Today: [Matthew 12] Jesus Disciples Break the Rules! In chapter 12 of Matthew, Jesus enters into a prolonged controversy with the Pharisees because they do not approve of the lax behavior of His followers regarding the Sabbath. Because Jesus is not stringent in His interpretation of the law, in this chapter, the plan of His enemies to have Him put to death is hatched. What about your situation? Are you pandering to the religious crowd, so you don’t incur their ire or criticism? We can learn from the example of Jesus in this chapter to obey God first regardless of what men might think or whether they approve.
[Mat 12:1-50 KJV] 1 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw [it], they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. 3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? 6 But I say unto you, That in this place is [one] greater than the temple. 7 But if ye had known what [this] meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day. 9 And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: 10 And, behold, there was a man which had [his] hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. 11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift [it] out? 12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. 13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched [it] forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. 14 Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. 15 But when Jesus knew [it], he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; 16 And charged them that they should not make him known: 17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. 19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. 21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust. 22 Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?
In verse 1 of chapter 12, we get a glimpse of the liberty the disciples of Jesus felt as they followed Him in His itinerant journey, preaching throughout Galilee. On the Sabbath, they plucked ears of corn from a nearby field, which was acceptable and even allowable by Moses law regarding gleaning, but prohibited nonetheless on the Sabbath. You may remember that at the inauguration of the law of Moses handed down on tablets of stone written by the finger of God, there was a man stoned to death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath for a cooking fire. The Pharisees did not have authority under Roman rule to put any man to death, but if they had these disciples of Jesus would inevitably have been charged with capital crimes. While this may seem absurd to us, Jesus’ tacit approval of their conduct was gravely scandalous to the religious leaders of the day.
Upon answering the challenge of the Pharisees, Jesus reminded them that when David fled from King Saul, he stopped at Shiloh and asked the high priest to give him and his men some of the sacred showbread to eat. Again, this was no small thing, for later kings such as Uzziah were struck with leprosy for intruding upon the priest’s office. What is the difference here? How is it that under the Old Testament economy, some were given leave to violate the letter of the law, while others for mere scant violations were swiftly and brutally put to death? In answering the question, Jesus reminds the Pharisees that the priests, in carrying out their duties on the Sabbath were technically profaning the seventh day, yet regarded blameless, why? Because they were priests. These statements by Jesus imply then, the teaching that is plainly stated later on, that every believer and follower of the Lord Jesus is a priest, and their bodies are the temple of the Lord. Because they are priests, and in feeding themselves they are serving in the temple that they are in their persons, Jesus is contending that they, in fact, are blameless, just as the Levitical priests were blameless in so serving in the tabernacle of Moses, or later in the temple of Solomon. Therefore we see that Jesus is not doing away with the law, but fulfilling it with the intent of liberating His disciples for service in that true temple, of their physical bodies and the corporate body of Christ, as priests after the order of Melchisedek and not after the order of that which was passing away that represented the Old Covenant dispensation.
After this controversy, Jesus proceeds seemingly to deliberately provoke the Pharisees further by healing a man on the Sabbath. The Jews considered healing an act of labor, and again complain this should not be done on the Sabbath. Jesus answers them back that the law of Moses allowed a man to get a sheep from a pitfall on the Sabbath if necessary and was not a man of much more value than a sheep? The Pharisees cannot answer him and, therefore, simply take counsel together from that point to find a way to put Him to death. Isn’t that the way of the religious mentality? Aren’t you glad that the church of our day does not have the power of capital punishment? I submit to you that if our denominations had the ability to sentence men to death, that the church of the inquisition would pale beside the cruelties that would be inflicted upon people who were not in compliance with the religious demands that are imposed upon men. Since they cannot physically harm them, churches today simply exclude them from their fellowship, or pray prayers such as to turn the alleged defenders over to the devil for the destruction of their flesh to the “saving of their souls.” While it is true that Paul did this in the Corinthian church, yet none of his followers ever did likewise, and soon after doing this, Paul himself was antagonized by a messenger from Satan himself, the origination of his “thorn in the flesh.”
In verse 19, we see that in answering the Pharisees simply and directly, Jesus was refusing to contend with them. The truth always outlives the lie. Jesus did not have an appetite for striving with others who didn’t agree with Him. Would that all God’s people walked in that level of grace! Likewise, He doesn’t need to be heard. Would Jesus have a social media presence today? Good question, one thing we do know if He did, it would not be laced with political commentary or condemnation of anyone who didn’t agree with Him. Verse 20 quotes the Messianic prophecy that Jesus as Messiah, would not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. What does that mean? When one of His disciples rushes up to Him, asking him to settle a legal matter between him and his brother, Jesus refuses to get involved. It is wrong to try to call God down on either side of an argument, as though He has any interest in settling a dispute between two believers who refuse to walk in love. Instead, He simply keeps being who He is, demonstrating the love of God, and perhaps we should make such an approach our own in dealing with difficult people.
24 But when the Pharisees heard [it], they said, This [fellow] doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. 25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast [them] out? therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. 29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. 30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. 31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy [against] the [Holy] Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the [world] to come. 33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by [his] fruit. 34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. 36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. 38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas [is] here. 42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon [is] here. 43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth [it] empty, swept, and garnished. 45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last [state] of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. 46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, [his] mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
In verse 24, the Pharisees accuse Jesus again of casting out devils by the prince of devils. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, asks how can Satan’s house stand if it is divided against itself? Here we see the prominence of deliverance ministry in the life of Jesus. It seems that at every turn, a devil is manifesting in some psychotic break that Jesus discerns as demonic activity. Does He enter into some stylized ritual of lengthy exorcism? More often than not, He simply tells the demon to be silent and to be gone. What He isn’t doing is suggesting we delve into some convoluted inquiry and conversation with a demonic entity demanding to know their name or to identify who the strong man demon is in the person. Again, Jesus very seldom entered into conversation with or engaged a demon or sought to provoke a demon to manifest in an otherwise normally behaving person. When a demon cropped up, He simply said: “shut up and come out!”
To the challenge of the Pharisees, Jesus warns them they are attributing the works of God to the devil and putting themselves in danger of being beyond forgiveness. Here is the classic definition of the “unforgivable sin” – that of attributing to Satan that which originates in God. We can mirror the opposite of that which much more telling effect on modern theologians, that of ascribing to God the works of the devil. Men commonly and every day to the robust amens of their congregates attribute sickness as being brought by God, or untimely death to originate in God’s mysterious will, or that people necessarily suffer because God is teaching them something, is this nothing other than entering into the dangerous territory of blasphemy?
Jesus goes on to condemn the religious leaders of His day as a generation of vipers, incapable of speaking anything wholesome for all their appetite and propensity for using the word of God as a cudgel to beat down those who don’t agree with them. He goes on to warn them that every idle word will be given account for in the judgment. This is a statement we would do well to consider the next time we blather on against something we don’t like or have an opinion about. Christians are notoriously indiscriminate in criticizing one another and lobbing insults like hand grenades at each other as though their opinion mattered to anyone but themselves. The internet and social media is the great leveler. Unfortunately, instead of regarding their digital footprint as a stewardship, the church has largely shamed itself for its vitriol and carelessness as the world literally looks on and shakes its head in disgust.
In verse 38 then, the Pharisees alter the trajectory of their line of questioning and ask Jesus to give a sign that would authenticate His assertions about Himself as Messiah, which He is plainly implying by His actions and His teachings. Jesus rebuffs them by saying that an evil generation seeks a sign. What is going on here? The religious objectors are asking for some proof of His authenticity. Does this happen still today? Surely it does. When we are called upon to prophesy, we are often expected first to give evidence of revealing things we could not possibly have known before the recipient will accept our prophecy as valid. This is nothing more than asking us by the Holy Spirit to give what amounts to a psychic reading. It doesn’t take any faith whatsoever to believe in a prophet who tells you your phone number, address, and social media password! Yet in the Pharisaical institutions of ministry training, it is suggested that this form of blasphemous activity that Jesus calls arising from an evil generation, is the alleged litmus test for prophetic authenticity demanded by those (some of whom are household names) who think they have the authority to make the demand. Jesus decries this attitude, telling those around him that the city of Nineveh will rise up in judgment against all such as engage in these unwise objections and protestations of demanding proof that requires no faith on the part of the listener.
In verse 43, Jesus makes observations about what happens when a demon leaves a person. The demon is restless when not infesting the person of a luckless sinner and soon returns to its former abode. If that life, however, cleaned and slept is otherwise empty and available, then the demon again takes up residence, calling on more demonic reinforcement to take that life into deeper bondage. Here we have the question of not only getting free and being initially healed but keeping yourself free and keeping your healing. There are many anecdotes of people coming out of wheelchairs or being completely healed in a revival meeting only to return to their disabled and fracture state in a few hours or the next day. Does this mean the person ministering healing or deliverance was false? Or does it tell us that we are in an environment of warfare and must proactively move forward in a positive pursuit of the kingdom, never allowing ourselves to be passive in any way lest the bondages that held us in times past come back upon us to take our lives captive once again?
In concluding our chapter, we see Jesus’ relatives catching up with Him and asking to meet with Him privately. We know from other gospels that the family is very concerned about Jesus’ behavior, and have a plan to get Him alone and whisk Him by force away from the public eye because they are convinced He has lost His mind. Jesus simply ignores them, observing that His true mother and brethren are those that do the will of the Father which is in heaven.
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