In chapter 11 the Lord has been rejected by the nation.
His total rejection is summarized in the attitude of three of the prominent cities of Galilee. Chorazin – Bethsaida - Capernaum.
The Lord pronounced judgment upon them because of their rejection of Him. Interestingly, the destruction of Chorazin and Bethsaida is so complete that no trace of them can be found. Also, the location of Capernaum is uncertain.
Tiberius, one of the larger cities in Galilee, which was more receptive to Christ and therefore escaped His judgment, is still standing and enjoying a good measure of prosperity.
This should encourage us as it illustrates our Savior’s omnipotence and omniscience and the unfailing reliability of the Scriptures.
The final rejection of Christ by the Pharisees caused them to observe the life of the Lord and His disciples more minutely to justify their position.
They found their opportunity when they saw the disciples violating the Sabbath verses 1 thru 8 of Chapter 12. And Jesus healing the man with the paralyzed hand on the Sabbath verses 9-13.
The Lord and His disciples were walking through the corn fields, to satisfy their hunger the disciples plucked some ears of corn. The Pharisees took this rather flimsy piece of evidence and accused the disciples of breaking the Sabbath.
The Lord immediately defended his disciples by presenting three arguments.
(1) David’s experience, verses 3 and 4. 1 Samuel 21:1-6. David ate consecrated bread which was reserved for the priests alone. For this act David was not condemned by the nation, nor by God.
He and his men did this when he was rejected by them. If he had been given his rightful place as king and he and his men would not have had to eat the shewbread.
History was repeating itself - the Lord was rejected - the nation was again in sin. Therefore the actions of satisfying hunger was more important than observing a minor technicality.
(2) the second argument drew their attention to the conduct of the priests on the Sabbath. Their work in maintaining the sacrifices and other rituals made them to break the law. They were not censured for doing this.
(3) The Lord’s third argument against their criticism, was His own Person. He declared Himself to be greater than the Temple. If He did not condemn them, why should the Pharisees be critical.
Verse 7. This verse is a quotation from Hosea 6:6. The Pharisees had never understood this verse which says in essence that God puts mercy before ritual.
Verse 8. Jesus declares Himself to be “Lord of the Sabbath.” He instituted the law in the first place, and therefore could interpret its true meaning.
The Subject of the Sabbath Day and the first Day Note the contrast.
The Sabbath is the seventh day. Sunday is the first.
The Sabbath commemorates God’s creation rest Sunday, Christ’s resurrection.
The Sabbath commemorates a finished creation Sunday a finished redemption.
The Sabbath was a day of legal obligation Sunday is one of voluntary worship and service.
Jesus heals on the Sabbath Verses 9-14.
Luke tells us in Ch 6:6-7 of his Gospel that the Pharisees were watching the Lord closely so that they could condemn Him and justify their position.
See verse 10. Note the question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?”
The Savior answered by asking. See verse 11.
In verse 11 the Lord reminded their hyper-critics of how they and others pulled their sheep out of the pit on the Sabbath.
In verse 12 he reminds them that a man is of greater value than a sheep. If it is right to show mercy to an animal on the Sabbath, it is much more important to heal a man on the Sabbath.
Verse13. Stretch forth thy hand, and as he stretched it forth it was healed.
Verse 14. This action infuriated the Pharisees, who had neither Scripture nor logic to refute this remarkable work of God. In their frustration they took counsel how they might destroy Him.
Others healed the same Sabbath Verse 15-21.
Verse 15. Not wishing to incite the Pharisees further, Jesus withdrew - but great multitudes followed Him and the Scriptures simply record, “He healed them all.”
This gracious, quiet ministry is interpreted by Matthew as fulfilling Isa 42:1-3, which he quotes in full.
What is the message of these verses?
This gentle conqueror is none other than “Jehovah’s chosen servant” Verse 18. He is also the “beloved one” in whom God was well pleased. Jehovah “put His Spirit upon Him” at His baptism. His ministry eventually would reach out from the confines of Israel “to the Gentiles.” This would be all the more evident as Israel’s rejection became more apparent.
Verses 19-20. These verses mean that the Lord would not act as a political rabble-rouser. He would not ride rough-shed over the poor or underprivileged to gain disciples. He would help and encourage the broken-hearted. If He found a spark of faith, He would quietly fan it to a flame.
His unobtrusive ministry would continue until justice was vindicated in victory. Verse 21. “And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.” Praise God!
Verses 22-23 In these two verses we find that Jesus healed a blind and dumb demoniac. They were so impressed that they thought that this Jesus might be the Son of David, or the promised Messiah.
Verse 24 The Pharisees were enraged and countered by accusing Him of casting out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons.
Verses 25-26 Jesus knew their thoughts and pointed out to them the illogic of their statement. Any kingdom – city - or house that is divided against itself, is bound to collapse. So then if He by the power of Satan, was casting out Satan’s demons, then Satan was working against himself. Such a situation was unthinkable.
In Verse 27 our Lord struck home forcibly. He reminded them that there were Pharisees who claimed to cast out demons. Now says Jesus, if you claim that I cast out demons by Beelzebub, then these Pharisees also cast out demons by Beelzebub.
His accusers could not escape the logic of Christ’s argument. They realized also that their associates would condemn them for implying that they were the agents of Satan.
The truth to grasp here is that Jesus cast out these demons by the Holy Spirit of God. The Lord’s entire life on earth was lived by the power of the Holy Spirit.
He was the Spirit-filled Messiah whom Isaiah had foretold. Ch 11:2; 42:1; 61:1-3.
Verse 28 Therefore He said to the Pharisees, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God is here, with you.”
The tragedy was that they could discern the face of the sky, but in their blindness they did not discern the Christ of God, nor the kingdom of God, presently in there midst.
Verse 29 Far from being Satan’s servant, He was really Satan’s Conqueror. He illustrates this truth from this verse. The strong man is Satan. His house is the sphere in which he holds way. His goods are his demons.
Jesus is the One who binds the strong man, enters his house, and plunders his goods. The binding of Satan takes place in stages. It began during our Lord’s public ministry. Casting out demons - raising the dead. It was guaranteed by the death and resurrection of Christ. It will be true to a greater degree during the Millennium. Rev 20:2. Finally, it will be eternally true when Satan is cast into the lake of fire.
In verse 30 Jesus told the Pharisees that even with their superior theological knowledge, they were His enemies, and the servants of the devil.
Verses 31-32. The unpardonable sin. These verses contain one of the most crushing accusations ever hurled at the leaders of the nation. He accuses them of committing the unpardonable sin by blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
The unpardonable sin consisted in ascribing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit. They called him Beelzebub - the prince of demons. This was the greatest of all sins. Our Lord said that there is no forgiveness for this sin, in this age, or in the millennium.
This sin cannot be committed in the dispensation of grace.
The unpardonable sin of today is to live and die without Christ.
Verse 33 The Lord in His grace makes a further appeal to them. A good tree brings forth good fruit - a bad tree produces bad fruit.
Had not the fruit of His ministry been good? He had healed the sick, given sight to the blind, caused the deaf to hear, made the dumb to talk, cast out demons and raised the dead. Could a corrupt tree brought forth such good fruit? The answer to that question is an emphatic No.
Why then did they not believe? Why did they refuse to acknowledge Him?
Verse 34 The Lord gives the reason, “You are a brood of vipers”- poisonous snakes.
That accounted for their venomous words - their malice against the Son of God. A person’s speech is an index of his character. Verse 36-37. A good man’s speech reveals the treasures within him. An evil man’s speech reveals the venom within him.
There is an exhortation here that we need to be reminded of. “We shall give account of our words in the day of judgment.” For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ and give account of the deeds done in the body. 1 Corinthians 3-2; 1 Corinthians 5; Romans 14. Many will be revealed---many will suffer loss.
The sign of the prophet Jonah Verse 38-41
In spite of all the miracles which Jesus had performed, the Pharisees, in their unbelief, asked Him for another sign. (Spectacular).
They inferred that if He could prove Himself to be the Messiah in this way, they would believe.
The Lord, who knew the hearts of all men replied in a devastating manner. “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.” No sign would be given to it, but the sign of Jonah, the prophet.
He was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish and was disgorged alive onto dry land.
The Lord took this incident as prophetic, depicting His own experience in death-burial-and resurrection. No other sign would be given.
The men of Nineveh, to whom Jonah preached, repented. (Gentiles). They will rise at the judgment to condemn these Pharisees for failing to receive someone greater than Jonah - the incarnate Son of God.
Verse 42 The Queen of Sheba, who also was a Gentile, spared no effort, nor expense, to hear “the wisdom of Solomon.
She believed, and said, the half hath not been told.”
The Pharisees did not believe even though God incarnate stood in their midst. She also would rise at the judgment and condemn them for their unbelief.
Note at this point that the Lord is greater than the temple – Jonah - Solomon.
The empty house Verses 43-45
These verses are important, in that they give, in capsule form, the history of Israel, past – present - and future.
The unclean spirit was the idolatry, which possessed the nation from the time of its bondage in Egypt to the Babylonian captivity.
The captivity temporarily cured Israel of its idolatry. It was as if the unclean spirit had gone out of the man.
The Jews even to this day are not idolaters. They are like a house that is empty – swept - and put in order.
The Savior sought admission to that empty house. “Your house is desolate.” It was indeed empty - they did not acknowledge nor worship the true God. They also refused to receive Christ, their Messiah.
Because of their refusal to allow Christ to enter into their individual and national life, in a coming day the spirit of idolatry will return.
Israel will be possessed by the worst form of idolatry, the apostate nation will worship the Antichrist. Then follows the Great Tribulation.
Our Scripture passage says, “that the last state of that man is worse that the first.” Oh the severe judgment that awaits the Christ rejecter. Luke 16---Rev 20.
The central place of true relationships and discipleship. Verses 46-50
As Jesus concluded this controversy with the Pharisees, His mother and brothers arrived to talk with Him. They were anxious for Him, they thought He was out of His mind. Mark 3:21.
Jesus used the occasion to emphasize the “new relationship.” Human relationships are superceded by the spiritual.
“Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”---there He pointed to His disciples. “Behold My mother and My brethren.”
When we do the will of the Father there is not only the new spiritual relationship there is the added thought of “discipleship.”
In closing, note, that Mary did not occupy any special privilege as far as access into His presence was concerned. Secondly, the mention of Jesus’ brothers strikes a blow at the teaching that Mary was a perpetual virgin. Those who accompanied her were her sons and the half-brothers of the Lord.
Psalm 69:7-8—Matt 13:55—Mark 3:31-32; 6:3.
John 7:3, 5—Acts 1:14—1 Cor 9:5—Gal 1:19.