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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 12

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Verses 1-21

Mat 12:1-21

Section IX.
Disputations with the Pharisees, Matthew 12:1-50

J.W. McGarvey

About Plucking Grain on the Sabbath, Matthew 12:1-8.
Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5)

1. through the corn.—The fields of small grain called corn in our version, were frequently unfenced, being protected from live stock by the vigilance of shepherds and herdsmen. The narrow roads ran through the fields, and the bending heads of the ripening grain were within reach of the passer-by on either side.

2. not lawful to do.—The charge of the Pharisees was false. The law did not forbid eating or preparing food on the Sabbath.

3, 4. what David did.—Jesus expressly admits that what David did was unlawful; and some have supposed that he here intends to justify it on the ground of necessity, and then to argue that his disciples, though guilty of violating the law of the Sabbath, are justifiable on the same ground. There is no doubt that on this ground David excused himself for eating the show-bread, and that the Pharisees did the same for him. But it can not be that he who refused to turn stones into bread when tortured by a forty days’ fast, and who said, "Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven," would approve such a violation of law as David was guilty of. Neither can it be that he allowed his own disciples while under the law to break the Sabbath. If Christians may violate law when its observance would involve hardship or suffering, then there is an end of suffering for the name of Christ, and an end even of self-denial. But it is clear that by the Pharisees David’s act was thought excusable; otherwise they could have retorted on Jesus thus: Out of your own mouth we condemn you: you class your act with David’s; but David sinned, and so do you. Now the real argument of Jesus is this: David, when hungry, ate the show-bread, which it was confessedly unlawful for him to eat, yet you justify him: my disciples pluck grain and eat it on the Sabbath, an act which the law does not forbid, and yet you condemn them.

5. the priests in the temple.—Having silenced his opponents by the argument ad hominem, he next proves by the law itself that some work may be done on the Sabbath-day. The priests in the temple were required to offer sacrifice, trim the golden lamps, and burn incense on the Sabbath, and these acts required manual labor. In this case, the general law against labor on the Sabbath was modified by the specific law concerning the temple service. The term "profane" is used, not because it was a real profanation, but because, being labor, it had the appearance of profanation. The example proves that the prohibition of labor on the Sabbath was not universal, and as it was not, it might not include what the disciples had just done.

6. greater than the temple.—A greater thing, not person. The disciples who ate the grain are compared to the priests in the temple; and the temple, with that which led the disciples to the act in question. This was the service which they were rendering to Jesus—a service which sometimes prevented the usual means of providing food. It was their obligation to serve him which was greater than the temple; that is. greater than the obligation of the temple service on the priests. If, then, the priests were justifiable, much more the disciples.

7. mercy, and not sacrifice.—On the meaning of this expression, see note on Matthew 9:13. The argument is, that mercy toward these hungering disciples was more acceptable to God than sacrifices at the altar; and that, if the Pharisees had known the meaning of the passage, they "would not have condemned the guiltless."

8. Lord of the sabbath.—That he was Lord of the Sabbath—a fact which his previous works had demonstrated—placed his conduct in regard to the Sabbath above criticism, and made it really a guide as to the proper way to observe the Sabbath. This remark takes the question outside the range of argument, and brings it within the range of authority.

It should be observed that, in this discussion, Jesus sought chiefly to expose the inconsistency of his assailants, and to assert his own divine authority. He reserved to another opportunity a more detailed argument to prove the innocence of acts of mercy on the Sabbath. (See next paragraph.)

About Healing on the Sabbath. Matthew 12:9-13
Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11)

9. into their synagogue.—It is highly probable that when the preceding disputation occurred, Jesus, foreknowing what would take place afterward in the synagogue, reserved other remarks about the Sabbath for that occasion.

10. to heal on the sabbath.—In the field the Pharisees had boldly declared that it was unlawful to pluck the grain on the Sabbath; in the house, reminded of another aspect of the Sabbath question by seeing the man with a withered hand, but taught discretion by their previous defeat, they approached the subject with a question: "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-days?" They desired to appear as if seeking information, but Matthew says they asked the question "that they might accuse him;" that is, that they might find in his answer or his act some ground of accusation.

11, 12. lawful to do well.—The argument in this case is drawn from the practice of his accusers, and on this account it is an argument ad hominem; but the practice was proper in itself, and therefore it is also an argument ad rem. Assuming, with the consent of all parties, that it was lawful to relieve the sufferings of "one sheep" on the Sabbath, he argues, much more is it lawful to do the same for a man; and hence the general conclusion that "it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath-days." It is not an excusable violation of law, but it is lawful. From the two disputations taken together, the people learned that works of religion, like those of the priests in the temple, and works of humanity, like feeding the hungry and healing the sick, were lawful on the Sabbath.

13. saith he to the man.—Men are apt to be content with merely proving the propriety of a certain course of action; but Jesus followed the proof with the act. He commanded the man to stretch forth his withered hand: he did so, and it was withered no longer.

Lord of the Sabbath - Matthew 12:1-14

Open It

1. What do you like to do on your day off?

2. What are some ways laws or rules are twisted to hurt the very people they were designed to help?

3. What makes certain people in authority behave insensitively or rudely to the very people they ought to be serving?

Explore It

4. Where were Jesus and His disciples when they were eating? (Matthew 12:1)

5. What difference did the day of the week make? (Matthew 12:1)

6. What activity were the disciples involved in? (Matthew 12:1)

7. How did the Pharisees react when they saw the disciples eating? (Matthew 12:2)

8. What biblical precedent did Jesus cite to justify the actions of His followers? (Matthew 12:3-4)

9. What, according to Jesus, did the law say about priests and the temple and the Sabbath? (Matthew 12:5)

10. Over what honored religious symbol did Jesus claim superiority? (Matthew 12:6)

11. What did Jesus accuse the Pharisees of failing to understand? (Matthew 12:7)

12. What did Jesus claim about Himself? (Matthew 12:8)

13. Where did Jesus go after clashing with the Pharisees? (Matthew 12:9)

14. What miracle did Jesus perform in the synagogue? (Matthew 12:10; Matthew 12:13)

15. How did Jesus justify His actions? (Matthew 12:11-12)

16. What was the response of the Pharisees? (Matthew 12:14)

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17. What kinds of lawful behavior are Christians often quick to condemn in others?

18. What are some ways we trample over the feelings of others in our quest to be righteous?

19. How do you need to be more compassionate and merciful in your relationships with others?

20. How do you use God to justify wrong attitudes such as snobbery, jealousy, prejudice, or selfishness?

21. Why are we unwilling to bend rules for others but quick to rationalize when the rules adversely affect us?

22. How do you think you would react if an undesirable person (a homeless person or drunk, for example) staggered into your church on Sunday and interrupted your worship service?

23. What are some man-made symbols or traditions (like the Pharisee’s views on the Law, the temple, and the Sabbath) that we value more than people?

Apply It

24. In what specific ways can you show mercy and compassion to a hurting person today?

25. What legalistic rules that keep you from loving people do you need to ignore?

26. Without being showy, how can you demonstrate today to a non-Christian friend the freedom that you have in Christ?

Jesus Retires from Strife, Matthew 12:14-21.
Mark 3:7-12)

14. a council against him.—When men are determined to maintain a position, without regard to truth or justice, defeat in argument always throws them into a passion. The Pharisees were true to depraved human nature in now holding a council to determine how they might destroy Jesus.

15, 16. he withdrew himself.—In contrast with the course of his enemies, Jesus, though victorious, retires from the conflict, and pursues, in other places, the even tenor of his way—still healing the sick and forbidding them to give unnecessary publicity to his name.

17-20. that it might be fulfilled.—The first part of the quotation from Isaiah (Matthew 12:18) is descriptive of the person and character of Jesus; that contained in versos 19 and 20 is fulfilled in the events of this paragraph. The quiet retreat of Jesus from the violence threatened by the Pharisees fulfilled the prediction, "He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice (angry voice) in the streets;" and the healing of the multitudes who followed him (Matthew 12:15) fulfilled the prediction about the bruised reed and the smoking flax. A bruised reed, barely strong enough to stand erect, or bowed with its head toward the earth; and smoking flax (a lamp-wick), its flame extinguished and its fire almost gone, fitly represent the sick, and lame, and blind who were brought to Jesus to be healed. The statement that he would not break these bruised reeds, nor quench this smoking flax, was an emphatic declaration, by contrast, that he would heal their bruises and fan their dying energies into a flame.

judgment unto victory.—In this expression the term judgment is put for that authoritative announcement of the divine will which was sent forth in the gospel; and the victory is that which the gospel is winning.

21. snail the Gentiles trust.—This verse refers to the reception of the gospel by the Gentiles, and is quoted here merely to complete the connection, not because it was fulfilled in the incidents of the paragraph.

God’s Chosen Servant - Matthew 12:15-21

Open It

1. What kind of person (character, skills, knowledge) would make for a great national leader?

2. How would you define justice?

3. In what ways is our society unjust?

4. Why do we often get disappointed?

Explore It

5. How did Jesus respond to the hostility of the Pharisees? (Matthew 12:15)

6. Who accompanied Jesus? (Matthew 12:15)

7. What did Jesus do for the people who followed Him? (Matthew 12:15)

8. What did Jesus instruct the people He helped to do? (Matthew 12:16)

9. Who had foretold this event? (Matthew 12:17)

10. In the prophetic passage quoted here, how did God identify the Messiah? (Matthew 12:18)

11. What message did the prophecy say Christ would preach? (Matthew 12:18)

12. How was the personality of Christ described by Isaiah? (Matthew 12:19)

13. How did Isaiah predict people would respond to this coming servant of God? (Matthew 12:19)

14. According to Isaiah, what type of ministry would the Messiah have? (Matthew 12:20)

15. According to the prophet Isaiah, how would the nations ultimately respond to Christ? (Matthew 12:21)

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16. If you were in charge of scripting the first and second comings of Christ, how would you have arranged them differently?

17. If God were to describe your life and influence right now, what might he say?

18. What changes, events, and experiences in your life do you attribute to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit?

19. In what ways do you seek to bring justice or fairness to your relationships?

20. How demanding are you?

21. What is the danger in our being quiet, humble, and submissive?

Apply It

22. What are three practical ways you can serve God this week?

23. What specific areas of your life do you need to surrender to the control of the Holy Spirit today?

24. Over the next few days, how can you bring God’s justice and love to someone who is oppressed?

Verses 22-45

Mat 12:22-45

About Casting out Demons, Matthew 12:22-30.
Mark 3:22-27; Luke 11:14-23)

J.W. McGarvey

22, 23. were amazed, and said.—The astonishment was unusual, because this man was not only a demoniac, but also blind and dumb. It was a triple cure. By their question, "Is not this the son of David?" the people expressed in a tone of triumph their faith in Jesus.

24. but by Beelzebub.—Beelzebub is a corruption of Baalzebub, the god of the fly, a deity of the Ekronites. (See 2 Kings 1:2.) How this old god of the fly, who was worshiped by the Philistines of Ekron to protect them from the flies and other pestiferous insects, came to be identified in the Jewish mind with Satan (see Matthew 12:26), is not known by modern scholars. The name occurs in the Bible only in 2 Kings 1:2, and in this and the parallel places in Mark and Luke.

In their explanation of this miracle, the Pharisees displayed some thought and ingenuity. There are only two possible methods of. evading the logical force of a miracle: one is to deny the reality of the miracle; and the other, to refer the effect to some other cause than the power of God The Pharisees, being unable to deny the reality of the miracle, and knowing that demons are under the command of Satan, resorted to their only alternative by affirming that the power was satanic. They did not affirm this in regard to all of Christ’s miracles; for it would have been absurd to represent Satan as a healer of diseases and a friend of man; but it was affirmed only of casting out demons. The assertion, if believed by the people, would not only have destroyed their confidence in the divine mission of Jesus, but it would have established in the place of it the injurious supposition of a league with Satan. It derived great plausibility from the consideration, that as there were at least two powers by which demons might be cast out, and as both were invisible, it might appear impossible to decide whether it was the power of God or the power of Satan. The Pharisees thought that they had advanced an explanation which, whether true or false, Jesus could not clearly disprove; and Jesus himself considered it worthy of the very thorough and exhaustive reply which follows.

25, 26. Every kingdom divided.—Here we have the first argument of Jesus in reply. The explanation given by the Pharisees represented Satan as divided against himself; for he never achieved so signal a triumph over living men as when he held them in possession of evil spirits; and, to rob himself of so great a victory would be to fight against his own kingdom, and to involve it to that extent in the desolation common to all kingdoms divided against themselves. He argues, not that Satan could not do this, but that he would not, and that therefore the explanation which supposes him to do it is absurd.

27. by whom do your children.—The persons referred to were exorcists, a class of persons among the Jews who were accredited with the power of casting out demons, and who were held in high esteem by the Pharisees. (See Acts 19:13; Josephus Ant. B. 8, ch. 2, § 5.) The truth of the charge that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Satan, depended on the assumption that he had access to no other power by which it could be done. But if this assumption were true, then it would affect the exorcists as well as himself. On the other hand, if they cast out demons by divine power, then the same might be true of him. This was an argument ad hominem, which could be answered only by showing that the exorcists had some reason to claim favor with God, which Jesus had not; and this they dared not pretend.

It is not implied in this argument that the exorcists actually cast out demons, but only that the Pharisees believed they did. It is quite certain that they could not cast out demons by a word, as Jesus did; for this would have been a miracle. But it was some diseased condition of mind, or of body, or of both, which enabled demons to possess certain persons; otherwise they would have possessed all; and it is probable that, by some method of treatment through which the disease was cured and the demon, in some instances, thrown off, the exorcists had gained credit with the people; but their usual attempts at exorcism have all the marks of trickery and imposture.

28. by the Spirit of God.—Having sufficiently proved by the two preceding arguments that he had not cast out demons by the power of Satan, he now takes as granted the only alternative, that he did it by the Spirit of God; and from this established fact he draws the conclusion, "then the kingdom of God is come to you." The argument, fully stated, is this: If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, this proves the divine authority of all that I say; and therefore you should believe that the kingdom of God is at hand, as I have preached it to you.

29. bind the strong man.—Here we have the fourth and last argument of the series. Satan is the strong man, his house the body of the demoniac, and his goods the evil spirit within the man. Jesus had entered his house and robbed him of his goods; and this proves that, instead of being in league with Satan, he had overpowered him.

Great must have been the surprise of the Pharisees when they heard this reply. An explanation by which they thought they had both refuted the argument drawn from his miracle, and turned the force of the miracle against him, has only furnished him with an occasion to show the absurdity of their explanation and their logical inconsistency in propounding it; to prove, more clearly than ever, that he acted by divine authority; and to demonstrate the fact that he was making successful warfare against the dominion of Satan.

30. not with me is against me.—This remark was intended, I think, for the bystanders. It was important for them to see that there was no middle ground—that those who were not with him and helping him to gather, were with the Pharisees, and helping them to scatter abroad. In the figure of gathering and scattering, the people are compared to a flock of sheep, which Jesus was endeavoring to gather into the fold, while his enemies were trying to scatter them abroad.

The Unpardonable Sin, Matthew 12:31-37.
Mark 3:28-30)

31. blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.—Blasphemy is any kind of injurious speech. The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit here denounced is the evil speech just made by the Pharisees, in which a work performed by the Holy Spirit was attributed to Satan. This is made still plainer in Mark’s report of this conversation. (Mark 3:30.) Whether a man can commit this blasphemy in any other way, does not appear from the text. It is most likely that John refers to this sin when he says: "There is a sin unto death: I do not say you should pray for it." (1 John 5:16.) There has been much superstition and some idle speculation connected with this subject, which we will not pause to consider in detail. It is best in this, as in all other matters, to be content with what is clearly taught.

31, 32. shall be forgiven.—The statement that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men, is not a declaration of universal pardon. George Campbell thinks that shall be is here a Hebraism for may be. The Hebrew language, having no potential mood, used the future indicative as a substitute for it; and Jews, in writing Greek, sometimes did the same through habit. But it is true, literally, that all manner of sin and blasphemy, with the exception stated in the text, will be forgiven to men; that is, among the innumerable sins forgiven through Christ, some to one man and some to another, every conceivable sin will be forgiven except the one in question.

32. shall not be forgiven.—Why it is more certainly fatal to speak against the Holy Spirit than against the Son of man, may be in part beyond our powers of comprehension; but this much we know, that one who speaks against the latter may subsequently be convinced by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and become a believer. But if he reject the evidence given by the Holy Spirit and ascribe it to Satan, he rejects the only evidence on which faith can be based; and without faith there is no forgiveness. If it be answered that a man might do this at one period of his life, and subsequently be convinced and repent, we reply that this is precisely what the Savior, in effect, says he can not do; and we therefore suppose that one who is so desperately wicked as to be guilty of this sin, is already beyond the reach of redemption. Such was the condition of some of the Pharisees. (Matthew 23:33; John 8:21.)

the world to come.—The term here rendered world (αἰῶν) is by most scholars rendered age. Whether "this age" and "the age to come" mean the Jewish age which then was, and the Christian age which was to come; or the age of time, and the coming age of eternity, is not clear. In either case, however, the sin remains forever unforgiven; for the Christian age extends to the day of judgment, and beyond that there is no forgiveness. To be guilty of sin that never shall be forgiven, whether it be the sin that is unpardonable, or merely sin that is not pardoned, is to be eternally miserable. This alone is sufficient proof of everlasting punishment.

33. known by his fruit.—By this brief allegory, the application of which is indicated below. Jesus lays bare the cause of the evil speech of the Pharisees, and prepares the way for a general statement in reference to all evil speech. As a tree is known by its fruit, a man is known by his speech.

34. how can ye.—As the allegory imports, they, being like the bad tree which could not bear good fruit, could not "speak good things." The epithet "generation of vipers" (more accurately rendered "offspring (γεννματα) of vipers"), is thrown in to intensify the thought of their "being evil," and it points to the venomous malice and cunning with which they laid their plots against him.

34, 35. of the heart.—Still tracing up the cause of the blasphemy and of all evil speech, he here locates it in the heart, asserting that both the good things of the good man, and the evil things of the evil man, are brought forth out of the heart. The state of the heart, then, determines the speech and action of the man; and these, on the other hand, determine the state of the heart. The popular proverb, "If the heart is right, all is right," is strictly true; and it is true, not, as is often supposed, because God overlooks evil conduct when the heart is right; but because, when the heart is right, all the conduct is just such as it ought to be. Whenever there is an evil word spoken, an evil act performed, or a duty neglected, it is because the heart is not right at that point. Let us not deceive our own hearts (James 2:26), nor be deceived as to their state. (Psalms 19:12.)

36, 37. every idle word.—Not only for words spoken with evil purpose, but for idle words, those which are spoken for no purpose, we shall give account in the day of judgment, and by them be condemned or justified. Were it not for the gracious provisions of the gospel by which our evil speeches shall be forgiven (31), who would be able to stand? "Let us fear, lest, a promise being loft us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." (Hebrews 4:1.)

Jesus and Beelzebub - Matthew 12:22-37

Open It

1. Why are people prone to criticize those who are popular or successful?

2. Why do you think our mouth frequently gets us in trouble?

3. How would you be affected if someone followed you around and taped all your conversations?

4. How much demonic activity do you think goes on today?

Explore It

5. What kind of man did Jesus heal? (Matthew 12:22)

6. How did the onlookers respond? (Matthew 12:23)

7. What kind of reaction did the Pharisees have to the miracle Christ did? (Matthew 12:24)

8. How did Jesus show the Pharisee’s argument to be illogical? (Matthew 12:25-26)

9. What did Jesus say to show the significance of His ability to drive out demons? (Matthew 12:28)

10. What rationale did Jesus give for casting out demons? (Matthew 12:29)

11. What criteria did Jesus give for determining who supported and opposed Him? (Matthew 12:30)

12. What did Jesus discuss with the Pharisees? (Matthew 12:31-32)

13. What did Jesus say a tree’s "fruit" reveals? (Matthew 12:33)

14. What harsh name did Jesus call the Pharisees? Why? (Matthew 12:34)

15. What did Jesus claim a person’s words reveal? (Matthew 12:34-35)

16. What will every single person do on the day of judgment? (Matthew 12:36-37)

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17. What is it that convinced you that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world?

18. How does it make you feel to know that Jesus knows every thought you have?

19. What are some ways you see Satan at work in the world today?

20. How do you see the kingdom of God overcoming the evil one?

21. What evidence could others cite that you are in fact a follower of Jesus Christ?

22. What sins of the tongue are you currently struggling with that indicate a deeper problem in your heart?

Apply It

23. When and how can you best bring your unconfessed sins to God?

24. What are some specific steps you can take this week to avoid sinning in your speech?

25. What can you begin doing today to develop a pure heart so that your life produces good fruit?

A Sign Demanded, Matthew 12:38-42.
Luke 11:29-32)

38. we would see a sign.—Both their request for a sign, and the answer of Jesus saying that none would be given except the sign of Jonah, show that they meant a sign different from those he had been showing, and one which they might regard as more directly and unmistakably from God. They meant the same as when they afterward demanded a sign from heaven, (Matthew 16:4.)

39, 40. sign of the prophet.—This remark shows that the very singular incident of being swallowed by a great fish and thrown up on dry land after three days, occurred to the prophet as a type of the burial and resurrection of Christ. This was a sign from heaven because it was wrought by God without human instrumentality.

three days and three nights.—As Jesus was buried late Friday afternoon, and arose before sunrise Sunday morning, he was in the tomb only an hour or two of Friday, all of Saturday, and between eleven and twelve hours of Sunday, counting the day, according to Jewish custom, as beginning with sunset. It was not, then, according to our mode of expression, three days and three nights, but only two nights and a part of three days. We inquire how the statement of the text can be true, and, in order to an intelligible answer, we note the following facts and considerations.

1. The time between his death and his resurrection is expressed in three different forms. Most frequently it is said that he would rise again on the third day. (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:23, et al.) Once it is said that he would rise after three days (Mark 8:31); and once, in our text, that he would be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

2. The Jews, in all periods of Bible history, used the expressions after three days and on the third day, as equivalents. Thus Moses says that Joseph put his brethren into prison three days; yet in the next sentence he represents him as releasing them "on the third day." (Genesis 42:17-18.) When the people petitioned Rehoboam to lighten their burden, he said, "Depart ye for three days, then come again to me." They departed, and "came again the third day, as the king had appointed." (1 Kings 12:5; 1 Kings 12:12.) When Esther was about to venture into the king’s presence, she instructed the Jews in Shushan to fast three days, night and day; yet she went in on the third day. (Esther 4:16; Esther 5:1.) Still more in point, when the Pharisees petitioned Pilate for a guard, they said to him, "This deceiver said while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command, therefore, that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day." (Matthew 27:63-64.) Now with us, if he were going to rise after three days, it would be necessary to guard the sepulcher until within the fourth day; and so, the fast for Esther should have run into the fourth day, the people should have returned to Rehohoam on the fourth day, and Joseph should have released his brethren on the fourth day. It is the peculiar and inaccurate usage of the Jews which makes the difference; and that the New Testament writers continued this established usage is proved by the fact, that when Matthew and Mark report the same words of Jesus, one of them uses the expression "on the third day," and the other, "after three days." (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31.)

3. In reality, after three days, and, after three days and three nights, are equivalent expressions, for if you count, for example, from Friday at sunset, after three days would be after sunset on Monday, the three days being Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. But in this period would be included three nights, viz, Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night. Now it is not always true in the use of words, as it is in Mathematics, that things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other; but seeing that the expression after three days means the same with a Jew as on the third day, and that the expression after three days covers the same length of time as the expression three days and three nights, the last expression would most naturally be used as an equivalent for the first. That it was so used by Jesus, is clear from the fact that, in speaking of the same lapse of time he sometimes says cm the third day, and at least once he says, "three days and three nights." The only escape from this conclusion is to suppose that on the occasion of our text he deliberately and without reason contradicted himself in the presence of his enemies. But those enemies themselves, as we have seen, understood and employed the usage as he did, and it appears that all parties among the Jews understood these expressions as equivalents. There is no contradiction, then, between this and other passages on the subject, but the appearance of contradiction arises entirely from a peculiar Jewish usage.

It may be well to remark at this point, that the above mentioned facts refute the hypothesis of some, that Jesus was buried on the afternoon of Thursday. If he had been buried on Thursday, and had risen Sunday morning, he would have been in the grave three nights, but he would also have been there parts of four days, and the Jewish expression would have been, he will arise the fourth day, or, after four days. As proof of this, if we count the time from the appearance of the angel to Cornelius (Acts 10.) till the arrival of Peter at the house of Cornelius, we find that it is precisely three days, according to our mode of counting; but it includes three nights and parts of four days, and hence Cornelius says to Peter, "Four days ago I was fasting until this hour," etc. (Acts 10:30.)

41, 42. and condemn it.—When one man does well, and another, under more favorable circumstances, does ill, the former condemns the latter by showing that he could have done much better if he would. That the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah was in this way a condemnation of the Jews, because the latter would not repent at the preaching of a far greater than Jonah; and that the queen of the South came so far to hear the wisdom of Solomon, was a still severer condemnation of them, because they despised a much greater wisdom which was in their midst.

Parable of the Unclean Spirit, Matthew 12:43-45.
Luke 11:24-28)

43. is gone out of a man.—This remark implies that unclean spirits sometimes went out of men voluntarily. When they did so, they wandered through "dry places," that is, through places such as waterless deserts are to living men, seeking rest, and finding none. A more graphic description of utter wretchedness, it would be difficult to imagine.

44. into my house.—The house is the man’s body which he had left; and it is called a house because it afforded the evil spirit some relief from the wretchedness of his wanderings. That the house was empty, swept, and garnished, means that the man’s body was well prepared for the demon’s return.

45. more wicked.—That the seven other spirits were more wicked than the first, is proof that some demons are worse than others; that he went and got them, is proof that evil spirits have communications among themselves; and that the man was then worse than at first, shows that the greater the number and the wickedness of the demons within a man, the worse his condition.

Even so shall it be.—In the application of this parable, only one point of comparison is made, and we will save ourselves much useless labor if we content ourselves with this. It is expressed in these words: "The last state of that man is worse than the first: even so shall it be with this wicked generation;" that is, the last state of this generation will be worse than the first. The reference is to the continually increasing wickedness of the Jews, which culminated in the dreadful scenes preceding the destruction of Jerusalem. They were now like a man with one evil spirit; they were then to be like a man with eight, and each of the seven worse than the one.

The Sign of Jonah - Matthew 12:38-45

Open It

1. What are some common uses for signs?

2. Why do some people say they want to see proof that God exists before they will believe in Him?

3. In your opinion, what is the strongest evidence for God?

Explore It

4. Who approached Jesus and demanded a sign? (Matthew 12:38)

5. What did a hostile group of people ask Jesus to do? (Matthew 12:38)

6. What kind of people did Jesus say asked for additional miraculous signs? (Matthew 12:39)

7. How did Jesus respond to the request for a sign? (Matthew 12:39)

8. To what proof from history did Jesus point? (Matthew 12:39-40)

9. How did Jesus compare Himself to Jonah? (Matthew 12:40)

10. Who did Jesus say would one day stand and judge His generation? Why? (Matthew 12:41)

11. Why will the "men of Nineveh" be in a position to judge? (Matthew 12:41)

12. To what example from history did Jesus point as evidence for His identity? (Matthew 12:42)

13. How did "the Queen of the South" respond to Solomon? (Matthew 12:42)

14. How did Jesus compare Himself to Solomon? (Matthew 12:43)

15. What example did Jesus use to show the importance of ridding one’s life of evil attitudes and filling one’s life with love for God? (Matthew 12:43-45)

16. What did Jesus warn would happen to those who refused to open themselves up to the Lord? (Matthew 12:45)

Get It

17. What acts of God do you feel would strengthen your faith?

18. What evidence of God is there in your life that could point others to Christ?

19. What areas of your life need cleansing?

20. What specific areas of your life need the filling of the Holy Spirit?

21. Why is it sometimes hard to believe in God without hard evidence?

22. What are some subtle ways Satan gains a foothold in the lives of Christians?

23. Why do you think certain "religious" people are sometimes skeptical about God?

Apply It

24. How can you demonstrate the reality of God in your life today?

25. In what areas of your life do you need the Spirit of God to fill you this week?

26. In what area has God already revealed to you that you need to obey Him more faithfully?

Verses 46-50

Mat 12:46-50

Interference of His Mother and Brothers,

Matthew 12:46-50 (Mark 3:21; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21)
J.W. McGarvey

46. and his brethren.—The fact that these persons called his brothers came with Mary, establishes a strong presumption that they were sons of Mary, and literally brothers of Jesus. (See also the parallel in Mark.)

47. desiring to speak with thee.—To send a message to him in the house (Matthew 13:1) while he was speaking to the people, was an interruption; and the message itself, that they desired to speak with him, was an interference. It was assuming that the business which they had for him was more urgent than his business with the people, and that the latter should give way to the former. A more definite statement of their purpose is given by Mark. (Mark 3:21; Mark 3:31.)

48. Who is my mother?—The tone of his answer showed plainly to the audience that he would allow no interference with his work on the score of earthly relationships; and it shows plainly to us that the supposed subserviency of Jesus to his mother, which is the ground of the worship of Mary, is most emphatically repudiated by Jesus himself. To all who now call on the "Mother of God," as Mary is blasphemously styled, Jesus answers, as he did to the Jews, Who is my mother?

49, 50. the same is my brother.—It is here taught with emphasis that Jesus holds all who do the will of God as his brothers, sisters, mother; that is, as sustaining a relation to him as intimate as that sustained by these relatives. This statement not only shows the extreme absurdity of the worship of Mary, but it teaches us that our duty to the Church is never to be sacrificed to the caprices, prejudices, or preferences of our earthly relatives.

Argument of Section 9

In the preceding section the historian reports the disputation between Jesus and the Pharisees in reference to the two charges that he had violated the Sabbath, and that he had cast out demons by the prince of the demons. In the course of the disputations the following facts containing proof of the claims of Jesus are brought into prominence.

1. That his conduct was above reproach. His enemies were so watchful that his disciples could not pluck a few heads of grain as they passed through the fields on the Sabbath without their notice, and so captious that he could not heal an afflicted man on the Sabbath without incurring their censure. Their watchfulness in these small matters proves how certainly they would have detected in him any real fault; and that they did not do so, is proof that no real fault was discernible in his conduct.

2. His meekness in retiring from the presence of angry contention (14-21), was just such as we would expect to find in the Son of God, and it was the fulfillment of predictions concerning him uttered hundreds of years before his coming.

3. In reply to the charge that he cast out demons by the power of Satan, it is proved beyond controversy that his miracles were wrought by the power of the Spirit of God; that God, therefore, was with him; and that, consequently, all that he claimed for himself was true.

4. The above evidences are confirmed by the manner in which, as described in the last paragraph, he arose above all the narrower and cramping influences of family ties, and asserted the higher claims of religious fraternity. A failure in this respect would have argued human weakness; that he did not fail is an argument for his divine perfection.

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers - Matthew 12:46-50

Open It

1. What is your fondest family memory?

2. If you had to belong to a family other than your own, what family would you choose to join? Why?

3. What is ideal Christian fellowship or community to you?

Explore It

4. What was Christ doing when His mother and brothers came to speak to Him? (Matthew 12:46)

5. Who was in the crowd? (Matthew 12:38-46)

6. Who came to find Jesus? Why? (Matthew 12:46)

7. Why did Jesus’ family want to see Him? (Matthew 12:46)

8. How did Jesus find out about His visitors? (Matthew 12:47)

9. What two rhetorical questions did Jesus pose when He heard about 10. His family’s arrival? (Matthew 12:48)

11. How did Jesus answer His own questions? (Matthew 12:49)

12. What makes a person a member of Jesus’ family? (Matthew 12:50)

13. Who can become a member of Jesus’ family? (Matthew 12:50)

14. How did Jesus refer to God? (Matthew 12:50)

Get It

15. In what ways (if any) are you closer to certain Christian friends than you are to your own family members?

16. What circumstances led you to want to become a member of God’s family?

17. What special bonds does the family of God have that earthly families do not?

18. What are the dangers if we neglect our families?

19. What are the risks if we become obsessed with our families?

20. How are we sometimes guilty of neglecting our blood relatives?

21. In what ways is it possible to idolize the family?

Apply It

22. What could you do today to strengthen the bonds you have with another Christian brother or sister?

23. To what family member could you communicate your love and concern this week?

24. What steps can you take this week to ensure that your family ties do not hinder God’s will for you?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 12". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/matthew-12.html.
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