Matthew 12:44
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.
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(44) Empty, swept, and garnished.—The words have a two-fold symbolism, as representing (1) the state of the possessed man, and (2) that of the nation of which he is made the type. The latter belongs to the interpretation of the parable as a whole. The former portrays the state of the man who has been delivered from the wildness of frenzy, but has been left to the routine of common life and conventional morality, with no higher spiritual influence to protect and guard him.

12:38-45 Though Christ is always ready to hear and answer holy desires and prayers, yet those who ask amiss, ask and have not. Signs were granted to those who desired them to confirm their faith, as Abraham and Gideon; but denied to those who demanded them to excuse their unbelief. The resurrection of Christ from the dead by his own power, called here the sign of the prophet Jonah, was the great proof of Christ's being the Messiah. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale, and then came out again alive, thus Christ would be so long in the grave, and then rise again. The Ninevites would shame the Jews for not repenting; the queen of Sheba, for not believing in Christ. And we have no such cares to hinder us, we come not to Christ upon such uncertainties. This parable represents the case of the Jewish church and nation. It is also applicable to all those who hear the word of God, and are in part reformed, but not truly converted. The unclean spirit leaves for a time, but when he returns, he finds Christ is not there to shut him out; the heart is swept by outward reformation, but garnished by preparation to comply with evil suggestions, and the man becomes a more decided enemy of the truth. Every heart is the residence of unclean spirits, except those which are temples of the Holy Ghost, by faith in Christ.Then he saith, I will return into my house ... - The man is called his house, because the spirit had dwelt in him.

He findeth it empty ... - There is here a continuance of the reference to the dwelling of the spirit in people.

The man was called his "house." By the absence of the evil spirit the house is represented as unoccupied, or "empty, swept," and "garnished;" that is, while the evil spirit was away, the man was restored to his right mind, or was freed from the influence of the evil spirit.

Garnished - Adorned, put in order, furnished. Applied to the "man," it means that his mind was sane and regular when the evil spirit was gone, or he had a "lucid interval."

43-45. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, &c.—On this important parable, in connection with the corresponding one (Mt 12:29) see on [1283]Lu 11:21-26.

A charming little incident, given only in Lu 11:27, 28, seems to have its proper place here.

Lu 11:27:

And it came to pass, as He spake these things, a certain woman of the company—out of the crowd.

lifted up her voice and said unto Him, Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked—With true womanly feeling she envies the mother of such a wonderful Teacher. And a higher and better than she had said as much before her (see on [1284]Lu 1:28). How does our Lord, then, treat it? He is far from condemning it. He only holds up as "blessed rather" another class: Lu 11:28:

But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it—in other words, the humblest real saint of God. How utterly alien is this sentiment from the teaching of the Church of Rome, which would doubtless excommunicate any one of its members that dared to talk in such a strain!

His Mother and Brethren Seek to Speak with Him and the Answer (Mt 12:46-50).

See Poole on "Matthew 12:45".

Then he said, I will return into my house,.... Into the land of Judea, particularly into the Scribes and Pharisees, outward professors of religion; who, notwithstanding their outward reformation, and great pretensions to holiness, are Satan's house still: he has a property in them, a claim upon them; and though he says,

from whence I came out, yet he never really and properly quitted it, only seemingly, and in appearance; and therefore his returning is only throwing off the guise, and reassuming his former character, as a vicious and unclean spirit.

And when he is come, he findeth it empty: not empty of sin: this puts me in mind of a passage in the Misna (y), where it is said, that on a fast day,

"when they stand in prayer, they cause to descend, or go before the ark, an old man, who is used (to prayer,) whose children, , "and his house, are empty", so that his heart is perfect in prayer,''

or entirely at leisure for it. The commentators (z) on that phrase, "his house is empty", note, that he was empty of sin, and free from it, and one concerning whom an evil report had not gone forth from his youth: but such was not this house; it was empty of God, of the true knowledge of him, of the fear of him, and love to him; of Christ, of faith in him, affection for him, and hope on him; of the Spirit of God, and of his graces, and of spiritual, internal religion, and powerful godliness.

Swept; not with the Spirit of grace convincing of sin, righteousness, and judgment; but with the besom of an outward reformation:

and garnished; not with internal grace, which makes saints all glorious within; but with secret lusts and corruptions, which rendered it an agreeable habitation for this unclean spirit; and at most, with some show of morality, a little negative holiness, or abstinence from outward acts of sin, an observance of some external rites and ceremonies, and a few hypocritical performances of fasting and prayer; which Satan can very well bear with, so long as the heart is empty of spiritual grace, and till an opportunity offers of throwing off all appearance of good.

(y) Taanith, c. 2. sect. 2.((z) Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.

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.
Matthew 12:44. σχολάζοντα σ. καὶ κ. = untenanted and ready for a tenant, inviting by its clean, ornamented condition. The epithets simply describe in lively pictorial manner the risk of repossession. But naturally commentators seek spiritual equivalents for them. Ornamented how? With grace, say some (Hilary, Chrys., Godet), with sin, others (Orig., Jer., Euthy., Weiss, etc.). The ornamentation must be to the taste of the tenant. And what is that? Neither for sin nor for grace, but for sin counterfeiting grace; a form of godliness without the power; sanctity which is but a mask for iniquity. The house is decorated reputedly for God’s occupancy, really for the devil’s—σεσαρωμένον; σαροῦν is condemned by Phryn.; “when you hear one say σάρωσον bid him say παρακόρησον”.

44. empty] Properly, at leisure. To have cast out a sin does not make a man safe from sin, there must be no leisure in the Christian life.

Matthew 12:44. Οἶκόν μου, my house) What the enemy had once occupied, he considers as a portion of his property.—ἐξῆλθον, I came out) He speaks as if he had not been cast forth See the pride of the unclean spirit, which shows itself not merely in this word, but from his whole speech, as though it had been at his option either to come out or to return. Our Lord uses the same word without any particular emphasis in Matthew 12:43. The same word may either have emphasis, or be without emphasis, in different speeches, according to the different condition and mind of the speaker.—ἑλθὸν, when he is come) for the sake of reconnoitering.—εὑρίσκει, κ.τ.λ., he finds, etc.) Therefore, the house was not so before the enemy had been cast forth.—σχολάζοντα, vacant) Tranquillity, although in itself good, is not far distant from peril. The same verb σκολάζειν occurs in the S. V. of Exodus 5:8; Exodus 5:17, for רפה, to be idle.—σεσαρωμένον, swept) i.e., cleared from evils.—κεκοσμημένον, adorned) sc. with good things; see Matthew 12:28. The enemy seeks especially clean places to rest in, not that they may remain clean, but that he may render them also unclean.

Verse 44. - Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out. In the true text the emphasis lies on the words, "into my house;" i.e. the place that I have found so comfortable before, where I was so thoroughly at home; which, in fact, is still mine. Observe the curious parallel to Matthew 10:25. The Jews had called Christ Beelzebub absolutely without reason, but in their own ease it was only too possible that they had an unclean spirit as "master of the house." And when he is come, he findeth it empty, unoccupied (σχολάζοντα). Swept; "cleansed with besoms" (Wickliffe); σεσαρωμένον. And garnished; "made fair" (Wickliffe); καὶ κεκοσμημένον. It had no tenant, but it was fully prepared for one; all the rubbish had been removed, and suitable preparations been made. Matthew 12:44
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