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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 12

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-8

34. Picking corn on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5)

When the Pharisees criticized Jesus’ disciples for picking a few pieces of corn to eat on the Sabbath, Jesus defended his disciples by referring to two examples from the Old Testament. First, when David and his men were very hungry and urgently needed food, they were rightly allowed to eat the holy bread of the tabernacle, which normally only priests were allowed to eat (Matthew 12:1-4; cf. 1 Samuel 21:1-6). Second, even the Levitical priests worked on the Sabbath, for they had to prepare and offer the sacrifices (Matthew 12:5; cf. Numbers 28:9-10).

These two examples show that in a case of necessity the legal requirement of the law may be overruled. Life is more important than ritual. To exercise mercy is more important than to offer sacrifices. Jesus is more important than the temple. People are more important than the Sabbath. The Sabbath was given for people’s benefit, not for their discomfort; and since Jesus is the messianic Son of man, he has authority to decide how the Sabbath can best be used (Matthew 12:6-8; Mark 2:27-28).

Verses 9-21

35. Man with a withered hand (Matthew 12:9-21; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11)

If an animal fell into a pit on the Sabbath day, the Jews would not hesitate to rescue it the same day. Yet they criticized Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath. Although no list of rules sets out all that a person should or should not do to keep the Sabbath holy, it is always right to do good on the Sabbath. To save life is better than to kill, and in this case Jesus was helping to save life. The Pharisees, by contrast, were looking for ways to kill him (Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6).

Jesus left his critics and went on to his work elsewhere. Matthew saw this as a further stage in the fulfilment of the prophecy that God’s chosen servant, who had now appeared in the person of Jesus, would take the gospel to all people. This servant never tried to make a show of greatness, never hurt those who sorrowed, and never turned away from those of even the weakest faith (Matthew 12:15-21; cf. Isaiah 42:1-4).

Verses 22-45

52. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:22-45; Mark 3:22-30; Luke 11:14-36)

On one occasion when Jesus cast out demons, the Pharisees accused him of doing it by the power of Satan, the prince of demons (Matthew 12:22-24; Luke 11:14-16). Jesus replied that if the prince of demons used his own power to cast out demons, he would be creating civil war in his own kingdom. He would be destroying himself. The only way a strong man can be defeated is if a stronger man overpowers him. In casting out demons Jesus showed that he was stronger than Satan. His reign, which would result in the destruction of Satan, had begun (Matthew 12:25-29; Luke 11:17-22).

God could forgive the doubts and misunderstandings people had about Jesus, but he would not forgive their defiant rejection of the clear evidence that all Jesus’ works were good and that they originated in God. Those who called God’s Spirit Satan, who called good evil, had put themselves in a position where they had no way of acknowledging God’s goodness. Therefore, they had no way of receiving his forgiveness (Matthew 12:30-32).

The good works that Jesus did were evidence of his goodness, just as good fruit is evidence of a good tree. Likewise the evil works of the Pharisees were evidence of their evil hearts, and this evidence will be used against them in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:33-37).

Again the Pharisees asked Jesus to perform a miracle as a sign that he was the Messiah, and again Jesus refused. The only sign would be his resurrection from the dead, which would be the Father’s unmistakable confirmation that Jesus was his Son. By their rejection of Jesus, they were guaranteeing that in the judgment day they would be in a far worse position than the heathen. The queen of the Gentile kingdom of Sheba recognized Solomon’s wisdom, and the people of the heathen city of Nineveh repented at Jonah’s preaching, but the Jews of Jesus’ time stubbornly refused to accept him as the Messiah (Matthew 12:38-42; Luke 11:29-32).

Jesus gave an illustration to show that people could not remain neutral. If they were not whole-heartedly committed to him, in the end they would be against him. They would be like a person who benefits temporarily by being cleansed of demons, but because he does nothing positive to fill his life with better things, he becomes possessed by even worse demons. The people of Jesus’ time benefited temporarily from his gracious ministry, but if they did not positively turn from their sin and accept him as the God-sent Saviour, they would in the end be under a more severe condemnation than they were originally (Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 11:23-28).

If people allowed God’s light to shine into their hearts, it would drive out the darkness and enable them to take this light to others. But if they rejected the light, the darkness within them would become even darker (Luke 11:33-36).

Verses 46-50

53. Jesus and his family (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:20-21,Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21)

The children of Mary and Joseph born after Jesus were James, Joseph, Simon, Judas and at least two daughters (cf. Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). At first they did not accept Jesus as the Messiah, but thought he was suffering from some sort of religious madness (Mark 3:20-21; cf. John 7:3-5). Jesus must have been saddened to see such an attitude in his brothers and sisters, but he knew that more important than natural relationships were spiritual relationships. All who obey God are related to him and to one another in the vast family of God (Mark 3:31-35).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 12". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/matthew-12.html. 2005.
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