Matthew 12 - The Religious Leaders Continue to Reject Jesus


A.Sabbath controversies.


1.(1-2) The Pharisees condemn the disciples of Jesus for supposedly harvestinggrain on the Sabbath.


At that time Jesus wentthrough the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, andbegan to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doingwhat is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”


a.His disciples were hungry,and began to pluck the heads of grain and to eat: There was nothing wrong with whatthey did, because their gleaning was notconsidered stealing according to Deuteronomy 23:25. The issue was only theday on which they did it. The Rabbis madean elaborate list of “do” and “don’t” items relevant to the Sabbath, and thisviolated several items on this list.


i.“We incidentally learn from this story that our Lord and his disciples werepoor, and that he who fed the multitudes did not use his miraculous power tofeed his own followers, but left them till they did what poor men are forced todo to supply a little stay for their stomachs. Our Lord bribes none intofollowing him: they may be his apostles, and yet be hungry on a Sabbath.”(Spurgeon)


ii.The law of Israel allowed people traveling through an area to glean enoughgrain for a small meal from fields in the area (Deuteronomy 23:25). Farmerswere commanded to not completely harvest their crops to leave a little behindfor the sake of travelers and the poor.


iii.Matthew just quoted Jesus offering us an easy yoke and a light burden. Now heshows us the kind of heavy burdens and hard yokes the religious leaders putupon the people. When the disciples began topluck the heads of grain, in the eyes of the religious leaders theywere guilty of:


Š     Reaping

Š     Threshing

Š     Winnowing

Š     Preparing food


Thisrepresented four violations of the Sabbath in one mouthful!


iv.At this time, many rabbis filled Judaism with elaborate rituals related to theSabbath and observance of other laws. Ancient rabbis taught that on the Sabbatha man could not carry something in his right hand or in his left hand, acrosshis chest or on his shoulder. But he could carry something with the back of hishand, with his foot, elbow, or in the ear, on the hair, in the hem of hisshirt, or in his shoe or sandal. On the Sabbath one was forbidden to tie a knot- except a woman could tie a knot in her girdle. So if a bucket of water had tobe raised from a well, one could not tie a rope to the bucket, but a womancould tie her girdle to the bucket and then to the rope.


v.“The Jews were so superstitious, concerning theobservance of the Sabbath, that in their wars with Antiochus Epiphanes, and the Romans,they thought it a crime even to attempt to defend themselves on the Sabbath:when their enemies observed this, they deterred their operations to that day.It was through this, that Pompey wasenabled to take Jerusalem.” (Clarke)


b.Look, Your disciples aredoing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath! Jesus never violatedGod’s command to observe the Sabbath or approved of His disciples violatingGod’s Sabbath command. But He often broke man’s legalistic additions to thatlaw and He sometimes seems to have deliberately broken those human additions.


i.Even some Jewish people in Jesus’ day recognized that the rules about theSabbath were mostly human additions to the law. Carson quotes an ancient Jewishwriting that said, “The rules about the Sabbath . . . are as mountains hangingby a hair, for Scripture is scanty and the rules are many.”


ii.The Pharisees here seem hard at work supervising and accusing the disciples.This was a greater violation of the Sabbath. “Did they not break the Sabbath bysetting a watch over them?” (Spurgeon)


2.(3-8) Jesus defends His disciples.


But He said to them,“Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who werewith him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was notlawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for thepriests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in thetemple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in thisplace there is One greaterthan the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ youwould not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of theSabbath.”


a.Have you not read whatDavid did when he was hungry:The first principle Jesus presented is simple and illustrated by David’sexperience with the priests and the showbread (1 Samuel 21). Jesus remindedthem that human need is more important that observing ceremonial rituals.


i. The incident with David was avalid defense, because:


Š      Itwas a case of eating

Š      Itprobably happened on the Sabbath (1 Samuel 21:6)

Š      Itconcerned not only David, but also his followers


ii.The context of David’s taking the breadin 1 Samuel 21 shows that it was justified for him to do it. “To have eaten theholy bread out of profanity, or bravado, or levity, might have involved theoffender in the judgment of death; but to do so in urgent need was notblameworthy in the case of David.” (Spurgeon)


b.The priests in the templeprofane the Sabbath, and are blameless: The second principle Jesus presented is also simple. The priests themselves break the Sabbath allthe time. Perhaps the Pharisees didn’t understand as much about Sabbathobservance as they thought they did.


i.“The Temple ritual always involved work – the kindling of fires, theslaughter and the preparation of animals, the lifting of them on to the altar,and a host of other things. This work was actually doubled on the Sabbath, foron the Sabbath the offerings were doubled (cp. e.g. Numbers 28:9).” (Barclay)


ii.The reference to the passage I desire mercy andnot sacrifice (Hosea 6:6), and the Pharisees’ lack of understandingof this principle was also a way that Jesus questioned the confidence thePharisees had in their man-made traditions. They used those traditions tojustify lifting principles like sacrificeabove principles like mercy, when Godwould have them do just the opposite.


iii.“Where two laws in respect of some circumstance seem to clash one with another,so as we cannot obey both, our obedience is due to that which is the moreexcellent law.” (Poole)


c.For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath:The third principle was the most dramatic, based on who Jesus is. He is greater than the temple, even as much asthey honored and valued the temple. Even more so, He isLord even of the Sabbath.


i.This was a direct claim to Deity. Jesus said that He had the authority to knowif His disciples broke the Sabbath law, because He is the Lord even of the Sabbath.


ii.Jesus was indeed greater than the temple.Considering how highly the temple was regarded in the days of Jesus this was ashocking statement. Yet the temple as it stood in Jesus’ day did not have theark of the covenant, that important demonstration of the throne and presence ofGod. Yet Jesus was a much greater demonstration of the presence of God –He was God made flesh! The temple also lacked the Shekinah, the Urim and Thummim, and the sacred fire fromheaven. Yet Jesus is all these things to us; He is surely greater than thetemple.


iii.Since Jesus is greater than the temple,we should regard Him as so.


Š      Thetemple was admired with love and wonder; we should admire Jesus even more.

Š      Thetemple was joyfully visited; we should come to Jesus with even more joy.

Š      Thetemple was honored as a holy place; we should honor Jesus even more so.

Š      Thetemple was a place of sacrifice and service; we should do even more for Jesus.

Š     The temple was a place for worship; we should worshipJesus even more.


3.(9-14) A controversy regarding healing on the Sabbath.


Now when He had departedfrom there, He went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man who had awithered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on theSabbath?”; that they might accuse Him. Then He said to them, “What man is thereamong you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, willnot lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it islawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out yourhand.” And he stretched it out,and it was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out andplotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.


a.He went into their synagogue: Ageneral theme through this section of Matthew is the rising opposition againstJesus. Sometimes this opposition is expressed against Him directly andsometimes attacks on His disciples. Yet we see that Jesus, as a faithful Jewishman, continued to go to synagoguenormally. We might say that Jesus was a faithful church-going man, even when Hehad reason not to be.


i.“Jesus set the example of attending public worship. The synagogues had nodivine appointment to authorize them, but in the nature of things it must beright and good to meet for the worship of God on his own day, and thereforeJesus was there. He had nothing to learn, yet he went up to the assembly on theday which the Lord God had hallowed.” (Spurgeon)


b.A man who had a withered hand: Atbest, the religious leaders saw the man with the witheredhand as an interesting test case. It is more likely that they sawthe man as bait for a Sabbath controversy trap for Jesus. In contrast, Jesuslooked at the man through eyes of compassion.


i.These accusers also knew Jesus would dosomething when He saw this man in need. In this sense, these critics had morefaith than many of us. We sometimes seem to doubt that Jesus wants to really ormiraculously meet the needs of others.


c.It is lawful to heal on the Sabbath?Jesus exposed their hypocrisy by showing their greater concern for their ownpossessions than for a man in need, arguing persuasively that it can’t be wrongto do good on the Sabbath. Then Jesus compassionately healed the man.


i.“The withered hand was literally ‘dry’, i.e. lifeless, perhaps paralysed; the man was thus not inimminent danger of death, which alone justified treatment on the sabbathaccording to Mishnah Yoma 8:6. Hecould just as well be healed the next day.” (France)


d.Stretch out your hand: When Jesuscommanded the man “stretch out your hand,”He commanded the man to do something impossible in his current condition. ButJesus gave both the command and the ability to fulfill it, and the man putforth the effort and was healed.


i.“The man's hand was withered; but God's mercy hadstill preserved to him the use of his feet: He uses them to bring him to thepublic worship of God, and Jesus meets and heals him there.” (Clarke)


ii.“He stretched out his restored hand, assuming that not till restored could thehand be stretched out. The healing and the outstretching may be conceived ascontemporaneous.” (Bruce)


iii.“Christ sometimes used the ceremony of laying on his hand; here he doth not, tolet us know that that was but a sign of what was done by his power.” (Poole)


e.Then the Pharisees went out and plotted againstHim, how they might destroy Him:In response to this display of compassion, power, and wisdom thePharisees, in the hardness of their hearts did not respond in reverent worshipand submission but in hardened, murderous rejection.


i.This is a significant development in the opposition against Jesus from thereligious leaders. “Hitherto, they had been content with finding fault; now itis come to plotting against His life – a tribute to His power. . . Suchis the evil fruit of Sabbath controversies.” (Bruce)


ii.Luke 6:11 says that the critics of Jesus were filled with rage when Jesus healed this man. Which was more aviolation of the Sabbath: When Jesus healed a man, or when these hate-filledmen plotted the murder of a godly Manwho never sinned against anybody?


4.(15-21) In spite of the rejection of the religious leaders, the common peoplestill follow Jesus, and He remains God’s chosen servant.


But when Jesus knew it,He withdrew from there. Andgreat multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. Yet He warned them notto make Him known, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah theprophet, saying: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom Mysoul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declarejustice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hearHis voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax Hewill not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory; and in His nameGentiles will trust.”


a.But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there:For a time Jesus withdrew somewhat from public ministry as the opposition roseagainst Him. This was not out of cowardice, but in respect to God the Father’stiming for the course and culmination of His ministry. It could not be allowedto peak too soon.


b.And great multitudes followed Him, and He healedthem all: Jesus did what He could to escape the press of the crowds,but the crowds simply followed Him. Nevertheless, He responded with compassionand He healed them all.


i.This is one of the few references in the gospels of Jesus healing all on a specific occasion, yet it isimportant and appropriate here. Matthew wants us to know that the press of thecrowd did not make Jesus impatient or angry. He also wants us to know that thedetermination of this crowd was evidence of their faith; therefore all were healed.


c.Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen:The quotation from Isaiah 42:1-5 speaks of the gentle character of the Messiah,who is the Servant of Yahweh. This wasa common and important designation of Jesus.


i.Jesus described Himself as a servant in Matthew 20:25-28, Matthew 23:11, Mark9:35, Mark 10:43-45. Peter, in his Acts 3 sermon, gives our Savior the title HisServant Jesus (Acts 3:13 and 3:26). In Acts4, the praying people of God speak of Your holy Servant Jesus (Acts 4:27, 4:30). But Jesus isn’t just a servant. He is The Servant, and every one should behold,as the Lord says, My Servant.


ii.Jesus the Servant is an example to us as servants, but He is so much more than that. He is our Servant.He serves us; not only in what He did in the past, but also He serves us everyday through His constant love, care, guidance, and intercession. Jesus did notstop serving when he went to heaven; He serves all His people moreeffectively than ever from heaven.


d.He will not quarrel nor cryout, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets: This doesn’tmean that Jesus never spoke loudly. It refers to His gentle, lowly heart andactions. Jesus didn’t make His way by an overpowering personality and loud,overwhelming talk. Instead, Jesus an impression upon others by the Spirit ofGod upon Him.


e. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax Hewill not quench: This is another reference to the gentle characterof Jesus. A reed is a fairly fragile plant, yet if a reed is bruised the Servant will handle it so gentlythat He will not break it. And ifflax, used as a wick for an oil lamp does not flame but only smokes He will notquench it into extinguishing. Instead,the Servant will gently nourish the smoking flax,fanning it into flame again.


i. Often we feel that God dealsroughly with our weaknesses and failures. Just the opposite is true. He dealswith them gently, tenderly, helping them along until the bruised reed is strong and the smoking flax is in proper flame.


ii.Jesus sees the value in a bruised reed,even when no one else can. He can make beautiful music come from a bruised reed, as He puts His strength in it!Though a smoking flax - used for awick on an oil lamp - is good for nothing, Jesus knows it is valuable for whatit can be when it is refreshed with oil. Many of us are like the bruised reed, and we need to bestrengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16). Others are like the smoking flax, and can only burn brightly forthe Lord again when we aredrenched in oil, with a constant supply coming, as we are filled with the HolySpirit.


f.In His name Gentiles will trust:Finally, the quotation from Isaiah 42 also speaks of the ultimate ministry ofJesus to the Gentiles. This was something surprising - and perhaps evenoffensive - to Matthew’s Jewish readers, but it is obviously Scriptural,according to Isaiah 42.


B.Continuing rejection by the religious leaders.


1.(22-24) Jesus delivers a man possessed by a demon.


Then one was brought toHim who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that theblind and mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed andsaid, “Could this be the Son of David?” Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, theruler of the demons.”


a.He healed him, so that the blind and mute manboth spoke and saw: Again,Jesus displayed His complete power and authority over demons, casting outdemonic powers that the traditions of the day considered impossible.


b.Could this be the Son of David? Thecrowds reacted with Messianic expectation, but the religious leaders respondedby attributing Jesus’ power to the prince of demons (Thisfellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub).


i.“Its form in Greek suggests the crowds were none too sure: ‘This couldn’t bethe Son of David, could it?’ . . . Perhaps his reticence, his nonregal sayings,and his servant ministry engendered doubt.” (Carson)


ii.“The Pharisees’ accusation amounts to a charge of sorcery, one which continuedto be leveled against Jesus in later Jewish polemic.” (France)


iii.“Let others censure with the Pharisees; let us wonder with the multitudes.”(Trapp)


2.(25-29) Jesus answers the accusation that He works by Satan’s power.


But Jesus knew theirthoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought todesolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. IfSatan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdomstand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast themout? Therefore they shall beyour judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdomof God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunderhis goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder hishouse.


a.But Jesus knew their thoughts: Thiswas remarkable, but not necessarily a mark of the divinity of Jesus. The HolySpirit can give the gift of supernatural knowledge to an individual (the wordof knowledge mentioned in 1 Corinthians12:8).


b.Every kingdom divided against itself is broughtto desolation: Jesus logically observed that it makes no sense forSatan to cast out Satan. The Pharisees needed to explain how Satan benefited by the work Jesus had just done.


i.“One devil may yield and give place to another, to gain a greater advantage forthe whole society, but one never quarrelleth with another.” (Poole)


ii.“Satan may be wicked, He says in effect, but he is not a fool.” (Bruce) “Whateverfault the devils have, they are not at strife with each other; that fault isreserved for the servants of a better Master.” (Spurgeon)


c.By whom do your sons cast them out?Jesus asked a question based on their (wrong) premise that He operated bySatan’s power. If that were true, then how did their own Jewish exorcists castthem out?


i.“The Jewish exorcists operated in conventional fashion by use of herbs andmagical formulae, and the results were probably insignificant. The practice wassanctioned by custom, and harmless. But in casting out devils, as in all otherthings, Jesus was original, and His method was too effectual. His power, manifest to all, was His offence.”(Bruce)


ii.“Envy causes persons often to condemn in one, what they approve in another.” (Spurgeon)


iii.I cast out demons by theSpirit of God: “Thoughour Lord had power all his own, he honored the Spirit of God, and worked by hisenergy, and mentioned the fact that he did so.” (Spurgeon)


d.And then he will plunder his house:Using an analogy, Jesus explained His authority to bind Satan’s power. He isstronger than the strong man is. In sodoing, Jesus presented a valuable principle in spiritual warfare as we rememberthat Jesus gives us the permission to use His name and authority, giving us thestrength we need in binding the strong man.


i.Jesus also made it clear that He was the stronger man who was not captive under the strong man. His message was, “I’m not underSatan’s power. Instead, I’m proving that I am stronger than he is by castinghim out of those he has possessed.” “The very fact that I have been able sosuccessfully to invade Satan’s territory is proof that he is bound andpowerless to resist.” (Barclay)


ii.Jesus looks at every life delivered from Satan’s domination and says, “I’mplundering the kingdom of Satan one life at a time.” There is nothing in our life that must stay under Satan’s domination. The One who binds thestrong man and will plunder his goods isour risen Lord.


4.(30-32) Jesus reveals the desperate place of those who could be hardened enoughto attribute His workings to Satanic power.


“He who is not with Meis against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. Therefore Isay to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy againstthe Spirit will not be forgivenmen. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him;but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, eitherin this age or in the age tocome.”


a.He who is not with Me is against Me:Jesus first removed illusions about any neutral response to Him or His work. Ifone is not for Him, then that one is against Him. If one does not work withJesus, by either active opposition or passive disregard that one works againstJesus (he who does not gather with Me scattersabroad).


i.“Only two forces are at work in the world, the gathering and the scattering.Whoever does the one contradicts the other.” (Morgan)


b.Blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven:Jesus solemnly warned the religious leaders against rejecting Him. Theirrejection of Jesus – especially considered what they had seen of Jesusand His work – showed that they were to completely rejecting the Holy Spirit’s ministry. That ministryis to testify to Jesus, hence the warning of committing the unforgivable sin.


i.The Holy Spirit’s main ministry is to testify of Jesus (He will testify ofMe, John 15:26). When that testimony ofJesus is fully and finally rejected, one has truly blasphemed the Holy Spiritand essentially called Him a liar in respect to His testimony about Jesus. Thereligious leaders were close to this.


ii.To reject Jesus from a distance or with little information is bad; to rejectthe testimony of the Holy Spirit about Jesus is fatal.


c.It will not be forgiven him, either in this ageor in the age to come: The eternal consequences of this sin force usto regard it seriously. Therefore, how can one know if they have in factblasphemed the Holy Spirit? The fact that one desires Jesus at all shows that they are not guilty of this sin. Yetcontinued rejection of Jesus makes us more hardened against Him and puts us onthe path of a full and final rejection of Him.


i.Some people – as a joke or a dare – intentionally say words they suppose commit the sin of blasphemy against the Spirit. They think ita light thing to joke with eternity. Yet true blasphemyagainst the Spirit is more than a formula of words; it is a settleddisposition of life that rejects the testimony of the Holy Spirit regardingJesus. Even if someone has intentionally said such things, they can stillrepent and prevent a settledrejection of Jesus.


ii.“Many sincere people have been grievously troubledwith apprehensions that they had committed the unpardonable sin; but let it beobserved that no man who believes the Divine mission of Jesus Christ, ever cancommit this sin: therefore let no man's heart fail because of it, fromhenceforth and for ever, Amen.” (Clarke)


5.(33-37) The words of the religious leaders betray the depravity of theirhearts.


“Either make the treegood and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for atree is known by its fruit.Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of theabundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure ofhis heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasurebrings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men mayspeak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your wordsyou will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”


a.A tree is known by its fruit: The badfruit of their words (when they condemned Jesus) betrayed the bad root growingin their hearts. If they got their hearts right with God, their words aboutJesus would also be right.


b.Brood of vipers! With these words,Jesus essentially called the religious leaders “sons of Satan.” They were ageneration associated with the serpent, not with God. It was this evil naturethat made them speak evil of Jesus (How can you,being evil, speak good things?).


c.Out of the abundance of the heart the mouthspeaks: Our words reveal our heart. If there were good treasure in the heart of thesereligious leaders, it would show itself in goodthings.


i.For every idle word men may speak, they will giveaccount of it in the day of judgment: “Idle and wasted words are tobe accounted for; what then of evil and wicked?” (Trapp)


ii.Adam Clarke said that the sense of the ancient Greek word used for an idle word is “aword that does nothing, that neitherministers grace nor instruction to them who hear it.” If this is true, many preachersmight find themselves guilty of this sin.


d.By your words you will be justified and by yourwords you will be condemned: By this Jesus answered an anticipatedobjection – that He made too much of mere words. Instead, because wordsreflect the heart, one can be rightly judged by their words.


i.Paul also wrote about the importance of our words: That if you confess withyour mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Himfrom the dead, you will be saved. (Romans10:9)


C. Thescribes and Pharisees request a sign from Jesus.


1.(38-40) Jesus responds to the request from the scribes and Pharisees.


Then some of the scribesand Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” ButHe answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after asign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. Foras Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, sowill the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”


a.Teacher, we want to see a sign from You:Their desire to see a sign really expressed another way in which they hoped toreject Him. If Jesus did provide a sign,they would find some way to speak against it, thus proving to themselves thatJesus was who they already thought He was - an emissary of Satan (Matthew12:24).


i.“The apparent respect and earnestness of the request are feigned: ‘teacher, we desirefrom you (emphatic position) to see asign’. It reminds one of the mock homage of the soldiers at the Passion(Matthew 27:27-31).” (Bruce)


ii.“Had not Christ shown them signs enough? What were all the miracles he hadwrought in their sight? They either speak this out of a further idle curiosity. . . or else they speak it in direct opposition.” (Poole)


b.An evil and adulterous generation seeks after asign: Jesus condemned their seeking after a sign, especially whencountless signs had already happened before their eyes. It is easy tooverestimate the power of miraculous signs to change the heart of doubters andskeptics.


c.The sign of the prophet Jonah: Jesusassured them of a sign, but the great sign He would show was the sign of aresurrected Jesus. Jonah was a prophet in the sense beyond his preaching toNineveh; also, his life was a prophecy of the death and resurrection of Jesus.


d.As Jonah was three days and three nights in thebelly of the great fish: Jonah was indeed a picture of the work ofJesus. Jonah gave his life to appease the wrath of God coming upon others. Butdeath did not hold him; after three days and nights of imprisonment, he wasalive and free. This is a glorious picture of Jesus in an unexpected place.


i. Because Jesus here refers to three days and three nights, some think thatJesus had to spend at least 72 hours in the grave. This upsets mostchronologies of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and is unnecessary -because it doesn’t take into account the use of ancient figures of speech.Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah (around the year ad100; cited in Clarke and other sources) explained this way of speaking when hewrote: “A day and a night make a whole day, and a portion of a whole day isreckoned as a whole day.” This demonstrates how in Jesus’ day, the phrase three days and three nights did notnecessarily mean a full 72-hour period, but a period including at least theportions of three days and three nights. There may be other good reasons forchallenging the traditional chronology of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but itis not necessary in order to fulfill the words of Jesus here.


ii.If Jesus rose from the dead on the first day or on the fifth day, we could say“Jesus was a liar and a false prophet. He said He would rise again on the thirdday, but He got it wrong.” But Jesus didn’t get it wrong. He never does.


iii.Yet we should not miss the central point here. “You are asking for a sign– I am God’s sign. You have failedto recognize me. The Ninevites recognized God’s warning in Jonah; the Queen ofSheba recognized God’s wisdom in Solomon.” (Barclay)


2.(41-42) Jesus announces the condemnation of the religious leaders at the handsof the Ninevites and the queen of the South.


“The men of Nineveh willrise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because theyrepented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in thejudgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of theearth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.”


a.The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgmentwith this generation and condemn it: Simply put, greater lightrequires greater judgment. Both Ninevehand the queen of the South repentedeven though they had a lesser light shining in their midst. The rejection ofthe greater light by the religious leaders was indefensible.


i.Adam Clarke described several ways that the witness of Jesus was greater than Jonah.


Š     “Christ, who preached to theJews, was infinitely greater than Jonah, in his nature, person, and mission.”

Š     “Jonah preached repentance inNineveh only forty days, and Christpreached among the Jews for several years.”

Š     “Jonah wrought no miracles toauthorize his preaching; but Christ wrought miracles every day, in every placewhere he went, and of every kind.”

Š     “Notwithstanding all this,the people of Judea did not repent, though the people of Nineveh did.”


b.A greater than Solomon is here:Solomon was the son of David, and one of the great messianic titles of Jesus is“Son of David.” Jesus was a much greaterSon of David than Solomon was.


i.We again are impressed by the greatness of Jesus’ self-claim. To stand in frontof these religious leaders and claim to be greaterthan Israel richest and wisest king was audacious. Yet the seeming audacity ofJesus was well justified.


3.(43-45) The dangerous consequences of their rejection of Jesus.


“When an unclean spiritgoes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes,he finds it empty, swept, andput in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wickedthan himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall italso be with this wicked generation.”


a.When an unclean spirit goesout of a man: In context, themain point of Jesus was not upon principles of demon possession. He explainedthe seriousness of rejecting Him as completely as the religious leaders had.


i. This rejection and opposition of Jesus wouldleave them much worse off than ever before. Thiswicked generation – exemplified by the religious leaders whowere rejecting Jesus – would find their laststate . . . worse than the first. In large measure they rejectedJesus because He wasn’t messianic enough for their taste, in the sense of being a political and military messiah.Yet their thirst for this kind of messiah would lead them to ruin by ad 70.


ii. Yet the use of the illustration shows us someinteresting principles of demon possession, and shows us that Jesus regarded itas a real phenomenon and not just a contemporary superstition. “If there had been no reality in demoniacal possessions, ourLord would have scarcely appealed to a case of this kind here, to point out thereal state of the Jewish people, and the desolation which was coming uponthem.” (Clarke)


b.When an unclean spirit goesout of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none: Apparently demons (or at least some ofthem) desire a human host and look for a place among the empty, seeing it as aninvitation.


i.“The devil cannot be at rest where he hath no mischief to do to men.” (Poole)


ii. Iwill return to my house: “The foulfiend calls the man, ‘My house.’ His audacity is amazing. He didnot build or buy that house, and he has no right to it.” (Spurgeon)


iii.A demon can only inhabit someone if he finds itempty – that is, without the indwelling Spirit of JesusChrist. If it is empty, it does notmatter to the demon if it is also swept, and putin order. “The devil has no objection to his house being swept andgarnished; for a moralist may be as truly his slave as the man of debauchedhabits. So long as the heart is not occupied by his great foe, and he can usethe man for his own purposes, the adversary of souls will let him reform asmuch as he pleases.” (Spurgeon)


iv.If we are filled with Jesus – being born again by the Spirit of God– then we cannot be empty and therefore inhabited by demons. “Though heshake his chain at us, he cannot fasten his fangs in us.” (Trapp)


c.And the last state of that man is worse than thefirst: This presses the urgency of being filled with the Spirit ofJesus Christ. There is something worse than being simply demon possessed; onecan be possessed in a greater measure unto great misery. The answer to suchmisery is to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus Christ.


4.(46-50) Jesus identifies His true family.


While He was stilltalking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside,seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Yourbrothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” But He answered andsaid to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” AndHe stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My motherand My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brotherand sister and mother.”


a.His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking tospeak with Him: Considering the general context of opposition toJesus, it may well be that the family of Jesus wanted to appeal to Him to notbe so controversial in His ministry.


i. “The members of his family hadcome to take him, because they thought him beside himself. No doubt thePharisees had so represented his ministry to his relatives that they thoughtthey had better restrain him.” (Spurgeon)


b.Who is My mother and who are My brothers?We might have expected that Jesus’ family would have special privileges beforeHim. It almost surprises us that they did not have such special privileges.


i.Who is My mother: Mary, the mother ofJesus, had no special favor with Jesus either then or now. She stands as awonderful example of someone who was privileged by God and stood by Jesus, butshe is not on a higher level of anyone who doesthe will of My Father in heaven.


ii.Who are My brothers: Jesus plainly hadbrothers. The Roman Catholic idea ofthe perpetual virginity of Mary is in contradiction to the plain meaning of theBible. But the brothers of Jesus never seemed to be supportive of His ministrybefore His death and resurrection (John 7:5).


iii.“The most natural way to understand ‘brothers’ is that the term refers to sonsof Mary and Joseph and thus to brothers of Jesus on his mother’s side.” Effortsto make brothers mean something else are “nothing less than farfetched exegesisin support of a dogma that originated much later than the New Testament.”(Carson)


c.For whoever does the willof My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother: These beloved ones who do the will ofGod stand in contrast to the evil and adulterous generation represented by the Pharisees (Matthew 12:39).


i.“He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (Spurgeon)


ii.We can see this as a gracious invitation – even to these religiousleaders who deepened their hostility against Jesus and plotted against Him.They could still come and be part of His family.


iii.“Those are the best acknowledged relatives of Christwho are united to him by spiritual ties, and who are become one with him by the indwelling of his Spirit. We generallysuppose that Christ's relatives must have shared much of his affectionateattention; and doubtless they did: but here we find that whosoever does thewill of God is equally esteemed by Christ, as his brother, sister, or even his virgin mother.” (Clarke)


iv.“The only thing to be further learned from this paragraph is, how dearbelievers and holy persons are to Christ; he counts them as dear as mother,brethren, or sisters, and thereby teacheth us the esteem we ought to have forsuch.” (Poole)


© 2009 David Guzik - Nodistribution beyond personal use without permission