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Matthew 12:2 . Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath- day. The pharisees did not find fault with eating a few ears of barley in their hunger, while others enjoyed their feasts, because it was allowed by the law of Moses, provided they put nought of the fruit in their vessel, or their pouch; but they objected on the ground of the sabbath. Now, the appeal which Jesus made to David’s eating the holy bread, which belonged exclusively to the priests, shows that the preservation of life is more than the law. Hence in all such cases, we should look at the intention of the lawgiver: no labour should be done on the sabbath but in cases of absolute necessity. Driving waggons, and journies of pleasure are an abomination to the Lord.
Matthew 12:5 . The priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless. Opening the doors of churches, and lighting candles are not to be regarded as opening the doors of warehouses. The one is purely for God, the other for gain.
Matthew 12:13 . Stretch forth thine hand. This was done in a synagogue. The Saviour would not let this man go without a cure, though the eyes of the pharisees were watching him for evil. A fine model for us to follow. The gospel of the Nazarenes and Ebionites makes him say, “I was a lapidary, and by that employment got my living. I beseech thee, Jesus, to restore my hand, that I may not be reduced to the degrading condition of begging my bread.” This seems to have induced the rulers to ask, whether it was lawful to heal on the sabbath day. Now Jesus, that he might not provoke them, explained the liberty of the sabbath to help a beast out of a pit, and then without touching the man, he said, Stretch forth thy hand. Oh my soul, maimed and impotent with sin, dost thou say, I cannot stretch forth my hand? Try, try in the strength of the Lord. Thou canst not tell without trial, what the power of grace can enable thee to do.
Matthew 12:16 . He charged them that they should not make him known. The healed having, no doubt, confessed him to be the Messiah, the Lord did not choose to be made known to the infidel sanhedrim. Fenelon says, that Mentor, or Minerva, did not choose to be known to Calypso.
Matthew 12:18 . Behold my servant. See on Isaiah 42:1.
Matthew 12:20 . A bruised reed shall he not break. Vatablus, Heinsuis, and our Dr. Hammond have long and critical notes on this text. The Synopsis also is copious here. This text confessedly imports the forbearance of Christ to his enemies who sought to kill him, Matthew 12:14, and likewise his great tenderness towards those who are weak in grace, like the bruised reed, and as the smoking flax almost extinguished in the lamp; or rather as the slow- match, by which the husbandman carries fire to burn the quicks in his field. But the point of variation is concerning “the judgment unto victory,” or truth. It must first be applied to Christ’s enemies, as in Isaiah 43:17. Speaking of the host and chariots which fought against Israel, “They are extinct, they are quenched as the tow.” Thus when Jerusalem was destroyed, Christ sent forth judgment unto truth or victory; or according to St. Paul, judgment to the uttermost, yea to the extremity. Let the weak and sincere soul be comforted; though Christ expects perfection in his church, and admits none to glory till made without spot, yet he is merciful till his work be complete in the heart. Let us, like the reeds, abide by the water- courses of grace; let us make a rapid shoot, and let us, like the reeds, associate and shelter one another from the blasts of temptation and sin. Secondly, If grace be in our hearts as fire in the smoking flax, let us add fresh fuel, and pray that the wind of the Spirit may kindle the heart with a flame of sanctifying love. May grace and justice at the same time send forth vengeance on our inward corruptions, as on the outward enemies of the church.
Matthew 12:24 . By Beelzebub. See notes on 2 Kings 1:2.
Matthew 12:27 . By whom do your children cast them out? Exorcists pretended to do this, and might be allowed to do so; but the sons of Sceva could not do it. Acts 19:13.
Matthew 12:31 . All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven. The scribes of Israel had a fair share of oriental literature; they could not but know that several miracles which Jesus performed were equal to the creation of man, and that those miracles were the seals of his mission. Hence he said, believe me for the very works’ sake: and, had I not done among you the works which no other man did, ye had not had sin, the great sin which forfeits your covenant. Now to slander and execrate those highest displays of power and grace, as being wrought by Beelzebub, the lord of idolatry, the worst or prince of devils; this slander was certainly against the brightest evidence that God thought proper to give to man, and it proceeded from the foulest malice which can possibly lodge in the human breast. Hence it is greatly to be feared that it was, to many of the pharisees, a damning sin: this sin was peculiar to the enlightened scribes, for we have no authority to say, that any man has committed it. And our gracious master, foreseeing that tender consciences would stumble at it, opened the sentence with the most glowing language of pardon to all other sins. And those fears and scruples of tender minds are full proof to them, that they have not slandered Christ as the worst of demons, nor sinned away the day of grace, of which Baxter, Shower, and Saurin speak. Their fears prove that a gracious influence still operates in their hearts. See Mark 3:30.
Matthew 12:38 . Master, we would see a sign from thee. Strange question, after all the signs sent in tidings to John. It is generally supposed that they meant some such signs as accompanied the emancipation of their fathers from Egypt. Here the Saviour, indignant that they should reject the gracious signs of the gospel for the terrific visitations on the wicked, was constant in the declaration that no sign should be given to that generation, but the sign of his resurrection from the dead.
When this demand was made on his first preaching in the temple, he replied, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again;” they understood not then that he spake of the temple of his body. So here, the demand being repeated, he would give them no sign, but that of Jonah raised on the third day from the deep. See Matthew 16:4. Truly, this was a great sign to heaven and earth. On that day he was declared the Son of God with power, and made Lord both of the living and the dead. Romans 1:4; Romans 14:9. So the apostle argues at large in the synagogue of Antioch. Acts 13:30-37.
Matthew 12:39 . An evil and adulterous generation. Divorces, accompanied with habitual polygamy, entitled the jews of that age to the odious character here given them. Their conscience drove them out of the temple when called upon, if innocent, to cast the first stone at the woman taken in adultery. John 8:7. Our Lord’s censure on that profligate age therefore was not too severe.
Matthew 12:40 . In the whale’s belly. See note on Jonah 1:17.
Matthew 12:43 . When the unclean spirit is gone out he walketh through dry places. Because of necromancy, and because of idolatry many were tormented with devils. Hence our Saviour cautioned one not to sin again in a certain way, lest a worse thing should come upon him. The air or region through which the expelled demon roved is compared to a droughty desert; but the man miraculously freed from diabolical domination, not seeking the regenerating influence of grace, left his heart open for the demon to return. And the unclean spirit, wishful to strengthen his influence against a second expulsion, associated with himself seven, or many other unclean spirits, and reëntered the wicked man’s heart, and made his last state worse than the first. So it was with the generation who saw the works, and heard the words of Christ. For a time they bowed under the influence of grace; but after rejecting the gospel, the pen of Josephus fails to describe their depravity and consequent misery. So it is to this day with those who have been under the influence of religious impressions in youth, but having given the reins to passion, they work all manner of uncleanness with greediness, and are led captive by Satan at his will. 2 Timothy 2:26.
Matthew 12:45 . So shall it be also to this wicked generation. A prediction of the growing impenitence and unbelief of that age, to fill up the measure of their iniquity before their destruction came. Micah 3:12.
Matthew 12:50 . Whosoever shall do the will of my Father the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Such are adopted into the great family of heaven. When Levi acted as a minister of justice against the worshippers of the golden calf, he knew not his father, nor his mother. So the Lord here puts his mother in the crowd of other worshippers. Formerly, our fathers ran to worship our Lady of Walsingham. In Europe they flocked to Loretto; and armies of pilgrims went to the shrine of James, the Lord’s brother, at Compostella in Spain. Alas, alas, they had all to go home again, making crusades against heretics. Will-worship leads to destruction, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 12". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14