When John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod, he realized that his ministry had reached its conclusion. He wanted his disciples and others to follow Jesus. He wanted them to see that the miracles Jesus was performing demonstrated that He was the promised Messiah, the one who John prepared them for. These signs, as Jesus pointed out, were in fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah 35:4-6 and 61:1-11, passages which refer to the Messiah and the Kingdom of God.
The mention of signs led Jesus to denounce the faithlessness of many of those who witnessed them. Many of the Jews, particularly the rich, the educated and the leadership rejected the signs because they did not accept the sign-givers, John, Jesus and His disciples. They were common people. They were not of the elite, the ruling religious parties, nor were they disciples of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus condemned them because the signs should have demonstrated to them the power of God and led them to faith and repentance.
As Jesus ended His denunciation, he praised the faith of the common people, the poor, the downtrodden, the exploited, the sick, the lepers, the sinners. These all accepted the signs and believed. In recognition of their faith, Jesus gave us one of the most appealing and comforting passages in all of Scripture. Many people today think that following Jesus is difficult and burdensome as they think it interferes with their lives, their agendas, their path to self-fulfillment. But Jesus has the real solution. All who seek comfort and rest from their weary lot in life, from their striving to be on top, to be somebody, will find satisfaction and relief only by surrendering their lives and priorities to Jesus. He has the rest for the weak and the downtrodden while those who are self-sufficient and wise in their own eyes will never rest.