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.
Christ Greater than the Church.
I. Looking first at the things essential in the structure of the Church, I shall show what Christ is in relation to these. The essential things in the structure of the Church are: (1) The plan. The plan of the Christian Church is that of a temple. Christ, before the Church, was the Dwelling-place, the real Shechinah, the true primal home of the light which is to enlighten the world, the very, the incarnate Temple of God upon the earth, in His twofold nature and one Divinely-human personality; He was the very plan, pattern, and idea of the temple which the Christian Apostles proclaimed. (2) The foundation. The foundation of the Church is more than apostolic testimony, more even than inspired truth, more than any event, however supernatural or sacred. The foundation is Christ Himself. He is the Gospel, the Cross, the Resurrection. He is God manifest, God near, God showing mercy, God rising from the dead, God offering life and peace and resurrection to the world. (3) The materials of which it is composed. Christ is the life whose life is in every stone of the temple. There is nothing mean or small or trivial among these materials which make up Christ's house, because His worth ennobles the whole.
II. Consider the Lord's greatness in relation to the functions of the Church. These are: (1) Culture. By this we understand its internal growth in Christian excellence. Christ is everything to the Church in this process. He is the Truth, that liberates, purifies, and elevates. (2) Conquest. The power by which the Church operates is not her own, but Christ's. The commission of the Master contains the assertion of His pre-eminence. The presence which accompanies and cheers the messenger is the presence of Christ Himself. "Lo, I am with you alway." (3) Worship. The Church is a "spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God." The Church lays on the altar her thoughts, prayers, affections, capacities, gifts, achievements, the entire life of her whole membership of every individual; and she offers up these as sacrifices; but the soul and inner life of these sacrifices is thankfulness for Christ. This is the deepest fact in Christian worship.
A. Macleod, Days of Heaven upon Earth, p. 140.
References: Matthew 12:1-14.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 88. Matthew 12:3-7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1503. Matthew 12:6.—Ibid., vol. xxii., No. 1275; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 292; J. B. French, Ibid., vol. xxxi., p. 269. Matthew 12:7.—J. P. Gledstone, Ibid., vol. xxi., p. 301.
Matthew 12:8I. Note the title Jesus gives Himself: "the Son of man." He applied this phrase to Himself in all the different aspects of His great life. While He deemed His equality with God not a thing to be clutched at, He claimed, in humanity's name, more than an equality with men. In Him, as the Son of man, humanity is again restored to its sonship of God. It is the child alone who can show the father in the fatherly relationship; the neighbour can show the neighbour, the work the worker. When the Christ said, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," He claimed to have done something so appalling in itself, and in its consequences, as to dwarf the most notable of His miracles. Christ was all-human, whatever else we believe Him to be. The pure ever lives in the all, not in the part. But whence this authority with nature which Christ possessed, which was equal to the suffering of hunger within Himself, and to feed a multitude with five loaves? If it be only the triumph of the universal man in the Son of man, the triumph is so complete as to constitute Him our King and our God. For He besets us behind and before, and lays His hand upon us; we can look neither within nor without, without beholding symbols of His might, and turn neither to our past nor our future without seeing that the fortune of our race is in His hand.
II. The claim He makes on His own behalf, as "Lord even of the Sabbath day." This is but one of the many claims which Jesus made, and by which He asserted His authority to be greater, if not higher in kind, than had ever been arrogated by man before. Authority and obedience meet in Christ, and blend. He is the atonement of the Great Father with His many children. Father and child meet and kiss each other again in Him, and are at peace. And man, if he be an hungred, can pluck the corn on the Sabbath day in the presence of the God who "will have mercy, and not sacrifice."
J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 233.
Reference: Matthew 12:9-21.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 114.
Matthew 12:12There are few things in our Lord's teaching more interesting to notice than the enormous value which He puts upon man. Again and again He reminds us, as though we were ready to forget it, of the glory and dignity of our being. Notice a series of points in respect of which a man is better than a sheep.
I. I might mention, first of all, even his physical form and beauty. Well does the inspired Apostle liken man's body to a stately temple, well-proportioned, and perfect in all its parts. In a thousand ways it excels that of the lower creation, and proclaims that man is better and nobler than they. Are you, then, going to take that noble and beautiful form, and make it the instrument of sin? Are you going to desecrate a temple so fair? This is just what many are doing, bringing themselves down to the level of the brutes that perish, and turning their glory into shame.
II. Secondly, a man is better than a sheep, because he is endowed with reason. The true glory of man consists not in the speed with which he can run, nor the number of pounds' weight he can lift, nor the strong wrestlers he can throw; for in these respects even the ostrich and the ass and the lion easily outmatch him. And yet what compensation intellect provides! There is no point in respect to which the brute excels us where reason does not enable us far to excel the brute. The man who leaves his mind fallow, who does not call into vigorous exercise the reasoning powers with which he is endowed, fails to realize his distinguished place in creation, and brings himself down to the level of the cattle in the field.
III. A man is better than a sheep, because he is endowed with a moral nature. He is an accountable and responsible being. Even the fact that he has it in his power to do wrong proclaims his exalted place in creation. A sheep cannot sin; but that is not because it is a superior, but because it is an inferior creature to us.
IV. How much is a man better than a sheep, when you consider his capacity of progress! In this respect he stands alone in creation, so far as it presents itself to our view.
V. How much is a man better than a sheep, in respect to his spiritual nature and his capacity for knowing God!
VI. How much is a man better than a sheep, because he is possessed of immortality! The dumb creatures of the meadow live their little life and die, and there is an end of them; but man has an existence that knows no end.
VII. A man is better than a sheep, because Christ died for him. He who made man and stamped His own image on him deemed him worth an infinite sacrifice, and spared not His own Son for his redemption.
J. Thain Davidson, Talks with Young Men, p. 147.
References: Matthew 12:10-12.—T. Birkett Dover, The Ministry of Mercy, p. 130. Matthew 12:10-13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1485. Matthew 12:12.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 32. Matthew 12:14-37.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 205. Matthew 12:15.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 128. Matthew 12:15-21.—S. Cox, Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., p. 16. Matthew 12:18-21.—J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii., p. 65. Matthew 12:19-21. -Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1147; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 46. Matthew 12:20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i., No. 6; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 202; G. T. Coster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 154.
I. What is involved in the significant phrase, "His name." There may be very much or very little in a name taken merely as a sign for personal identification. But if any more than this be attempted, and if it be given as descriptive of certain predispositions to nature, and of certain virtues of mind and manners, it may contain far too much or too little. There is nothing more appropriate than a great name for a great man, or a good name for a good man; but the little is sorrowfully encumbered when he has to bear a name made conspicuous by virtue or by genius. Great care was taken in the naming of the Christ. The name was to be descriptive, and to be expressive of that which was to be the great function of His coming. It was to be suggestive not only of greatness, but of that greatness which was to be peculiarly and eternally His own. "Thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins." The great radical idea of operative Christianity is salvation; it is only as this is being realized that its other aspects are of value to man. The name of Jesus was to symbolize the whole of morality in the sum and symmetry of a perfect combination.
II. What is involved in the trust which the Gentiles were to repose in it. The nations were to trust Him, not as some today are disposed to do, as a beneficial force amidst the powers which make for civilization. That He had been and is this no honest thinker can, we imagine, well doubt. But the Gentiles were to trust Him as that which He assumed Himself to be, and for that which He had done, and for the more He claimed the ability of doing. They must trust Christ for far more than they can understand or have the power to conceive, and trust that all things are in arrangement to "work together for good." To have this trust in Him, the nations must be convinced of the fulness not only of His manhood, but of the perfectness and all-comprehensiveness of His knowledge of all that is above man. It is when man has discovered that he can know no more of God than is revealed in Christ that he is justified in seeking only for godliness after Christ. If He be believed when He says, "Whosoever hath seen Me hath seen the Father," man has no higher wisdom to expect; it suffices him, and he trusts.
J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 257.
References: Matthew 12:22.—T. Evans, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iii., Matthew 12:22-30.—Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 284; T. Birkett Dover, The Ministry of Mercy, p. 102. Matthew 12:28.—New Outlines on the New Testament, p. 10. Matthew 12:30.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 190; J. C. Hare, Sermons in Herstmonceux Church, vol. ii., p. 225.
Matthew 12:31I. First, it may be said what the unpardonable sin is not. It cannot be any sin from which men ever have repented; for wherever God has given repentance He has given pardon; no sin, therefore, which has ever been repented of is the unpardonable sin. And yet what very awful and exceeding sins have been pardoned or might have been pardoned. No course even of sin, no act of deadly sin, following even upon a course of sin, if it admits the pang of penitence, shuts out from pardon. What is really dead feels not. No past sin hinders from penitence. The faintest longing to love is love; the very dread to miss for ever the face of God is love; the very terror at that dreadful state where none can love is love.
II. And now to approach the sacred text itself. And here, because Satan would ever tempt to despair of God's mercy those whom he has tempted, through presuming upon it, to sin, our good Lord accompanies the awful sentence on that one sin which hath no forgiveness with the largest, almost boundless, assurance of mercy on all besides. The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost was not one sort of guilt, but many in one. It was the guilt of those who had the very presence of their Lord, who witnessed His love and holiness, who saw the power of God, but out of envy and malice obstinately resisted the light, and ascribed that which was the very working of the Spirit of Holiness to the unclean spirit. And this sin was in its very nature unpardonable, not because God would not pardon it upon repentance, but because it cut off repentance from itself, turning into sin the very miracles of mercy which should have drawn it to repentance.
III. For us is this fearful picture of completed disease given, that we may shun the very slightest taint and touch of its infecting breath. Let us labour, through God's grace, to grow in all other graces which are opposed to every trace and shade of deadly sin; let us pray for deeper awe, for truer penitence, for loving fear, for fearing love; so shall we, in the increase of our inward life, have the witness of His Spirit to us that we are not decaying unto death; so shall we, after this brief, weary struggle, enter our everlasting rest, behold the ever-living Truth, and by His all-pervading love, love Himself in Himself, and all in Him.
E. B. Pusey, Selected Occasional Sermons, p. 225.
Matthew 12:31-32The "speaking" or blaspheming against the Holy Ghost is the sign of a very rancorous and very violent dislike in the heart against Him; and it is not the word taken abstractedly, but that evil and determinate state of heart which that word proves which constitutes the "sin against the Holy Ghost."
I. We have in the Bible four separate sins against the Holy Ghost laid out in a certain order and progression. (1) First, there is the grieving of the Holy Ghost. This occurs when you allow something in your heart and life which impedes and weakens the Spirit's inward work. (2) Next, in the downward course, comes resisting the Holy Ghost. And that is when, with great resolution, you set yourself positively to act contrary to the known and declared will and precepts of the Spirit. (3) From this it is an easy step to quench Him; when, being vexed and annoyed at influences which restrain you, or by voices which condemn you within, you endeavour to put it out, as water on fire, stifling it that it may die—overlaying the work of God within you, in order that you may escape. (4) There is a fourth stage, when the mind, through a long course of sin, proceeds to such a violent dislike and abhorrence of the Spirit of God that all infidel thoughts and horrid imaginations come into the mind. The man obstructs and withstands the kingdom of Christ everywhere; and that is the unpardonable sin.
II. The misery and horror of that state lies in this, that it is a state that cannot repent. It cannot make one move towards God. The Spirit is gone. There is no pardon now, because there can be no desire for pardon. There is and there can be in that man no gleam of spiritual thought, because the Author and Giver of it is gone for ever.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 359.
I. Observe, Christ speaks of Himself here as the Son of man, the Son of God in a disguise, as it were; God under the veil of human flesh. Can we wonder that He should look with a merciful and forgiving eye upon any of His brethren who, not suspecting His greatness, should rudely jostle against Him in the crowd? Suppose, for instance, a king were to assume for purposes of state the disguise of a subject, and to mingle with the simplest and rudest of his people, and suppose that while in such disguise he were to meet with an insult; would not a broad line of demarcation be drawn between an insult so offered and an act of avowed treason against the king upon his throne? A comparison of this kind will be of considerable help to us in understanding our subject. Even the murderers of Christ sinned against the Son of man, against Christ in His human nature; whereas, had they known who it was whom they crucified, many might possibly have been overwhelmed with shame and have besought His forgiveness.
II. But in the case of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost no such plea can be set up. Here we have a sin not against God in the guise of Jesus the son of Joseph the carpenter, but against God in His essential Deity, God upon the throne of heaven, God who does good and is the Author of all good both in heaven and earth. The sin of the Jews which our Lord rebuked partook of this character; for they had said that He was under the influence of, and in league with, an unclean spirit; to do good, to love mercy, and to perform acts which undeniably tended to overturn the kingdom of Satan and establish the kingdom of God—this, they said, was the work of the devil. Now unquestionably this was to put darkness for light and light for darkness, to confound all distinctions between good and evil, to confuse the works of Satan and those of the Most High God, as though they were not the exact opposites of each other. The person who does fully commit this sin places himself exactly in the position of the lost angels; the sin of Satan is that of deliberately worshipping evil and hating good, and on this account is unpardonable sin—unpardonable for this reason, if for no other, that it cannot be repented of.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 3rd series, p. 350.
References: Matthew 12:31, Matthew 12:32.—P. J. Gloag, Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 206; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 352; S. Cox, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iii., p. 321; R. Scott, University Sermons, p. 64; J. C. Hare, The Victory of Faith, p. 288.
Matthew 12:33I. It is possible to ascertain our true state and character. What plainer evidence of this could be desired than these words, "The tree is known by his fruit"? As certainly as the tree is known by his fruit may we know our spiritual state and character if we will only be honest, nor act like the merchant who, suspecting his affairs to be verging on brankruptcy, shuts his eyes to the danger, takes no stock, and strikes no balance.
II. Our religious profession is not always a test of our state. (1) It may be a test in certain circumstances. Though it does not prove the possession of religion in the time of peace, show me a man, like the house standing its ground against the sweep of floods, or the soldier following his colours into the thick of battle, who holds fast the profession of his faith in the face of obloquy, of persecution, of death itself, and there is little room to doubt that his piety is genuine—that he has the root of the matter in him. (2) The profession of religion is not a test of the reality of religion in our times. The tide has turned, and those who now make a profession of zealous and active piety find themselves no longer opposed to the stream and spirit of the age. This is a subject of gratitude. Yet it suggests caution in judging of ourselves, and warns us to take care, since a profession of religion is rather fashionable than otherwise, that in making it we are not the creatures of fashion, but new creatures in Jesus Christ.
III. The true evidence of our state is to be found in our heart and habits. The tree is known by his fruits—by their fruits ye shall know them.
T. Guthrie, Sneaking to the Heart, p. 163.
References: Matthew 12:34.—J. Ker, Sermons, p. 121. Matthew 12:35.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 177; E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 74.
Matthew 12:36-37Idle words may, in a very general way, be defined as words that issue out of a condition of idleness—fruitless, useless hours. The care of speech is eminently a fit training which the Gospel ordains.
I. There are a great many words that are like dust-cloths. They remove grime; they drive away unpleasant thought and feeling; they change the temperament. There are a great many things in conversation that tend to make men cheerful, that tend to put springs under the waggon of life to make it go easier along in the rough road. All these things are edifying in their own way. They polish, they brighten, they comfort, they cheer; they keep people above melancholy and gloom, and that itself is very desirable.
II. One kind of idle words is tattling. It is a kind of gay frivolity upon a line of things which require sobriety and charity. It proceeds neither from wit nor from humour, nor from rectitude; but it is amusing ourselves with the thousand little scraps that relate to men and their affairs. Not only is it of no benefit to them, but it is bad for us and bad for them.
III. Boasting is another form of idle speech. There is a vast amount of it which springs up in youth and does not die out in manhood. It is a sort of bidding one's self up in the market. It indicates the want of any high self-measuring, and is very foolish and idle.
IV. Profane swearing is an utterance of sacred names or of sacred things in a light, trifling, and, worse still, in a malicious and angry mood. Swearing is some men's idea of boldness. But God forbid that any man who values aught that is noble and sweet and pure in men, in angels, and in God should indulge in this most demoralizing habit! There is the best reason in the world, in philosophy, in politeness, in neighbourly charity, why one's mouth should be kept free and clean from all profanity. It is the violation of decency and honour; it is the violation of every noble instinct.
H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 268.
References: Matthew 12:36.—F. W. Farrar, In the Days of Thy Youth, p. 30, Matthew 12:36, Matthew 12:37.—C. Girdlestone, A Course of Sermons, vol. i., p. 19.
Matthew 12:37Consider some of the ways by which words are used that minister to our condemnation.
I. At the head of this list we must put profane swearing.
II. Another way in which we expose ourselves to God's displeasure is by what St. Paul calls "foolish talking."
III. Another example of the improper use of the gift of speech is an indulgence in the petulant and complaining language which so often destroys the harmony of private life.
IV. A fourth illustration of our text is found in the case of misrepresentation and slander.
V. Angry words are another description of words by which we may endanger our everlasting salvation.
J. N. Norton, Old Paths, p. 144.
Matthew 12:38In every age, and perhaps more as the world grows older, men's hearts are apt to utter the same wish. The mind, afloat, as it were, on a vast sea, needs, and with reason, a sure anchor. Man cannot tell us of what man has never seen. We crave for the very heaven itself to be opened; we crave to see the light in which God dwells; we crave to hear the voice of Him to whom all things are known, who can neither be deceived nor deceive.
I. This feeling is in its own nature nothing blamable. All belief is not deserving of the name of faith, and it is greatly against the wisdom of God to confound them. If God were to give us no answer at all when we ask for a sign from heaven, no man could be blamed for remaining in uncertainty; on the contrary, to believe a thing merely because we do not like the feeling of ignorance about it is no better than folly. Or again, it might have been possible that God should have given us the very exact answer we desired. But neither of these is our actual case; we are not left in utter ignorance, nor raised to perfect knowledge. There is a state between these two, and that is properly the state of faith. There is no place for faith in entire ignorance; for to believe then were mere idle guessing; it would not be faith, but folly. Nor, again, is there any place for faith in perfect knowledge; for knowledge is something more than believing. The place for faith is between both.
II. That Christ died and rose from the dead is the great work which God has wrought for our satisfaction; it is not absolutely the only sign which He has ever given—far from it; but it is the greatest, and goes most directly to that question which we most long to have answered. It assures us of God that He loves us, and will love us for ever. To those who think upon it fully it does become the real sign from heaven which was required; for it brought God into the world, and the world near to God. He who has the evidence of the Spirit not only believes that Christ rose and was seen of Peter and of the other apostles; Christ has manifested Himself to him also; he knows in whom he has believed. The heaven is opened, and the angels of God are every hour ascending and descending on that son of man who, through a living faith in Christ, has been adopted through Him to be a son of God.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 7.
Matthew 12:38-43Truth through and by life.
Consider in what respects Christ was greater than Solomon.
I. The Proverbs could not well be spared from the Bible nor dropped out of the life of the world. They are of highest use, and ought to be read and re-read, for their wisdom, their broad interpretation of life, and their ethical value. If they were heeded and obeyed they would bring the individual, the family, the community, the nation into a state of ideal perfection. Their lack is that they have no power to turn into living moulding energy. They simply state truth and prescribe conduct. They are impersonal, and have no living force to drive them home. Truth must be incarnated in a just representative in order to be powerful. This is the weakness of the Proverbs viewed as effective agents; they are without incarnation. The truth taught by Solomon went out naked into the world, and weighted by his failure to realize it in himself.
II. Turn now to Christ. We can match nearly every precept of Christ with a like one from Solomon. Why does it not appeal to us with equal force? (1) Christ had a single, solid background for His truth—God the Father; while Solomon spoke from an observation of human life, or rather of the world as it goes. Hence Christ's truth wore an eternal character, and was as the voice of God Himself; it was absolute; it came from above, and was not picked up here and there. (2) There is also a wide unlikeness in the tone of their teachings, especially if the Book of Ecclesiastes be referred to Solomon. This book stands in the Bible rather as a warning than a guide, telling us how not to think of life. Life is a puzzle; time and chance have sway. Christ's teachings are the contrast to this. Life is no puzzle to Him; it presents no question. Everywhere and always there is one clear, unvarying note sounding an eternal destruction between good and evil, declaring life to be good and a path to blessedness. (3) There is another contrast between these two teachers: one made but small personal indication of his teaching, while the other brought His life into ideal harmony with all that He taught. The lesson is beyond expression practical. We know no truth except by action. We can teach no vital truth except through the life. We cannot attain to the eternal joy except as we walk step by step in that path of actual duty and performance in which He walked, who so gained its fulness and sat down at the right hand of the Father.
T. T. Munger, The Appeal to Life, p. 47.
Reference: Matthew 12:38-50.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 215.
Matthew 12:39-40Jonah being spoken of in the text as a type of Christ, let us consider that part of his history which is typical. It is contained in the first and second chapters, and presents us with the following pictures:—
I. Man shunning God's presence. Like those mariners who, leaving the sacred soil which was the place of God's sanctuary and the scene of God's revelations, launched forth upon the waste salt billows and made for the great heathen mart of Tarshish, so went man forth from his primitive condition of holy bliss, to seek diversion from the thoughts of God and judgment, to seek entertainment for a few short hours in the traffic and merchandise of the world.
II. God's awful wrath in consequence of man's departure from Him. The raging tempest, which well-nigh broke the ship wherein Jonah was embarked, supplies us with a just emblem of the wrath of God. By nature we live and move in the element of that wrath. Every man who has not by a personal appropriating faith laid hold of the hope set before him in the Gospel is at this moment in imminent peril.
III. The vain attempts made by man to propitiate an offended God. The great majority of men instinctively seek to have something which may serve them to fall back upon in the hour of affliction and distress. Acknowledging by a certain natural instinct that there is a God, and that they have offended Him, men will do everything but that which is required of them to make their peace with Him and obtain His favour. But then sacrifices, the mere dictates of natural religion, cannot avail to turn away the wrath of God.
IV. The Divine method of propitiation by the death of Christ. Jonah's being taken up and cast into the sea is a figurative representation of Christ's being made over, as our Substitute, to the fury of God's indignation.
V. The last point shadowed forth in Jonah's history is the triumph of Christ over death and hell—meaning by that latter term the place of departed spirits. Jonah, being swallowed by the fish, was miraculously preserved alive within it, and was afterwards delivered from his marvellous hiding-place and laid upon the dry land in safety. Christ rose again the third day from the dead, in a body identical indeed with that which hung upon the cross, but spiritual, eternal, heavenly, adapted to a new and imperishable condition of existence.
E. M. Goulburn, Sermons in Holywell, p. 23.
References: Matthew 12:40.—J. N. Norton, Golden Truths, p. 165. Matthew 12:41.—Ibid., Old Paths, p. 487; W. M. Punshon, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 19. Matthew 12:42.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 533; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 209; Parker, Cavendish Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 257; J. Hamilton, The Royal Preacher, p. 31. Matthew 12:43.—G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 132. xii. 43-45.—T. R. Evans, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 88; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,648.
Matthew 12:45Growing Worse.
I. It must be remembered that we all begin with certain faults—different persons with different faults. What we mean by a man's character getting worse is that these faults in us strengthen and increase. But is it an unaccountable and strange process, that by which faults grow? By no means. It is the simplest process in the world; it is simply by repeating a faulty action or humour time after time. We have only to go on in the same way, and, at the end of the time, we have a worse fault; for that is the nature of habit, that it grows by mere repetition of the same conduct and becomes a stronger habit. But if the sinful habit is stronger, then the man is a worse man.
II. People often go on getting worse and worse, letting sin grow, but thinking it all the time quite impossible that they should be worse. That idea which they started with they never give up—the idea that they never can alter for the bad. All alteration, they think, must be for the better; if they have not improved, then they are the same they always were; but worse they cannot be. It is this deep ingrained assumption in men's minds which blinds them to the most startling facts about themselves. They are now absorbed in covetous passions and worldly aims; they have fierce desires to get this and that earthly prize; they sacrifice honesty; they do the meanest acts; they are guilty of constant pieces of deception in order to win them. There was a day when they would have shrunk from this; now they do it all as a matter of course; but still they have no idea that they are at all worse than they were. It is always circumstances that change, never themselves. But Scripture everywhere says plainly that men do grow worse in this life, and that they grow worse out of themselves; and therefore it is that they reap the wages of death, because it is their own sin. Let us look to ourselves, to our own hearts, and watch and correct evil at its fount; for there is the fount of it.
J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 118.
References: Matthew 12:45.—B. F. Westcott, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. vi., p. 83; J. Keble, Sermons from Lent to Passiontide, p. 203.
Matthew 12:46-50Jesus and His Brethren.
I. the brethren of the boyhood of Jesus. Christ was born into the home and was to live in a brotherhood, with no opportunity for exclusiveness permitted Him. He acted and was acted upon by the brotherhood of the home and the neighbourhood. That He passed stainlessly at length into His manhood, ought to go for something as a declaration of the mysterious virtue that He was. Having been made like unto His brethren, and lived sinlessly under the conditions of human brotherhood, He is able to succour the brotherhood, and the brotherhood is able to have faith to receive the succour.
II. The brethren of the manhood of Jesus. "He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, Behold, My mother and My brethren." The idea we have of brotherhood to begin with must suffer in the losses of our after experiences, and participate in the benefits of our highest gains. If the sanctities of childhood be lost with the purities of mankind unattained, our conception of brotherhood may be modified to the extent even of losing its central and essential idea. The impure selfish man has no brother if he continues long enough in his impurity, but only a confederate in his sin. On the other hand, if man turn the negative of his childhood into the positive of his manhood, and arise by persistent endeavour and trust in God from innocence into virtue, there will be a correspondent elevation and expansion of his sense of brotherhood. Man is then his brother, not because he is of his kin, but of his kind; not because he is of his nation, but of his nature. Men are called into the brotherhood of Christ's manhood, not because of what they have and are in themselves, but because of that which they can be made to see to be for them in God; they know themselves in Him, and find each other in the light of His countenance, and in the light of God there is but little difference between man and man. We can all be very near to the Christ, for we can all serve if we cannot command. The brotherhood is broad, and such as fitted the God-man to have formed.
J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 281.
References: Matthew 12:46-50.—G. Macdonald, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 5. Matthew 12:48-50.—W. Arthur, Ibid., vol. xvi., p. 201; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 1st series, p. 284. Matthew 12:49, Matthew 12:50.—W. H. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 474.
Matthew 12:50We have here two things—a character and a blessing.
I. "Whosoever shall do the will of God." So, then, God has a will. This thought, familiar as it is to us, was a thought to which man by searching could not attain. God is no mere personification or idealization of accident or destiny. God is no mechanical setter in motion or preserver in motion of the wheel of nature or the world of being. (1) God has a will concerning our condition. The will of God is that we should become a new creation by means of the work of the Holy Ghost. It is the will of God that our condition may be changed, so that they who before fulfilled the desires of the flesh and of the mind should become altogether holy, which is, being interpreted, altogether His. (2) God has a will concerning our conduct. I know not that anything more wonderfully expresses God's love for us than this thought: God cares how I act. "It is the will of God that ye stand perfect and complete." Can any lot be abject, can any life be trivial, can any day or hour be without its glory, if the eye of God is upon it, and if the mind of God is exercised upon its being this or that? (3) God has a will concerning our destiny. The words are His own. He will have all men to be saved. He would have you for one of those vessels of mercy which He hath before prepared unto glory.
II. Consider, next, the blessing. "The same is My brother and sister and mother." There is a higher than any natural relationship into which he enters who has drunk Christ's Spirit. He that doeth the will of God is Christ's brother. Not connected with Him by home or parentage, he shall have a dearer and a closer tie still; he shall have the same spirit; he shall be nearer to Him for ever than the dearest son of His mother could have been to Him for one moment below; he shall have Christ to dwell in his heart by faith, and he who so dwells shall be not more his God than his brother. Miss not that dignity, that glory, for any other; for anything that is of the earth earthy. Whatever else thou hast or hast not, yet miss not this; for it is a tie which nothing can sever, it is a crown of beauty which can never fade away.
C. J. Vaughan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 177.
References: Matthew 12:50.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 235; J. Hiles Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 347; R. Heber, Parish Sermons, vol. ii., p. 410.
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.
But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
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?
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?
But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.
But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue:
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.
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?
How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.
But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;
And charged them that they should not make him known:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
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.
He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.
And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
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.
And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?
But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
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:
And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?
And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.
But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.
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.
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
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.
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.
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.
O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
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.
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
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:
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.
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.
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.
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.
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.
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.
While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
William Robertson Nicoll's Sermon Bible
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