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Bible Commentaries

Brown's Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 12

  1. Introduction :
    1. Read: Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Verses 1-21

  1. Lord of the Sabbath
    1. Mercy, Not Sacrifice
      Matthew 12:1-8 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. 2 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. 3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4 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? 5 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? 6 But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. 7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
      1. Sabbath
        1. The Sabbath was God’s rest after creation
        2. Jews were to keep it as part of the Law:
          1. Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
        3. Jews made the Sabbath into something it wasn’t supposed to be…it was to be a blessing and not a curse.
        4. For Christians, our rest is to be found in Jesus, not in the Sabbath.
        5. The Sabbath has been abrogated to the believer.
          1. Colossians 2:6-8 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
          2. Colossians 2:13-17 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
      2. Not Breaking the Law
        Matthew 12:1-2 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. 2 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.
        1. (v2) Deuteronomy 23:24-25 When thou comest into thy neighbour's vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure; but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel. 25 When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour's standing corn.
          1. This was not a violation of the Mosaic law, but of scribal traditions, which had precisely determined that to pluck the heads of grain was to "harvest." To rub them between your hands to separate the chaff was "milling." To blow away the chaff from your hand was "winnowing." All of this was forbidden on the Sabbath - even for personal use.
      3. David and the Shewbread
        Matthew 12:3-4 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4 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?
        1. (v3) 1 Samuel 21:1-6 Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee? 2 And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place. 3 Now therefore what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present. 4 And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under mine hand, but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women. 5 And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel. 6 So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the shewbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.
        2. “People” (human need) is more important than tradition!
        3. Remember: “We love people and use “stuff”, not love “stuff” and use people” !
      4. Mercy and Not Sacrifice
        Matthew 12:5-8 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? 6 But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. 7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
        1. (v5) If you want to get technical about it, the priests are doing work on the Sabbath in performing the sacrificial rites for the people…yet they are held blameless!
        2. (v6) One greater than the Temple is a reference to Himself…He is declaring both here and in v8 that He is God!
        3. (v6-7) Mark 2:27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
        4. (v7) Hosea 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
          1. Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
          2. Matthew 9:11-13 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? 12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
          3. 1 Samuel 15:19-23 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD? 20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. 22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
    2. Healing on the Sabbath
      Matthew 12:9-13 And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: 10 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. 11 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? 12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. 13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
      1. (v9-10) This is a “set-up” -- the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus!
      2. They had weird ideas about what was and wasn’t work with regards to healthcare on the Sabbath. You could save a life but not put medicine on a wound; you could make a person with a broken bone comfortable, but you couldn’t set it until the next day, etc.
      3. Matthew 12:11-12 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? 12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
        1. (v11-12) Matthew 10:30-31 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
        2. (v12) “WHEREFORE”, it IS lawful to do well (good) on the Sabbath
      4. Matthew 12:13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
      5. (v13) Note verse 9…He went into “their” synagogue. He “healed” in their face to show them their tradition was wrong.
    3. The Gentiles Trust in His Name
      Matthew 12:14-21 Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. 15 But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; 16 And charged them that they should not make him known: 17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 18 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. 19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. 21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
      1. It is at this point that there is a complete break between the Jewish leaders and Jesus…they now are planning to “destroy” Him.
      2. Jesus, ever mindful of the will of the Father, withdrew Himself from the Pharisees, BUT, all the people (non-religious leaders) followed Him and HE healed EVERYONE! (Kinda shoving His Messiah-ship in their faces)
      3. (v17-20) Isaiah 42:1-4 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. 4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.
        1. If a reed is bruised, He will not break it. If He sees even the smallest spark in a man, he will not quench it, but gently fan it into flame.
      4. ! Look at v21: “In HIS NAME” shall the Gentiles TRUST!
      5. Philippians 2:9-11 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Verses 22-37

  1. Introduction:
    1. Read: Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
  2. He’s Got the Power!
    1. God or Beelzebub?
      Matthew 12:22-27 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. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. 25 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: 26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.
      1. (v23) His miracles betrayed who He is…
      2. (v24) The Pharisees couldn’t justify Him so they attributed His actions to Satan…
      3. “A house divided falls” – Jesus said if He was casting out Satan by the power of Satan, then his kingdom would fall.
      4. Jesus then turns this around on the Pharisees and says that if I’m casting them out by Satan, how you do it? …they’ll be YOUR judges!
    2. For or Against?
      Matthew 12:28-30 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. 29 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. 30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
      1. (v28) “BUT”…
      2. The opposite is that to take a man’s kingdom you must bind the man – Jesus HAS bound this strongman (Satan) and he no longer has power over us!
      3. Absolute: He that is not with me is against me // …there is NO gray in this statement!
    3. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit
      Matthew 12:31-32 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. 32 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.
      1. “Wherefore” :: he who is not with me is against me…
      2. Know this: the Holy Spirit’s role is to convict the world of sin, judgment and righteousness and to testify of Jesus to the world…
      3. Blashpheming the Holy Spirit means that you reject the judgment of the world and the salvation provided by Jesus and you choose to live by your own righteousness.
      4. Look at (v31)…”All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven”… EXCEPT rejecting the “wooing” power of the Holy Spirit to Jesus!
    4. Good Fruit
      Matthew 12:33 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. 34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35 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. 36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
      1. Likening us to fruit trees…either our fruit will be good of bad!
      2. Christians and non-Christians alike are known by our fruit…the things that we say are indicators of our heart condition…
      3. 1 Samuel 25:3 Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.
        1. “Churlish” -- Rude; surly; austere; sullen; rough in temper; unfeeling; uncivil
        2. 1 Samuel 25:9-11 And when David's young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David, and ceased. 10 And Nabal answered David's servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master. 11 Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?
        3. 1 Samuel 25:17 Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.
      4. “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”… what’s in our hearts?
      5. Every idle word :: everything that is vain and meaningless, everything that does not portray the new creation… WE ARE FORGIVEN FOR (as Christians)!
      6. Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees here (context!) and saying that they will be judged based upon their evil words (O generation of vipers)!!

Verses 38-45

  1. Give us a Sign
    1. Greater than Jonah or Solomom
      Matthew 12:38-42 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 39 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: 40 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. 41 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. 42 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.
      1. “Everyone wants a sign”! Signs and wonders do not lead to faith – look at all the Pharisees that had been watching Jesus heal ALL WHO WOULD COME TO HIM!
      2. Faith, however, followed by signs and wonders brings a zeal and increase in Faith!
      3. The only sign that Jesus says they will have (ignoring all of the healings) is His death and resurrection 3 days later.
      4. There “hard hearts” would not allow them to “see Jesus”, they would not recognized Him as Messiah regardless of what He said of did.
      5. The Queen of the south came to Solomon and recognized his great wisdom by listening to him and seeing how the people who followed after him responded.
      6. The fact that she COULD see and they COULDN’T would judge them.
      7. The same will go for all those in our generation who REFUSE to see Jesus! They’ll be judged by their choice of unbelief!
    2. Unclean Spirits
      Matthew 12:43-45 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 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. 45 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.
      1. Jesus gives an analogy of demons who leave and then come back seven-fold (seven times more)
        1. The principle is: the more we reject Jesus and harden our hearts…the harder it is to soften our hearts that we might receive Him.
      2. Our rejection can become a vicious downward spiral into Hell.

Verses 46-47

  1. The Family of God
    Matthew 12:46-47 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
    1. This has a two-fold purpose for us…it denies the deity of Mary and it tells us that true Christianity, true faith in Christ will lead us to obedience to our Father in Heaven!
Copyright Statement
Brown's Commentary on the New Testament is reproduced by permission of author. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Brown, Jim. "Commentary on Matthew 12". "Brown's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnc/matthew-12.html. 2017.