Matthew 12



Matthew 12

Lord of the Sabbath

 1At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” 3He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Pharisees made up a lot of their own rules in addition to what the Bible required.  The disciples weren’t working for profit, they were just picking up grain and eating it.  Israelite law permitted gleaning (gathering grain left by the reapers) as a part of the “welfare” program.

 9Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

 11He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

 13Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

This is one of many examples where Jesus appears to break the Sabbath laws but is just showing the leaders what the laws really said and meant.  Sadly, instead of being overjoyed that the disabled man had regained use of his hand, the Pharisees were angry and plotted to kill Jesus.  Jesus exposed them for not loving God and men at all.

God’s Chosen Servant

Jesus fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies, including this 700 year old prophecy by Isaiah: 

 15Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, 16warning them not to tell who he was. 17This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
 18“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him,  and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
 19He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.   20A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
   till he leads justice to victory. 21In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Jesus and Beelzebub

 22Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” 24But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

 25Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

 29“Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.

 30“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. 31And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

The warning in v. 32 often concerns people, for they wonder if they have committed the “unforgivable sin.”  This passage is interpreted a couple ways, but as a rule I believe that if you are worried that you may have committed this sin then you probably haven’t.  God the Holy Spirit is the one who transforms people and brings them to trust in God the Son, so a complete rejection of the Holy Spirit would prevent one from being saved.  The Pharisees were attributing acts of the Holy Spirit to acts of Satan.  Bad idea.

 33“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

It is sobering that we’ll be accountable for every careless word we have spoken (not to mention every thought and action).   But the Good News for believers in Jesus is that He already paid the penalty for 100% of our sins.

The Sign of Jonah

The book of Jonah is short but quite fascinating (see the study by clicking on “Jonah” under the categories to the left).  There is a lot more to it than a big fish.  Interestingly, throughout the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) Jesus mentions many of the most controversial characters and passages from the Old Testament – Jonah, Noah, the destruction of Sodom, etc.  Some Christians try to claim that those stories are fictional.  But to hold that view is to disagree with Jesus (always a bad idea for a Christian), among other things.

Jesus performed miracles left and right throughout his ministry – until he was asked to do one for show.  God is not a circus animal.  He is still in the miracle business (a miracle being a supernatural act where God steps back into his creation), but He doesn’t do them as part of a game or a silly test. 

 38Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” 39He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. 42The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.

 43“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

 46While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus wasn’t being rude to his family (though before his resurrection most of his family didn’t follow him).  He was just pointing out who his real family members were. 

Side note: His mother, Mary, was a great woman and Jesus obviously loved her.  But I saw an otherwise excellent blog post the other day where the author emphatically said that Mary was without sin just like Jesus was.  There are lots of theological problems with this notion, but the short version is that it is simply false and is not supported by Scripture.

What passages stood out to you, and why?


3 Responses

  1. The Pharisees were very learned men, who understood Scripture. However, they had such a powerful hold over the people at that time that Jesus must have been a huge threat to their livelyhood and status in society. Considering human nature, it is easy to understand how their preoccupation to condem Jesus to save their own reputation, clouded their ability to recognize the Messiah through the fulfillment of Scripture.

    It saddens me when I think of those who even today claim to believe in the God of Moses and Abraham, but fail to recognize the Savior whom He sent to answer and complete the promised covenant from the beginning of time.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and commentary on the internet. I am teaching a Bible study on the gospel of Matthew each Sunday afternoon to a small group of Muslims students. I certainly agree with you in your last paragraph. So far none of the students are convinced about who Jesus really is, even though we are now on Matthew 12. Only one had admitted that we should not let religion nor previous teaching determine what we should believe but should think for ourselves. I have been living in Muslim countries since 1979 and so far have not seen great results.

  3. Hi Pat – Thanks for commenting! Blessings to you for teaching those Muslim students. How were you able to manage that? I pray that the Word of God will reach them.

    Rebecca – you are right. How sad that most of the people who were most perfectly prepared for the coming of the Messiah missed him altogether. That says a lot about the human condition.

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