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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 12

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


We have our Lord represented to us in this Chapter going on with his ministry. The sin against the Holy Ghost is here spoken of.

Verses 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 showbread, 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."

I do not think it necessary to swell my Poor Man's Commentary, with making observations on whatever, is plain and obvious. Our Lord who is both the original institutor, and Lord of the Sabbath, hath clearly shown, how mercy is to supersede mere works of sacrifice. But if the Jews were so tenacious of the ordinary sanctity of the sabbath, as to prohibit everything but what was indispensible; what would those men have said, had they lived in the present hour, when reverence both for the sabbath, and the Lord of the Sabbath, is so generally set aside. Ye people of God, in whose hearts the fear of the Lord is! see to it that ye stand up, as Moses did in the gap, to turn away the Lord's wrath from what may be generally expected; the Lord avenging the breach of his sabbaths. Jesus! be thou the very sabbath of my soul! See Mark 2:23 .

Verses 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."

Here was an immediate opportunity for Christ to prove himself, Lord of the Sabbath, in healing this diseased man. The case is simply, but earnestly related and the effect as might have been expected. But what I would have the Reader particularly to regard in this case, is the spiritual sense of it. This man with a sinew shrunk hand, was not in idleness at his own house, but in the synagogue. He was waiting in the way of ordinances. It is good to be found waiting on the Lord, and in the way of the Lord's own appointing. They seemed unconscious of the mercy the Lord intended for him: neither is it said, that he knew Jesus, much less that he made any application to Jesus. Preventing mercies, are sweet mercies. I was found of them, saith the Lord, that sought we not. Isaiah 65:1 . No doubt, Jesus knew this poor man was in the synagogue. And He, of whom it is said, that he must needs go through Samaria, because there was a poor sinner who needed his mercies there, probably went to this Synagogue on purpose to manifest his grace to this man, with his withered hand, who needed him no less. John 4:4 . But what I would more particularly beg the Reader to notice, in the features of this miracle of Christ; is the precept of Jesus to the man: Stretch forth thine hand! I beg once for all to remark, that Christ's biddings are enablings. Unless the Lord Jesus had accompanied his command with power; and while bidding the sinner's shrunk hand to be stretched forth, he had communicated: ability to obey, no blessing would have followed. It is truly blessed to eye this in every minute circumstance of life. Hence Paul was commissioned to direct the Philippians, to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling: because that the Lord himself would work in them both go wilt and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 . And hence the same Apostle adds, in the same Epistle, I can do nothing of myself, but I can do all thing, through Christ who strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13 . It is truly blessed, to be enabled through grace, to have the lowest opinion of ourselves, that our views of Jesus, may be the more exalted; and to be sensible of our nothingness, that the Lord may have all the glory!

Verses 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 show 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."

It is striking to observe that those very scrupulous persons who professed so high a regard for the Lord's day, yet scrupled not to consult on that day, how they might destroy the Lord of life and glory.-- Reader! did you ever notice any of the Pharisees of the present hour, (for they are the same in all ages). Oh! what vast regard they would have you suppose they have for the morality of the Gospel! But the Lord Jesus, who reads under this covering the heart of such men, tells us that notwithstanding all this, they should receive the greater damnation. Matthew 23:14 . Now observe this was not for any immoralities, or for the neglect of prayers, and the like; for they were rigid to an excess in duties as they called them. But it was for setting up a righteousness of their own, against the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Beware ye (saith Jesus) of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy: Luke 12:1 .

But. let us turn from the disgusting views of such characters, to contemplate the beautiful picture the Prophet Esaias hath drawn of Jesus, and which the Evangelist copies in this scripture from the original, See Isaiah 42:1-4 . The Prophet introduceth Jehovah the Father as calling upon the Church to behold him; and as commending his person, in his gracious office as the Church's husband, and the Mediator, and as One in whom his soul delighteth. Nothing can be more blessed than what God the Father saith of him. And when his redeemed can answer to God the Father's approbation of him, as his servant; in their approbation of him as their surety, head, and Saviour, the subject is blessed indeed, I will put my spirit in him, saith Jehovah. I will put my soul and body in his Almighty hands, saith the poor awakened simmer. He shall shew judgment to the Gentiles, saith God. He hath shewn both judgment and mercy to me, saith the poor Gentile, whom grace hath recovered from sin and destruction. He shall be a meek, a tender hearted Savior, saith the Father, so that even the bruised reed he shall not break, and the smoking flax of his people's weaknesses, he shall not quench, Jesus is all this and more, saith the poor sinner; for he hath remembered me in my low estate, for his merely endureth forever! Oh! the unknown, the unnumbered mercies in the bowels of Jesus, which he bears to all his redeemed; and by which he manifests his grace to them, otherwise than he doth to the world. John 14:21-22 .

I detain the Reader for the moment, just to observe on the word judgment, in this passage, that though in the first view of it, there might be thought somewhat harsh in it, but it is not so. Bringing forth judgment to the Gentiles, and unto victory, implies, that Jesus will complete the work of his free grace for his redeemed, in a way of judgment so wise, and excellent, that it shall commend his administration for the deed, while everything of tenderness shall mark his features of character; so that the bruised reed and the smoking flax, which are in his way, he will not tread upon nor injure.

Verses 22-23

"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?"

Let the Reader always connect with the view of the miracles of Jesus, his compassion to the soul, while healing the body. It is the blind and dumb in spirit, Jesus came to deliver.

Verses 24-30

"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. (28) 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."

I pray the Reader to observe in these verses, several weighty things. First: the testimony here given to Christ's Godhead. Jesus knew their thoughts. A thing impossible had he not been God. All the Churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts. Revelation 2:23 . Secondly.--Observe the several persons of the Godhead mentioned in the casting out of devils. Jesus saith, if I by the Spirit of God cast them out. I; that is, God the Son, The Spirit; that is, God the Holy Ghost. And God; that is, God the Father. Thirdly.--When Jesus, in answer to the blasphemy of the Pharisees, who ascribed his work of casting out devils to the power of Beelzebub, saith, by whom do your children cast them out? he did not admit the thing, as if any, in reality, had cast out devils among them, for it was impossible: but the Lord took occasion to reprove them on their own principles. Magic was an old practice, Exodus 7:11 ; Numbers 24:1 . And even after Christ's return to glory, we read of exorcists. Acts 19:18-19 . But the dispossessing devils, was the prerogative of Jesus only. 1 John 3:8 .

But when the Reader hath paid all due notice to these things, I would beg his attention yet a little further, to what the Lord Jesus hath here said, of the kingdom of Satan. It is a point rightly to apprehend, of great importance, in the doctrines of the Gospel; and no child of God should be ignorant of it.

That Satan hath set up, and maintained an empire of sin, in the every heart of man, is a truth too certain to be questioned, and the awful effects of it, too well known to be denied. Holy Scripture, gives many sad relations of it. In fact, it was the setting up this kingdom against God and his Christ, for which the devil and his angels are said to have been cast out of heaven, and to have left their own habitation. Revelation 12:7-12 ; Jude 1:25 . At his expulsion from heaven, he seduced our first parents, and in them involved the whole of their posterity in the fall. And from that hour to the present, it is he which worketh in the children of disobedience. Hence the several names by which he is known: the Great Dragon; that old Serpent, the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; the strong man armed; the Prince of the power of the air; the God of this world; and whose vassals are led captive by him at his will. Revelation 12:7 , etc. Ephesians 2:2 ; 2 Corinthians 4:4 ; 2 Timothy 2:26 .

Now the whole purpose and design of the Gospel is directed to overthrow this kingdom of Satan, and to introduce and restore perfect order, among all the works of God. Hence it is said, that for this purpose, the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 . And hence we find the Lord Jesus entering upon this service, immediately on his entrance into his ministry. First, by his own personal conquest over him on the cross. Hebrews 2:14-15 ; Colossians 2:15 . Secondly, at the conversion of his members; when, as in the scripture, the stronger than the strong man armed, even Christ's, cometh upon him, destroyeth all his armor, and divideth the spoils. In every single instance of the saving conversion of a soul to God, this may be said to have been wrought, when that soul is translated from the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of God's dear Son. John 16:7-11; John 16:7-11 ; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 4:4 . And a complete victory is promised to the Church in the end. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ; Romans 16:22 . Thirdly, there is a promise also of another triumph of Jesus, when a more signal display of victory will be shewn, in the Lord Jesus setting up a kingdom in the earth, before the day of judgment, and when Satan's power will be shut up and restrained. Revelation 20:1-7 . And, finally, at the universal judgment, the total and everlasting destruction of Satan's kingdom will take place. See Revelation 20:10 , etc. Such are the views scripture holds forth of these momentous truths!

Verses 31-33

"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. (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."

I must postpone the observations on this passage to my Commentary on the similar one, Mark 3:28 , to which therefore I refer.

Verse 34

"O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."

I would beg the Reader to pause over this verse; and to collect the sense of our Lord's expression, in calling those men whom he had in view, generation of vipers. It is a very solemn consideration, but therefore the more to be regarded, that throughout the whole word of God, this generation is spoken of, in one and the same uniform character. Indeed, the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent, are expressly marked and defined, from the first moment in which the Lord declared, he would put enmity in the seed, to each other. Genesis 3:15 . Hence those strong expressions of Christ: Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. John 8:44 . And hence, as in this verse, Jesus speaks of it as a thing impossible, that they should do otherwise than what is evil. How can ye being evil speak good things? Ye believe not (said Jesus), because ye are not of my sheep. John 10:26 . And elsewhere, he calls them, serpents and a generation of vipers, which cannot escape the damnation, of hell! Matthew 23:33 . See Matthew 25:33; Matthew 25:33 . And in like manner, his servants the Apostles adopt the same language. Paul called Elymas the sorcerer, child of the devil. Acts 13:10 . And Peter speaking of the same race, calls them cursed children; and as brute beasts made to be taken and destroyed. 2 Peter 2:12-14 . And John if possible, yet more strongly defines the stock; for when. speaking of Cain's murdering his brother, he asketh the question by way of answering it. And wherefore (said he) did Cain slay his brother? Because he was of that wicked one.1 John 3:12 . See those scriptures in further confirmation. Galatians 3:16-29 ; 1 John 3:8-9 .

Verse 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."

I pause over this verse, by way of observing, once for all, the scriptural sense of a good man. The word of God hath expressly said, that there is none good, no not one. Romans 3:10; Romans 3:10 ; Ecclesiastes 7:20 ; Proverbs 24:16 ; Romans 5:0 throughout. Hence therefore, as the word of God, cannot but be in perfect agreement with itself, in every part; it is evident, that by a good man, is meant one that is regenerated and born again; one that is renewed in the spirit of his mind, and justified in Christ Jesus. Paul speaks of such. 1 Corinthians 5:11 . So that this man differs from the natural man, yea, from what he himself once was, before this sovereign act of grace had passed upon his mind; and therefore now, out of the good treasure of his heart, in Christ; and from the graces of his Holy Spirit planted there, he brings forth the sweet and precious fruits in life and conversation, of the person, work, and righteousness of Jesus. Philippians 1:27 ; Psalms 66:16 .

Verses 36-37

"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."

As words as well as actions, yea thoughts, which are the womb of both, plainly manifest the state of the heart, whether renewed by grace, or remaining in the old state of unrenewed nature; the idle sinful discourse of the unawakened sinner, (for it is to such our Lord is here speaking,) daily testify the state in which he is; and who is already prejudged by his conversation; just as in like manner the lips of' the gracious manifest that they are born to God, to whom there is no condemnation. Romans 8:1 ; Song of Solomon 4:11 ; Malachi 3:16-18 . I beg the Reader not to lose sight of this passage as referring to the unregenerate sinner living and dying out of Christ.

Verses 38-45

"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. (43) 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."

I pass over all the several subjects contained in this passage of Jesus, from making any observations upon them, being in themselves self-evident; in order to call the Reader's attention to one here spoken of, which may not perhaps at first be so immediately plain and obvious. I mean, respecting the unclean spirit in his departure and return. The unclean spirit, no doubt, means the devil. And when men, under the cursed influences of the devil, are living in the open and notorious vices of profaneness, drunkenness, dishonesty, sabbath-breaking and the like, they may be said to have an unclean spirit. But if any outward reform takes place in such characters, and we behold a change wrought upon them, so that they are more decent in life, and conversation, the devil may be said to have gone out from them, under the character of an unclean spirit. But it: there be no saving change wrought in the sou.1 by the regenerating power of the Holy Ghost: if the devil be gone out of his own accord, and not driver, out by the stronger man, he, even Jesus (Matthew 12:29 ); this man's heart is still as much as ever under Satan's government; for he calls it his house, and saith he will return to it; yea, and he doth return to it, if so be there be no saving change wrought upon the man's heart by grace. So that, though he goes out an unclean devil, yet he comes back only somewhat cleaner, but, still a devil, and reigns, and rules in his house, of the man's heart, as much as before. Yea, our Lord saith, that the last state of this man is worse than the first. For if, while under the same awful influence of an unrenewed, ungenerated heart, the man is prompted to put on the appearance of an outside sanctity; and covers over the uncleanness that is within, with a seeming zeal for religion without: these, are like the seven other spirits of the devil, more wicked than the former, because more desperately deceiving, both himself and the world; and of consequence, the end is more dreadful. And who shall calculate the numbers there as living under this most wretched of all delusions? Who shall say, the many, who go out of life well pleased with this whitening sepulchre-reform; in whose heart, no saving change hath been wrought; nor any acquaintance made with the person, work, or grace of God the Holy Ghost. John 3:3-9 ; Acts 19:2 . Reader! see to it that no change satisfies your mind, but that which is wrought by the Holy Ghost and Christ, formed in your heart the life of glory. Romans 8:9-17 ; 2 Corinthians 5:17 .

Verses 46-50

"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."

It is a matter, of no small importance in the faith of every child of God, to have right apprehensions of our Lord's relations after the flesh. As Joseph was only the reputed father of Christ (and not in reality), very plain it is, that on this side Jesus had none. And whether the Virgin Mary had; or had not children after the birth of Christ, it is of no moment to enquire, for it forms no article of faith neither is it in the least connected with the present question. That Mary was a pure Virgin, at the time of her conception; that she continued so, to the birth of Christ; and that her, conception, was altogether miraculous, by the Holy Ghost, and without the intervention of an human father: these are the grand and the only points essential to be proved; and these are all most fully proved and ascertained in the scriptures. And hence it. will follow, that any further relationship after the flesh, Christ had none. But his bretheren are the members of this mystical body, and not his personal body. Christ and his seed, are spoken of as one. He the head, and they the members; and concerning whom Jehovah saith, I will pour, my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. Isaiah 59:21; Isaiah 59:21 . In that holy portion of human nature which constituted Christ's body, underived from man, and given of God, from all the persons of the Godhead (see in proof, Psalms 40:6 ; Hebrews 10:5 ; Psalms 139:13-16 ; Hebrews 2:14-16 ; Luke 1:35 . and Commentary on Matthew 1:18 .) was formed the holy seed of all his members. And as it is said of Levi, that he was in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him, Hebrews 7:10 ; so must it be said of the seed of Christ: they were in Christ; chosen in Christ; blessed in Christ; yea, beheld in Christ, before, the world began. Ephesians 1:3-5 ; Isaiah 8:18 ; Hebrews 2:11 . So that when the Lord Jesus, in answer to the person, speaking to him of his relations, as stated if this Chapter, stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and pointing to certain among the throng, and said, behold my Mother and my Brethren! these were Christ's relations both in nature and grace. And if the Reader will turn to the following scriptures in proof, they will serve to throw great light upon the subject. As the everlasting Father, Isaiah 9:6 . Brother, John 20:17 . Husband, Isaiah 54:5 . Friend, John 15:15 . See the Poor Man's Commentary also on John 1:22-25 .

Verse 50


Hail thou glorious Lord of the Sabbath! Do thou blessed Jesus, manifest to my soul, and in my soul, that thou art both Lord of the Sabbath and of my heart; by reigning there, and ruling there, and giving me to eat of the shew-bread of thy body, which is the bread of life, that I may have eternal life abiding in me. And do thou by me, O Lord, as thou didst to the poor man in the Synagogue, to all the withered affections of my poor nature; both bid me, and enable me, to stretch forth the hand of faith, and lay hold of eternal life in thee!

And oh! Almighty Father! in thy gracious office-work in covenant mercies, give me to hear thy sweet proclamation of thy servant whom thou hast chosen, and in whom, as the Church's Head and Surety, thou art well pleased, and hast delighted. Oh! for the teachings of God the Holy Ghost, to know Jehovah's chosen and Jehovah's beloved, as my beloved, a meek Savior, a tender hearted Savior, a well qualified and powerful Savior; who though so gentle as not to break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, yet so mighty as to send forth judgment unto victory, and in whose name the Gentiles shall trust.

And no less Almighty Spirit, do thou so teach, and guide me into all truth, that out of the good treasure by regeneration, and the daily renewings of thy grace which thou hast put into my heart, I may bring forth good things, while the generation of vipers, by their evil things, manifest the seed from whence they spring, yea! Lord give me to see and know, by heartfelt experience, from thy sovereign work there wrought, that I am of the mystical relationship of Christ, and among the number whom Jesus will own as his brother, and sister, and mother.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 12". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/matthew-12.html. 1828.
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