t dance. He lived a life of asceticism]! We mourned to you, but you did not wail [Jesus neither fasted nor did he live a life of asceticism]!” [These Jewish unbelievers are like complaining children.]


Just as these Jewish unbelievers complained about John the Baptist so also they complained about the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus will live a life eating good food and wine as it were he danced.  John the Baptist is going to live a very ascetic type of life as it were, he wailed.  Some Jewish unbelievers liked and desired the lifestyle of Christ whereas the ascetic Jewish unbelievers respected the ascetic type-lifestyle of John.  John and Jesus had antithetical lifestyles, and both were rejected and hated by that generation not because of their lifestyles, but because these religious unbelievers hated grace. You are not going to please people who reject the truth.  



Matthew 11:18


ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάννης µήτε ἐσθίων µήτε πίνων, καὶ λέγουσιν, ∆αιµόνιον ἔχει·


 For John came neither eating [beautifully deliciously prepared food] nor drinking [wine], and they [this generation of religious Jewish unbelievers] say, He has a demon [a criticism because he represents grace and truth].


Even though John had a lifestyle that many ascetic Jews revered, he was rejected and hated by them because he was grace oriented, not a self-righteous ascetic.  It is not the lifestyle that people accept or reject alone, it is their thinking and mental attitude as well. So, even though Jesus danced (dined well and dressed well), they complained about him and called him a glutton and drunkard.  



Matthew 11:19


ἦλθεν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων, καὶ λέγουσιν, Ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης, τελωνῶν φίλος καὶ ἁµαρτωλῶν. καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῆς


The Son of Man came eating [delicious food] and drinking [wine], and they say, Behold, a man who is a glutton [went to parties and ate good food] and a winebibber [an alcoholic], a friend of tax-collectors and prostitutes [a criticism]. But wisdom [from knowing doctrine] is vindicated by its production [production comes from God. Do what is right not what people think or say!].


Religious people both believer and unbeliever attack hypocritically the lifestyle of Christians for if a religious person had that same lifestyle, it would be okay.  The same thing goes on with political liberals.  It is really the thinking and mental attitude that they are attacking.  


The condemnation of Jewish cities: verses 20-24.


Matthew 11:20


Τότε ἤρξατο ὀνειδίζειν τὰς πόλεις ἐν αἷς ἐγένοντο αἱ πλεῖσται δυνάµεις αὐτοῦ, ὅτι οὐ µετενόησαν·


Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His mighty works [miracles] were done, because they did not change their thinking [about Christ and believe].



Matthew 11:21


Οὐαί σοι, Χοραζίν· οὐαί σοι, Βηθσαϊδά· ὅτι εἰ ἐν Τύρῳ καὶ Σιδῶνι ἐγένοντο αἱ δυνάµεις αἱ γενόµεναι ἐν ὑµῖν, πάλαι ἂν ἐν σάκκῳ καὶ σποδῷ µετενόησαν.


Woe to you, Chorazin [just north of Capernaum on the city of Galilee]! Woe to you, Bethsaida [house of fishing]! For if the powerful acts which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon [two cities of Phoenician for wickedness and evil], they would have changed their thinking long ago in sackcloth and ashes [and they do when the gospel is brought to them even without all the miracles]!


Chorazin was a center for all the fishermen and for all the smugglers and for many who were doing business with the Roman Empire. Bethsaida was another fishing headquarters. They rejected the gospel in spite of having seen many miracles. Regarding Sidon and Tyre, many did believe when Paul brought the gospel message to them. If the unbeliever is positive, he doesn’t need to see miracles. To the contrary, if the unbeliever is negative, all the miracles in the world will not change his volition as these Jews had demonstrated.  



Matthew 11:22


πλὴν λέγω ὑµῖν, Τύρῳ καὶ Σιδῶνι ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται ἐν ἡµέρᾳ κρίσεως ἢ ὑµῖν.


But I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon [judged by Alexander] in the day of [national] judgment than for you [Chorazin and Bethsaida when you are judged by the Romans].


The siege of Tyre was orchestrated by Alexander the Great in 332 BC during his campaigns against the Persians. It is said that Alexander was so enraged at the Tyrians' defense of their city and the loss of his men that he destroyed half the city and slaughters all their leaders. Since the Sidonians did not resist Alexander, they got off quite well.  


The Romans started their campaign against the cities of Galilee in 66 A.D. and completed their conquest in 67 A.D. will be more savage than Alexander the Great and that is saying something. In this campaign there was a lot of killing and a lot were taken as prisoners and sold into slavery.



Matthew 11:23


καὶ σύ, Καφαρναούµ, µὴ ἕως οὐρανοῦ ὑψωθήσῃ; ἕως ᾅδου καταβήσῃ. ὅτι εἰ ἐν Σοδόµοις ἐγενήθησαν αἱ δυνάµεις αἱ γενόµεναι ἐν σοί, ἔµεινεν ἂν µέχρι τῆς σήµερον


And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to the heaven [extremely religious], shall be brought down to Hades [as unbelievers]. For, if the mighty works [the miracles] which have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day [they would have turned away from their homosexuality].


If the Lord Jesus Christ had gone to Sodom and had performed many miracles to establish his authority and credibility, his warning against homosexuality would have been heeded. Keep in mind that Sodom was destroyed because of this sexual perversion, not because of their rejection of the gospel. So, this verse is not stating that they would have responded to the gospel message.



Matthew 11:24


πλὴν λέγω ὑµῖν ὅτι γῇ Σοδόµων ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται ἐν ἡµέρᾳ κρίσεως ἢ σοί


But I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the Land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you. [The future tense is used since the comparison at this point was not yet brought to completion.]


Genesis 19:24, 25, “Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.” The judgment was swift. So, the suffering was not long.


Whereas the Roman campaign in Galilee lasted for many months with tremendous suffering, death and slavery.


Matthew 11:25


Ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἐξοµολογοῦµαί σοι, πάτερ, κύριε τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅτι ἔκρυψας ταῦτα ἀπὸ σοφῶν καὶ συνετῶν καὶ ἀπεκάλυψας αὐτὰ νηπίοις·


At that time Jesus answered [not answering them, but closing out with prayer] and said, I thank You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise [rationalism] and prudent [empiricism: those with a theological education] and revealed them to babes [faith oriented].


God does not reveal his plan through rationalism or empiricism, but through faith. Since faith functions without works or merit, religion always rejects the revelation of God. Only through faith, is God’s word revealed.   


Matthew 11:26


ναί, ὁ πατήρ, ὅτι οὕτως εὐδοκία ἐγένετο ἔµπροσθέν σου


Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.


Jesus recognized that the Father’s plan is perfect, a grace plan understood and executed through the non-meritorious function of faith.   



Matthew 11:27


Πάντα µοι παρεδόθη ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός µου, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐπιγινώσκει τὸν υἱὸν εἰ µὴ ὁ πατήρ, οὐδὲ τὸν πατέρα τις ἐπιγινώσκει εἰ µὴ ὁ υἱὸς καὶ ᾧ ἐὰν βούληται ὁ υἱὸς ἀποκαλύψαι


All things are delivered to Me from My Father. And no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom [is the person who will respond to grace and learn by faith] the Son desires to reveal Him [God the Father].



Matthew 11:28


∆εῦτε πρός µε πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισµένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑµᾶς


Come [particle of exhortation] to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden [the Jewish unbeliever loaded down with the legalistic requirements for salvation], and I will give you rest [of salvation].


The Jewish unbeliever has worked to the point of exhaustion in trying to save himself and he is burdened with all the things he must do for salvation as prescribed by the religious crowd. They can rest from carrying the weight of salvation by works. By removing the legalistic requirements of salvation, they can merely believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and rest in their salvation.



Matthew 11:29


ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν µου ἐφí ὑµᾶς καὶ µάθετε ἀπí ἐµοῦ, ὅτι πραΰς εἰµι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ, καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑµῶν·


Take My yoke on you [the believer is to serve the Lord under his authority] and learn from Me [must learn if one is going to serve], for I am meek [reference to His proto-type spiritual filled life] and lowly in heart [orientation to grace, having humility], and you shall find rest to your souls [tranquility and happiness through application of God’s Word].


Matthew 11:30


ὁ γὰρ ζυγός µου χρηστὸς καὶ τὸ φορτίον µου ἐλαφρόν ἐστιν


For My yoke is [service to the Lord] is profitable, and My burden [opposition and suffering] is light [easy to carry with doctrine].


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