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Each one of us must decide what to do with Jesus. Sitting on the fence is not an option. The stumbling block is not lack of evidence. The stumbling block is the stubbornness of our hearts. In the end, we do not believe, because we do not want to believe.
Matthew 10-12 records the largely negative reaction of the Jewish people to Jesus. Matthew 12 highlights the growing hostility of the Pharisees toward Jesus. As Isaiah predicted, rather than rallying a conquering army, Jesus quietly and unassumingly sacrificed himself for his people.
22Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. – Matthew 12:22-29
- Matthew gives little information about the healing itself, focusing on the reaction to it instead.
- The people as if Jesus can be the Son of David, a Messianic title.
- The Pharisees do not want to reach that conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah, instead they claim Jesus is in league with the devil.
- See: Who was Beelzebul?
- Jesus counters, the ruler of the demons would not defeat his own minions, rather his unique ability to cast out demons must come from God.
- If you were a burglar, you would bind the bodyguard before plundering the house. Likewise, when God sends His Messiah to rob the devil of his dominion, you would the expect Messiah to cast out a few demons to accomplish his purposes.
30Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. 33Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” – Matthew 12:30-37
- No one can sit on the fence. You are either for Jesus or against him.
- “Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” is unbelief. If the Spirit of the truth reveals to us that Jesus is the Messiah and we reject it, that blasphemy is unforgivable. This rejection comes not from ignorance but from premeditated willful rejection.
- If you want to know what kind of tree it is, you examine its fruit.
- The Pharisees claim they are among the most righteous of humanity, but they have just blasphemed the Holy Spirit by claiming his work through Jesus comes from Satan.
- Like rotten fruit, their words reveal where they truly stand.
38Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”- Matthew 12:38-42
- Instead of considering the evidence they already have in front of them, the Pharisees ask for more evidence.
- The problem is not a lack of evidence. They have plenty of evidence, but they don’t want to believe it.
- Like Jonah was in the belly of the whale for 3 days, Jesus will be in the grave 3 days before God resurrects him.
- The gentile Ninevites responded to God’s prophet, Jonah. The Gentile queen responded to God’s king, Solomon. The Pharisees saw and heard the Messiah himself and rejected him. These people will judge this generation because they responded to the lesser evidence they had.
43“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” – Matthew 12:43-45
- The “so also will it be” (Matthew 12:45) is one clue that this story is a comparison, not to be taken literally.
- This is not a parable, rather, it is an allegory, because the story makes little sense as a story. See Understanding Parables.
- Matthew 12:38 is the request that Jesus responds to with the allegory.
- The unclean spirit represents the spirit of unbelief that refuses to acknowledge the truth. The place of rest is a place where it will not be judged for rejecting the truth.
- A house that is empty, swept and put in order is a house on the verge of being cleansed by the priest (Leviticus 14:33-57). The empty, cleaned house symbolizes a person to whom the truth has been revealed and who is on the verge of being forgiven and cleansed.
- The Messiah stands before the scribes and Pharisees. He has just miraculously healed a man of demon possession. he Pharisees have physical, tangible, visible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. Will they believe? No. They go crazy trying to offer some other explanation.
- Similar to the allegory, the unclean spirit rejects the truth and calls for reinforcements.
- The last state is worse than the first because to reject the truth is worse than being ignorant.
46While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 47Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” 48But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49And stretching out his hand toward 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.” – Matthew 12:46-50
- When a family works well, they are the people closest to you who support you and love you no matter what.
- They expect Jesus to drop everything and talk to his mother and brothers.
- Jesus counters that his true family includes those who seek God and follow God, too. The people most important to him are his disciples.
Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.
Related Podcast: Matthew 12:43-45 Return of the Unclean Spirit
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Podcast season 20, episode 24