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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 12

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Verses 1-50


Matthew 12:1-50

The opposition that our Lord met with

(1) from his enemies (Matthew 12:1-45);

(2) from his relations (Matthew 12:46-50); ,and the manner in which he dealt with it.

Matthew 12:1-45

(1) Opposition from his enemies.

(a) Conscious and wilful opposition (Matthew 12:1-37).

(α) As regards the sabbath (Matthew 12:1-14).

(β) An interlude. The evangelist sees in our Lord's behaviour the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy (verses 15-21).

(γ) The opposition carried to the extreme of accusing him of alliance with Beelzebub.

Christ shows the monstrous character of such an accusation, and the absence which it discloses of all spirituality of mind (verses 22-37).

(b) Opposition due to lack of energy in spiritual things. Christ contrasts the behaviour of heathen mentioned in the Old Testament, and warns the Jews of the result of their present apathy (verses 38-45).

Matthew 12:1-8

The sabbath in relation to the preparation of food. Parallel passages: Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5. St. Matthew here returns to the Framework, which he left at Matthew 9:26 or 34.

Matthew 12:1

At that time (Matthew 11:25, note) Jesus went (ἐπορεύθη). It has been suggested that he was now on his way to the synagogue spoken of in Matthew 12:9 (but see note there). Wherever he was going, it must have been within about three quarters of a mile distance (two thousand cubits; see Dr. Lumby, on Acts 1:12, "a sabbath day's journey;" and Schurer, II. 2:102). On the sabbath day. Defined in the Received Text of Luke by the anomalous term "second-first," for the genesis of which see especially Westcott and Hort, 'App.' Through the corn; the corn-fields (Revised Version, as also Authorized Version in the parallel passages). If it was barley harvest, the time would be probably the beginning of May; if wheat harvest, as seems more likely, about the beginning of June. And his disciples were a hungred. So that it was not for his own sake that our Lord acted as he did. And began. They could therefore hardly have eaten much when the complaint was made. To pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. It was legal to pluck corn from a field through which one passed (Deuteronomy 23:25), and it is said to be allowed still; but as it was held by the scribes to be a form of reaping, and perhaps of threshing also, it was considered illegal on the sabbath (cf. Edersheim, 'Life,' 2.56).

Matthew 12:2

But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him. The Revised Version (but the Pharisees, when they saw it, said unto him) retains the simple order of the Greek, which more vividly represents the Pharisees as a party opposed to him. Behold. They suggest that he had not noticed it. Were the disciples behind him (cf. Matthew 8:23)? Thy disciples. Notice that all the accusations brought against the disciples in this Gospel concern food: Matthew 9:14, as regards abstaining from it upon fixed days; Matthew 15:2, as regards eating it without taking extreme precautions against ceremonial pollution; in the present passage, as regards avoiding any profanation of the sabbath for its sake. Do. At this moment. That which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day (Matthew 15:1, note).

Matthew 12:3

But he said unto them, Have ye not read. Our Lord answers them by showing that the principle of the action of his disciples was sanctioned in the Scriptures to which they implicitly appealed. He calls their attention first (more Rabbinico; cf. on Matthew 12:5) to the Prophets (i.e. the former prophets, according to the Hebrew division), as teaching by example that holy things are of secondary importance compared with the benefit of God's people; and afterwards to the Law, which implies that the sabbath itself is of secondary importance compared with work necessary for the sanctuary. He then affirms that in the present case there is One present who is even greater than the sanctuary. He goes on to say that their complaint, however, was really due to the lack, not so much of intellectual as of spiritual knowledge; they had no rapprochement with the God of love, or they would not have condemned those who, both because they were men and because they were disciples of the Son of man, stood above the sabbath. What David did, when he was a hungred, and they that were with him (1 Samuel 21:1-7).

Matthew 12:4

How he entered into the house of God, and did eat; rather, and they did eat, with Revised Version margin (ἔφαγον), the simple plural verb laying the action less at David's door than does the phrase in the parallel passages—"and he gave" them to eat. Observe that the mention of ordinary people, like David's attendants, adds to the force of our Lord's illustration. The shew-bread (Exodus 25:30; Le Exodus 24:5-7). Which. Which kind of food (ὅ). Was not lawful (οὐκ ἔξον ἦν). Reminding the Pharisees of their own words in Matthew 12:2. For him to eat, neither for them which were with him, bat only for the priests? (Le Matthew 24:9).

Matthew 12:5

Matthew only. Or. A second example, if the first does not convince you. Have ye not read in the Law. Beyond which there is no appeal. Jewish authors often appeal to Scripture in the order of Hagio-graphs, Prophets, and, last of all, Law. He here refers to Le Matthew 24:8 (cf. also 1 Chronicles 9:32), but Bengel's suggestive remark that Leviticus was read in the services at that very time of year is vitiated by the double uncertainty, first, what time of year it really was; and secondly, what is the antiquity of the present custom of reading the whole Law every year (cf. Dr. Lumby on Acts 13:1-52., 'Add. Note'). According to the express orders of the Law, the priests put in fresh shewbread on the sabbath day. How that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple. The word of wider import is used (ἱερόν, not σκηνή), because the Law still holds good. Profane the sabbath. If their work is regarded in itself, as the action of my disciples is now regarded. And are blameless? (guiltless, Revised Version, as also the Authorized Version in verse 7); i.e. in the eyes of the Law. This you will all grant (cf. Schurer, II. 2.103). Lightfoot's ('Her. Hebr.') attractive quotation from Maimonides in ' Pesachim,' 1. (i.e. 'Hilkoth Korban Pesach,' § 1.), "There is no sabbatism at all in the temple," appears to rest on a misunderstanding.

Matthew 12:6

Matthew only. But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple (τοῦ ἱεροῦ μειζόν ἐστιν ὧδε); "Gr. a greater thing". A similarly difficult neuter is found in verses 41, 45. If the neuter be insisted upon, we must understand Christ to refer to his cause, the work in which the disciples were engaged. This was greater than the temple; lunch more, therefore, was it greater than the sabbath. Probably, however, our Lord is referring to himself, to his own Person and character, but uses the neuter, either as forming a more decided contrast to ἱερόν, or as being more weighty than the masculine (of. Matthew 11:9, note). Also it was less defined and more mysterious. He could not reveal to them the secret of his presence. Observe the use, even at this stage in his ministry, of words implying the decadence of the temple service (cf. John 4:21; Acts 6:14). In this place; here (Revised Version), as in verses 41, 42.

Matthew 12:7

Matthew only. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I wilt have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless (on the quotation, see Matthew 9:13, note). Had you learned the simple Bible truth that God places the exercise of your moral faculties, particularly those of kindness, above merely external observances, you would not have committed this sin of taking up the position of wrong judges. He traces their error up to its true source, ignorance of the first principles of religion, ignorance of what God really desires. Condemned. Formally and officially (καταδικάζω). The guiltless. As were the very priests (verse 5).

Matthew 12:8

Parallel passages: Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5. For. With immediate refer-once to guiltless. The Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day; is Lord of the sabbath (Revised Version); ere, being added in the Received Text from Mark and Luke. Christ clinches the argument, and at the same time explains his phrase in verse 6. The temple is greater than the sabbath; I am greater than the temple; these my disciples are therefore guiltless; for, to put it briefly, I, whom they are following, am greater than the sabbath and rule over it. Observe, however, that Christ does not directly say "I," but the Son of man. The reason is seen in Mark, where a connecting link is given: "The sabbath was made for man. and not man for the sabbath: so that the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath." Christ there implies that the sabbath is inferior to man, not only because it exists for his sake (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:9),but also because it falls under the lordship referred to in Genesis 1:28; and therefore that he himself is really superior to it as man, anti much more as the ideal Man (Matthew 8:20, note). Our saying is very condensed, but includes the name thought, omitting even as unnecessary, after having definitely pronounced the innocence of his disciples.

Matthew 12:9-14

The healing of the man with the withered hand. Parallel passages: Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11. In Luke 6:10, Luke 6:11 there are reminiscences of a narrative, presumably belonging to the Framework, which is essentially preserved in Luke 14:2-5 (cf. Weiss).

In this section the opposition of the Pharisees is turned directly against our Lord himself for breaking the sabbath. Observe, however, that he did not do this for his own benefit. It was his kindness to another that brought about the determination to kill him.

Matthew 12:9

And when he was departed thence (καὶ μεταβὰς ἐκεῖθεν). The phrase implies more than removal from that place in the corn-fields where he had been accused by the Pharisees, and is to be understood of removal from one town to another, the words that originally preceded this narrative not being recorded (cf. infra, and Matthew 11:1, note). When. therefore, it took place we have absolutely no means of knowing, save that it was not on the same day as the event recorded in Matthew 12:1-8 (cf. Luke, "on another sabbath"), anti that it was later on in his ministry. He went into their synagogue. Whose? Hardly the Pharisees mentioned in Matthew 12:2, as this was a different occasion. Possibly the Galilaeans, among whom he then was (of. Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:35), or probably the Jews generally (cf. Matthew 11:1, note). In the two last eases the subject of "they asked," in Matthew 12:10, would be the same as that of "they watched." in Mark (Mark 3:2), namely, the frequenters of the synagogue. among whom the Pharisees naturally took a prominent place. But it is quite possible that we have here a trace of the use of a fresh source, the αὐτῶν being quite intelligible in its original context.

Matthew 12:10

And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered; and behold a man having a withered hand (Revised Version, with Westcott and Hort). For the quotation by Jerome from "the Gospel which the Nazarenes and Ebionites use", in which this man tells our Lord, "Coementarius (a mason) eram, manibus vietum quaeritans," see especially Resch, 'Agrapha,' p. 379. And they asked him, saying. In the narrative of healing the man with the dropsy, found in Luke 14:1-6 (vide supra), a similar question is asked by our Lord. Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? The Tahnudic answer is that it is unlawful except in cases of actual danger to life (cf. Schurer, II. 2.104). but whether this distinction was really drawn as early as the time of our Lord {s not known in the present backward state of all critical investigations of Jewish literature. That they might accuse him; i.e. before the local court, Matthew 5:21 (Meyer). Observe that, recognizing his readiness to help others, they desire (according to Matthew) to get a clear statement from him whether he would follow the traditional law or net, intending to base their accusation on his reply. Verbally, however, Christ avoids the dilemma, as in the more famous case of the tribute to Caesar (Matthew 22:21).

Matthew 12:11

Matthew alone on this occasion, but comp. Luke 14:5. And he said unto them. Christ's answer appeals from intellectual and theoretical difficulties to the practical common sense of ordinary morality (cf. Romans 3:5-7). Their own feelings would guide them to help a brute, much more a man. According to the parallel passages, our Lord first set the man in the midst of them, wishing, perhaps, to draw out their sympathy, and only afterwards spoke this verse of censure (see Chrysostom). What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep. One only, and therefore so much the dearer (Meyer). He would feel an interest in it as an animal that he had learned to love; and he would care for it as his property. In Christ's case also there was the love of man as man, and of man as belonging to him (John 10:14; John 1:11). In Luke 14:5 ("a son or an ox") the double thought is distributed over two objects; the man Would love his son, and care for his property in the ox. And if it (this, Revised Version) fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? Lightfoot ('Hor. Hebr.') confirms this from the Jerusalem Talmud and Maimonides.

Matthew 12:12

How much then is a man better than a sheep? (Matthew 6:26; Matthew 10:31). Wherefore it is lawful to do well (to do good, Revised Version) on the sabbath days. He answers their question about healing (Matthew 12:10) by enunciating a general principle which would cover more. "Doing good" (perhaps merely "well-doing," Act 10:33; 1 Corinthians 7:37; but probably "doing good to" another, cf. Luke 6:26, Luke 6:27; and the parallel passages here, ἀγαθοποιῆσαι ἢ κακοποιῆσαι) is to be one test by which the duty of resting or of working on the sabbath is to be determined.

Matthew 12:13

Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. He is bid use his strength before he is told that it is given. The intellectual difficulties that might have occurred to him lose themselves fir the action. In the somewhat similar ease in Matthew 9:5, Matthew 9:6 there had been the preparation of forgiveness of sins. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Power is linked to obedience. Whole; i.e. sound, in complete health and vigour. The word comes more often in the account of the man healed at the pool of Bethesda than in all the rest of the New Testament.

Matthew 12:14

Then the Pharisees went out (ἐξελθόντες δὲ οἱΦαρισαῖοι). Probably at once, before the service was over. Note the emphatic position of ἐξελθόντες. They will no longer stay in the same building with one who does such a thing, and held a council; and tool: counsel; cf. Matthew 22:15; Matthew 27:1, Matthew 27:7; Matthew 28:12. Against him, how they might destroy him. We learn from Mark that the Herodians also took part in the deliberation. Professor Marshall suggests a too ingenious reconciliation of this verse and its parallels, in three details, by suggesting an Aramaic original which would explain the divergences.

Matthew 12:15-21

Jesus withdraws, and although many follow him and are healed by him, he charges them not to make him known, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the Ideal Israelite, who is the object of God's love and delight, and will receive his Spirit and declare the revelation of him to the Gentiles; he will not strive or exalt himself, or use harshness towards the weak; and his meekness shall last until he has succeeded in his purpose of revealing God to men; for he shall succeed, and he shall be the object of the Gentiles' hope.

Matthew 12:15

Matthew 12:15, Matthew 12:16 are found essentially in Mark 3:7, Mark 3:12; the remainder of this section, the application of prophecy. here only. But when Jesus knew it; and Jesus perceiving it (Revised Version). Whether by his own unaided powers, or by intelligence brought him, is not stated. He withdrew himself (cf. Matthew 4:12, he departed, note) from thence. We see from the next clause that this withdrawal was not into any very retired spot, but rather away front the town in which he had been. His motives may have been partly to carry on his work more quietly elsewhere (fulfilling his own injunction, Matthew 10:23), and partly to avoid stirring up the excitement of partisans like those who a little later wished to seize him by force and make him king (John 6:15, where observe "withdrew"). And great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all. Almost verbally in Matthew 19:2.

Matthew 12:16

And charged them that they should not make him known. Publicity as such was rather hindering to his work than otherwise. Only those who had no spiritual affinity with him (John 7:3-5), or at most but little (Matthew 9:31), desired him to have it.

Matthew 12:17

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying (Isaiah 42:1-4). The following quotation is not taken from the LXX., but from the Hebrew, and this it largely paraphrases.

Matthew 12:18

Behold my servant. Primarily, as would appear, Israel in its ideal, up to which true Israelites came in measure, but only One came fully. Whom I have chosen (ὃν ᾑρέτισα). The Hebrew denotes "lay hold of" (דמת)), i.e. for myself. Bengel has a beautiful note on the εἰς ὅν of the Received Text, "Εἰς, in, denotat perpeluam mentis paternae tendentiam erga dilectum, 2 Peter 1:17." According to the LXX. of 1 Chronicles 29:1, David's expression about Solomon affords a curious parallel, Ὁυἱός μου εἰς ὃν ᾑρέτικεν ἐν αὐτῷ Κύριος (edit. Dr. Swete). But Lagarde's edition of the Lucianic text punctuates and accents differently, Ὁυἱός μου εἶς ὃν ᾑρέτικεν ἐν αὐτῷ κύριος, and this is much nearer to the Hebrew. My beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased (Matthew 3:17, note): I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall show (declare, Revised Version) judgment to the Gentiles (καὶ κρίσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἀπαγγελεῖ). Although κρίσις usually represents in the New Testament God's decision as to the character and life of men, it here must be understood, like mishpat in the original, of the Divine right as made known to them for their acceptance and imitation. It is "the true religion viewed on its practical side as a norm and standard for life in all its relations" (Delitzsch). The thought here, therefore, is not of Christ's power to punish and avenge (though he refused to use it as yet), but of his bringing a revelation which should eventually spread, not only to the Jews who now rejected him, but to the Gentiles whom they despised.

Matthew 12:19

He shall not strive, nor cry. In Isaiah the clause is, "He shall not cry aloud nor lift up his voice (אשי אלו קעצי אל);" and so the LXX. But "strive" would represent one very frequent connotation of "cry aloud" and its synonyms, for in Eastern lands disputants use their voice much more loudly than we do. This close connexion between the two ideas is seen also in the Syriac Version of Isaiah,. where "lift up his voice" is translated narib, a word meaning primarily "he shall strive," and only secondarily "he shall lift up his voice." It is possible, but not probable, that Matthew's "strive" is taken directly from narib, adopting its primary and commoner meaning, and transposed. Neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A slight paraphrase of the original, "nor cause his voice to he heard in the street," perhaps due to different vocalization of the Hebrew.

Matthew 12:20

A bruised reed shall he not break, and-smoking flax shall he not quench. Though what more feeble than a cracked reed or a wick just flickering? Yet he reckons neither as useless; he allows for possibilities of improvement. His treatment of the believer who is weakest, and, so to speak, least alive, is marked by long-suffering and gentleness. Observe that

(1) Matthew omits the words, "He shall not burn dimly nor be discouraged," because he is not concerned with anything else than Christ's relation to others;

(2) he combines into one the two clauses of Isaiah, "He shall bring forth judgment in truth" and "Till he have set judgment in the earth." Till he send forth (ἕως ἂν ἐκβάλῃ). This being the supreme object of Messiah's life and energy—bringing out, as from his own plans and resources, judgment unto victory; i.e. the revelation of the Divine Law (verse 18, note) to a successful issue in human hearts. Unto victory. Apparently only a paraphrase of the thought in Isaiah.

Matthew 12:21

And in his Name shall the Gentiles trust; hope (Revised Version). The evangelist thus completes the parallelism with the end of the first stanza (Matthew 12:18) However Jews treat Messiah, Gentiles shall place their hope in his Name, which, in fact, sums up for man all that can be known of God (Matthew 6:9, note). In his Name. So even the LXX. But the Hebrew, "in his Law." Ὀνόματι is possibly due to a confusion with νόμῳ, but is more probably merely a paraphrase bringing out more clearly the fact that the Christian religion is emphatically trust in a Person. The Gentiles; rather, Gentiles, as such. This paraphrase for "isles" in the original is also found in the LXX. (For the whole verse, cf. Matthew 28:19, an utterance never lost sight of by the evangelist.)

Matthew 12:22-32

The healing of a man blind and dumb, and the consequent blasphemy of the Pharisees. The miracle leads them to the extreme of spiritual opposition. (On the assimilation to our Matthew 12:22-24, found in Matthew 9:32-34, see notes there.) The parallel passages are Luke 11:14-23 and, for the blasphemy and our Lord's consequent defence only, Mark 3:22-30.

Matthew 12:22

Then was brought. So Westcott and Herr margin, but text, "then they brought," as in Matthew 9:32. Unto him one possessed with a devil, blind (this fact is not mentioned by Luke), and dumb. "The devil had shut up each entrance by which be might come to faith, his sight and his hearing, yet Christ opened each" (Chrysostom). And he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. The case was worse than even that of Matthew 9:32, where the man was not blind.

Matthew 12:23

And all the people; the multitudes (Revised Version); i.e. the various concourses of people that formed themselves at different times of the day and in different parts of the town (cf. Matthew 8:1; Matthew 14:15, notes). Were amazed (ἐξίσταντο); here only in Matthew, but cf. Mark 2:12. And said, Is this (μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν). The form of the question suggests that it seemed altogether too wonderful to allow of an affirmative answer being returned. The American Committee of Revision wished to translate, "Can this be," etc.? The Son of David? (Matthew 9:27, note).

Matthew 12:24

(On the relation of this verse to Matthew 9:34, see notes there.) But when the Pharisees. Not further defined here, but in Mark 3:22 spoken of as "the scribes that had come down from Jerusalem." Heard it, they said, This fellow; man (Revised Version); οὗτος (cf. Matthew 9:3, note). Observe that οὗτος (in Matthew only) here answers to the οὗτος of Mark 3:23. "This man" is at once the object of hope in the minds of the multitudes, and of the deepest opposition on the part of the Pharisees. Doth not cast out devils, but. In the parallel passages there is merely a direct assertion that he does it by Beelzebub; here there is a denial of his power to do it by any other agency. Does Matthew's version express rather the process of their deliberation, and that of Mark and Luke the final result? (On the Jewish tradition that our Lord performed miracles by magic, see Matthew 2:14, note, and Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.,' here.) By; in, Revised Version, margin (Matthew 9:34, note). Beelzebub (Matthew 10:25, note). The prince. Better omit the article, ἄρχοντι giving, so to speak, his official title. Of the devils.

Matthew 12:25-37

Our Lord shows the monstrous character of their accusation, and urges the need of a complete change at heart.

(1) An a priori argument that such an action on Satan's part, as they suppose, would be self-destructive (Matthew 12:25, Matthew 12:26).

(2) An argumentum ad hominem. The Pharisees cannot logically and morally acknowledge that their disciples' miracles are performed by Divine help without acknowledging that Jesus' miracles are also. But then they ought to recognize what this implies-that the kingdom of God has come (Matthew 12:27, Matthew 12:28).

(3) This last alternative is true; for how otherwise can they explain the fact of Satan's captives being released (Matthew 12:29)?

(4) An appeal to them and to the bystanders to be decided (Matthew 12:30).

(5) Therefore he warns them solemnly against committing the sin for which there is no forgiveness (Matthew 12:31, Matthew 12:32).

(6) Why be surprised at this language? Their words show that they need a complete change at heart (Matthew 12:33-35).

(7) Is this to make too much of words? It is by words that men will be judged (Matthew 12:36, Matthew 12:37).

Matthew 12:25

Matthew 12:25, Matthew 12:26, parallel passages: Mark 3:24, Mark 3:25; Luke 11:17, Luke 11:18. And Jesus knew their thoughts (Matthew 9:4, note), and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation. According to Mark 3:23, our Lord begins with the direct retort, "How can Satan cast out Satan?" But while that gives, of course, our Lord's thought, it is very unlike his method, which is to begin his reply with a parabolic saying. And every city. Matthew only. Or house divided against itself. It is worth noticing that, apart from all metaphor, the peasants' houses in some districts of Palestine are built of such poor material as to easily give way and burst in half. Shall not stand. Neither kingdom, town, nor family can endure such self-destruction; no, nor an individual. There is, too, the further thought that Satan is more than a mere individual; that he is bound up with his kingdom, and his kingdom with him.

Matthew 12:26

And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then. The transposition in the Revised Version to how then shall brings out more distinctly the fact that then is not temporal, but argumentative (οὖν.). His kingdom stand? To De Wette's objection that Satan might perhaps do such a thing once so as to gain in other ways, Meyer answers that our Lord is referring to the practice of casting out devils, which, as such, is certainly directed against Satan.

Matthew 12:27, Matthew 12:28

Parallel passage: Luke 11:19, Luke 11:20, almost verbally identical.

Matthew 12:27

And (καί). Another stage in his argument. There is a further reason why they should hesitate before making such an accusation; their own disciples claimed to be able to cast out devils. If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children; sons (Revised Version); i.e. your pupils, who will carry on your work (cf. "sons of the prophets"). Cast them out? (cf. Matthew 4:24, note). For examples of such cases by others than professed followers of Christ, see Luke 9:49; Acts 19:13. Josephus also mentions some, but they are mere impostures; he says ('Ant.,' 8.2. 5), "Solomon left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they drive away demons, so that they never return, and this method of cure is of great force unto this day; for! have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal in the presence of Vespasian, and his sons, and his captains, and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the sure was this: he put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down immediately, he abjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed" (of. also Dr. Cheatham's article on "Exorcism," in 'Dict. of Christian Antiq.'). Therefore they. Emphatic (αὐτοί), and hence, presumably, the transposition in the Revised Version, shall they. Shall be your judges. Our Lord asks the preceding question, neither denying nor affirming for himself the fact that their disciples cast out devils, but only by way of argument. He implies, "You will answer that they do so by God's help. If so, then your sons shall be your judges, convicting you of insincerity. You acknowledge that they work miracles by God's help, and you do not acknowledge that I do. But you cannot stop short there. You must acknowledge that I also cast out devils by God's help."

Matthew 12:28

The argument continues: "But if this be so (I say nothing about your disciples, but speak only of my own works)—if I really cast out devils by God's help, this shows such a strange putting forth of God's strength that it can mean nothing else but the coming of the Messianic kingdom." Observe that this could not be affirmed from the success of the Pharisees' disciples, for with them expulsion of devils, even if it were real, was, as it were, accidental, standing in no close connexion with their work (cf. Matthew 7:22, note). Besides, they did not, as our Lord did, claim to be the Messiah, and to inaugurate the kingdom. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God; but if I by the Spirit of God, etc. (Revised Version). The chief emphasis lies on by the Spirit of God, and there is a secondary emphasis on J, as compared with "your sons." Observe the absence of the article in ἐν πνεύματι Θεοῦ; contrast Matthew 12:31, Matthew 12:32, and comp. Matthew 1:18, note. Luke has, "by the finger of God," a term used to designate God's power as put forth upon nature (Exodus 8:19; Exodus 31:18; cf. Psalms 8:3). Then. Little as you think it (ἄρα); cf. Luke 11:48. The kingdom of God. In contrast to Satan's kingdom (Luke 11:26). Is come (ἔφθασαεν: praevenit, Codex Brixianus; cf. Wordsworth and White's Vulgate). This may mean

(1) it has come sooner than you expected, it has got the start of you (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:15); or

(2) it has actually come as far as you, it has arrived. This latter sense seems to be more in accordance with Hellenistic usage (cf. Philippians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:16). Unto you; upon you (Revised Version), ἐφ ὑμᾶς.

Matthew 12:29

Parallel passages: Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21, Luke 11:22. Mark is practically identical with Matthew. Luke ("the strong man armed," etc.) is more detailed and vivid, and is perhaps the original form of the saying. Or else; or (Revised Version); i.e. if this be not the case, that the kingdom of God is come upon you, how else do you explain what has happened, the fact of Satan's instruments being taken from him? How can one enter into a strong man's house; the house of the strong man (Revised Version). (For the article, cf. Matthew 1:23, note.) And spoil (ἁρπάσαι) his goods. Carry off his household tools and utensils (τὰ σκεύη αὐτοῦ). Except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. This is more than merely the conclusion. It is an emphatic statement that tie will do this, yes, utterly plunder (διαρπάσει) the whole house. The interpretation of the parable is self-evident: the strong man is Satan; his vessels are those afflicted by him; the one who binds, etc., is Christ. For Christ's appearance and work, even before the Crucifixion and Resurrection, bound Satan in this respect. Observe that there is probably a tacit reference to Isaiah 49:25, which at any rate now received a fulfilment.

Matthew 12:30

Parallel passage: Luke 11:23, omitted in Mark. The aim of this verse is doubtful.

(1) It may be addressed to the Pharisees, with the object of showing them what their words really implied. They were not due, as some might think, to mere indifferentism or to a judicial neutrality; such a relation to him was impossible. They were due to opposition of inner life and of outward energy. Thus their words denoted complete separation from him. This he brings out more clearly in the two following verses.

(2) This interpretation, however, would attribute to the Pharisees too great an ignorance of their own feelings of opposition to Christ, and it is therefore best to understand the verse as addressed to the many bystanders. Christ has do-fended himself from the accusation brought against him, and now urges these waverers not to be content with only not opposing him, but to take sides—for, in fact, they cannot help doing so. Indifference in this case is only another name for opposition; not actively to help is really to hinder. Thus understood, the lesson of this verse finds its parallel in verses 43-45, by which, indeed, it is immediately followed in Luke. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. The first clause speaks of the inner disposition, that which forms the real being of the man; the second, of his energy. Observe that the figure of the second clause appears to be connected with that of verse 29. If Christ's property is not collected, it is driven further from him. Christ and Christians must gather (John 11:52; of. Bengel). For gathereth (συνάγων), cf. also Matthew 3:12; Matthew 13:30. In scattereth abroad (σκορπίζει) the thought almost leaves the simile of the σκεύη, and regards the persons signified. Notice that in John 11:52, referred to above, the two verbs συνάγειν and (δια) σκορπίζειν, also occur; the figure there, however, appears to be taken from sheep (cf. John 10:12). Further, Mark 9:40 and Luke 9:50 record the saying, "He that is not against us is for us," which was addressed to our Lord's disciples. Both sayings are necessary; earnest Christians need to remember that when outsiders do anything in Christ's name, it must, on the whole, forward his cause (Philippians 1:18); the undecided must face the fact that neutrality is impossible.

Matthew 12:31, Matthew 12:32

Parallel passages: Mark 3:28-30 and Luke 12:10 (where the context is not the same, he having passed straight from our Luke 12:30 to our Luke 12:43, vide infra). It is to be observed that all three accounts differ a good deal in form, though but slightly in substance.

The Apostolical Constitutions contain what is probably a mixture of these verses with 2 Peter 2:1 and other passages of the New Testament. Resch, in accordance with his theory, thinks that the Constitutions have preserved a genuine utterance of the Lord, of which only different fragments are presented in various parts of the New Testament.

A few words of introduction to these difficult verses. It has been strangely forgotten, in their interpretation, that our Lord spoke in language that he intended his hearers to understand, and that probably not a single one of those who stood by would understand by the expressions, ,, the Spirit" (verse 31), "the Holy Spirit" (verse 32), a Person in the Godhead distinct from the First Person or the Second (cf. Matthew 1:18, note). At most they would understand them to refer to an influence by God upon men (Psalms 51:11; cf. Luke 11:13), such as Christ had claimed to possess in a special degree (Luke 4:18). In inquiring, therefore, for an explanation of our Lord's sayings, we must not begin at the Trinitarian standpoint, and see in the words a contrast between "blasphemy" against one Person of the Trinity, and "blasphemy" against another. The contrast is between "blasphemy" against Christ as Son of man, Christ in his earthly work and under earthly conditions, the Christ whom they saw and whom they did not understand, and "blasphemy" against God as such working upon earth. "Blasphemy" against the former might be due to ignorance and prejudice, but "blasphemy" against the latter was to speak against God's work recognized as such, against God manifesting himself to their consciences (cf. verses 27, 28); it was to reject the counsel of God towards them, to set themselves up in opposition to God, and thus to exclude from themselves forgiveness. Just as under the Law there were sacrifices for sins of ignorance and minor offences, but none for wilful disregard of and opposition to God, so must it be at all times even under the gospel itself.

Observe that the "blasphemy" is understood by our Lord as showing the state of the heart (cf. Acts 7:51). What the effect of a change of heart, i.e. of repentance, would be does not enter into our Lord's utterance. All other sin is venial, but for heart-opposition there is no forgiveness. As Tyndale says, "Sin against the Holy Ghost is despising of the gospel and his working. Where that bideth is no remedy of sin: for it fighteth against faith, which is the forgiveness of sin. If that be put away, faith may enter in, and all sins depart." (Cf. also Dorner, ' System,' 3.73; 4.91.)

Matthew 12:31

Wherefore (διὰ τοῦτο). Referring primarily to Matthew 12:30, and to be joined closely to "I say unto you." Because such is the terrible effect of what you think mere indifferentism, I say this solemnly, Beware of committing the great sin. Luke's connexion of our verse 43 with verse 30 gives a good but a weaker sense—Become fully decided, lest the devil return to you stronger than ever. Matthew's connexion is—Become fully decided, for the legitimate outcome of want of decision is the sin that will not be forgiven. I say unto you (Matthew 6:25, note), All manner of; every (Revised Version); πᾶσα. Sin and blasphemy. Genus and species (Meyer). Blasphemy passes in this verse from its wider meaning of open slander and detraction in the first clause to its now commoner but restricted meaning of speech against God in the second clause. Shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost; the Spirit (Revised Version), thus making it more possible for the English reader to see the connexion of thought with the phrase in verse 28. Shall not be forgiven unto men. The words, unto men, must be omitted, with the Revised Version. They weaken a statement which in itself may apply to other beings than those that are on earth.

Matthew 12:32

Our Lord applies the general principle of Matthew 12:31 to "blasphemy" against himself. This might be, comparatively speaking, innocuous if it was merely defamation or detraction of him as man; but if, on the other hand, it referred to his work in such a way as to mean a real detraction of God's actions considered as Divine, it indicated a state of feeling which did not admit of forgiveness (vide supra). If it be asked whether the individual Pharisees referred to in Matthew 12:24-28 had committed this sin, the answer depends upon whether they had recognized the hand of God as such, and had, notwithstanding, wilfully rejected it. If they had—as our Lord's tone seems to imply—then they had in fact committed it. Yet they may afterwards have repented, and so have come under a different category. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man (Matthew 8:20, note); e.g. his birth, the circumstances of his life on earth, or his decisions respecting the sabbath or meats, or his disregard of the conventionalities of his time in his treatment of "sinners" anti publicans. All such things must have been included in those which St. Paul once blasphemed (1 Timothy 1:13). It shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh (such a word) against the Holy Ghost (the Holy Spirit, Revised Version), it shall not be forgiven him (οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται). The margin of Westcott and Hort, with the Vatican manuscript, represents it still more strongly (οὐ μὴ ἀφεθῇ). Neither in this world, neither in the world to come. "The age to come" (אבה מלועה) included all that followed the coming of Messiah. Sometimes it was restricted to, or practically identified with, the reign of Messiah upon earth, but usually it included much more—eternity as well as time. It is in its widest sense that our Lord here uses it—contrasting the present order of things with that which will be the final result of his coming, his thoughts travelling far beyond the present course of this world to that which is to be hereafter.

Matthew 12:33-37

You wonder that I make so much of words; words are not trivialities, but are really the legitimate and normal fruit of the heart, and therefore by them each man will be judged.

(1) Take your choice; half-heartedness is not enough (cf. Matthew 12:30); the fruit tells the nature of the tree (Matthew 12:33).

(2) Our Lord addresses the Pharisees directly, showing them their true character. They only speak according to their spiritual condition (Matthew 12:34).

(3) Man can only bring out what is already in his heart (Matthew 12:35).

(4) A solemn close, in which he applies the principle generally; for every idle word an account shall be given, since words are always the source of the verdict upon each man's case (Matthew 12:36, Matthew 12:37).

Matthew 12:33-35

Parallel passage: Luke 6:43-45 (cf. Matthew 7:16-18, notes).

Matthew 12:33

Either make (ἢ ποιήσατε). Not "suppose" (fac, pone), still less "declare," but "make." The Lord is speaking in a parable. You would not, surely, make a tree in any other way; it would be against nature; how then imagine it can be so in your own persons? Matthew 7:18 and Luke 6:43 state as a fact that the reverse case does not take place in nature. The tree good, and his fruit good (i.e. one if the other); or else make the tree corrupt (Matthew 7:17, note), and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. "By his own fruit" (Luke).

Matthew 12:34

The first clause is in Matthew only. O generation (ye offspring, Revised Version) of vipers (Matthew 3:7, note). Observe that the figure of the tree had also been used by the Baptist (Matthew 3:10). How can ye. It is against nature. Being evil; i.e. inherently worthless (Matthew 6:13, note); cf. πονηροὶ ὄντες, Matthew 7:11. Speak good things. For out of the abundance; i.e. even to overflowing. Of the heart the mouth speaketh. In Ephesians 4:29 there is apparently a reminiscence of this saying in connexion with our verse 33 (cf. also James 3:10-12).

Matthew 12:35

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart; out of his good treasure (Revised Version), of the heart being added in the Received Text from Luke 6:45. Treasure (Matthew 2:11, note). "Vere thesaurus est in quovis heroine, et copia latens" (Bengel); of. also Matthew 13:52. Bringeth forth good things: and an (the, Revised Version) evil man out of the (his, Revised Version) evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. Bringeth forth (ἐκβάλλει, but Luke προφέρει). Matthew regards the receptacle from which, Luke the outer world into which, the things are brought.

Matthew 12:36, Matthew 12:37

Matthew only.

Matthew 12:36

But (δέ); and (Revised Version). The adversative particle hints at the contrast of Matthew 12:35 to their ordinary ideas about the importance of words. I say unto you, That every idle (ἀργόν); i.e. effecting nothing, morally useless; 2 Peter 1:8 (cf. καταργεῖ, Luke 13:7). Word (ῥῆμα); see verse 37, note. That men shall speak, they shall give account thereof (ἀποδώσουσι λόγον: cf. 1 Peter 4:5) in the day of judgment (Matthew 10:15, note).

Matthew 12:37

For by (ἐκ)—referring to, as it were, the source of the verdict—thy words (τῶν λόγοι σου); thy, individualizing. Ob-nerve the change from ῥῆμα (Matthew 12:36), which might in itself refer to the utterance of a madman, or to a parrot-like quotation. But by here using λόγοι our Lord shows that he is thinking of utterances of the reason. sentences spoken with a knowledge of their meaning, and forming parts of what are virtually, though not literally, discourses. A ῥῆμα may be the merely mechanical utterance of the lips, λόγοι imply consciousness. The presence of λόγον in the preceding clause is probably entirely accidental. Thou shalt be justified (Matthew 11:19, note)—'Quid enim aliud sermones sancti quam tides sonans" (Calovius, in Meyer)—and by thy words thou shalt be condemned (Matthew 12:7, note).

Matthew 12:38-42

Before entering on this difficult passage, it seems necessary to make some preliminary observations.

(1) Luke 11:29-32 is the recognized parallel.

(2) According to Luke 11:16, our Lord had been already asked for a sign, in what would be the middle of our preceding discussion, i.e. between the accusation by the Pharisees (our Luke 11:24) and the Lord's answer to it (our Luke 11:25, sqq.). This shows that either the demand was in fact made at some time during this discussion, or at least that it was such a demand as our Lord's opponents were likely to make when they were hard pressed, and such as they did in fact make on a somewhat similar occasion. Notice that in Luke 11:16 it is expressly attributed to others than those who had brought the accusation.

(3) Very similar verses are found in Matthew 16:1-4; Luke 11:16 agrees more verbally with the demand as described there than with our Luke 11:38.

(4) Thus Mark and Luke relate such an incident once, but Matthew twice.

(5) The four passages contain so much similarity of language that we cannot suppose them to be absolutely independent of each other.

(6) Hence two hypotheses present themselves:

(a) The demand was made twice (in itself exceedingly probable), and our Lord's answers were to a great extent identical in substance (in itself not very probable), and when identical in substance were closely identical in language (distinctly less probable). Or perhaps we might suppose that this identity of language was rather due to the narrator than to our Lord himself; familiarity with one answer may in the curly Church have moulded the record of the other.

(b) The demand and tile answer, as recorded, refer to one and the same occasion. But the account existed in more than one of the sources used by St. Matthew, and as each form of it had its own peculiarities, he retained them both. Anyhow, Matthew 16:1-4 seems to have belonged to the Framework, and our passage to the Discourses.

(7) It will be noticed that all the passages except Mark 8:11-13 speak of "the sign of Jonah." How was Jonah a sign? Our verse 40 seems to answer the question, and to say that it was by being in the whale's belly three days and three nights. But there are serious difficulties in accepting this view as finally and alone right. For in Matthew 16:4 no explanation at all is recorded (though, indeed, it might be urged that the evangelist might fairly expect his readers to remember our verse 40), and in Luke 11:30 apparently a different explanation is found, "for even as Jonah became a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation"—words which, taken alone, would seem to refer to Jonah being a sign by the mere fact of his preaching. Thus our Lord would mean—As Jonah preached, so I preach. The future is used in Luke 11:30 (ἔσται), as bringing out more clearly than the present would have done the final relation in which Christ should stand to his contemporaries. Godet, indeed, urges that the future excludes any present reference to Christ's work as preaching, and that the demand for a sign from heaven (Luke 11:16) can only be fully satisfied by Christ's resurrection, "in which no human agency intervenes, and in which Divine power appears alone." He, therefore, makes Luke's meaning identical with that of our verse 40, and paraphrases thus: "It was as one who had miraculously escaped from death that Jonas presented himself before the Ninevites, summoning them to anticipate the danger which threatened them; it is as the Risen One that I (by my messengers) shall proclaim salvation to the men of this generation." But this would almost assume that Jonah told the Ninevites of his miraculous escape, though there is not a hint of his having done so. On the contrary, Jonah 3:4, sqq., implies that the call to repentance on the basis of punishment threatened was the sole and only means employed by the prophet to accomplish his mission. Jonah the preacher became, by virtue of his preaching, a sign to the Ninevites (for, quite apart from his miraculous preservation, his appearance in Nineveh and his preaching there were no small portent and sign of Divine interest in the Ninevites' affairs), and they accepted him. Matthew's addition, "the prophet," emphasizes this thought, even though he passes on to give what appears to have been the Lord's secondary interpretation of the sign of Jonah.

Christ's primary object, then, in his reply was to show to his opponents that heathen Ninevites and a heathen queen accepted the truth without any such sign as that which they were now demanding, and, if possible, to shame them into doing so. Thus verse 40 is to be considered as parenthetical rather than as the main subject.

It has, indeed, been suggested that verse 40 was in fact not spoken at all by the Lord himself, but is only the result of a very early interpretation by the Hebrew Christians of our Lord's phrase, added before the formation of our Gospel. The explanation is tempting, but, in the entire absence of corroboration, cannot be accepted (cf. note there). So far as our present evidence goes, we must attribute verse 40 to Christ, and consider that as he was mentioning the reception of Jonah by the Ninevites, the thought occurred to him that in Jonah's history lay as it were a prefigurement of what he himself would be. Just as on another occasion he illustrated his death and resurrection by the figure of destroying and building the temple (John 2:18, John 2:19), so now he uses the figure of Jonah in the whale's belly.

(8) This is not the place to enter upon a discussion of the question whether the event here referred to literally happened or not, much less to examine the deep and mysterious subject of the Lord's kenosis (Philippians 2:7). But it should be observed that some at least of those critics who do not believe that the narrative of Jonah being in the whale's belly is to be understood literally, consider that his preaching to the Ninevites at all is equally metaphorical, so that not only verse 40 but verse 41 and Luke 11:32 are affected, and that indeed more seriously, since the Lord says that the Ninevites will stand up as witnesses. The reasons for taking the narrative as only metaphorical are far from convincing, yet even if they were overwhelming, the illustration in Luke 11:40 (though not Luke 11:41) would still remain valid, just as (with all reverence be it spoken) any one to-day might illustrate his action from that of one of Shakespeare's characters whose historical existence is more than doubtful. While, however, the frequency of the allegorical and pictorial in Hebrew poetry and prophecy must be fully allowed for, there seems to be no strong reason (apart from the miracle) to doubt the historical character of the narrative. Further, as to the miracle, Jonah 1:17; Jonah 2:10 are so closely connected with Jonah 1:1-17., Jonah 1:3., and 4., that it is best to understand the writer as intending to represent it (marvellous though it is) as literal history.

Matthew 12:38-45

Some of our Lord's opponents try to defend themselves by asking for a sign of his authority to claim so much; e.g. Matthew 12:30 (Matthew 12:38). In his reply he refers them to their own histories for proof that such a demand is inexcusable. The Ninevites did not require one when Jonah became a sign to them—and in mentioning Jonah he refers to his being in the whale's belly three days and three nights as a symbol of what should happen to himself—and "the queen of the south" took immense trouble to satisfy her craving after wisdom (verss 39-42). Therefore let them beware; their present state was one of extreme danger; the improvement that they showed was only negative, and if they did not take care worse would happen to them in the future than in the past (verses 43-45).

Matthew 12:38

Then certain. The demand is only made by a portion of those present, who, according to Luke 11:16, were not the same as those who spoke our Luke 11:24. Of the scribes and of the (Revised Version omits the) Pharisees. They are represented as forming but one party (Matthew 5:20, note). Answered (him, Revised Version, with the manuscripts). It is worth noticing that the insertion of the pronoun makes the passage more like Matthew 16:1 and parallels. Saying, Master (διδάσκαλε); Matthew 8:19, note. Only in this place is their request given verbally. We would see (Θέλομεν... ἰδεῖν). Observe that their language is rather brusque; they express their own wish regardless of him. But they may have intended it only as a plain statement of the difficulty they felt in believing him. They wished to see a sign first. A sign. More than a miracle of healing, however wonderful; they desired, as expressly said in Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16, a sign from heaven, presumably some portent in the sky, which should be a sign of his mission (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:22; John 4:48). From thee; i.e. happening, not accidentally, but at thy command.

Matthew 12:39

Of the passages mentioned in the introductory note on Matthew 12:38-42, Matthew 16:4 is verbally identical with the answer of our present verse, except the omission of the words, "the prophet," which occur nowhere else but in this passage. But he answered and said to them, An evil (πονηρά, Matthew 6:13, note) and adulterous generation. However frequent the sin of adultery may then have been, the common metaphorical sense of spiritual unfaithfulness to God and the practical worship of some other than Jehovah seems the more probable here (cf. James 4:4; Revelation 2:20-23). Seeketh after (ἐπιζητεῖ); Matthew 6:32. A sign; but there shall no sign be given to it. In Mark 8:12 our Lord's reply ends here. But the sign of the Prophet Jonas; Jonah the prophet (Revised Version). In Matthew 16:4 and Luke 11:29 "the prophet" has been added in the Received Text.

Matthew 12:40

Matthew only. For as Jonas (Jonah, Revised Version) was three days and three nights in the whale's belly. Verbally from the LXX. of Jonah 1:17 (Jonah 2:1). So shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Since, so far as the balance of evidence goes, the Crucifixion was on Friday and the Resurrection on Sunday, the actual time between them was only one clear day and two parts of days (which might fairly be called three days) and two whole nights. The reckoning, therefore, here is, strictly speaking, inaccurate. The words are perhaps a mere adaptation of the phrase in Jonah, and are here used only to roughly mark the time of our Lord's stay in the grave. Observe, however, that the addition of" nights" tends to emphasize the reality of our Lord's stay there. It was a matter of days and nights; he spent both kinds of earthly time "in the heart of the earth" (cf. Matthew 4:2, note). It will be noticed that the inaccuracy of the wording would, if modern Western habits were alone to be considered, make it most unlikely that the phrase is a later addition; but in view of the early Christian and Jewish method of illustrating events by passages of Scripture which do not apply in all respects, the improbability is not so great as would at first sight appear. However, upon our present information, we must say that the phrase was spoken by our Lord himself, and that although the exact time of his stay in the grave was well known to the early believers, they continued to repeat the saying in the form in which the Lord left it. In the heart of the earth. The form of the expression is derived from Jonah 2:3 (4), "in the heart of the seas" (cf. Exodus 15:8), and would therefore appear to mean some deeper place than the rock-hewn sepulchre. Hence many commentators, beginning with Irenaeus ('Adv. Haer.,' V. 31.) and Tertullian ('De Anima,' IV.), understand it as directly denoting the place of departed spirits. Ephesians 4:9 ("the lower parts of the earth"), on the contrary, probably refers to the earth as such in contrast to heaven.

Matthew 12:41

Verbally identical with Luke 11:32. The men of Nineveh (ἄνδρες Νινευῖται). No article, because the evangelist desired to call attention to the character of the Ninevites. The men of Nineveh, heathen though they were, shall do this. Ἄνδρες (not ἄνθρωποι); hardly because of the approaching mention of a woman (cf. Luke 11:31), but because the men in the city would naturally take the lead, and not the women. So also in the LXX. of Jonah 3:5 (contrast Jonah 3:7, of the population generally). Shall rise in judgment; shall stand up in the judgment (Revised Version); i.e. shall stand up as witnesses in the final judgment (Luke 10:14). With this generation; i.e. present before the judgment-seat with them, for what purpose is shown by the following words (cf. Winer, § 47, h). And shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas (Jonah 3:5, sqq.). Observe that this was without miracles or signs being wrought. At (εἰς). Marking the direction of their faith (Romans 4:20). And, behold, a greater than—"Gr. more than"—Jonas is here (Jonah 3:6, note).

Matthew 12:42

Almost verbally identical with Luke 11:31. The queen of the south (βασίλισσα νότου, anarthrous; Luke 11:41, note). The south here doubtless represents part of Arabia Felix (see Dr. Lumby, on 1 Kings 10:1). Shall rise up. Does ἐγερθήσεται here imply more effort than ἀναστήσονται (Luke 11:41)? This would at least be consistent with the energy which the mention of the Queen of Sheba always suggests. In the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts (the ends, Revised Version) of the earth. Observe the contrast; the message was brought to the Ninevites in their own homes. She marks a higher stage of inquiry and faith. To hear the wisdom of Solomon; i.e. not out of mere curiosity to see him. And, behold, a greater than Solomon is here (Luke 11:41, note). Observe that Christ claims for himself superiority to the one prophet that was listened to by a Gentile nation, and to the one king whose wisdom drew an inquirer from "the ends of the earth." Rightly; for the claim is confirmed by history; the Gospels have had greater influence than all the Prophets, both "former" and "later," and than all the Hekmah literature. Jesus of Nazareth has drawn all men unto him (John 12:32; cf. John 19:0).

Matthew 12:43-45

Parallel passage: Luke 11:24-26, almost verbally, but omitting the application at the end of our Luke 11:45. A solemn warning against a merely negative improvement. External preparation, mechanical religion, is insufficient; a definite acceptance of my teaching is required. Our Lord's primary thought Would appear to be the relation in which those to whom he was speaking stood to himself. But he frames his words so as to include the whole of that generation of Jews (Luke 11:39, Luke 11:45) For his present hearers truly represented their contemporaries.


(1) the close of this discourse resembles that of the sermon on the mount;

(2) the connexion of thought is the same in Luke, though there the passage comes immediately after our verse 30; i.e. if you are not with me you are really against me; you are only swept and garnished, and the evil spirit returns.

Matthew 12:43

When; but when (Revised Version); ὅταν δέ. St. Matthew does not bring this forward as a separate utterance; he wishes the connexion between it and the preceding to be seen. There is a contrast between the behaviour of the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba, and that of the Jews. The unclean spirit (Matthew 10:1, note) is gone out of a (the, Revised Version) man (τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου). The first article is inserted for the sake of vividness; the second points back to the spirit; he leaves the man in whom he had dwelt. The two together make the saying parabolic instead of abstract. He walketh; passeth (Revised Version); διέρχεται. Perhaps merely "goes through," with the connotation of distance traversed (John 4:15; Acts 9:38), but probably "goes about," i.e. to different spots (cf. Luke 9:6; Acts 8:4, Acts 8:40; Acts 20:25, and so of a rumour being spread abroad, Luke 5:15), in restless wandering. Through dry (waterless, Revised Version; δι ἀνύδρων) places. Which supplied nothing wherewith he might refresh himself (Psalms 63:1), and which would, of course, have no houses (Psalms 107:4-7, Psalms 107:33-36). Seeking rest (Matthew 11:28, Matthew 11:29, notes), and findeth none; and findeth it not (Revised Version).

Matthew 12:44

Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out. In the true text the emphasis lies on the words, "into my house;" i.e. the place that I have found so comfortable before, where I was so thoroughly at home; which, in fact, is still mine. Observe the curious parallel to Matthew 10:25. The Jews had called Christ Beelzebub absolutely without reason, but in their own ease it was only too possible that they had an unclean spirit as "master of the house." And when he is come, he findeth it empty, unoccupied (σχολάζοντα). Swept; "cleansed with besoms" (Wickliffe); σεσαρωμένον. And garnished; "made fair" (Wickliffe); καὶ κεκοσμημένον. It had no tenant, but it was fully prepared for one; all the rubbish had been removed, and suitable preparations been made.

Matthew 12:45

Then. On seeing that this is the case (cf Matthew 3:5, note). Goeth he (πορεύεται). Part of the figure; the others would not be far off. And taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked (evil, πονηρότερα) than himself. Christ emphasizes the force and the malignity of a spiritual relapse. And they enter in. Into the heart, and thence into the whole body and soul. And dwell there. Permanently. And the last state of that man is worse than the first. Our Lord's words are apparently quoted in 2 Peter 2:20. Observe that the idea of pollution is found there as well as here. (For the form of the expression, comp. also Matthew 27:64.) Is; becometh (Revised Version), as the result. Even so shall it be, This is more than a warning; it is a verdict. Also unto this wicked generation. Observe Christ's solemn addition of "wicked"

The opposition that our Lord met with from his relations. He shows that not natural but spiritual relationship is all-important. Parallel passages: Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21. The section belonged originally to the Framework.

Matthew 12:46

While he yet talked; while he was yet speaking (Revised Version); i.e. on the occasion which formed the basis of the preceding discourse (Matthew 12:22-45). To the people; to the multitudes (Revised Version). Behold, his mother and his brethren (Matthew 13:55) stood without (so that he was in a house), desiring (seeking, Revised Version, ζητοῦντες, they evidently made attempts) to speak with him.

Matthew 12:47

Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. The verse is omitted by the Sinaitic manuscript (original hand), the Vatican, and a few others; also by the Old Syriac and some manuscripts of the Old Latin Version. It is clearly an insertion to bridge over the "seeking" of Matthew 12:46 and "him that told him" of Matthew 12:48.

Matthew 12:48

But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? Who are they who are such in the truest sense?—they for whom I must therefore primarily care?

Matthew 12:49

And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples. One of the very few signs of an eye-witness in sentences peculiar to the First Gospel. And said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

Matthew 12:50

For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same (he, Revised Version; αὐτός: Matthew 1:21, note) is my brother, and sister, and mother. He is fall; he sums up in himself all such relations. Observe that our Lord does not raise the question whether or not his mother and brethren now believed on him. He is only speaking of the claims of relationship as such. From Mark 3:21, however (which seems to refer to the same occasion), we may conclude that the motive for this endeavour to interrupt him lay in unbelief. If so, Mary was either unaware of this or had herself been over-persuaded into momentary impatience (John 2:3) and distrust. If the latter alternative be adopted, she forms a parallel to the Baptist (Matthew 11:3, note).


Matthew 12:1-14

Christ the Lord of the sabbath.


1. The accusation of the Pharisees. The Lord's disciples were hungry; they gathered the ears of corn. This was allowed by the Law (Deuteronomy 23:25). But it was the sabbath day, and there were Pharisees in attendance, some of them rulers of the neighbouring synagogue, some perhaps spies, sent from Jerusalem to watch our Lord. After the healing of the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, the leading Pharisees at Jerusalem had resolved to take an opportunity of compassing the death of Jesus; and from that time their emissaries appear to have dogged his steps wherever he went. They watched him everywhere—in the corn-fields and in the synagogues; in Galilee and in Persea. And now they accused the disciples. It was a profanation of the sabbath, they said; to gather the ears and rub them in the hands was equivalent to reaping and threshing; and that was forbidden on pain of death.

2. The Lord's answer. They insisted on their traditions; he referred them to the Scriptures.

(1) They condemned the disciples; but David, their great saint and hero, had eaten the shewbread when he and his men were hungry. The disciples had transgressed the Law only by implication; David had done so directly. The sufficient excuse in both cases was the same—hunger. The Law of God is merciful; it does not forbid works of necessity on the sabbath day.

(2) Again, every sabbath day the priests changed the shewbread, and offered double sacrifices; yet they were blameless. The strict rules of sabbath observance were set aside for the sake of the temple service. But there was One greater than the temple, One who was himself, in the highest sense of the word, the true Temple of God, for "in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." His disciples, hungry while in attendance on their Lord, were as guiltless as the priests engaged in their temple duties.

3. The error of the Pharisees. It was the common error of formalists and hypocrites. They cared more for the letter of the Law than for the spirit, more for the outward ordinance than for the spiritual principle which is embodied in the ordinance. The Lord refers them again to that deep saying of the Prophet Hosea, which he had already quoted (Matthew 9:13), when they blamed him for eating with publicans and sinners. Then he bade them go and learn its spiritual meaning. They had not done so; they were as ignorant as ever; well read in the letter of the Scriptures, but utterly ignorant of those great and holy truths which are often bidden from the wise and prudent, but by the grace of God revealed unto babes. They transposed the Divine order of things; they put the letter above the spirit, outward forms above the inner worship of the heart, sacrifice above mercy. They came to Christ, but it was to vex and persecute him, to mis-interpret his words, to find opportunity to kill him; not to learn those holy lessons which he teaches to his true disciples. Guilty themselves, they condemned the guiltless. Mercy is better than sacrifice. Sacrifice is good, but mercy is better. It is good to observe all the outward ordinances of religion; they are precious helps, ordained of God. But they cease to be good if we forget that they are only helps; if we trust in them while we break the higher law of charity. To condemn the guiltless is a grievous sin; to speak evil of our neighbours, especially of those who are following Christ in sincerity, though they may perhaps differ from us in many things, is a crime in the sight of God. To come to God's house with uncharitable intentions, to spy, to find fault, to misrepresent, is the sin of the Pharisees, for which the Lord rebuked them.

4. The Lord's authority. The Son of man, he said, is Lord even of the sabbath day. The Pharisees exalted the sabbath in a way which destroyed its real meaning. The sabbath was made for man; for his spiritual necessities; for rest from worldly labour, that he might give himself to worship and to the care of his soul. The salvation of man was of infinitely greater importance than the outward observance of the sabbath. That was the great end; the sabbath was one of the appointed means; it was made for man, not man for the sabbath. The Son of man, the Representative of humanity, the Son of God, who had become the Son of man for man's peace and salvation, was, Lord of the sabbath. He might put aside the traditions of the Pharisees, their rigorous formalisms, for the sake of suffering humanity. He is Lord over the ordinances of the sabbath day. Those ordinances belonged to the ceremonial law; they were a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:16, Colossians 2:17), a preparatory discipline. "In this," says Stier, "Christ has shown himself to be Lord of the sabbath for his Church, for the new humanity in him; that he has changed the day from the end of the old-world week, which passed away for ever with the still sabbath of his grave, to the beginning, with which an entirely new state of things commenced; and thus has made the day peculiarly his own, the Lord's day, and has united to the remembrance of the first creation, whose sabbath was broken and rendered servile by sin, the praise of the new creation, effected by him who became a Son of man for man's sake."


1. The question of the Pharisees. Another sabbath had come (Luke 6:6), and the Lord, as he was wont, attended the synagogue-worship. It was their synagogue; those very men who had been dogging his steps, who had so lately accused his disciples, were its rulers and eiders. The Lord was not like some men nowadays, who absent themselves from church because they have, or fancy they have, some quarrel with the minister. The church is the house of God; we go there to worship God. No earthly motives should be allowed to keep us from it, or to influence our thoughts when we are there. In the congregation on that day was a man with a withered hand; it hung useless by his side. The Pharisees pointed him out to Christ, not in sympathy for the poor man, but in hatred of the Lord. Their hearts were full of malice. In the very house of God, on the sabbath which they affected to vindicate, they sought to ensnare to his destruction One who had done nought but good. "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?" they asked him, seeking not instruction, but an opportunity of accusing the holy Saviour. Blinded as they were by their malice, they did not understand that no profanation of the sabbath is worse in the sight of God than evil thoughts, malicious designs; no crime could be darker than to try to compass the death of One most holy, most merciful, and the among sacred associations, on the day which God had hallowed.

2. The answer. The Lord answers, as he did so often, one question by another. Would they not save a sheep from danger on the sabbath day? and if a sheep, how much more a man? He lifts the question at once into a higher sphere. He will not argue it on the basis of mere formalism; he will not dispute, as it seems the Jews did afterwards, whether the sheep might be lifted from the pit, or only helped to get out by means of planks. He goes at once to the principle, "It is lawful to do well on the sabbath days." Not to do good. when it lies in our power is to do evil (Mark 3:4), therefore it is not only lawful, but sometimes it is our bounden duty to do works of mercy on the sabbath day.

3. The miracle. The Lord was grieved, St. Mark tells us, with the hardness of their hearts. He looked round about on them with anger. It was anger against the sin, grief for the sinners. He would have saved those scribes and Pharisees; he would have won their hearts. But they were stiffened into hardness by their miserable formalism; they would not come to him that they might have life. He was grieved. He is grieved when we sin—grieved for us, for our folly, for our danger. He looked round about on them with anger. He does so now when men cherish evil thoughts in the house of God. He is present; he reads the secrets of the hearts. Oh, what a scene would there be if the hearts of a congregation were open to the eyes of men, as they are open to the searching eye of Christ! But there was a work of mercy to be done. "He saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth." He believed the word of the Lord; he willed to stretch forth the withered hand. The muscles, helpless before, obeyed the mandate of the will; his hand was restored whole, like as the other. So if we, in trustful faith, will to come after Christ, he will give us strength to stretch forth the hand, to take up the daily cross of self denial, and to follow him. The strength is his, he giveth it; he asks us only for faith. "Only believe," he saith; "all things are possible to him that believeth."

4. Its effect upon the Pharisees. "They were filled with madness," St. Luke says (Luke 6:11); the Greek word means rather "wicked folly" (see Bishop Ellicott, on 2 Timothy 3:9); and they took counsel against him, how they might destroy him. He had shamed them, he had put them to silence; and yet he had done nothing which could be made a ground of accusation against him. There is no wrath fiercer than that of baffled malice. The Lord's anger was righteous, mingled with grief. Theirs was impious, Satanic; for the hatred of goodness is the very character of the evil one. They were blinded by this angry and wicked stupidity to such a degree that they joined with the Herodians, the party to which they were diametrically opposed, to compass the death of Christ. Worldly and wicked men hate goodness; it is a reproach to them. The contrast makes their character appear all the darker; they will combine against it, and lay aside for a time their jealousies and enmities to effect its downfall. But the Lord reigneth.


1. Remember that the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life; do not exalt the letter above the spirit.

2. Fear to profane God's holy day by unholy thoughts and words; he seeth the heart.

3. Believe in his Word; stretch forth the hand of faith; he giveth strength.

Matthew 12:15-21

The patience of Christ.


1. Its reason. It was not fear; his hour was not yet come. He fled, it has been said, not only from his enemies, but for them. He would not bring upon them the guilt of his death; he would give them time, "yet another year;" he would try what could be done by patience and gentleness and self-denying love. He would not stimulate their malice by remaining m their neighbourhood. When men are heated in disputes and controversies, it is best sometimes to retire. Persistence may stir up wrath all the more, and perhaps increase the sin of those who are arguing on the wrong side, influenced by party spirit, or, it may be, by evil motives.

2. Its occupation. The Lord could not be alone. The Pharisees hated him; but great multitudes followed him still. Some sought his teaching; some sought his mercy. He listened, as he ever did, to the cry of pain and sorrow; he healed all that had need of healing. The opposition of his enemies did not dishearten him; it did not turn him aside from his works of love. Good men are sometimes very much cast down by opposition. They lose heart; they sink into melancholy, as Elijah did; they think that their life has been wasted; they can work no longer. It was not so with the Lord Christ. He retired, but it was to another field of labour. His servants must never give way to despondency; it implies distrustfulness, doubt of their Lord.

3. Its privacy. He charged the multitude that they should not make him known. He was content that his holy deeds of Divine love should remain unknown; he was willing to work on in obscurity. He did not seek the praise of men; he sought only to save souls. So his servants should be willing to work either in private or in public, either in remote corners or before the eyes of men, wherever it may please God to set them. But everywhere alike, in the little village or in the great city, they must seek only his glory; not human praise, earthly reputation.


1. The servant of Jehovah. Isaiah had prophesied of the Messiah, and now the same God who had inspired the prophet was bringing to pass the prophecy. The Lord Christ came to fulfil the Law and the prophets; the details of his blessed life were so ordered as to bring about that great end, to fulfil all that had been written of him. The prophecy came from God; the fulfilment also was regulated by his overruling providence. Isaiah, the evangelical prophet, had faithfully portrayed the character of the Christ. tie was to be the Servant of Jehovah. "I came," he said, "not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me;" "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." He was the Servant of whom Isaiah prophesied; he was the Beloved, the Elect of God, for it pleased the Father by him to reconcile all things unto himself. At his baptism the voice from heaven proclaimed that in him the Father was well pleased; then he was anointed with the Holy Spirit, and consecrated for his Divine mission. He would proclaim judgment to the Gentiles, when he would send his apostles into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature. Such was the prophet's description of the Servant of Jehovah, and such was Jesus the Christ.

2. His quietness. "He shall not strive." It was even now fulfilled; he had withdrawn from strife. He loved not strife. His disciples must learn of him; they must avoid, as far as lieth in them, angry disputes and the heated atmosphere of controversy. "He shall not cry." His preaching was not noisy or violent; it was calm, quiet, dignified. He delighted not in uproar and excitement, but in quiet communion with God. His disciples differ from one another; they present different aspects of the Christian character; "the Holy Spirit divideth to every man severally as he will;" but we may say that a holy calmness is generally one of the characteristic marks of the most advanced followers of Christ.

3. His gentleness.

(1) "A bruised reed shall he not break." There were many bruised reeds then among those who sought his help; there are many such among his disciples now—weak, trembling Christians with little strength, bowed down with sorrow, bruised by many a trial, by many temptations, and, it may be, by many weak concessions to the tempter. He wilt not break them; they are fearful, trembling, full of anxious doubts. He is gentle exceedingly; such should his servants be.

(2) "Smoking flax shall he not quench." He will not despise the least spark of spiritual life. The flax may burn dimly, very dimly; but if it burn at all, there is hope. If there is any tenderness of conscience, any sense of sin, any yearning after God, however feeble and intermittent, there is the possibility of conversion, of sanctification, even of saintliness. He will not quench the smoking flax; nay, he will fan it into a bright, clear flame. He will not by harshness or sternness check the faintest aspirations after holiness; he will deepen, strengthen, guide them by the influence of his Holy Spirit. For it was to save our souls that he came down from heaven and gave himself to die; therefore every human soul is precious exceedingly in the sight of the Lord. He will not lightly lose that which he prized so highly; he will cherish the slightest flickering of the flame of life in the weak, dying soul. Then quench not the Spirit; quench it not in thyself by sin or by despondency; quench it not in others by harshness or contempt. Listen to the softest whisper of the blessed Spirit of God. Listen like Samuel; it will fill thy whole being with its pervading influence. But if, like Saul, thou persist in disobedience, the end at last must be like the end of Saul—"the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him."

4. His success at last. This quiet gentleness will result in victory. He will persevere, winning souls, one by one, by the soft holy influence of his constraining love. "He shall not fail, nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth" (Isaiah 42:4); "He shall bring forth judgment unto truth;" he shall at length be recognized as King and Judge. His judicial decision between right and wrong, his rule of holiness, shall at last prevail. It will be the victory of truth and righteousness; and that not only in the Holy Land, among the chosen people. "In his Name shall the Gentiles hope." "The isles shall wait for his law." "They shall wait, and not wait in vain; for he is the Saviour of all men—a Light to lighten the Gentiles." He will send forth his holy Law, the Divine Law of love, to draw all men to himself by the attractive power of his cross. Such is the picture which the prophet draws of the Christ—a picture in which we see the strength of gentleness, the majesty of love. These are the weapons by which the Saviour overcometh the world. His disciples must learn of him. "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." Gentleness and Christian love win more hearts than sternness and severity.


1. Study the prophecies of the Old Testament, they give us precious views of the Messiah's character and teaching.

2. He was the Servant of Jehovah; we are his servants; we should strive to do his will, as he ever did the will of the Father.

3. Imitate his quietness; shun violence and party spirit; cherish a holy quiet in the soul.

4. Be gentle like the Lord, kind to the weak and fearful; great is the strength of gentleness.

Matthew 12:22-37

The blasphemy of the Pharisees.


1. The demoniac. The poor man was blind and dumb, and that not from natural causes, but by the cruel agency of an evil spirit. Like the dumb man (Matthew 9:32), he was brought to Christ. He was helpless; he could not see his way; he could not express his wants. The Lord healed him at once; he both spake and saw. We must do our part to bring the helpless to the Lord. There are many, alas! whose eyes the God of this world has blinded, who know not how to pray. It is a good and holy deed to show the way to Christ, to help the helpless, to guide them to the Lord. He can open the lips of the dumb; he can give sight to the blind; he can drive away the evil spirit that keeps the sinner from his Saviour. His arm is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.

2. The wonder of the people. They were astonished at the Lord's power; they said, "Is this the Son of David?" They felt in their hearts that these mighty works were the signs of the Messiah, the proper works of the Christ. They were ready to believe.


1. The envy of the Pharisees. The people were on the point of recognizing Jesus as the Messiah; the Pharisees interfered. The miracle filled the crowd with admiration; it filled the Pharisees with anger and malignity. God's grace hardens those whom it does not save. The very cross is a savour of death unto death to the impenitent. Good men love goodness; evil men hate it.

2. The charge of complicity with Satan. They could not deny the fact of the miracle; in their wicked jealousy they attributed it to the help of Satan. Once before they had said the same thing privately amongst themselves (Matthew 9:34); now they said it openly to prevent the people from owning the Messiahship of Jesus. "Yes," they said, "he casts out devils; but it is through the power of the devil, in union with him." Oh, what an evil thing is jealousy, it vents its spite upon the best and holiest! How lovely is that charity which thinketh no evil, which rejoiceth in the truth!


1. His knowledge. He knew their thoughts. Indeed, they had not only conceived the wicked thought; they had uttered it. But it seems they had not spoken in the Lord's hearing; they had disseminated their falsehoods among the crowd. But he read their thoughts. He reads the envious, unloving thoughts which, alas! dwell sometimes in our hearts. We are ashamed of them, we would not utter them to our nearest friends; but they are known to the Lord. Reverence his presence; strive to entertain no thought displeasing to him.

2. His wisdom. He refers his adversaries to principles which they could not deny. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. The existence of political parties, as we see them now, is not an unmixed evil; they balance one another; they check one another's excesses. But when they stand opposed in the fierceness of civil war, then the kingdom cannot stand. So there may be anarchy in the kingdom of Satan; it is the kingdom of burning hatred, of envy, of malice; but, like the Pharisees and the Herodians, like Pilate and Herod, it is united against the kingdom of God. The dreaded presence of the Holy One of God gave unity to the hosts of Satan. They were banded together in one in their intense opposition to the Saviour. Satan would not cast out Satan when Christ was at hand: "The serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field." Satan had too much wisdom in his wickedness to weaken himself when his power was beginning to wane before the majesty of the Son of God. Union is strength, division is weakness. Oh that the children of light could learn a lesson from the enemy, and be reunited in one faith and love in the face of the impending struggle with scepticism and unbelief!

3. His argumentum ad hominem. The disciples of the Pharisees practised certain forms of exorcism; they professed to cast out evil spirits. Did they do it by the aid of Beelzebub? They were not punished; on the contrary, they were held. in esteem. Why should Christ's miracles be attributed to the agency of Satan, when others, not holy as he was, professed to have the power of casting out devils, and yet were not supposed to be in confederation with the prince of darkness? To say the least, it would be only fair that the actions of Jesus should be judged by the same rule as those of these Jewish exorcists. How unfair people are! How constantly they judge themselves and their friends by one rule, those from whom they differ by another! The Christian must aim at absolute honesty and impartiality.

4. The true explanation of his power. He used none of the strange forms practised by the exorcists, none of the appliances and manipulations which were employed either to impress the patient or to collect the energy of the operator. He simply spoke the word of power. He cast out devils by an energy contrary, antagonistic to theirs—the energy of the Holy Spirit of God which abode upon him. He was full of the Holy Ghost (Luke 4:1) when he met Satan face to face in the wilderness of the temptation. He cast out devils with the finger of God (Luke 11:20). The three blessed Persons are One God; the work of Christ was the work of the Three in One. And if so, the kingdom of God was come. It had come unawares, not with observation; but it was already in the world, active and energetic in the immediate neighbourhood of these unbelieving Pharisees. How else could the kingdom of Satan be invaded 9 Satan was strong; he had seized upon many of the creatures of God, and made them the vessels of his accursed wickedness. The Lord was despoiling him; he was driving him from the unhappy men over whom he had tyrannized. Then the Lord Jesus was stronger than Satan. lie had bound the strong man. By the mystery of his incarnation, by his own victory over the tempter, he had overcome the wicked one. The power of Satan is not now what once it was. The Lord triumphed over him on the cross; by his atoning sacrifice of himself he broke the devil's power over man. He will spoil his house. The Lord has not yet gathered in all the fruits of his victory; he will go on, conquering and to conquer, till all things are put under his feet.

5. The warning.

(1) The kingdom of God was come. The two kingdoms, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, are in intense, energetic antagonism to one another. There is no middle point, no possible neutrality: "He that is not with me is against me." For Christ the Lord was perfect in holiness, hating evil with a Divine hatred. He came down from heaven to light against it; he gave himself to die in the awful conflict, and by his death he triumphed. His disciples must imitate the Lord; indifference cannot coexist with the service of him who was so earnest, so full of holy energy. There must be no indecision, no halting between two opinions. The true disciple must give his heart to Christ; he must range himself with Christ under the banner of the cross; he must fight the good fight of faith, and quit himself like a man, steadfast unto death. For the struggle is real; its issues are momentous. Christ calls the soldiers of the cross; each has his place in the ranks of the great army; every one, however weak, must do his part and take his share in the lifelong battle. "He that is not with me is against me." In that sharp opposition indifference puts a man on the side of Satan against the Lord, against him who loved us and died to save us, against him who will one day judge us. It is an awful word, but it is the word of Christ, and he is the Truth.

(2) The Lord died "that he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." And he saith, "lie that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." He who is with Christ, distinctly, actively on his side, gathereth souls. Christ is with him, and he with Christ; and Christ's power working in him draws souls out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Every true Christian life is a powerful instrument for spreading the knowledge of Christ. But he who is not with Christ doth not only not gather; he scattereth. Indifferent, lukewarm Christians not only do no good, they do real harm to souls; their example, especially if they are persons of influence and of respectable life, leads others to acquiesce in the same spiritual indolence. Thus they are against Christ; they scatter the souls which he would gather into his little flock. Their opposition is not active; they do not suppose themselves to be enemies of Christ; they do not think of the mischief which they are doing; but in reality their conduct tends to scatter the sheep quite as certainly as that of the open opponents of religion.

(3) The life is wasted that is not given to Christ. He that gathereth not with Christ may gather many things—riches, honours, earthly comforts—but he cannot gather the true riches; they are offered him, but he scatters them abroad. He despises them in the time of health and strength; in sickness and in death he will be poor, desolate, hopeless.


1. What is it? The Pharisees needed the warning; they had come perilously near to the unpardonable sin; they had attributed miracles which were wrought by the Spirit of God to the agency of Satan. But it was Christ against whom they had spoken directly, not the Holy Ghost. Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is the sin of those who "were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost," but yet have fallen away, and "done despite to the Spirit of grace." Such blasphemy is the expression of that "eternal sin" of which our Lord speaks in Mark 3:29—eternal, unchangeable hostility against God, the strife of the flesh against the Spirit (Galatians 5:17) matured into complete antagonism. The blasphemy which cannot be forgiven seems to be the expression of this awful state in wicked words: that defiance of God, that contemptuous rejection of his revelation which is the ultimate outcome of the wilful quenching of the Spirit in the individual heart.

2. It cannot be forgiven. St. Paul had spoken against Christ, he had been a blasphemer (1 Timothy 1:13); but he did it ignorantly; it was not a sin against light, not the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. That blasphemy hath never forgiveness; for he who thus blasphemes sets himself in direct hostility to that Holy Spirit who is the only Source of spiritual life. He could not so blaspheme unless he had first quenched the Spirit; such blasphemy is a proof that the blasphemer would not retain God in his knowledge, and that God hath given him over to a reprobate mind. Many deep, perplexing thoughts gather round these most awful words. Are there sins which, unforgiven here, may obtain forgiveness in the world to come, in the future age? We cannot help asking the question; the answer we must leave to God. It is one of the secret things which he has not revealed, of which we must be content to be ignorant. Only let us remember the awful holiness of the good Spirit of God, let us listen to his faintest whispers; to grieve the Holy Spirit is full of danger, to quench the Spirit is deadly sin.


1. If the fruit is good, the tree ,is good. If the works of Christ are good, they must proceed from a good source. The Pharisees could not deny the goodness of the works; it was wicked folly to attribute deeds so holy to the evil one. It is a grievous sin to misrepresent the conduct of good men, to suggest unworthy motives for their good deeds.

2. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. The Pharisees could not be expected to speak good things, for they were corrupt at the heart. They had said wicked things of Christ; the Lord knew the wickedness of their hearts. Merciful and gentle as he was, he repeated the strong words of condemnation which John the Baptist had used already, "O generation of vipers!" (Matthew 3:7). Their heart had its hidden store of unholy thoughts, sinful imaginations, wicked motives; out of that evil treasure came their evil words. They could not speak good things, for good things issue out of the heart's precious treasure of holy love, heavenly thoughts, blessed hopes; and that they had not. A wicked man may, indeed, speak good things at times, when he is playing the hypocrite. But hypocrisy has always something forced and unnatural about it; it betrays itself sooner or later. In sudden emergencies, in seasons of excitement, when the man is off his guard—then, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."

3. The judgment of wicked words. We must give account of our words in the awful day. The idle, vain, unprofitable word is sin; it shows the state of the heart. Words, thoughts, deeds, all will be brought into judgment; each department of human life must form a part of the great account. lie whose words were good will so far be acquitted; he whose words were evil will so far be condemned. Then words, fleeting as they may seem, forgotten sometimes almost as soon as spoken, assume an awful character. Let every man beware.


1. Bring the helpless to Christ; he can heal the sick soul.

2. Flee from envy; hate it; crush it out; it is sin; it is the parent of deadly evil.

3. Remember always, God reads the thoughts.

4. Be decided in your religion; range yourself on the side of Christ.

5. Grieve not the Spirit; keep a strict watch over thoughts and words, as well as deeds.

Matthew 12:38-45

Further manifestation of unbelief.


1. The demand of the scribes and Pharisees. They had just witnessed a wonderful sign, a striking evidence of the Divine authority of Christ. Some of them wickedly accused the Lord of dealings with Satan; others, less brutal, but equally obstinate in their unbelief, demanded further proof. It must be some visible appearance in the sky, they said (Luke 11:16); nothing else would satisfy them.

2. The Lord's reply. He knew their hearts; it was an evil and corrupt generation; corrupt at heart and false to the living God who had betrothed the ancient Church to himself. He knew that they were only tempting him. They had had proof enough of his mission, his most holy life, his Divine teaching, his wonderful works. But they were obstinate; they hardened their hearts in unbelief, and now they prescribed the kind of evidence which they required. The Lord knew that it would not convince them; he would not work a miracle to satisfy unbelieving curiosity. He would work miracles in abundance to relieve the sick and helpless, but not one to amuse the curious and to display his power. Yet there should be a sign, and a mighty one. The Lord himself, his own incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, was the stupendous Sign from heaven, sufficient, and more than sufficient, to convince the honest seeker after truth. As the Prophet Jonah lay hidden in the fish's belly, so would he lie buried in the grave; and as Jonah was restored to the upper air by the power of God, so would he rise again in the majesty of his triumphant resurrection.


1. The men of Nineveh. Jonah preached to them; they repented. What was the preaching of Jonah compared with the Lord's deep and holy teaching? The Ninevites had not the privileges of these scribes and Pharisees; their example condemned them; it was a presage of the coming judgment.

2. The queen of the south. She came a long toilsome journey to hear the wisdom of Solomon; her example condemned the Jews. Christ was with them, preaching in their synagogues; they would not come to him that they might have life. And he was greater than Solomon—greater in wisdom, greater in royal majesty. Could he say this of himself without arrogance unless he were (what we know he is) the Word of God, who in the beginning was with God, and himself was God? We read the histories of holy men and women; they are full of interest; they are also full of solemn warning. What others have done by the grace of God, that we too can do. We have, perhaps, the same privileges, perhaps greater. Certainly we have the same grace to help us. Let us be in earnest; let us truly repent like the Ninevites; let us listen to the heavenly wisdom of Christ, as the Queen of Sheba listened to the wisdom of Solomon.


1. The miracle just wrought. Christ had cast out the evil spirit: would the man who had thus been saved from the presence of Satan give his heart to the merciful Saviour? If he would not receive the Holy Spirit into the heart that now was empty, the evil one might return; he was ever restless, seeking whom he might devour, burning always with unsatisfied malice; if he returned, the last state of that man would be worse than the first. Mercies despised expose men to sorer assaults of temptation.

2. Application to that wicked generation. God had been long-suffering with his chosen people; by his chastisements, by the teaching of his prophets, the old demon of idolatry had been cast out. The house was swept and garnished; it had outward adornments enough in the rites and ceremonies of the temple-worship, and the strict rules and formalisms of the scribes and Pharisees. But, alas! it was empty. There was One who claimed that house as his own, the true Lord of the dwelling, but him they would not receive. The evil spirit would return, and seven others with them—the demons of hypocrisy and hardness of heart, and bitterness, and party spirit, and hatred of spiritual religion, and such-like. And the last state would be worse than the first; it would be more evil, it would end in more awful condemnation. Christ is knocking at the door of our hearts; if we receive him not, the evil spirit will surely enter in. The heart empty of God is ready for the presence of Satan; he will return in greater force than ever. The house may be swept and garnished by education and refinement; but the devil can be kept out only by the presence of him who is stronger than the strong man armed. Let us, then, receive Christ into our souls. The peace of God keepeth, as with a garrison, the heart and thoughts of those in whom the Holy Spirit dwelleth; the evil one cannot enter.


1. There is evidence in abundance of the truth of Christianity; only receive it with an honest heart.

2. The histories of past conversions furnish a convincing proof of the power of God's grace; read them, and try to profit by them.

3. Open the heart to Christ; seek his presence there above all things; trust nothing less.

Matthew 12:46-50

The Lord's mother and brethren.


1. The reason of their coming. We know that even later in our Lord's ministry his brethren did not believe in him (John 7:5). They seem to have been Hebrews of the Hebrews, exceedingly zealous of the Law. They had heard, it seems, of the rupture between Christ and the Pharisees. They knew that the Jews at Jerusalem had sought to kill our Lord because of the cure of the impotent man at the Pool of Bethesda on the sabbath day, and now these Pharisees from Jerusalem (Mark 3:22) had accused him of being in league with Satan. They had been accustomed to regard these rabbis of the holy city with the utmost reverence. Doubtless they felt a deep affection for the Lord, though they could not realize his Divine authority. They were in a great strait, full of perplexity and anxiety. They seem to have thought that the Lord's intense earnestness and excessive labours had affected his mind (Mark 3:21); and they came in mistaken tenderness, but yet out of real love, to check him, to save him from the consequences of his rupture with the Jerusalem authorities, and perhaps to bring him back to the quiet of Nazareth for the much-needed rest. His blessed mother came with them; she knew, as no one else could know, the mystery of his incarnation; she had kept and pondered in her heart the many wondrous circumstances which attended. the birth of the holy Child. We cannot tell what her feelings were; doubtless she feared for his life; perhaps, too, there was something of disappointment, mingling with her deep love. This humble laborious life, spent in doing good among the poor and afflicted, was not what she had expected in him to whom the throne of his lather David had been promised by the messenger of God. Perhaps, as at the marriage feast at Cana, she thought of advising him how to act, in all love and tenderness, but yet not fully conscious of his Divine majesty, not wholly realizing the relations in which he now stood to her. It must have been very hard for a mother who had nursed him as an infant, and cared for him in his youth, to understand always how high he stood above her in the awful dignity of the Godhead. It was not for her to control him; it was not flu' one compassed with infirmity, holy though she was according to the measure of human goodness, to guide and counsel the Holy One of God.

2. The message. "Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee." Their intentions were good in the main. They loved the Lord Jesus, but they feared and probably reverenced the scribes and Pharisees; they wished to prevent our Lord from breaking with them. Worldly policy can never really advance the cause of true religion. Sometimes those who love us the best tempt us the most; in mistaken affection they urge us not to deny ourselves, not to take up our cross, not to do this or that work for Christ.


1. He does not admit their authority. He was subject to his mother once, but from the time of his solemn consecration for his Divine mission earthly relationships must give way to the work of his sacred office. He loved his mother tenderly; he thought of her in his death-agony. But he was come to do the Father's will, he was about his Father's business; she must not interfere. "What have I to do with thee?" he had said to her once before, when she attempted to direct him; for she Was human, he was Divine.

2. Spiritual relations with Christ closer than earthly ties. He has taken upon him our humanity; we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. True Christians who abide in the Lord are nearer to him than they were who knew him after the flesh till they learned to know him so no more, and believed in him as the Divine Redeemer. "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother;" near to him as his brethren were, near to him as his holy virgin-mother. Blessed words! He welcomes our love; he makes us his own, very close and very dear to him; dear to Christ the Lord as brother, sister, mother, if only we do the heavenly Father's will. It is the blessing of the true disciple. May it be ours!


1. We must not presume to question the wisdom of God's dealings with men. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

2. No motives of worldly policy should be allowed to interfere with work for Christ.

3. Try earnestly to do the will of God; it makes us brethren of the Son of God.


Matthew 12:8

The Lord of the sabbath.

Sabbath observance had been exalted into the chief position in the Jewish religion, so that to "sabbatize" was a proverbial expression, used to describe the following of Judaism, even among Latin writers, it was not the Law, it was the trivial and yet burdensome additions to the Law, that marked the later Jewish keeping of the sabbath, Many of these observances were as lax in spirit as they were strict in regard to the letter, and thus it was that the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees was nowhere more pronounced than in their treatment of the sabbath.


1. By reason off, is Divinity. Here he speaks out of the calm consciousness of his Divine authority.

2. Through his human brotherhood. Christ speaks as the Son of man. He teaches us that the sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). His rule is wise and beneficent because of his large human knowledge and sympathy. Our business is not to follow narrow laws like the Galatian Judaizers, but to follow our Lord and Master.

II. OUR LORD GREATLY SHOCKED THE RELIGIOUS CLASSES BY HIS DARING INNOVATIONS. He did not take pleasure in paining any one, nor did he wish to offend religious prejudices merely for the sake of producing a sensation, merely to astonish people with novel practices. He was far too kind and earnest for any such conduct. But he said. and did what he felt to be right quite regardless of the fact that it would stir up a hornet's nest of prejudices. It must be painful to a sensitive, devout mind to be accused of irreligion. Yet our Lord knowingly provoked this accusation. Truth is higher than any respected religions observance. It is more important to please God than to please the most worthy religious people. It may be a duty to offend good people in upsetting injurious customs. Men are not always the worse for having their cherished notions rudely shaken.

III. GOD EXPECTS US TO BE HUMAN IN OUR RELIGION. St. James has shown us that the highest religious ritual consists in deeds of charity (James 1:27). We can best serve God by doing kind deeds to our brother-men. St. John reminds us that if we do not love our brother whom we have seen, we cannot love God whom we have not seen (1 John 4:20). From these principles it follows, a fortiori, that any religious observances that involve unkindness to other people must be very displeasing to God. We only mock him when we offer him the formal rites he cares nothing about, and for the very sake of doing so restrain the charity that he really loves, or even perform directly unkind actions.


1. Negatively. It is not to be kept for its own sake, as an ordinance valuable in itself; it is not to be kept in the letter to the neglect of its spirit; it is not to be so kept that it interferes with higher duties.

2. Positively. It is to be kept as Christ, kept it. It is not left to our caprice to decide how we shall use the privilege of the sabbath day's rest. Although we are not under the letter of the Jewish Law, the eternal principles of it are binding on us. Leisure from toil and an opportunity to "lift up our eyes" we all need. Only they who follow Christ can use the sabbath in the best way. We best keep it when we help our brother-men on that day.—W.F.A.

Matthew 12:20

The bruised reed.

According to his custom, St. Matthew here applies an ancient prophecy to Jesus Christ. The ideal that was never realized before now finds its fulfilment. It is one peculiarly appropriate to the character of Christ and to his saving mission.

I. CHRIST BRINGS GOOD TIDINGS TO THE FEEBLE AND FAILING. He comes as the Physician for the sick. He is the good Shepherd who leaves the safe flock of ninety and nine to seek the one lost sheep. He has little for the righteous, but much for the sinful. He was not the Friend of Pharisees, but the Friend of publicans and sinners.

1. This is contrary to the common customs of men. With us too often religion is for the religious. The good have more goodness offered to them, but the bad are left in their badness. This was the case with the old-world religions, which fed the devotion of the devout, but neglected the ruin of the impious. Christ and all who follow Christ bring the gospel to the lost.

2. This counteracts the stern processes of nature. In nature we witness the survival of the fittest. There the strong succeed and the weak fail, and the race is to the swift and the battle to the strong. Christ brings a more merciful principle to work upon men. The bruised and crushed and hopeless are the especial objects of his care.

II. THE SOURCE OF CHRIST'S ACTION IS PURE COMPASSION. There is no obligation to deal out mercy to the worthless. They who fail do not deserve to be helped merely on account of their failure. The bruised reed cannot entertain us with sweet music; it' it can emit any sounds at all, these must be of a rather painful character. The smoking wick has ceased to illumine the room; it is now an offensive object. Would it not be better to throw both of them away? No reason could be given for tenderness to those who have ceased to be of any use. to the community excepting pure compassion. But this was the very motive of our Lord's most frequent miracles. Again and again we read that "he was moved with compassion. The same wonderful love and sympathy prompted his whole life-work. It is now the great motive of the gospel. Therefore the work of Christ is characterized by tenderness. He does not drive; he leads. He does not merely command; he helps, uplifting, strengthening.

III. THE COMPASSIONATE MINISTRY OF CHRIST IS JUSTIFIED BY ITS RESULTS. A hard man of the world may be inclined to criticize our Lord's method as uneconomical. He may say that the same amount of energy spent on the young, the strong, the hopeful, would produce larger results. In reply it may be urged that Compassion does not weigh and measure and calculate, or she would cease to be Compassion; she gives freely, asking for no return. Nevertheless, there is a return. Christ's compassion is powerful. He mends the bruised reed and rekindles the smoking flax. Then the first result is the salvation of the helpless. But the process does not stay here. They who are thus redeemed are bound to their Saviour by the closest ties of gratitude. There is no love so tender and devoted as that of the Magdalene. The redeemed are living witnesses to the grace of Christ, and they are the most zealous in proclaiming it to others.—W.F.A.

Matthew 12:29

Robbing the strong man's house.

The circumstances under which it was spoken explain this parable. Our Lord had just cast out a demon from a poor creature who was both blind and dumb. A more pitiable object than such a demoniac can hardly be conceived. And yet in this extreme instance of the tenderness of Jesus to the bruised reed his enemies only see sinister motives and suspect malign influences. they charge the great Deliverer with being in league with Satan. The parable is our Lord's reply to this monstrous allegation.

I. SATAN IS LIKE A STRONG MAN. Some men speak lightly of temptation, and boast of their strength to resist it. These may be its earliest victims. Christ knew the powers of evil, and he did not despise their magnitude. He had met the tempter in the wilderness, and though he had come off completely victorious, he had seen the awful might of the great enemy of souls. Satan is so strong that no human being can master him alone. Only a stronger can bind him.

II. THE SIX-POSSESSED WORLD IS A HOUSE OF SATAN. The miserable demoniac was like a house of Satan, in the power of the prince of evil. But the whole world is described as under the spirit of evil. tie is the prince of this world.

III. EVIL INFLUENCES ARE THE WEAPONS AND TOOLS OF SATAN. We might render the word "goods" as "instruments." The demon in the poor possessed man was one of Satan's instruments. In a secondary sense we may now say that evil passions and corrupt habits are Satan's weapons, because it is through them that the power of evil works in the world and inflicts his cruel tortures on his victims.

IV. IT IS THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST TO DELIVER THE WORLD FROM EVIL INFLUENCES. His principal miracle-working is described as the casting out of demons. Doubtless this was intended to be suggestive of his great spiritual work in liberating souls from the bad influences, the sinful habits and passions with which they are possessed. Thus he is a robber, breaking into the house of Satan to take away his detestable instruments. When he has done this the house itself will no longer be in the power of the evil one.

V. THE HOUSE OF SATAN CANNOT BE ROBBED TILL ITS MASTER IS OVERMASTERED. The strong man will keep his house and will permit no weak intruder to rob it.

1. The first work in the salvation of the world must be the binding of Satan. Something more must be done than to bring gracious influences to bear on individual men. An awful conflict must go on till the power of evil itself is restrained.

2. It is impossible to raise the fallen till the sin that has ruined them is conquered. The problem of rescuing the degraded inhabitants of great cities must be faced on its moral side. Drunkenness, gambling, and profligacy must be fought and conquered before the wretched condition of these people can be effectually overcome.

3. Evil must be east out by conquering temptation. The tempter must be bound. It is a Christian work to restrain or remove the influences that tempt to vice.


1. He worsted Satan in his temptation.

2. He effectually vanquished the spirit of evil in his work, and beheld him fall like lightning from heaven.

3. He completely mastered the evil one at Calvary and in the resurrection.

4. He now hinds Satan in individual hearts, conquering the ruling powers of evil within.—W.F.A.

Matthew 12:33

The tree and its fruit.

This illustration is applied by our Lord to the use of the tongue. Words are the fruits of the heart that prompts them. But they are the simplest and least considered forms of action, and they stand for the extreme representatives of a process that applies to all conduct. Let us consider the laws of life thus set forth in their widest range.


1. It is not possible without life. Growth in the tree is only produced when the sap is flowing and the cells are active. Animal activity depends on vitality; the dead animal is stiff and stark; lowered vitality results m torpor. Mental work springs from a living mind. Spiritual movements are only possible when there is spiritual life.

2. It is determined by the character of the life. No manoeuvres can make a fig tree bring forth anything but figs. If the fruit is poor we cannot improve it by doctoring it. Here is a law of necessity. We are constantly finding in practice that our wills and energies and capacities are limited by our nature. Free-will is not enjoyed without many checks. Not only do our natures determine what we can accomplish; our habits very largely decide it.

II. LIFE MAY BE ESTIMATED BY CONDUCT. We judge of the tree by the fruit it bears, and we judge of the man by the conduct he displays.

1. Other estimates are delusive.

(1) Profession. This may be hypocritically false; or, if not so bad, it may still be enormously enlarged by self-flattery.

(2) Promises. These may be well meant; yet there may not be energy to keep them, or they may be forgotten or neglected when they are due. The leaves may be green and yet the fruit may be bitter.

2. Conduct is a sure test. This is real. It requires energy, employs faculty, and produces a tangible result. Still, it needs to be fairly judged.

(1) At the right time. The tree is not barren just because it is bare in winter. We must wait for a harvest.

(2) By the true standard. The most beautiful fruit is not always the sweetest. There is a flashy conduct which arrests the attention anti claims the admiration of all beholders, and yet which is hollow and useless.

3. Slight actions are tests of serious conditions of character. We shall be judged by our words. Even thoughtless, light words will be taken account of, because they too spring from the tone and temper of the mind. They are the straws that show which way the stream is flowing. Sometimes they are better tests than more important actions, because they are unpremeditated, and therefore true to our characters. We reveal ourselves when we are off our guard.

III. THE REFORMATION OF CONDUCT DEPENDS ON THE, REGENERATION OF LIFE. This practical conclusion necessarily follows on the principles which determine the growth of conduct. Manners may be improved by a superficial polish. But the really moral character of our actions cannot be transformed by any external process. Do what we will, the fruit must come according to the nature and character of the stock on which it grows. Therefore Christian work must be directed to the deep inner needs of the soul. This is not unpractical, as some assert. Lectures on ethics are not the best means of improving the morals of a people. Evangelical teaching is the source of moral improvement. We cannot imitate Christ until we have the life of Christ in our hearts.—W.F.A.

Matthew 12:43-45

The empty house.

The heart of man is a house in which dwell good or evil. When evil has taken up its abode there, the moralist will endeavour to drive it out. But if he is not able to substitute a positive good, his work will issue in worse than a failure; the evil will come back with increased power and resume possession of its old haunts. Let us endeavour to see the reason of this, and then how the mischief can be prevented.

I. THE EVICTION. The house was inhabited by a most undesirable tenant, who kept it in an ill condition, neglected, and filthy. So the landlord turned him out, and had the house cleaned down and garnished ready for a better occupier. This is analogous to a partial reformation—one that is only negative. We may compare it with the work of John the Baptist when that is not followed up by the gospel of Christ. The old state of sin has become unendurable; a desperate effort has been made to break off the bad habits. The drunkard has given up his drink; the profligate has left his vice; the worldly person has turned aside from his old follies. The evil spirit has been expelled. More has been done. Not only has there been an expulsion; there has been a cleansing, there has been a re-decoration. The empty house is swept and garnished. An improvement of manners has taken place. Some attempt has been made to add grace and beauty to the once wrecked and degraded soul.

II. THE EMPTINESS. An empty house is a dreary sight. Gaunt and silent in a street full of life, it seems to be the abode of ghostly shadows that flit to and fro am[ peep out of the windows at twilight. If we enter it, it strikes us with a dismal sense of desertion. Its wails echo to every footfall; the stairs creak painfully under our tread; a gust of wind sighs through the vacant passages; suddenly we are startled by the slamming of a door somewhere up in the garret. It is an eerie place. An empty mind is equally desolate; and a heart from which the old affections have been torn is a dreary vacancy. Such things cannot be endured, and they do not last.

III. THE RETURN. The empty house invites stray guests. It cannot remain perfectly deserted, if it has nothing better than rats and mice to scamper over the ceilings and chase one another behind the wainscoting. The poor empty soul will soon be infested with a brood of "tenants-at-will." 'If there is nothing to keep them out, the old habits will return and reassert themselves. The disappointment of the hope of reformation is likely to give rise to an utter abandonment of despair. When the reformed drunkard breaks out with his old vice again he plunges deeper than ever in the mire.

IV. THE REMEDY. How can this terrible end be prevented? The evil arises from the emptiness of the heart. This vacuum must be filled. If the old evil is not to return, a new good must take its place. The only way to keep the old tenant out is to put a new tenant in possession. -Negative morality is of little value. "Thou shalt not" is a poor substitute for a gospel of redemption. The heart needs to be filled with a new passion in order that it may leave no room for the old passions to return. Now, this remedy is found in Christ. The love of sin is only perfectly banished when the love of Christ has filled the heart. But when Christ is in possession sin cannot reassert its insolent claims.—W.F.A.

Matthew 12:46-50

Brotherhood with Christ.

It must have been one of the most painful trials in the life of our Lord that none of his relatives except his mother believed in him, and that even she misunderstood him. Instead of supporting his arduous toils, they all did what they could to hinder him. No doubt their motives were kind; they thought he was wearing himself out with too much work; they saw his danger with the authorities, and wished to shield him; they seem to have thought he was beside himself with fanaticism, and needing kindly oversight and restraint. To us this looks almost impossible. But they who are nearest to inspiration are often the most perplexed by it. In 'Adam Bede' Mrs. Poyser can only account for Dinah Morris's preaching enthusiasm by supposing that her niece has "a maggot' in her brain. To Jesus the misapprehension of his family must have been most acutely painful because he loved sympathy. In his distress, however, he was not embittered; but his large heart turned to a greater kinship.


1. It is not merely natural, but spiritual. Jesus did not deny the claims of nature. In the agony of death he thought of his mother, and committed her to the charge of the beloved disciple. But it was the pain of his life that the happy family union which is the source of earth's deepest joy was broken by the unique destiny he was following. Christ has kinship with men in their higher natures.

2. It is determined, not by opinions, but by conduct. They are not Christ's brethren who understand most; but the deeds of life determine relationship with Christ. It is possible to be very orthodox and yet not be owned by Christ; the poor heretic, hounded to death by pious persecutors, may be owned as our Lord's brother—not because he is a heretic, as some people seem to think, but because in spite of his heresy his conduct pleases Christ.

3. It is not conditioned by religious observances, but by the doing of God's will The condition is wide, and it may embrace many sects and creeds. Yet in another sense it is narrow. While Christ is good to all, he only owns brotherhood with those who are obedient to God. Obedience is the tie of kinship. It marks men as of the family of God, of which Jesus is the elder Brother, the type of obedience, and its inspiring influence.


1. It is a joy to Christ. The sympathy he could not find among his own kindred he met in the larger family of God's obedient sons and daughters. Thus it is possible to contribute to the joy of Christ. This cannot but be a privilege to those who are his true brethren.

2. It secures his full sympathy. He is not like those selfish sufferers who demand unlimited sympathy with their own woes, but offer no sympathy with others in return. His life is utterly unselfish, a perpetual expenditure of himself for his brethren.

3. It brings the confidence of family union. One of the happiest features of home-life is the complete mutual confidence of the members of the family. This Christ permits between himself and his people. He does not stand off from them in kingly isolation. "He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Hebrews 2:11).

4. It secures a lasting heritage. Christ's brethren are his fellow-heirs. Kings' families may come to sad endings. It is better to be a Christian than a Stuart or a Bourbon.—W.F.A.


Matthew 12:1-8

The sabbath made for man.

Note in introduction that the chiefest interest of this passage centres in the last verses of it, and in their combined moral aspects. The occasion of these must be esteemed, with certain other passages of the Gospel, as one of no lesser import, recorded as it is by all of the three evangelists. That occasion arose not out of the direct course and tenor of the conduct of Christ, but out of that of his disciples. Nevertheless, his own use of the sabbath day for works of mercy originates more than once the similar sharp criticism of his shallow enemies. The conduct in question of the disciples, natural enough on the very face of it, might have been more easily open to exception if the sabbath day had been habitually found to confer some exemption from the experience of hunger. By the very dictate of nature we should be content to justify it, which proclaims everywhere so much universal love, free hospitality. But beside this, the permission was specially accorded to the Jew (Deuteronomy 23:25), and something more also, viz. the free appropriation for the occasion of the clusters of grapes. The objection of the captious critics now, however, concerned the point that the disciples took of these ears of corn on the sabbath, which still removes their inconsistency only one step further. For was there any qualifying addendum to the permissions quoted above, such e.g. that men should not walk through the fields at all on the sabbath, or if they did that they must beware of the corn-field and vineyard, and though they hungered, must on that day bear their hunger? No, but "this and many other like things they had put in their traditions." It was equally a sign of their presumption and of the alienation of their heart from the true Word of God. Christ, therefore, not arguing in any detail, but instancing two well-known precedents (1 Samuel 21:1-7; 1 Samuel 22:22), concludes the matter by the clearest statement of the true principle on which the observance of the sabbath was ever to proceed—it "is made for man, and not man for" it. Any man and every man is to use that sabbath that certainly was "made for him," and he is to use it intelligently and to the best of his light, and he is so far in one sense only appointed to be lord over it, while none the less he stands or falls to his Lord on the question how he uses it. Much more, therefore, must "the Son of man be Lord also of the sabbath day." Notice—

I. A GREAT HISTORIC CHANGE. Few enough men now come near the edge of the snare of supposing that they "were made for the sabbath." They triumph too loudly and too self-confidently in the help they themselves, perhaps, have given to the explosion of that heresy. May we not easily and truthfully imagine that if the moral majesty of Christ's presence were again amongst us, his gaze and his emphatic accents would all go to say, "The sabbath was made for man; have you forgotten that? Divinely suggested for man, divinely exampled for man; have you forgotten this? Man is not its lord and sovereign disposer in the sense you are practically interpreting it"? How does the world in its sad history pitch from one extreme of error to the opposite!

II. THE PRIOR GREAT HISTORIC FACT. That the "sabbath was made for man" is not, indeed, a revelation of things to come, but it is the pronounced and authoritative revelation of a great reality in this world's creation and design. Consider it by the aid of the light of a few contrasts and comparisons. What things are made for man! How divinely made! What wealth of possession, of beauty, of thought! What powers of body, the mere shadows and servants of richer and more wonderful faculties of mind! What lamps are hung up in the heavens; what seasons are made for man, and months, and days, and nights! Amidst them all, Christ says another thing, less evident, very likely, to sense, but not less real, "was made for man"—the sabbath? Strange, indeed, would it be that Christ should use so emphatic a sentence, without one hint of any waning importance of the day, if he and the force of his truth were about to assign it a lower standard, or to put altogether an end to it! The very first mention of it, as the day on which God ended his creative work—how striking it is] "On the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which he had created and made." That majestic history is unaccompanied by any precept or command that it should be observed by men. Nor is it wonderful, when it is remembered that it is descriptive of a time when there was but one man in the world. But from that time forward, for many a century, there is not to be found one distinct and explicit reference to the "sabbath day" till the reference to it as placed in the ten commandments. Thence its checkered history for ages varied much with that of the one nation to whom it was expressly appointed, and it may safely be said about it that it was not most faithfully kept, or most profitably and in the spirit, when it was most scrupulously talked about. Once, then, "God hallowed and sanctified it," surely not for himself; then when it appears again on the surface of the sacred page it is emphatically introduced as a day to be "remembered," and not as though it were now new and unknown hitherto; and now in the bold and most authoritative language of the text, so universal in its scope and idea, it is said, "The sabbath was made for man." In another brief but solemn spell of time the day became the first day of the week instead of the seventh, when Christ's resurrection gave the signal. And in due time the first converted Roman emperor, Constantine, made it the legalized day for his wide dominions; and all the world has followed suit—an amazing, overwhelming indication that it was not he alone who did it! The day is one of those gifts specially entitled to the language of St. Paul, "a gift of God without repentance." It came with the sacred voice of God; it was revived to the favoured people to whom belonged the oracles; it rose from a long oppressed and discredited state with the appearance of the most intense new motives of religious feeling and principle and devotion; it still holds its own in the very whirlpool of worldliness, and amid the most constant and subtle undermining of the unbelieving; and it vindicates in deed what Jesus here says of it by word, "it was made for man."

III. THE GRAND HISTORIC SWEEP SO CONFESSED TO OF ITS PRICELESS USEFULNESS. With such an Author, and with such nativity, it was well to be supposed that the use of the sabbath would be very comprehensive, and that it would win its way with the low on lower grounds even, with the high on the highest.

1. Of the millions careless to use it to highest gain, can there be found one willing or anxious to spare it for himself and for his own particular private purpose? All want what they think the gain of it! Who can count the advantage to man of even the inferior ends of the sabbath? For one day's rest out of seven the tool does not rust, nor does its edge grow blunt; but he who uses it does renew his strength, does repair his lost energies, does refresh his spirit. Macaulay wrote of it, "That day is not lost while industry is suspended, while the plough lies in the furrow, while the Exchange is silent, while no smoke ascends from the factory. A process is going on quite as important to the wealth of the nation as any process that is performing on more busy days. Man, the machine of machines, the machine compared with which the contrivances of the Wattses and the Arkwrights and the Bessemers are worthless, is repairing and winding up so that he returns to his labour on Monday with clearer intellect, with livelier spirit, and with renewed bodily vigour." It is not to be believed that the sabbath is a day out of which a growing world will grow, but one into which it will grow more and more, in this one direction to begin with only.

2. Its wide sweep of nobler use for the highest glory of man—in the exercise of his faculty of worship; in meditation, faith in the Unseen, prayer, praise, and in the natural conditions of the growth of Christian love and brotherhood on earth. Few things can strike the devout as more really beautiful, impressive, or cheering than the vision of the faithful in church, as they present a sight so grandly distinct from any other. Every day of the week finds every one of us in different place, in different thought, in different work, in different attitude, different aspiration, and with all the varieties of character, age, position, and necessity—pressing heavily on us, and sundering us even, however unwillingly; but this day the opposite! One place holds all, irrespective of every one of these differences. One God attracts us all. One Saviour's love meets us all. One Holy Spirit's energy draws, enlightens, cheers us all. We all have one thought, one hope, seek one heaven, sing one song, bow down together before the Unseen with one penitent confession. And however slowly, and therefore betimes discouragingly, the Church of Christ is restoring even now, and immensely by aid of the sabbath day, the unity of God's great family of man so long, so sadly astray!

3. The sabbath day is mighty, indeed, in its very highest sweep of influence, when it is intelligently and devoutly used as the solemn and most grateful memorial of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, with all else that flows therefrom in strict relation to it—the sacrament of his body anti blood, and the holy communion which comes of it. The coronal fact of Christianity is the resurrection fact. It shows no longer man's hope sowed in the ground like a "corn of wheat," but appeared above ground, grown up some way, radiant with light and colour, full of promise, and the undoubted earnest of joy beyond all thought. For all such as are thus minded the day is stamped with highest and most reviving joy. It is "Morn of morns and day of days." It says, "Christ the Light of lights hath risen." The Church sings with one heart and tone, "Welcome, sweet day of rest!" And it deliberately says, while it muses with burning heart—

"Blest day of God, most calm, most bright,

The first and best of days;

The labourer's rest, the saint's delight,

The day of joyful praise!

"My Saviour's face did make thee shine,

His rising thee did raise;

This made thee heavenly and Divine,

Above the common days."


Matthew 12:9-14 :

The efficacy of righteous wrath.

This occasion, apparently belonging to the same sabbath as the incident preceding in our Gospel, of the blame laid ostensibly on the disciples of Christ, really on himself, on account of their plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath day, did really belong, as we learn from the account or' St. Luke, to the following sabbath. The present passage, it may also be observed, is one of those which most fully illustrate the advantage of comparing with one another the accounts of the three synoptic evangelists. There is double or tenfold advantage in doing this when the first comparison seems simply to show variations, but the task does not come to its end before those very variations are shown to corroborate and to complete the account. Thus, e.g., the narratives of St. Mark and St. Luke would at the beginning of them actually seem to proceed on the very showing for part of their efficacy that the enemies of Christ had not asked Christ in the first instance the question of shallow cleverness only, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?" But the words at the close of St. Luke's account, that Jesus said, "I will ask you one thing," make all plain and certain. Again, the mention on the part of St. Mark of the righteous "anger" of Christ adds an important touch to the scene, and fills the gap in St. Luke following the words, "And looking round about upon them all;" and find their place in St. Matthew after the word "then" in verse 13. Notice—




Matthew 12:20

The rarest of gentleness.

The verse is a quotation from Isaiah 42:1-3. It was not among the least wonders of Christ's earthly life that while his untiring step paced the flinty path of duty often so anguished, and always so hard. with reality, that step made the plants of a date earlier by far reappear and blossom, and yield their sweet fragrance at his feet. The Old Testament may be said to be continually flowering and fruiting in the New. St. Matthew here tells us where Christ now was, and how it came to pass that he was where he was—what he was doing, and why he did it. He had turned aside from the place where he had been because they conspired for his life. Two sabbath days in succession they were offended in him, who never had gone one single step to offend them. They courted each day the decisive defeat which they sustained. However angry they were with him, it was the worse because they were angry with themselves. And because Jesus knew that his hour was "net yet come," he would not meet their enraged human nature. He rather turned aside and avoided those whom then to have encountered would indeed have been in no wise to bring fear of destruction to himself, but certain destruction to them. In avoiding them, his enemies, until his appointed time should be come, we must ever view Christ, not as betraying fear or wish to get out of harm's way, but as illustrating the grand truth that he came not to destroy life, but to save it. Out of the synagogue, then, and out of Capernaum did Jesus come this sabbath day. His followers, whether of the closer or the larger circle, he kept, in the full career of all his mighty works, unwontedly quiet. At one and the same time he hushed their pains and their praises, their loud complaints or louder thanks. All are bade to observe awhile what seems even an unnatural silence. It is not yet quite the hour that the Shepherd should lay down his life and give it a ransom for the flock. And now, says the divinely inspired St. Matthew, this healing, salvation, and silence, hard to maintain, are the flowering of old prophecy, "Behold my Servant, whom I have chosen; my Beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased He shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench." This incident was recorded in the life of our Saviour to bring very forcibly before us some phases of his character and work. It shows manifestly very differently from the character of men, and from the general intense craving of human nature for praise and for early manifestation, specially where the law that obtains is to prefer the praise of men to that of God. It rebukes passion as distinguished from patience; boastingness as compared with humility; and ostentation as compared with retiringness. But it does something much more. It presents Christ as the Embodiment of a series of very remarkable contrasts, or of what would generally be held to be such. God's chosen Servant, his ineffable delight, the residence of the fulness of the Spirit, is nevertheless meekness, silence, and tenderness itself. The crowd of sufferers gather round one Deliverer; the crowd of sinners round one Saviour; the crowd of grateful worshippers round the one Object of their worship, "God manifest in the flesh." But this one Deliverer, this only Saviour, this loving and true God incarnate, appears not here dressed in authority. His look, his garb, his commands, are unlike those of one who would clothe himself with authority, other than that which his actual deeds and sleeping strength might shadow forth. The text fixes one of those characteristics, gentleness. He is so gentle that he will not break a bruised reed, nor quench smoking flax. What others would tread upon or cast into the fire, he will stoop and pick up and save; what others would crush, and quench its dying smoke, as the remnant of a taper, he will not quench; but while there is life will give light, while there is light will sustain it. The bruised stem for the by-passer he will stay to hind up, reed only though it be; and will rekindle, not quench, life's spent taper. Uncommonly and sublimely simple, even for Scripture, as is the double figure of Isaiah, here quoted by St. Matthew, and in so unexpected a connection, it is intended to speak

(1) an unknown tenderness of heart;

(2) an unknown gentleness of touch; and

(3) an unknown patience of forbearance—all unknown at least till he of whom they are now spoken made them known.

This verse, then, one of the golden links of connection between the Old and the New Testament, what the prophet of old foretold of him, what the evangelist echoes and re-echoes, speaks of Christ and claims for him—

I. AN UNKNOWN TENDERNESS OF HEART. Even the perfect simplicity and the fresh charming naturalness of a child's affection would scarcely dictate the carefulness not to break a bruised reed, or the regretful watching of the last curling rings of some taper's departing life. Yet the figure here used is no exaggeration, for it tells and helps us to get some approach to a correcter notion of Christ's tender love to the bruised reed, called one's self; and to the smoking flax, which is another name for the inner life and inner light which God put within, but which we have gone so near to put out. While the Divine One was here there was not a bruised limb nor a damaged sense which he did not repair and renew; not an inner spring, or power, or flickering flame of life to which he did not give its own vigour and native energy in place of its own degenerate smouldering and smoke. Reason's flickering rushlight and the soul's just dying lamp of life did he rekindle, and fed them both from the sources of the eternal light. "Infinite pity touched the heart of God's almighty Son." It considered not difficulty nor expenditure, nor the shame and anguish of the cross; but one thing only—that object on which it had set itself. This is the tenderness of the immortal love of the strong Son of God—man's matchless Friend and man's enemy's overmastering Foe; and thus is it written of him, "He will not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax." Infinite power achieves the immortal victory over Satan, and the conquest of sin and death; but infinite tenderness achieves the counterpart victory, to take for ever captive our loving soul.

II. AN UNKNOWN GENTLENESS OF TOUCH. Given the former, it may seem that all is given, and that all the rest must follow as matter of course. But it is not exactly so; it is not necessarily so. Often, indeed, the will surpasses the deed, and often indeed, with confessed kindness and tenderness of heart, there may fail to be found a happy or a tender way of expressing it. Innumerable, in fact, are the instances of those who would be very surprised and hurt if they were plainly told that there was no one yet suspected them of having the one very thing they never suspected themselves of not having—a truly kind heart; but whose deeds, or want of deeds, or way of showing forth their deeds, have long, loudly, irresistibly, told it to all others, though not to themselves. If a bruised reed is to be handled at all, it must be handled very carefully; and if the flickering, flaxen taper is not to be utterly extinguished, it must, whether lifted or only approached, be very cautiously approached, and be lifted very gently. A breath may put it out. But oh! how undeniably gentle has the touch of Jesus been! and how soft have his breathings been! Breathings of hope, breathings of forgiveness, breathings of peace, breathings of holiness, breathings of heaven itself—till what was going out revives, what was waning waxes, what was so fitful burns steady and serener far than vestal fire, and the earthly light has brightened into the heavenly!

III. AN UNKNOWN FORBEARANCE OF PATIENCE. For the unknown tenderness of heart and the unknown gentleness of touch which belong to Christ to gain their object and win their souls, what forbearance in the forbearingness of his patience has been needed, and times innumerable has been shown by him! Among men this is one of the very rarest of virtues and graces. What is owed to Christ, that he has shown it, and ever is showing it to such perfection. And how we all need to remember that, if tried too long, it brings us to the verge of that "judgment," of which our following verse speaks, "Until he shall bring forth judgment in his victory." Judgment begun must be the offer of mercy foreclosed for those who still so long refused it. And for these the far different words of Isaiah's prophecy also must become true, "Then shall the strong man be as tow, and his work as a spark; and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them."B.

Matthew 12:22-37

The bathos of detracting blasphemy.

In introduction, note the unity of this passage of sixteen verses. While the linking of one portion of the accounts contained in the Gospels to another is very often exceedingly evident, and that, link by link, a oneness of a different and complete kind marks this marvellous episode. Observe also upon the fact that the criticism of all the ages from the earliest Christian writings of the centuries has fastened upon these verses with no mistaken instinct. And grant that the crucial question, which they undoubtedly own to, considering the words and the tone of the Lord Jesus, may be approached, ought to be approached, investigated, and pondered with prayer, but will not allow itself to be dogmatized upon. The certain meaning eludes this treatment at any rate; and demands most reverential handling quite as really as it commands the awed meditating of the true student of the words of Christ. Treating the passage in the simplest manner, the likelier to lead to a better appreciation of the central difficulty, notice—


1. The prompt, manifest, and undisputed healing of a man who suffered from the deprivation (presumably) of three out of the five senses which belonged to his nature.

2. The modus of this healing, to wit, the relieving the man of the tyrannous incubus of an evil spirit. This dispossessed, the man's dispossession vanished; the devil's possession challenged, disturbed, dislodged, and evicted, the man's rightful possession and possessions came to him, like some dawn of day.

3. Inspiration's presentation of this event and transaction to the uncounted millions of its readers. That is, not in its personal aspects, without one word of rehearsal of the circumstances of the faith and inner desire and subsequent conduct of the man healed. He is here; be is healed—possibly he joins the amazed multitude, possibly he goes his way, and gratefully so; but the mighty work of Christ is left, and this becomes the sole absorbing subject.

4. The world of observers wended different ways—the way of the "people," and the way of the "Pharisees."

II. THE DARING IMPUTATION, SUICIDAL SLANDER, AND PRONOUNCED BLASPHEMY THEREUPON, OF THE PHARISEES. A type to infernal perfection of that vice that has discredited so often in less degree fallen human nature, the detracting from the goodness of the good and their good deeds, and from the greatness of the great and their great deeds, is before us here. What are the facts? They are:

1. A great work done, a good work done, an absolutely merciful work done, the same being done not on the sabbath day," and the same, all in one, done manifestly and to absolute undenied certainty; done, not merely alleged, not even offered the charge of simulation.

2. An evil work undone, a devil's work undone, with the devil who had done that, work turned out; and an exceeding bitter calamity and deprivation to an integral, individual part of God's creation graciously undone.

3. The Doer of the work answering to the above description—he is present, and his prerequisites for such work are, and (by the confession and in the words of one of that very body from whom the blasphemy proceeds) are known to be," that he be come from God," and that "God be with him" (John 3:2). It must be added that the credentials of this accused but wonderful Personage are already multiplied, and of the most pronounced character, alike in deed and in word. The blasphemy is that his detractors say that his work is not of that God whose working he does, but of the devil whose working he undoes!

III. THE EXPOSURE AND REBUKE OF THIS BLASPHEMY. The Pharisees spoke their blasphemy as an aside; or perhaps from a little distance off, whence they come, and now draw near enough to Christ for him to address them and "their thoughts" personally, though "their thoughts" had not been openly and with any "courage of conviction'' addressed in language to him.

1. Universal reason expressed in universal proverb exposes and rebukes the blasphemy. Satan won't divide against himself, says Christ; and they all know it.

2. A practical alternative question storms the position and abashes the blasphemy. "If," says Christ, "I by Beelzebub cast out devils," dare to put it in words," by whom your children cast them out?" "but if I by the finger of God," which is "the Spirit of God, cast them out, then that kingdom of God ' which you are refusing to enter, and which you are striving to prevent, is veritably "come to yon." What about your neglect of it, and your malignant opposition to him who brings it? Strong and armed as confessedly Satan is, and his "palace" long time "kept," now it is before your eyes, though you may not, will not, confess it with the tongue, that a Stronger has "come upon him," has "overcome him," has "bound him," has "taken from him all his armour, wherein he trusted, and has divided his spoils." It is upon the ruins of that house, that palace, that kingdom which your blasphemy says is already divided against itself, that "the kingdom of God is come unto you." And now henceforth, he that does not know me, know to be "with me," and to gather with and for me, "is against me," and dooms himself to "scatter," and be scattered.

IV. THE TERRIBLE WARNING IN THE MATTER OF BLASPHEMY, VIZ. THAT "AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST," NOW PRONOUNCED BY CHRIST. The language of Christ on this subject offers itself for the simplest acceptance, and humble and awed faith of all. Notwithstanding its brevity, its exceedingly simple diction, and the apparently designed wording of it, so that it shall not fail to reach its aim, it remains, after all the centuries, a passage that finds no absolutely satisfactory exposition, and that can command not one really just parallel by aid of which to determine and define it. To generalize upon it is easy, and to say continuous resistance of the Holy Spirit is likely, only too likely, to lead to final resistance of him, and that to the fatal doom here pronounced, is safe enough, and at the same time safely far enough from the exactness of the language and the point of its warning, here found. The apostle warns not to "quench" the Holy Spirit of God, after warning not to "grieve" him. But at what point long and repeated grieving may avail to quench we cannot fix, nor, if we could, would this enable us any more certainly to decipher what is here written, not of some prolonged rebellion against the Holy Spirit, but apparently of some such state of heart as may in a moment precipitate the unforgivable sin. We believe that it must be a "mercifiul and wise obscurity" that lies upon this passage; none the less solemn, but perhaps more so; none the less useful, but perhaps more so. The comment of St. Mark (Mark 3:30), "Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit," seems to bring us nearest of all to the exact description of the sin, already adjudicated on by Christ, both for the time before the full gospel day, and thence to the end. And we believe that the dread testimony and warning goes to this—that there is a blasphemy of the tongue against the Holy Ghost, which speaks a blasphemy of the heart against him, such and of such sort, that though not to be pronounced upon (while wheat and tares grow together), the all-seeing One knows, and declares of it, that it cannot know the grace of repentance, and cannot have the infinite boon of forgiveness extended to it.

V. CHRIST'S EMPHATIC DENIAL OF ANY FORM OF CONVENTIONAL AND ARTIFICIAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE HEART AND INNER QUALITY AND INGRAVEN CHARACTER OF MEN, AND THEIR WORDS AND ACTIONS. It is as true of the highest as of the lowest; and it is also as true of them both, and of all others whomsoever, as of the tree and its fruit. So literally and precisely true is this, that though it were possible that a "word," for instance, were so "idle," so light, so useless, so inactive, devoid of energy, inoperative, that it inferred no danger to any one in all the world outside, it should not the less be true that it inferred danger to the speaker of it. What witness must it needs bear about him, and against him! These concluding verses are, without mistake, a summing up of most practical and forcible application to the "generation of vipers" in the first instance, and also a reminder of widespread and deeply significant importance to all of us.—B.

Matthew 12:38-45, specially Matthew 12:42 (see also Luke 11:16-18, Luke 11:24-26)

One inevitable law of judgment.

In introduction, notice the displeasure expressed by Christ in respect of the scribes and Pharisees asking a sign. This may have been for an accumulation of reasons. First, because (see Luke 11:16) perhaps they asked a "sign from heaven," marking in their wish a craving of curiosity for the novel and the more striking, regardless of the quantum of instruction that the sign might be charged with, at any rate, for others. Secondly, whether it were a sign from heaven or not, in asking they asked without the higher wish, without any wish, probably, for the higher object of a sign, when it is granted. Thirdly, without asking, they had already had many a sign of the most effective and incontestable kind, and they were signs "nigh at hand, and not afar off;" and yet these signs had not been used, not improved—had been seen, but resisted; and these men are the worst of all, who had "seen and yet believed not." And once more, fourthly, because if this passage finds its correct place immediately on the narrative that here precedes, as seems certainly to be the case, they had just seen a sign, and had listened to what followed from the lips of Christ, and had been in the position to survey the entire scene, and to take awful warning from it. Note, further, that, true though it was that these doubters and unbelievers and disbelievers had had, and were still sure to have, numerous signs of the kind just given, yet Christ takes their meaning when he adds, "No sign shall be given but the sign of the Prophet Jonas;" and, alluding to this, he contrasts the practical conduct, the faith and repentance of Nineveh, on the preaching of Jonas, and the faith and zeal of the Queen of Sheba, when she heard the wisdom of Solomon, with the wilful unrepentingness of his hearers, and the cold deadness of their mind and heart. Note once more, from the closing portion of these verses, the link which holds them to the beginning of the passage. Their text is the "evil and adulterous generation;" and these last sentences forecast the" worse" state, to which they ever sink who, with all added light, gift, opportunity, shut, not eye and ear so much as mind and heart to them, while these are flung wide open for the evil spirits, who most ruthlessly victimize them. In the whole passage, select for special development the instance of the judgment and condemnation which the Queen of Sheba shall contribute, by the contrast of her example with that of the men to whom Jesus Christ was preaching, and manifesting forth his glory, his wisdom, and his mighty works. And learn that this example—

I. REMINDS OF THE CREDIT THAT IT IS TO HUMAN NATURE TO SEEK. It is one of the certain signs that its life and reality are not yet dried up and exhausted. We honour and admire the individual who seeks. Our admiration and honour grow when we see the seeking converted into thorough, earnest, persevering search. This, the onward, upward determination of our nature, constitutes one of the moral evidences of its immortality. Yet at the same time we cannot leave out of the question what it is which is the object of its search. Endeavour, labour, decision, and enthusiasm directed to a really worthy object—when any one labours for the thing he knows to his best light to be the highest—raise the whole scale of our admiration. Still, the man who exhibits these qualities may be wrong in not knowing a higher. It may be his fault, it may be even his sin, that he does not know a higher. Of how much of both our darkness and ignorance are we ourselves not unfrequently the guilty causes! Not, then, does any arrive at the best till he has made sure that what he and his heart and soul go in quest of is the truly highest that human mind may reach after, and human heart love. Though the visitor of Solomon was a queen, she journeyed far; and not for money nor for presents, though with both did she journey, but in quest of wisdom; this fired her soul's desire, on this her imagination went to work, this her ears tingled to hear, this determined her journey. In her deed she was blessed—blessed for her time of day. She acted up to an elevated and generous impulse, and she was not disappointed. And it is she, says Christ himself, who will rise up in judgment with those who, so far from being athirst for wisdom, and for the highest type attainable, refuse that infinitely greater wisdom, so near, so graciously pressed on them, of him who is greater beyond all count than Solomon. Search long, toilsome, and honourable for inferior blessings often reproves our wasteful heedlessness of that which is the greater; but never a millionth time so much as when it is "all the world" on the one hand, but Christ and his wisdom on the other hand, which are offered so freely, which plead for our regard so graciously, and which nevertheless are sought so feebly.

II. REMINDS OF THE SUPREME OBJECT WHICH IS INCONTESTABLY THE ONE WORTHY TO BE SOUGHT. It is, indeed, in itself a most interesting thing, as the barest fact of history, the history of the time of the Queen of Sheba, that she longed to hear the wisdom of Solomon. To be anxious to see all his wealth and magnificence and state would have been a usual enough anxiety. Nor can there be any doubt, from what we afterwards read, that she did think of these, and was satisfied and rejoiced with the satisfaction and rejoicing that these could give. None the less is it to be noticed that the record is that she craved to hear his wisdom. Now, this wisdom was great in certain relations and comparisons, and it was very unusual; but what at the furthest was its compass and its range? Great memory, great knowledge, great gift of observation, great force of discernment—all such Solomon confessedly had. How many proverbs did he write, and then repeat from memory! how much poetry did he compose and sing! what a natural historian he was, though science "in those days was very precious," and microscope there was none! "He spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. He spake of trees also, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall of Jerusalem. He spake of beasts also, and of fowls, of creeping things, and of fishes." But all this—was it not knowledge of a very restrained sort? It was curious and entertaining and instructive, and capable certainly of leading from nature to nature's God; but what was it in comparison of the antitype! Now for the reverse of the grand medal.

1. The "Greater than Solomon" brings his wisdom, and brings it from heaven's highest heights. Thence brought, it descends to all of our various, deepest need. Thence brought, it spreads over all the wide compass of the various want of our life. Christ knows all that is.

2. The wisdom of Christ antedates all the present. All the past he knows, who" was in the beginning with God, and was God." So his wisdom was "from everlasting."

3. He knows all the future. Where our vision cannot reach, and where (could we glance) we should tremble to glance, which way soever our glance turned, there does his reaching, searching, steady gaze anticipate the direction, and swift as a morning ray travel to the end. How should men cleave for his wisdom's sake to him who sees, who only sees, all that awaits them!

"No eye but his might ever bear

To look all down that vast abyss,

Because none ever saw so clear

The shore beyond of endless bliss.

The giddy waves so restless hurled,
The vexed pulse of the feverish world,
He views and counts with steadfast sight,
Used to behold the Infinite."

Oh, with what strange, awful wisdom does all this invest Christ'!

4. The wisdom of Christ is so kind. It is not confessedly grand and awful things which can be depended upon to draw human hearts the most. But Christ's wisdom is what we of all created things should most rejoice to call wisdom. It is so kind, so deep, so gentle, so quiet, that condescends to search all our needs, to stoop to view all our trials and sorrows, to come in contact with all that is most infinitely repulsive to him, our sin, and then to find the one perfect remedy for it. What justice even to our apprehension in that sentence of St. Paul, "Christ the Wisdom of God"! To "hear" the wisdom of Solomon did the Queen of Sheba travel from the uttermost parts of the earth, though there might not be one single word in it all for her self, for her life, heart, soul. But all the wisdom of Christ, so far as it is as yet revealed to us, gazes full on us; it has us for the objects of its expenditure. He has come to us. From the uttermost heavens has he descended to us.

"How swift and joyful was his flight,
On wings of everlasting love!"

He has worn our nature, borne our sins, carried our sorrows; has made himself known in our world, the very Pattern and Type of the seeking, watchful, compassionate Shepherd. And in the unfathomed marvels and mystery of the cross he has comprehended all the length and breadth, the height and depth, of wisdom. Against those who neglect this, it must indeed be that the Queen of Sheba shall rise in the judgment.—B.

Matthew 12:46-50

The necessary condition of right personal love.

In comparing the accounts as quoted above, one thing first arrests our attention, that while no one of them speaks of more than "mother and brethren" seeking for Jesus, every one of them finds a place in the tenderness of Christ's reply for the introduction of the word "sister." St. Luke's, the shortest account, nevertheless explains precisely how "the press" of people was what prevented the "mother and brethren" of Jesus reaching him; while the "certain" of the people of St. Luke, and the "one" of St. Matthew, who informed Jesus of the fact, are so very naturally replaced by the "multitude" in St. Mark. How these took up the message, and tried to pass it on, pictures itself readily to our familiar knowledge of the ready tongue of a "multitude." No one of the evangelists' accounts tell us, however, of what might have been the object of the desire on the part of the mother and brethren of Jesus to "see" or to "speak with" him. It may have been to bring him refreshment for the body; it may have been to warn him of apprehended danger; it may have been to share with nearer position the manifested power and glory and manifestation of the Mighty One whom they had known, as they thought, so well. The significance of the silence on the point may lead us, not uncharitably, to the theory that it was for some reason personal rather to them than to him. The incident described in the passage before us, and which so naturally has arrested our attention and our deep sympathetic feelings so often—

I. SUGGESTS THE DIFFERENCE WHICH CHRIST HIMSELF MARKED BETWEEN PERSONAL LOVE TO HIM AND A MERE LOVE TO HIS PERSON. It is not by this to be understood for a moment that his mother's love to him was a mere love to his Person. But broad and deep is the line which Jesus does himself draw, as though for the help of all whomsoever who should be, between these two things. There is a vast gulf of separation between our natural and our saintly desires. How hard it might seem sometimes to allow for this separating gulf, however! When our agonized meditative thought has led us betimes to say to our inmost self what we would give for a moment's vision of that Holy One in the garb of his human flesh alone; to see that form, to hear that voice, to know what his eye literally looked, to watch the expression of his countenance, to ask him one question personally, to walk across the field by his adorable side, to plant one's step literally in the footprint of his own; and when one has been impelled to think how many millions for that one aged Simeon would now be ready, for such a boon granted, to ,say, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace," and welcomely to close the eyes on earth, and all it ever could have else to show, the words of Jesus here

(1) warn us against a snare, manifest though it may be held to be; and

(2) point us the better, the more excellent way, to learn "to hear and to do the will of God "—of "my Father which is in heaven." Such desires on our part may even take rank among unearthly desires, among saintly desires even; but they are not the saintly desire for a moment to stand in comparison of what Christ here places before us. Though we be not competent to say certainly now that it was any such mere superficial motive on the part of mother and brethren to see Jesus, and to share some reflected glory from his Person, it is competent to us to say that Christ seized the opportunity, at whatever other risk, to say that all personal relationship dwindles in the presence of that living, intrinsic, eternally abiding relationship that constitutes one the mother, another the sister, and millions the brethren of the now invisible One, the Lord Jesus Christ.

II. SUGGESTS THE POSSIBILITY OF REALIZING A CERTAIN FULNESS AND A CERTAIN TENDERNESS IN SUCH RELATIONSHIPS AS CHRIST IS WILLING TO SUSTAIN TOWARD US, AND STATES FORCIBLY THE CONDITIONS NECESSARY THERETO. What is most sacred, what is most tender, what is absolutely most real of earthly and human relationship, is employed to set forth the fulness, the tenderness, the absolute sympathy, that bear witness of not a mere acquaintance with Christ, but of such an acquaintance as is all-pervading, knows no discord, is inspired by no jarring want of harmony, and already bears the stamp of eternity on it, almost fit already to merge into spiritual shape. What reproach the thought gives to all half-heartedness, to all mere interested profession of Christian faith and hope and love! How it repudiates the thought of a mere question of gain to be gotten from Christ, and tramples with just scorn and indignation upon the blasphemy in practice of patronizing Christ! Jesus would have us understand and believe how much it draws his heart towards any one who begins to "hear," as he never heard before, "the Word of God, and to do his Father's will." For want of this the family was once broken up, and only by the restoring of this can its unity be regained. Now, the love which Christ has toward us as sinners, whom he came to seek and to save, when he looked down on us as sinners, and far from "God's Word," is one love. It is the love of commiseration, of God-like compassion, of heavenly mercy. But the love which he condescends to liken to that of mother, sister, brother, and to that to be shown to these, is something else. It is the oneness, the heartfelt sympathy, the fellowship and communion of delight, which they know, yet can never describe, who, happy themselves, know the bliss of resting in the unruffled security and harmony of the family in which they were born, which surrounded them with their first consciousness of life, and in which they have as yet ever lived without a fear, without a want. Jesus Christ wished loudly to declare it in the press, the motley group, the harassed multitude that were around him, that this rule, "to hear the Word of God and do it," was not only the rectifying of everything that could be wrong in the family of man, but also the perfecting of joy in every one who should observe to do it. A crown will make a king or queen; ancestry and accident will make princes and princesses; wealth will make position, however ticklish and uncertain; knowledge and learning will make that wisdom and power which are at any rate somewhat less uncertain; but hearing the Word of God and doing it will make what is immeasurably superior to all these. It will fill up the family of God on earth, will deepen and diffuse pure joy here, and will help fill all heaven above with joy and praise.—B.


Matthew 12:1-13

The sabbath.

Six times was our Lord, either directly or through his disciples, charged with sabbath-breaking. In considering the manner in which he met the accusation, we must bear in mind that he was in a different relation to the Jewish sabbath from that which we hold to it. Indeed, we could not, from his observance of the day, argue that a day was to be similarly observed in the Christian Church, because many important observances ceased at his death, and remain to us only in their spiritual substance. But the principles he lays down in defending his conduct carry with them important conclusions regarding the day.

1. The first of these principles underlies all rational religion. It was not a new idea. Our Lord finds adequate expression of it in the Old Testament words, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." In other words, God is not pleased by our payment of dues to him, but by our growing in likeness to him and learning to love our brother. The worship that does not feed character is nought.

2. But the second principle has a special reference to the sabbath. It is little more than an inference from the first. "The Sou of man," he says, "is Lord even of the sabbath;" or, as he more plainly puts it in another Gospel, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." It is a day given to us by God, who has so arranged things that the world's work can be done completely by giving six-sevenths of our time to it. The tendency of much of our civilization is to make men think that work or business is the whole of life. Such a tendency is checked and rebuked by this day. Every seventh day says to us, "You are not merely a merchant; you are a man. You are not in this world to manufacture material articles and accumulate money; you are here to cultivate friendships, to educate yourself in all that is good, to know God, and become meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." All this was explicitly taught when the sabbath was first promulgated to Israel. The remarkable words were uttered to them, "For that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days." This weekly rest was a new sensation to the over-driven slaves; it was a new idea to them to have one day all their own—a day in which they were loosed from all the cares of earth, and taught to know themselves God's children. This fourth commandment, which both our Lord and the Pharisees accepted, was interpreted by them to quite opposite meanings. The Pharisees took the letter of the law, regardless of its spirit and intention. The letter ran, "Thou shalt do no work;" and with the most perfect verbal logic the Pharisee maintained that he kept the law best who did least work. Our Lord, on the other hand, sought to find and satisfy the spirit of the law; and he said, "The day was made to promote men's good; to be a pleasure and a boon, not a vexation and a burden." Whatever best promotes man's good best satisfies the sabbath law. Whatever most effectually sets him free from the grinding toil and feverish cares of this life best satisfies the law. Starting, then, with this idea, that the day is meant to promote the good of man, we see why the one point insisted on in the commandment is that men should cease from their ordinary works. There is not a word about worship, no hint regarding the observance of the day further than this, that it is to be an exceptional day, a day of rest. But, the rest being provided by God, it follows that we must be in cordial and frank fellowship with him in availing ourselves of it. When a father brings his boy home for a holiday, he feels grieved anti disappointed if the boy obviously prefers the company of low and coarse lads to the company he finds in his father's house. And how can a man be directed to the right observance of the seventh day who is at discord with his heavenly Father on the fundamental point of what constitutes true happiness and well-being? Two instances are cited by our Lord to illustrate his meaning.

I. David did not scruple, in an extraordinary emergency, to fall back on the great principle that he himself, God's living servant, was more precious than an ordinance made for his good. From this we derive two hints:

1. We see that the sabbath is not an idol to which man's life or health is to be sacrificed. In all large cities there are thousands who from Monday morning till Saturday night breathe nothing but the most polluted atmosphere, and for such persons to confine themselves to their little room through the whole Sunday as well, seems to lean rather to the Pharisaic observance of the day.

2. But this instance carries with it no sanction of the conduct of any who use it habitually for their mere bodily comfort and worldly gain. David ate the shewbread under pressure. He did it once in his lifetime. And so our Lord admits that resting was the ordinary, normal way to observe the day, and that whosoever dispenses with that must be able to show good cause.

II. The second illustration is equally instructive. The ordinary work of the priests prevents them from keeping the command in the letter. They must care for the public worship. There are circumstances in which you may fairly be expected to give tap your day of rest out of deference to the necessities of society, of your employers, or of one another. Your business is to see that these necessities are real, and not fanciful.

But we are no longer under the Jewish Law; do any of the ideas expressed in it directly concern us? No doubt Paul sometimes speaks as if we were done with all distinctions of days, and had no need any longer of the Law, but could live entirely by the direction and impulse of the Spirit. But he sets before us the ideal of the Christian and Christianity; practically the attempt to live without the aids of sabbath observance commonly ends not in elevating all our days to the level of a well-spent sabbath, but in bringing down to a merely worldly level both our sabbaths and our week-days. If, then, we assert for ourselves our Lord's liberty regarding this day, let us be sure we do so from his point of view. Let us not hesitate to prefer the real welfare of men to the claims of the sabbath. But let us be quite sure that we are at one with God in our judgment of what does constitute the welfare of ourselves and others. Seven weeks of leisure out of every year should surely leave behind some very visible traces of our willingness to be helpful in this world, where there is such room for wise and honest helpfulness. To spend such a day in formal attendance at church, in yawning idleness, in gossiping levity, is a scandal to our common humanity; and to spend it even in the pursuit of science, or in reading good secular literature, is to prove we do not yet know what are the capacities and contents of our nature. Make a duty of seriously considering your ways, your habits, your disposition; let your mind rest on the great gospel facts, seek your Lord's presence and address him with the words your thoughts of him suggest, and you will learn how reasonable and fruitful an appointment it is that from all your ordinary works you should rest every seventh day.—D.

Matthew 12:22-37

Casting out devils, and blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.

The opposition of the Pharisees on this occasion much less excusable than when charging the Lord with sabbath-breaking. Contrasts with honest amazement of the people, exclaiming," Is not this," etc.? Pharisees felt evidence of miracle as much as common people, but refused to follow their own convictions. Make what they know to be a flimsy and insufficient explanation. Our Lord makes a threefold reply.

1. It is absurd to suppose that any prince would counterwork his own agents. Argument addressed to common sense.

2. Introduces more serious difficulties. "If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children," etc.? Exorcism not uncommon in our Lord's day. Necessary to notice unusually formidable assault made on gospel narrative. It has been urged that the age and nation were extremely credulous, that accurate observation and exact reporting are very rare, tendency to misstate and exaggerate much increased by religious excitement. Jews believed in power of many subordinate spirits in causing maladies and misfortunes. Therefore little credit due to their reports. Reply, in first place, modern critics also guilty of exaggeration in collecting all evidences of this taste for marvels to the exclusion of all other features of the age, as if no countervailing sense or knowledge of men. But granting all the credulity and superstition, the fact cuts both ways. If marvels were so common, what gave our Lord's miracles so decisive an influence on the world's history? Why did this imagination of the Christians alone prove so solid a basis for life? But the whole force of our Lord's reference to exorcism by the Jews is not exhausted by saying it was a form of quackery, sometimes benefiting feeble, nervous patients, but otherwise an imagination. One cannot but be struck by the contrast between the Jews' method—charlatanry too silly to be quoted—and our Lord's sober, simple word of command. How is it that he stands absolutely clear of all professional methods? It is true he believes in a demoniacal possession of which modern science takes no account—now called epilepsy, lunacy, etc. Argument that our Lord might be ignorant of the nature of the diseases he cured. Not necessary to suppose that he knew and anticipated all discoveries of modern science. This were to deny to him a true and proper humanity, and so fall into one of the most dangerous of heresies. His miracles displayed his power and his love, not his medical skill. But our knowledge on these very points still too limited to admit of pronouncing positively. And to reason thus does not remove the difficulty, for the Lord's idea of actual devils is verified in the recorded facts—they not only obeyed him, but on one occasion passed into the swine, indicating separate personalities. Alternative between veracity of Gospels and existence of devils.

3. Third reply most significant for us. Blasphemy against the Spirit, a sin of quite unique enormity. Pharisees had often judged and found fault with his conduct as man; but these were works admittedly Divine, yet they ascribed them to Satanic agency. The distinction broad and important. In the one case it might be a mistake, though a blamable one; in the other, an evasion of evidence and resistance to light which must result in utter darkness. Jesus ever seeks to be judged by his works. If the fruit is good, must not the tree be good? If he gives us what is best, shall we not own him, and give him our best? From attitude of Pharisees two important warnings:

(1) "He that is not with me," etc. After abundant evidence neutrality impossible. Difficulty of being entirely honest in inquiry; danger of state in which not reason, but pride, indifference, reluctance, find difficulties. Make sure that you are allowing due weight to all that God says to your conscience.

(2) "Every idle word," etc. Judged by words, because "out of abundance of heart," etc. Every such word an index of heart. Evading conviction or decision by foolish or ill-natured words. Whenever good is done, heartily welcome it. Meanest of all occupations to stand idle and criticize.—D.

Matthew 12:38-45

Last state worse than first.

All that was implied in our Lord's mode of working is here explicitly enounced. The miracles were only subordinately evidences of his Divine commission; primarily they were deeds of mercy. But to heal every one would have been to violate the constitution of man's nature, and upset the equilibrium required for the harmonious co-operation of God and man. Those only who had faith were healed, and this secured that their character was purified and aided, not debauched. The Pharisees had the shallowest idea of miracles. They would have approved the devil's suggestion that the convincing proof of Messiahship was to cast himself unhurt from a pinnacle of the temple, though why the possession of a mountain-sheep's capacity for jumping should prove any one the greatest spiritual blessing to mankind they probably did not inquire. They had lost the capacity of knowing excellence—could only measure him by their silly external tests, and scorned him for the very things that proved his greatness. A miracle wrought merely for the sake of convincing men, could not convince them, could only prove the possession of a certain unexplained power. But miracles wrought out of compassion for the wretched justly convinced men that God was nigh. We join the ranks of the Pharisees when we refuse to acknowledge Christ until he presents some more striking evidence. To us, as to them, it must be said—Ye can discern the face of the sky, but ye cannot read the signs of the times. You know the sequences of nature, but you have no eye for spiritual sequences; you do not see that a clever feat which makes men stare has no natural connection with salvation from sin, but that the entrance into the world of such love and holiness, and the identification of their possessor with all human interests, portends more good to humanity than any physical marvel could portend. Could you rightly read the signs of the times, you would understand that a Greater than Jonas, a Greater than all men, the Greatest and Holiest and most Sacrificing, could not be in the world without changing its course for ever. And each of us may read our own indi vidual future as here directed by our Lord, for it is impossible he should join himself to any one of us individually without bringing into our life an otherwise unattainable hope. Certain natural signs never deceive, because there is a rigid natural connection between the cause and the consequence. As rigid is the connection in the moral world; you cannot belong to Christ without receiving the utmost of human blessing. It means untold good to you; it is the spring of your life that promises endless harvest. All that is unworthy, weak, and wicked will be displaced, and you will be changed into his like ness. It is as certain as the shower that you see coming down the wind to the spot you stand on. But while our Lord refused any sign as a mere wonder proving his power, he assured them a sign should be given of the most astonishing kind. As if he said, "I will do no miracle of the kind you require; it would not convince you; you are not seeking conviction, but a plausible pretext against me. You think I am endangering the ship, and you will treat me as Jonah was treated; but as Jonah's mission was expedited by what seemed to terminate it, so shall my mission, by your final action against me, receive its most convincing authentication." This sign of the resurrection of Christ is that which seals the truth of all he asserted regarding himself, but especially does it give us assurance that our Lord is now alive. Only when we believe in this do we attain to faith in our own immortality. In the little parable with which this passage closes, our Lord points out that, though they had cast out the devil of idolatry, the heart not being filled with love of God and holiness, the empty apartment of their soul was straightway filled with self-conceit, contempt for gross sinners, hatred of any light that made them suspicious of their state. Probably he pointed specially to the deterioration of "this generation." There had been a revival of religion under John, but John himself warned them that he could not baptize with the Holy Spirit. He saw that merely to cast out one or two devils of misconduct, and to leave the heart empty, was to place men in a perilous position. To the individual this little parable is full of significance. There are diseases in which there are periods of relief from pain, followed by severe relapse. So in the case here spoken of, the downward career is not steadily progressive, but is checked for a while, only to be resumed with sevenfold violence. The principle pointed at is that wherever an evil thing is not expelled by the invasion of good that enters and dispossesses it, the expulsion is ineffectual. Nature dictates and observes this law. If you wish to clear a room of bad air, you do not get an air-pump and exhaust it, but by opening the window you let the rush of pure air drive out the impure; were you to exhaust the air, you might produce a suction which would burst your gas-pipes and draw up foul air from your sewers. So in the moral world evil is to be ejected by soul-possessing love of good. Christ is set before us that we may learn to love him, and so have no room for any unworthy affection. To use religion only as a repressive and expulsive influence is fatal. There are persons whose hearts are emptied rather than filled by religion. There is a death of their old bad life, but there is no strong impelling power, no new and abundant life. Is there anything in you that would make it a pleasure to you to take your place by the side of Christ in his humble ministering to the poor and wretched? How can you relish the prospect of eternal life, if you have in you no hearty love for the style of life that will then prevail? The result of using religion merely as an instrument for repression is that the soul becomes possessed of greater iniquities than ever. The new sins may be sins, as our Lord expresses it, that find their suitable dwelling in a house that is swept and garnished, yet they are worse than the original iniquity. These sins are vanity; contempt of men; hatred of persons differing from them in doctrine and outward forms of religion, though having more love to Christ than they; hypocrisy and coldness of feeling. These new tenants are prim, decorous, church-going devils, that adapt themselves to the ways of respectable society. But none the less will they one day overwhelm the house in disaster. The history of the man whose religious experience is here given is this—he has rid himself of some form of iniquity out of regard for self rather than for Christ; he plumes himself on the improvement instead of humbly thanking Christ, cultivates self rather than fellowship with Christ. Is your heart so filled and satisfied with the love of Christ that all that offends him is banished from it?—D.

Matthew 12:50

Christ's spiritual family.

"Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." There is nothing new or peculiarly Christian in the idea that there is a bond stronger than that of blood. It is too obvious to escape notice. Nor does the assertion cast any disparagement on the institution of the family; less is not made of blood, but more of spiritual affinity. That our Lord did not make less of family ties is shown by his care for his mother; that he made much of spiritual ties also is shown by his commending her to the care of his most sympathetic friend. The family bulks less in his life because the community, the world, bulks larger. The proportion of thought he gave to the family was smaller, the actual amount greater, than that given by most men. That which is peculiar in these words is—The distinct assertion of what constitutes the bond of this more enduring, truer relationship. It is the recognition and acceptance of God's will. This is the true basis of eternal society, the one bond we can trust to, to keep us ever united. The doing of God's will implies an inward, deep-seated acknowledgment that his will is holy, just, and good, and that God is the Ruler of our life; it implies that devout love for God from which flows light and regeneration to every part of a man's life and nature. Other associations dissolve, pass away, become obsolete, but all that comes of accepting God's will from a genuine love of him abides.

2. But Christ here indirectly presents himself as the Centre of this new spiritual family. This is so

(1) because he is the actual, visible embodiment of God's will, in whom men can best see what that wilt is. And

(2) because it is through him they become able to do God's will. Only by becoming brethren of Christ can we become children of God. From this truth flow several inferences.

I. IT IS NOT YOUR BIRTH, BUT YOUR CHOICE, WHICH DETERMINES YOUR ETERNAL RELATIONSHIPS AND SURROUNDINGS. Every man passes judgment on himself by his affinities. You cannot judge a man by his family, his origin; but you can judge him, or he can judge himself, by the profession he chooses, the friendships he forms, the course of life he freely adopts. But the great test of men is Christ. He is set for the fall and rising of many, and by him are the thoughts of many hearts revealed. By the treatment men give him they reveal what is in them, and whether their talk about virtue is merely talk, or if they have hearty love for it when presented in actual life.

II. THE FAMILY IS NOT AN ETERNAL INSTITUTION, Those affections which are developed in the family must be fed. from a more enduring root if they are to abide. They are like the bindings which join the graft to the tree; they keep us together until the vital sap knits us into one. There is no guarantee for the endurance of love but that it goes down to and roots itself in the deepest springs of our life. In family life the pain of want of sympathy is only the keener for the superficial affection. It is thus that Christ brings sometimes, not peace, but division. It is the magnet passing through the heap of dust and iron filings; the superior attraction at once produces separation. It is not that we must buy his favour by perfect submission, or propitiate his jealousy by disliking others, but that he is worthy of and can command a deeper. holier, more devoted love than any other; and the further we ourselves advance in all that is good, the more we see the necessary truth of his saying, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." Let parents try to win their children to that permanent and eternal family in which the relationship lies not in the flesh, but in the deepest recesses of the spirit, and from which there are no banishments, no deaths, no separations. Death then loses the greater part of its terrors—is, indeed, recognized as the apparently necessary means of purifying and deepening our natural affections.


1. We have claims on Christ superior to those which can be asserted even by his relatives. He wants to be trusted, confided in, counted on. ]f you would have counted it happy to be born in the same family, and would have expected from him, your own Brother, all the help he could give, you may still count on that help and with greater assurance.

2. Christ takes pleasure in us, if we are doing God's wilt, such as he finds in nothing else. We cannot understand his longing for human love and acceptance, but we know that even as God he loved human fellowship, and when he became man we find him the same. To be closer to Christ than to father or mother, to be more truly at one with him than with any one besides, this is salvation. In his own day he could point to some anti say, "Behold my mother and my Brethren!" Surely there are among ourselves those who long above all things to be truly the brethren of the Lord Jesus Christ.—D.


Matthew 12:1-8

Ritual and morals.

The Pharisaic Jews are, in the previous chapter, upbraided for their obstinate impenitence. We find the same people here condemning the disciples of Christ as sabbath-breakers because they plucked ears of corn to satisfy their hunger. The manner in which Jesus defends his disciples shows—


1. The Pharisees were stringent ritualists.

(1) Their formality was seen in their dress. In their observance of ceremonies. In their scrupulous tithing of mint and anise and cummin.

(2) The ritual of sabbath observance in like manner they zealously respected. So far did they carry this, that they refused to defend themselves in the wars with Antiochus Epiphanes and the Romans on the sabbath. It was through this superstition that Pompey was enabled to take Jerusalem.

(3) The ritual of sabbath observance with them was intensified by the interpretations of the elders. Thus reaping was admitted to be a servile work; and so was threshing. But according to the rabbins plucking ears of corn was "a kind of reaping," and rubbing them in their hands was "a kind of threshing."

2. But they were lax in morals.

(1) It is common for men of corrupt minds to attempt to atone for the looseness of their morals by zeal for the outward services of religion. So the Pharisees "made void the commandment of God through their traditions." While they scrupulously paid tithe upon trifles, they "neglected the weightier matters of the Law—judgment, mercy, and truth."

(2) So in their zeal for the externals of sabbath observance they missed its spirit of worship. They failed to see that the sabbath is truly observed in its spirit, which is the spirit of heaven, mercy and love, justice and truth.

(3) This spirit they violated in the harshness of their judgment. In condemning the action of the hungry disciples they would sacrifice mercy to ceremony.

3. They inverted the order of God.

(1) The cud of the Law is love.

(2) Ritual is instituted as a means to that end.

(3) When ritual interferes with love it must give place. Hence when the law of commandments contained in ordinances ceased to point men to Christ the Saviour of sinners, it was abrogated as a useless burden.


2. This principle was sanctioned by David.

(1) Necessity was with him a sufficient reason for setting aside the letter of the law relating to the shewbread (cf. Le Romans 10:10; 24:5-9; 1 Samuel 21:1-6).

(2) Note: This action of David was parabolic. The shewbread is admitted to have been a type of Christ, who appears in the presence of God for the nourishment and life of the spiritual priesthood. Since part of the frankincense put in the bread was burnt on the altar for a memorial, the merit of the sacrifice of Christ is represented. The hunger of David and his men constituted their particular claim to set forth the verity that those who hunger after righteousness are the persons to be satisfied with the goodness of God's house (cf. 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6).

2. This principle was sanctioned by Moses.

(1) For his Law requires the profaning of the sabbath by the priests in the temple. They were required to prepare the sacrifices, offer them, and attend to the other services of the temple on the sabbath as on common days (see Exodus 29:38; Numbers 28:9).

(2) This legislation interprets the words, "Thou shalt not do any work," in the fourth commandment, to mean secular work, or work for personal pleasure or temporal advantage. The works done about the holy things in the temple were scarcely "service;" for they were done unto the Lord.

(3) The argument from the temple was conclusive against the Pharisees, whose traditions invested the sabbath law with excessive stringency.

3. This principle was sanctioned by the prophets.

(1) In their practice. For they set aside the Levitical rule that all sacrifices should be offered at the door of the tabernacle or temple, as when Elijah offered his sacrifice upon Carmel. In this he had the high sanction of Heaven.

(2) In their precept. An example is here cited from Hosea, who declares that God prefers mercy to sacrifice (cf. Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8).

(3) The Lord prefers mercy through the sacrifice of Christ to the sacrifice of the sinner in the coming day of vengeance (see Zephaniah 1:7, Zephaniah 1:8; Ezekiel 39:17, Ezekiel 39:18; Revelation 19:17).

4. This principle is sanctioned by Christ.

(1) The hungry disciples had the sanction of Christ for plucking, the corn and rubbing it in their hands upon the sabbath day. He did not reprove them. On the contrary, he defended them.

(2) He defended them not only upon the authority of David, of Moses, and the prophets; but upon his own authority, which he asserted to be Divine. This was the meaning of his declaration, "I say unto you, That in this place is One greater than the temple." For the rabbins acknowledged none but God to be greater than the temple. He asserted his Divinity in claiming to be the Lord of the sabbath (see Gem Hosea 2:3). As the sabbath yielded to the temple, and the temple to Christ, so must the sabbath also yield to Christ (see John 7:21-23).

(3) Jesus, who claims to be "Lord of the sabbath day," appears to have exercised his prerogative in changing it from the seventh to the first day, and hence the first day is now distinguished as "the Lord's day" (see Revelation 1:10).

(4) The Lordship of the Son of man is the Lordship of mercy. Those who are engaged in the service of Jesus Christ enjoy greater liberty than those who were engaged in the service of the temple. The gospel is in all things superior to the Law.


1. There is no good precedent to sanction it.

(1) When our Lord sanctioned the plucking of the ears of corn in the field, he did not sanction theft under the plea of necessity. The Law sanctioned this liberty (see Deuteronomy 23:24, Deuteronomy 23:25). The permission was intended to teach humanity and kindness.

(2) Our Lord's defence of his disciples in relation to the question of the sabbath did not touch the moral obligation of the institution, which is the devotion of our time to the worship and service of God. The spirit of the sabbath should be in the week.

(3) The change of the day brings into it the motives of the resurrection and the ascension of the Lord, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, by which we are in spirit brought nearer to the rest of heaven.

2. Morals are themselves the highest necessity.

(1) They are a spiritual necessity. As the spirit is superior to the body, so is a spiritual necessity more important than a bodily necessity.

(2) They are a universal necessity. The needs of an individual must give way to those of a community. The interests of all the worlds cannot be sacrificed or compromised to suit individual urgency.

(3) They are an eternal necessity. They are founded in the nature of the everlasting God. They belong to the immortal soul. The law of the ages cannot be set aside to meet the necessity of a moment.

(4) A man is not forsaken of God because he is in want. The disciples may suffer hunger in the very presence of Jesus. It is more honourable to want in fellowship with Christ than to abound in fellowship with the world. Jesus knows how to lead his hungry disciples through the corn-fields.—J.A.M.

Matthew 12:9-21

The mission of Christ.

In the last paragraph we learn how Jesus showed that works of necessity are lawful on the sabbath day. In the paragraph before us we see that works of mercy also are lawful. If under the Law the spirit of the sabbath was binding rather than the letter, how much more so under the gospel! The subject teaches us that Christ came amongst men—


1. Malignity was embodied in the Pharisees.

(1) They sought to accuse the Son of God of profanity. This was to convert the highest virtue into the deepest vice, and to confound all moral order. Note: Matthew says, "And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? that they might accuse him." According to Luke (Luke 6:8), Jesus read the question in their thoughts. Learn that in the Lord's sight speech and thought are one.

(2) They sought to murder the Saviour of the world. This was, as far as in them lay, to destroy God and man at a stroke. This was the expression of their vexation, because the doctrine of Christ mortified their pride, exposed their hypocrisy, and crossed their worldly interests, and their honour was eclipsed by his life and miracles.

(3) Their malignity was deliberate. It was not the sudden ebullition of unthinking passion. They evidently agreed, in the first instance, to tempt him. Then, certainly, they "took counsel against him, how they might destroy him."

(4) This was all done under the mask of religion. The pretext was zeal for the sanctity of the sabbath. The wicked have no objection to the holiness of things; it is the holiness of persons that offends them. If they could convict Jesus of blasphemy in his saying that he was greater than the temple, or of profanity in breaking the sabbath, death would be the penalty (see Exodus 35:2). Note: There is a religion of Satan as well as a religion of God. The religion of Satan is a parody upon the religion of God. As love is the essence of the religion of God, malignity is the spirit of the religion of Satan.

2. Malignity is vanquished by exposure.

(1) The case of the sheep was a home-thrust. The ritualists allowed the exception, not out of mercy to the animal, but from selfishness. "Take tender care of the goods of an Israelite" was with the Jews a cherished canon. Self-interest is a casuist first consulted, decisive in the removal of scruples, and readily obeyed.

(2) Ritualism had no mercy for the withered hand in which the Pharisee had no property. Our Lord invaded a heartless superstition when he established the principle that it is lawful to do good on the sabbath day.

(3) But the question returns, "How much is a man of more value than a sheep?" Yet are there many called Christians who do more for the beast of burden or pleasure than they will for a man. They spend that upon hunters, coursers, spaniels, and hounds of which many followers of Christ are destitute.

(4) The spiritual nature of man—his faculties for knowing, loving, and serving God—invest him with his vast superiority. How much better, then, is the philanthropy which blesses the soul even than that which terminates in the body!

3. Malignity is left to its own punishment.

(1) "The Pharisees went out," viz. from the presence of Christ. Evil shuns the goodness that rebukes it. Falsehood shuns the truth that exposes it.

(2) They went out, not like Peter to weep bitter tears of repentance, but to take evil counsel.

(3) Jesus "withdrew" when they "went out." He "perceived" their purpose by his Divine faculty of reading hearts. He left them in the desperation of their obstinacy. They were abandoned to themselves—murderers to murderers, human and infernal.

(4) The withdrawal of Jesus is the presage of vengeance. So it was when he left the temple and the city of Jerusalem. At his second coming be will send forth judgment unto victory.


1. He vindicates the spirit of the Law.

(1) The spirit of the Law is love. The Law was given in love to man. Its end is to foster in him grateful and obedient love to God. The spirit of the Law is another name for the gospel.

(2) Through excessive zeal for the letter, the Jewish ritualists lost sight of this. The Law was in consequence converted into an intolerable burden.

(3) Jesus came not to destroy but to fulfil the Law, which he did by bringing out its spirit. In order to this he assailed the traditions which the ritualists had confounded with the Law.

2. He sets a high value upon man.

(1) "How much is a man better than a sheep?" Under the Law sheep were offered in sacrifice for the sin of man; but they could not take it away. Hence they appeared again and again upon the altar. The utmost they could do was to call sin to remembrance, and point to a more worthy sacrifice.

(2) Jesus himself became that more worthy Sacrifice. "He hath put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." So completely did he effect this "once for all," that there is now "no more remembrance of sin." The price he paid was the precious blood of the Son of God.

(3) He freely dispenses healing power. He "restored whole as the other" the withered hand with a word. He did not even give the pretext of the touch to those who would accuse him of breaking the sabbath law. So did he heal "all" that followed him when he withdrew from the Pharisees.

(4) But he required the faith of the suppliant. "Stretch forth thine hand." The poor man had often tried to do this in his own strength, and failed. The effort to believe is often that faith by which the soul is healed.

3. He shows compassion to the Gentiles.

(1) His question is not, "How much is the Jew better than a sheep?" He took hold of the "seed of Abraham," but in doing so he was "made in the likeness of men," without limitation.

(2) His action in withdrawing from the unbelieving Pharisees was parabolic as well as prudential; for it is noteworthy that in his following now we find many of the Gentiles. The portent was that when the nation of the Jews should reject the gospel, then the gospel would leave them and offer its blessings to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 28:28).

(3) The justness of this remark appears in the citation from Isaiah in which Messiah is predicted as coming to declare judgment to the Gentiles, and to give them "hope" in his Name (verses 18, 22). For this prediction is here mentioned as now fulfilled. "He charged" those he healed "that they should not make him known," viz. as their Healer, to the unbelievers, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah."

(4) Considering the Gentiles is in other prophecies likewise made a mark of Messiah (see Genesis 49:10; Psalms 2:8; Zechariah 9:10; Isaiah 2:3).

4. He is gentle with the frail.

(1) Gentleness is natural to him. His voice is not heard in clamour. The Jews looked for a Messiah wielding the sword. Matthew shows how Jesus fulfils the prophecies in his non-resistance to evil and injury.

(2) The timid may hope in his mercy. "A bruised reed" is a remarkable emblem of extreme frailty and weakness (see Ezekiel 29:6, Ezekiel 29:7). One bruised by the weight of sin "he will not break." He will not terrify the penitent by a frown. "A smoking flax shall he not quench." Rather will he cherish the feeblest fire of holy desire.

(3) "Till he send forth judgment unto victory." For "mercy rejoices upon judgment."—J.A.M.

Matthew 12:22-32

The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.

Many persons have been tempted to believe that they had committed this dreadful sin, and thereby put themselves beyond the reach of mercy. Correct judgment upon this very important subject may best be attained by considering the more fearfully emphatic words of our Lord in their connection.


1. Our Lord had wrought a notable miracle.

(1) The subject was both blind and dumb. The case of Laura Bridgman, and another, seem to be the only examples of this double affliction which have occurred in modern times. But this wretched man was, moreover, a demoniac.

(2) What a type of the sinner is here! Blind to spiritual truth. Having no voice for God's praise. "Carried captive by the devil at his will."

(3) But Jesus "healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw." The devil also owned the presence of a Superior. So can Jesus open the blind eye of the soul. He also can put a new song into the praiseless mouth. And he can deliver our hearts from infernal domination.

2. The people were convinced of his Messiahship.

(1) They cried out, "Is not this the Son of David?" The prophecies authorized the expectation of Messiah in the lineage of David. That Jesus was in that lineage could not be denied.

(2) "Is not this" Miracle-worker the Messiah? The prophecies authorized the expectation of Messiah as a Worker of miracles (see Isaiah 35:5).

(3) Is not this Vanquisher of demons the illustrious Personage destined to appear as the Seed of the woman and crush the serpent's head (Genesis 3:15)?

(4) Who can now dispute that with Jesus is the Spirit of God, that he is the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ of God?

3. But the Pharisees blasphemed.

(1) Against the clearest evidence, through pride, envy, and malignity, they refused to recognize the Messiah. None are so blind as those who will not see (cf. John 9:39-41).

(2) To defend their unbelief and to retain their credit with the people they invented the libel that Jesus had cast out devils through the prince of the devils. Thus the work of the Spirit of God was blasphemously attributed to diabolical agency. Thus the blessed Spirit of God was blasphemously confounded with the very devil.

(3) This horrible libel was whispered. They did not speak it openly in the hearing of Jesus. They feared to encounter his convincing words. But Jesus "knew their thoughts." There is no evading the scrutiny of that eye.

(4) "This [fellow]," viz. a sabbath-breaker and blasphemer! What venom can be condensed into a single word!

4. The Heart-searcher exposed their malignity.

(1) He confounded their logic, reasoning first from the general to the particular. Factions will ruin any kingdom. Are devils so foolish as by promoting factions to ruin their kingdom? Note: If devils are more wicked than men they are not so foolish.

(2) He proceeds to use the argumentum ad hominera, retorting, "If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges." They will at least convict you of partial and unjust judgment.

(a) Some of the disciples of the Pharisees pretended to exorcise devils. Whether they did so in reality is open to question. Josephus (see 'Ant.,' 7.6. 3; 8.2. 5), Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, and other early Fathers are quoted to show that such exorcisms were successfully practised. The sons of Sceva attempted it to their cost (see Acts 19:16). If they only pretended to do it, then our Lord's words here are ironical, but the argument is equally good.

(b) The disciples of the Pharisees professed not to cast out devils by the aid of devils. They did it, or attempted to do it, by the invocation of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

(3) He applies the reasoning to the confusion of the unbeliever. "If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you." It were blasphemy to charge the Spirit of God with working to confirm a falsehood. The disciples of the Pharisees did not claim to be the Messiah.

(4) He emphasizes the proof of his Messiahship in that superiority to devils which he had evinced in the miracle. The strong man's house can only be entered by the stronger than he; and who but Messiah is stronger than Satan?

(5) In this war between Christ and Belial there is no neuter. We obstruct if we do not promote the kingdom of God (see Luke 9:49, Luke 9:50). "He that gathereth not with me scattereth." The sense is, says Stier, "He that gathereth, but not with me, his gathering is itself a scattering."

(6) Then he marks the dreadful character of their blasphemy, "Wherefore I say unto you," etc.


1. Is not the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost the final rejection of Jesus as the Christ?

(1) "Not a particular act of sin, but a state of wilful, determined opposition to the Holy Spirit, is meant (1Jn 5:16; 2 Timothy 3:8; Jud 2 Timothy 1:4, 2 Timothy 1:12, 2 Timothy 1:13; Hebrews 10:26-31; Hebrews 6:4-8)" (Alford).

(2) That there is no forgiveness for such a state, viz. while the sinner remains in It, is obvious. The one sin to which damnation is appended is persevering unbelief.

(3) To speak against the Son of man is to resist the testimony of Christ coming without the demonstration of miracles. To speak against the Holy Ghost is to resist that testimony when confirmed by miracles (cf. Exodus 8:19; Luke 11:20; Joh 10:1-42 :47, 48).

(4) "The sin denounced is, probably, the rejection of the last and greatest evidence of the Messiahship of Christ—the dispensation of the Spirit" (Harris). in this view, with respect to the Pharisees, our Lord's words are admonitory, "If you persist in this temper you will place yourselves beyond the reach of mercy." The nation of Israel was not destroyed until after the evidence of the Spirit proved unavailing.

(5) There is absolutely no sin that may not be repented and forgiven through the mercy of the gospel. Impenitence—wilful unbelief—is the one unpardonable crime.

2. Yet are there degrees of difficulty in respect to repentance.

(1) Sins of ignorance could be readily expiated by sacrifice under the Law (see Numbers 15:28). And so still are they more easily forgiven under the gospel (see 1 Timothy 1:13).

(2) For presumptuous or high-handed sins there were under the Law no sacrifices (see Le Matthew 20:10; Numbers 15:30, Numbers 15:31; Numbers 35:31; 1 Samuel 2:25).

(3) Yet for presumptuous sins there was forgiveness from the Lord upon repentance in anticipation of the mercy of the gospel. The pardon of high-handed sins belongs properly to the age of Messiah (cf. Psalms 51:1-19.; Acts 2:36, Acts 2:38; Acts 3:17; Acts 5:31). The converting grace of Christ masters the strong man in the heart. Once the devil could make the sinner swear, get drunk, neglect his soul; but now things are changed, and he has no such power.

(4) When sin becomes desperately malignant, as in the case of these Pharisees, repentance becomes extremely difficult. The spirit of the words of Christ is that all manner of sis and blasphemy is more easily forgiven than the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Thus when our Lord says, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Mark 13:31), the meaning is that heaven and earth will more easily pass away than that his words should fail of accomplishment. For so it is expressed in Luke (Luke 16:17).

3. Is there here any countenance to the doctrine of purgatory?

(1) The words "world to come" (אבה מלוע) "age to come," are commonly used in Jewish writers to express the age of Messiah. The age to come, then, is the gospel age, which did not set in fully until the great Sacrifice was offered upon Calvary and the Spirit poured out on the Day of Pentecost, and which was contrasted with the Levitical age then current.

(2) The Jews expected a freer forgiveness of sins in the age of Messiah than they enjoyed under the Levitical dispensation.

(3) The import of our Lord's words, then, simply is that the difficulty is extreme in bringing to repentance a malignant and unreasonable blasphemer.

(4) And if he pass the age of Messiah unforgiven, then he will have to encounter the horrors of "eternal damnation" (Mark 3:29), or, as the New Version puts it, "is guilty of an eternal sin."—J.A.M.

Matthew 12:33-37

The heart in the tongue.

The subject of the Pharisees' blasphemy is continued in these verses. From them we learn—


1. It is fruitful in robbery.

(1) Slander filches the reputation of the innocent. A man's character is his reputation with his Maker, whatever may be his reputation with his fellows. Reputation is a man's character as estimated by his fellows. Next to the favour of God men esteem that of their fellows. It is a moral power the loss of which is serious injury.

(2) Slander robs a man of his friends. We are constituted for society. Solitary confinement is intolerable. No man can afford to be deserted of his friends. But who would be the friend of a blasted reputation?

(3) Slander deprives a man of property. The robber may not be enriched, but the robbery is real. A man without a character is shut out of the markets.

2. It is prolific in murder.

(1) Murder is held among men of all crimes the most heinous, and is therefore visited by the extreme penalty or' law. But hatred is incipient murder (cf. Matthew 5:21, Matthew 5:22; 1 John 3:15). Slander is the hatred of the cowardly knave. The Pharisees who first maligned Christ then took counsel to destroy him (see Matthew 12:14).

(2) If slander does not aim at the life of the body, it stabs the life of character. Character is moral life. It is a more sacred thing than the life of the animal. A virtuous man would part with the life of the flesh rather than sacrifice his character.

(3) The poison of the nettle or of the sting of an insect is not the less real because it may elude the tests of chemistry. The murder is not the less real because it is not overtaken by the civil law.

3. It is emphatically diabolical.

(1) Calumny is the favourite weapon of the "father of lies." This is expressed in his very name. "Devil" means traducer. Satan slandered God to Eve (see Genesis 3:1, Genesis 3:4, Genesis 3:5). Satan slandered Job to God (Job 1:11; Job 2:4).

(2) Therefore the blasphemy of the Pharisees is here fittingly compared to the venom of the serpent. "Ye offspring of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?" (see also Matthew 3:7).

(3) The malignity of the slanderer is devilish. Its wickedness is as gratuitous as it is cruel. A burglar may benefit by his plunder; but this species of robbery benefits nobody. A man whose reputation is preserved may replace his property; but filched of his "good name" he is "poor indeed."


1. Words are the vehicles of thought.

(1) They are the instruments of thought. We think in words. We cannot think without them. Try. Clear ideas are shaped in appropriate language. The vocabulary of the savage is too rude for him to be capable of profound or philosophic thought.

(2) They are the conveyancers of thought. Perceptive ideas may be conveyed by other signs, as gesture, or facial expression; but profound thoughts and delicate distinctions require the more perfect instrument of speech.

2. By words thought stirs worlds.

(1) The world of commerce. Educated hands and inventive minds are linked by words. Words guide the transport of the products from the factory to the market. In the market they preside in all exchanges.

(2) The world of politics. The speech of an orator may shape the destinies of an empire. By a word the peace of a continent may be settled or disturbed. Words have created revolutions.

(3) The world of morals. Witness the connection between the preaching of Peter the Hermit and the Crusades; the relation of the preaching of Luther to the Protestant Reformation.

3. What an engine for good or evil is here!

(1) Skilfully used, steam will set a factory in motion. Mismanaged, it will wreck it. So words.

(2) Eternal happiness or misery turns upon the quality of a word. A good word may awaken memories and start trains of thought to issue in a regenerated life. A malignant word, at a moment of indecision, may so determine the will as to damn an immortal destiny.

(3) The value of words will be seen in the day of judgment. For by their words will they be judged (verses 36, 37).

(a) Wicked words will pass in review. The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. The word against the Son of man.

(b) Idle words—words wanting in seriousness and caution; discourse that does not tend to the glory of God; the desecration of the solemn language of Scripture in garnishing idle talk (cf. Proverbs 10:9; Ephesians 4:29; Ephesians 5:4; 1 Timothy 5:13).

(c) Of these we shall have to give an account. Picture the Pharisee explaining his blasphemy in the very presence of the Blessed One whom he had attempted to identify with the devil!


1. Speech is the natural vent of the heart.

(1) The heart will have expression or it will break. The growing tree will displace rocks. The overflowing fountain will carry away obstructions. Pent-up feeling is like steam in a close vessel.

(2) The heart will have adequate expression. This it can only find in speech. It is ready. ":Nearest tile heart, nearest the mouth." The idea most forcibly impressed on the mind wilt naturally claim first utterance. The tongue also is flexible and mobile, and words are versatile and apt.

2. Language is the sure index to character.

(1) This follows, for the heart is the character. Jesus is the good tree whose fruit is good. The Pharisee is the evil tree whose fruit is evil.

(2) As the tree is known by its fruit, so is the heart by the conversation. "The kind of speech in a man betokens the kind of action you will get from him" (Carlyle).

(3) The tree after its kind is folded up in the seed, and can be evolved from it again; so from our words the Judge of all will evolve again our character in the great day or' doom.

(4) Every word has its moral history.

(5) Though Jacob may simulate the raiment of Esau, he cannot simulate his voice.

3. Therefore the tongue must be cured in the heart.

(1) They begin at the wrong end who would reform the heart by reforming the tongue. "A man may beat down the bitter fruit from an evil tree until he is weary; but whilst the root abides in strength and vigour, the beating down of the present fruit will not hinder it from bringing forth more" (Dr. Owen).

(2) Resolution can only transiently cure, viz. while the matter is present to the mind. But thought cannot evermore remain upon any single subject. The most vigilant sentinel must sometimes sleep, and the truant heart will out.

(3) But let the heart be full of love to God and man, and its malice may be trusted anywhere.

(4) Nothing but the salt of grace will heal the bitter spring of the bad heart. Nothing but a good graft can convert an evil tree (see 1 Samuel 24:13; Isaiah 32:6).

(5) It should be more our care to be good than to seem good (cf. Proverbs 25:26; Jeremiah 6:7).—J.A.M.

Matthew 12:38-45

The sign-seekers.

After Jesus had denounced the blasphemy of the scribes and Pharisees, and threatened them with the severity of the judgment, certain of their number demanded of him a sign to sustain his asserted authority. In his reply we notice—


1. They sought a sign, viz., from heaven.

(1) The sign of the Prophet Daniel was evidently that for which they looked (cf. Daniel 7:13; Matthew 16:1; Luke 11:16; i Corinthians Luke 1:22). They were eager for the visible kingdom.

(2) In this clamour former miracles are ignored. He who is unconvinced by proofs so stupendous as those on which Christianity rests is an unbeliever, not from want of evidence, but from an evil bias upon his judgment and will which no additional demonstration can remedy.

2. But this sign was not for that generation.

(1) They were "evil." The Pharisees and scribes were eminently so. Speaking against the Son of man. Blaspheming against the Holy Ghost. A "generation of vipers."

(2) They were adulterous. Literally so. They were guilty of polygamy, frequent divorces, and other sensualities, which they covered by hypocrisy or defended by Immoral casuistry. About this time the Rabbi Joachim ben Zacchai abrogated the trial by the bitter waters of jealousy, because so many were found to be thus criminated.

(3) Figuratively. The Hebrews were by the Sinai covenant married to their Maker, as Christians become the spouse of Christ by the covenant from Zion. Idolatry and worldliness, which is a form of idolatry, are spiritual adultery (see James 4:4).

(4) The clamourers did not consider that the sign from heaven is the signal for judgment. Had they faithfully read the Prophet Daniel they would have seen that the judgment precedes the visible kingdom. It is in his mercy that God does not answer the prayers of wicked men.

3. He gave them the sign from the earth.

(1) Jonah was a type of Christ in his burial. Jonah spoke of his position in the belly of the fish as that of one buried in the grave. He calls it "the belly of hell," Sheol, or the grave; and "the pit". The type was all the more remarkable in the miraculous preservation of his life. For the Holy One must not see corruption. He cannot be holden of death.

(2) Jonah was a type of Christ in his resurrection.

(a) As to the fact.

(b) As to the time (vide Exposition; see also Hosea 6:2).

(3) Jonah preached to the Ninevites after his return from his burial in the sea-monster. The true preaching of the gospel followed upon the resurrection of Jesus.

(4) The miracle in the case of Jonah was a sign that he was a divinely commissioned prophet; and it authenticated his words to the Ninevites. So is the resurrection of Jesus the authentication of his mission and words (see Luke 11:30). Those who will not accept this sign are in no condition to accept any sign, though it should be even "from heaven."

(5) In God's order the sign of the Prophet Jonah must anticipate the sign of the Prophet Daniel. Messiah must first come in humiliation, in suffering and death and burial, before he can come in power and great glory.


1. The men of Nineveh will confront them there.

(1) The Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah. They credited the sign. Their faith saved them from vengeance. Note: God's threatenings, as well as his promises, are conditional. No one goes to perdition by arbitrary predestination.

(2) How will the scribes and Pharisees appear in the judgment when confronted with the men of Nineveh? They repented not at the preaching of Jesus, who came to them authenticated by miracles and prophecies innumerable.

(3) Jesus is a "greater than Jonah." The Ninevites repented at the preaching of the lesser prophet. The scribes and Pharisees resisted the preaching of the greater. Note: Responsibilities are heavier as privileges and opportunities are greater.

2. The queen of the south will confront them there.

(1) She came to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Solomon was but a type of Jesus. He is Wisdom itself—the Eternal Word of God. The Wisdom of God himself" came to his own" privileged people, "but they received him not."

(2) She came "from the uttermost parts of the earth." She came up out of a dark heathen land, far away from the light of the oracles of God. How strongly did her case contrast with that of the very doctors of the Law, who, in the "Valley of Vision," were visited by the God of glory!

(3) Gentile believers in general will come into judgment with the Jewish rejecters of the gospel. So will those who amongst the Gentiles improved inferior light rise up to confound those who have neglected or abused the superior. The rising up alludes to the custom of witnesses rising from their seats and standing in court to give their testimony.

(4) Opportunity and privilege will have their value in the judgment in determining the measure of the rewards and punishments.


1. The sentence is the sequel of the trial.

(1) The certainty of the trial cannot be disputed. It is certified in the sign of the resurrection of Christ. This is the very gist of the reference to the sign of the Prophet Jonah. In this sense also Paul cites the sign: "He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath gives assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead (Acts 17:31).

(2) Not only is the resurrection of Christ given for a sign of the judgment; it is, moreover, given to evince the certainty of the particular doctrine, viz. that men shall be then judged by their words, and by them justified or condemned. Let this great truth influence all our conversation.

(3) As certainly as there will be a judgment, so certainly will the destiny of the judged be determined. The judgment will be no mere parade. The doom of the wicked is portrayed in the parable of the unclean spirit.

2. Communities are punished in this world.

(1) This is obvious from the nature of the case. They belong exclusively to it, and exist in it. So the parable sets forth the doom of the "generation" or race of unbelieving Jews.

(2) Their "first" state was melancholy, viz. when they were visited by the gospel. It is described under the similitude of a demoniac. The prevalence of demoniacal possession at that time was a consequence, and therefore fittingly a figure, of the wickedness of the nation.

(3) They had a season of merciful visitation in the preaching of John and of Jesus. There was a partial reformation through the preaching of John. Jesus, in consequence, appeared, and expelled devils to evince his power to drive them away from the hearts of the people.

(4) The reformation, however, was but partial. The people relapsed; and now their condition had become worse than ever. Instead of being the victim of one, they now became the victim of seven devils, and these more wicked than the former. Note: There are degrees of wickedness in devils. Hence the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Hence also their filling up the measure of their iniquity in crucifying the Just One; and hence the consequent "days of vengeance" in the destruction of Jerusalem.

3. Individuals also are punished for sin.

(1) Sinners, as individuals, do not wholly go unpunished in this world. The wrath upon communities is felt by individuals. The condition of the backslider is itself a punishment.

(2) Satan finds his soul inviting. For out of humanity he is restless. He is uneasy when he can do no mischief. Hell is the devil's heaven. There is nothing to keep him out.

(a) He finds it "empty" of God, of Christ, of his Holy Spirit.

(b) It is "swept" from love, lowliness, meekness, and all the fruits of the Spirit.

(c) It is "garnished" with levity and security.

The lodgings are furnished. "Servants make the house trim and handsome against their master comes home, especially when he brings guests with him, as here the devil brings seven more'" (Gurnall).

(3) The last state of the backslider is worse than the first.

(a) His powers were expanded under the heavenly influences of the gospel, and he is the more capable now of refinement in iniquity. He can now entertain "seven" devils, whereas formerly he had accommodation for one only.

(b) Evil habits are formed and strengthened by relapses. The condition induced by multiplied relapses is therefore the more incurable.

(4) The final doom of the sinner is at the judgment of the last day. Then balances are struck and arrears paid up. Then the severity of the tyranny of the "seven devils" is felt.—J.A.M.

Matthew 12:46-50

Christ's relationships.

These, so far as they are set forth in the text, are three, viz. he has a relationship to the world, to the family, and to the Church. Consider, then—


1. He is its Redeemer.

(1) To accomplish our redemption he assumed our nature. In our nature he assumed our sin. Not, however, by his incarnation, but by imputation. He redeemed us from suffering by suffering in our stead.

(2) He is the Redeemer of all men. To all men, therefore, the conditions of salvation are to be proclaimed. Those who accept the conditions experience the benefit.

(3) The redemption saves us from sin to righteousness. It saves us from death—spiritual—everlasting.

2. He is its Teacher.

(1) He came to release the Jew from the traditions of the elders. To bring out the spirit of the Law, which has the essence of the gospel in it (see 2 Corinthians 3:12-18). To illustrate life and immortality.

(2) He came to release the Gentile from ignorance, superstition, and vice. To reconcile him to God. To reconcile him to the Jew. For the children of the promise, whether Jew or Gentile, are the children of Abraham's faith (Galatians 3:29).

(3) Here we find him "speaking to the multitudes." His discourse was not to the Pharisees, but to the crowd. From the "wise and understanding" he turns away; that he may reveal the mysteries of wisdom "unto babes." Those multitudes were representative. To the vaster multitudes in all climes, in a million echoes, he still speaks loving words.


1. The family claim was asserted.

(1) "His mother and his brethren." There is difference of opinion as to the identity of these "brethren." Some think they were his cousins—children of Mary, his mother's sister, and of Cleophas, or Alphaeus. Some believe them to have been children of Joseph and Mary. There is no sufficient reason to doubt this; for the perpetual virginity of Mary is a figment.

(2) They" stood without, seeking to speak with him." Note: Mary made no effort to "command her Son," as the Mariolatrists speak. Yet there was an assertion of family claim in the desire for a private audience with Jesus.

(3) Had the family claim been properly asserted, it would doubtless receive a recognition. From his cross Jesus was solicitous for the temporal maintenance and protection of his mother (see John 19:25-27).

2. It was offensively asserted.

(1) "His mother and his brethren stood without," when they should have stood within, listening to the discourse. Those who are nearest the means of grace are often the most negligent of them. So the proverb, "The nearer the church the further from God."

(2) Yet they had the presumption to desire that Jesus should come out to them. This was, moreover, an unseemly interruption of a heavenly discourse. It was also an unwarrantable distraction to the hearers. Family influence is misplaced in interrupting the blessed work of God (see Luke 11:27, Luke 11:28).

(3) Their purpose was to stop his preaching; for his brethren were unbelieving, and thought him beside himself. His mother was with them. Perhaps her motive may have been to caution him against offending the Pharisees.

3. The intrusion was reproved.

(1) "He answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?" And what follows suggests that upon this occasion, at least, they were not doing the will of his Father which is in heaven.

(2) He proceeded with his discourse. His earthly mother's claims must not compete with the will and work of his heavenly Father. The opposition we may meet with even from our relatives must not drive us from the work of God.

(3) The fault of Mary, together with its reproof, seriously discourage Mariolatry. (cf. Luke 2:49., Luke 11:28; John 2:4).


1. Christ's nearest relations are his true disciples.

(1) They are defined to be those who do the will of his Father which is in heaven (see John 7:17). Jesus himself came, not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him (John 6:38).

(2) His true disciples are preferred before his natural relatives. There is no saving relationship to Jesus according to the flesh. Spiritual relationship to him is saving.

(3) Those who do the will of the Father are nearest of kin to the Son. He is his Father's Heir. Those who are the children of his Father are his co-heirs (of. Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7).

2. Endearments of natural relationship are heightened in them.

(1) "He is my brother." Jesus is more than a, Friend to his true disciple. He will cleave to him when he is forsaken of all others. He is that Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

(2) "And sister." He extends to his disciple that loving protection which a true brother extends to his sister. He delights in the happiness of the disciple as the brother delights in the happiness of his sister.

(3) "And mother." As a good son gives the support of a strong arm to his mother in her failing strength, so does Jesus strengthen his disciples in the seasons of their weakness.

(4) As the disciples who are worthy of Christ forsake for him all natural relationships, so does he forsake all natural relationships for them (cf. Matthew 4:22; Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26). Thus do they receive in him both the hundredfold and the eternal life (see Matthew 19:29).

3. Spiritual relationships are enduring.

(1) Not so the natural These are invaded by death. Saints in the resurrection are like the angels of God.

(2) The family named after Christ is at once in heaven and earth. We are already come to the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn enrolled in heaven.

(3) Christ will not be ashamed of his poor relations. He will confess them before assembled worlds.—J.A.M.


Matthew 12:2

Rigidity in sabbath rules.

That which the disciples did was not regarded as a wrong thing in their day. Thomson tells us that, when travelling in harvest-time, his muleteers plucked off the ears of corn, rubbed them in their hands, and ate the grains, just as the apostles did. And this was quite allowable; it was never thought of as stealing. The Pharisees did not object to the thing that was done, but to the infringement of their stiff rule, that this particular act should not be done on the sabbath, because it amounted to doing work on the sabbath day. Divine laws can gain adjustments and adaptations to fit to various conditions and circumstances; there is elasticity in their applications. Man-made laws are stiff and rigid; they scarcely permit exceptions; and require that men shall always adjust to them, and never expect law to adjust to meet their need. The Divine sabbath law is large, comprehensive, spiritual, and therefore searching. But it is elastic, and adjusts to man's varying conditions; it does not expect men to force themselves to fit to it. Human sabbath rules were, in our Lord's time, and are still, most vexations things—yokes that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear. They required a woman to have no bow on her dress, unless it was sewn on, and so a part of the dress; for otherwise she would be carrying a bow. And these strange rules to-day permit a woman to use a pin on the Sunday, but refuse to allow her to use a needle. Sabbath never can be really kept on man-made rules. "In their bigoted reverence for the sabbath some of the Jews asserted that the day was first of all kept in heaven, and that the Jewish nation had been chosen for no other end than to preserve it holy upon earth." The extent to which they carried their scruples excites one's ridicule and contempt.

I. THE SABBATH AS A PRINCIPLE. It is well, in dealing with the sabbath, always to show first that it is a Divine arrangement for humanity, as such, and is not, in the first place, distinctively religious. For healthy life God provided the rest of night; for healthy work God provided the rest of the sabbath. But there is this important difference between them. The rest of night is compulsory; the seventh-day rest is voluntary. This at once brings in the element of principle and of religion. If a man is in the fear and love of God, as he should be, he will readily and cheerfully do what God suggests as well as what God commands.

II. THE SABBATH AS A RULE. Voluntary things may not be done; then if God will not make certain things compulsory, men think they can do God service by fixing rules for their fellows, and so make them keep sabbath. And even good men cannot see that thus they take all the glory of the sabbath away.—R.T.

Matthew 12:8

The sabbath an agency within Christ's control.

"For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day." It would open up a most interesting subject if we were to inquire whether our Lord spoke these words in his personal or in his representative capacity—whether he meant, "I, as an individual, am Lord of the sabbath," or whether he recant, "Every man, if he is a true man, with right motives and purposes, is lord of his sabbath, and has both the power and the liberty to arrange it as he thinks may be for the best."

I. CHRIST WAS LORD OF HIS SABBATHS. It is familiar thought that he was Lord because he was Divine—he was the Son of God; "all power was given unto him in heaven and in earth." But that is not his own ground of claim here. He was "Lord of the sabbath" because he was "the Son of man;" first of men—model Man. His manhood gave him his rights. Had he been a man of wavering disposition, uncertain in his ideas of the right, ruled by self-pleasing, or with a poor sense of loyalty to God, he could not have managed his sabbaths. But, being the perfectly controlled, pious, cultured Man he was, we all feel at once that we could have no hesitation whatever in fully committing to him the management of his sabbaths, for himself, for his household, for his disciples. The perfect Divine Man can be "Lord of the sabbath;" he will do no wrong himself; he will let no wrong be done by those about him. If he permits his disciples to satisfy their hunger by plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath, those disciples do no wrong. Character, sanctified character, is the lord of the sabbath; and this is perfectly shown in the claims of Jesus, the ideal Man.

II. CHRISTIANS ARE LORDS OF THEIR SABBATHS. Just in the degree in which they are Christians indeed, swayed by Christian principles, toned by the Christian spirit, moulded to the Christian model. We observe that we do, without thinking about it, fully permit established Christians to arrange their sabbaths how they please—we easily let them be lords of the sabbath. Our anxiety concerns the ways in which the inexperienced Christians, the mere professors, and the worldly, keep the sabbath. It is only for their sakes that we ever think of making sabbath rules. If all men were such men as the Lord Jesus, we could banish every sabbath rule, and let them be "lords of their sabbaths;" and so it comes to view that what the world wants is the Divine life in souls, the Divine culture in life, the perfecting of manhood so that every man may become lord of his sabbath.—R.T.

Matthew 12:13

Power allied to obedience.

"Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other." The man did as he was bidden, and found himself able to do what he was bidden to do. And this illustrates a great, comprehensive, ever-working law. Every man can do what he ought to do. He who tries to obey will surely find himself able to obey. This man was bidden to do precisely what, to all appearance, he could not do. He did it, in obedience to a Divine command, and, to his own surprise, and every one else's surprise, he found he could do it. In a similar way our Lord said to the paralytic, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk." How a paralyzed man was to do this did not appear. But the man tried to obey, and found that power came with the obedience. Had he waited for consciousness of strength he might have waited, helpless, for ever. Prompt obedience proved the possession of faith; that is the arranged channel of Divine blessing. "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it," and you will find that you can do it.

I. MAN'S OBEDIENCE IS THE SIGN OF HIS FAITH. Therein lies the virtue of it. The act reveals the spirit of the man. He who believes in Christ will, without question or hesitancy, do whatever Christ tells him to do. Illustrate from such cases as that of Abraham offering up his son. We can see the obedience, but behind the obedience, and inspiring the obedience, we may see the faith. And this the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews brings out: "By faith Abraham offered up Isaac … accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." Mere obedience has no special virtue in it. It is no more than our duty. But when obedience becomes the expression of faith, then it becomes supremely interesting, it is a high moral and spiritual power. St. James points out that "faith without works [obediences] is dead;" but it is equally true that "works [obediences] without faith are dead." This man stretched out his hand because he believed in Christ's power to heal.

II. GOD'S POWER IN RESPONSE TO A MAN'S FAITH. It should be clearly seen that Christ rewarded the faith. It is that honours God. We may even illustrate from the relations of our home-life. We love to be obeyed, and we do much for the children who are good. But we, in a far higher sense, love to be trusted, and we do our best, unfold our richest, for those who lean on us with loving confidence. It is the sweet mystery of the Fatherhood of God that he loves to be trusted, and gives his best to those who trust. "Only believe; all things are possible to him that believeth."—R.T.

Matthew 12:14

The perils of faithfulness.

That he might be "in all points tempted like as we are," our Lord had the experience of rousing enmity even in doing faithfully the duty of the hour. It was his life-work to heal and save. He was not going to allow himself to be hindered, in doing his great life-work, by the claims of merely rabbinical rules. But the penalty came, which comes to all men who are persistently faithful to their sense of right: "The Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him." It is important to note that the Pharisaic opposition to Christ was raised on the distinct ground that he would be true to himself—he would say just what was given him to say; he would do just what was given him to do; he would not trim his words or his ways to please any parties. And this in no spirit of stubbornness; only in supreme loyalty to the supreme Authority which he acknowledged, and those Pharisees professed to acknowledge. If any man means to be faithful to the best he knows, he had better take due account of the fact that he will be misunderstood, misrepresented, and socially persecuted. The man who means to get through life easily has no very positive opinions, and is quite ready to shift and change his views if they do not quite please. But such men never yet led, ennobled, inspired, or reproved any generation. Men of positive convictions alone can lead to noble things; and they may be well content to bear the perils of faithfulness.

I. THE FOES OF FAITHFUL JESUS. "These Pharisees passed for the best persons in the country, the conservators of respectability and orthodoxy. They cannot be accused of having neglected Jesus. They turned their attention to him from the first. They followed him step by step. They discussed his doctrines and his claims, and made up their minds. Their decision was adverse, and they followed it up with acts, never becoming remiss in their activity for an hour. This is, perhaps, the most solemn and appalling circumstance in the whole tragedy of the life of Christ, that the men who rejected, hunted down, and murdered him, were those reputed best in the nation, its teachers and examples, the zealous conservators of the Bible, and the traditions of the past." But this is always the supreme bitterness of the lot of faithful men; their worst foes are the good people whom they would die to serve, if they could, with supreme loyalty to God.

II. THE SCHEMES OF THE FOES OF FAITHFUL JESUS. They began with trying arguments; but as they did not succeed at that, they attempted to silence Jesus; and even were led on to scheme his death. They represent the gradual embittering and blinding which always follow on cherished religious prejudice.—R.T.

Matthew 12:19

The power that may be in silent farces.

This passage from Isaiah is given to show that one most characteristic feature of our Lord's ministry was anticipated in prophecy. He avoided publicity; he shrank from contentions; he would not thrust himself into danger; he was absolutely content to do a quiet work, by personal influence, daily teachings, and kindly deeds of helpfulness, and of "heavenly, Divine charity." Silent forces are the mightiest. Silent light does more than bursting lightning; silent gravitation does more than rumbling earthquake. A thought, a truth, may work in men's minds as the frost works in the cliffs that guard "the inviolate sea;" and presently the results are found, as the cliffs fall on to the shores. But faith in the power of silent forces is not usual with men, more especially in the spheres of religion. We are always wanting something that can be reported in the newspapers, and bring round upon us the praise of men for our energy and activity. The quiet-souled, who are content to do good work, and to keep on doing it, leaving it with God to appraise work, and reckon results, and reward workers, can always make their appeal to Christ, who got away from crowds whenever he could, who shrank from public excitement, and laid on the altar of the Father's service simply good, patient, quiet work. This subject may be effectively illustrated in relation to the following things:

1. The silent force of sanctified personal character.

2. The silent force of unconscious influence.

3. The silent force of ever-ready and ever-cheerful helpfulness.

4. The silent force of cultured self-denial.

5. The silent force of full convictions of truth.

The man of strong faith never needs to use strong assertion. Quietness is his strength. There is need for the noisy forces; and God is properly called by the poet "Lord of the strong things and the gentle." But our faith in the manifestly strong things, needs no buttressing. Our faith in the seemingly weak things needs much buttressing. Jesus neither "strives nor cries," but he puts forces into the world which will work, as the leaven works, until they have secured the world's redemption.—R.T.

Matthew 12:24

A malicious explanation.

"This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." The Pharisees must have been very hard driven indeed in order to invent such an explanation. Perhaps what was in their minds was this: "He orders the evil spirits about as if he were a master, or prince, of them. He must be himself possessed with a devil, and it evidently is Beelzebub the prince of the devils." Our Lord had no difficulty in showing up the folly and malice of such suggestions.

1. Masters do not spoil the characteristic work of their servants; a prince of devils was not likely to prevent devils doing devils' work.

2. Jewish exorcists claimed power to cast out devils; these Pharisees claimed such power; then their argument was readily turned round on themselves—they too must be possessed by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. "According to the Book of Henoch, the demons are the souls of the giants who corrupted themselves with the daughters of men; but Josephus regarded them as the spirits of dead men. They were so numerous that every man has ten thousand on his right hand, and one thousand on his left. The chief of the diabolical empire was Beelzebub." "The rabbis, scribes, and doctors of the Law undertook the casting out demons, and some of them were considered very skilful in the art. The healing art was simply exorcism." Dean Plumptre ventures to remind us that "we need not assume that such power was always a pretence, or rested only on spells and incantations. Earnestness, prayer, fasting, faith,—these are always mighty in intensifying the power of will, before which the frenzied soul bows in submission or yields in confidence; and these may well have been found among the better and truer Pharisees."

I. AN EXPLANATION MAY BE GOOD IF IT IS OFFERED IN A MALICIOUS SPIRIT. Its value, as an explanation, should be fairly weighed, without prejudice. We may often learn most valuable things from the bitter words of our enemies. They reveal to us what otherwise we might never have discovered.

II. AN EXPLANATION IS LIKELY TO BE BAD WHEN IT IS OFFERED IN A MALICIOUS SPIRIT. It is better to suspect it; better not to make too much of it. Malice spoils eyesight, and certainly spoils judgment. These Pharisees fashioned a bad argument just because they felt angry with Jesus.—R.T.

Matthew 12:28

An argument with a warning.

"But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you." The sin against the Holy Ghost, which cannot be forgiven, has been so much misunderstood, because its immediate relations have not been sufficiently noticed. It has been treated as a general form of sin, of which any one may be guilty, rather than as a specific sin, of which a particular class of persons in a particular age were guilty. Our Lord was replying to certain Pharisaic objectors. He claimed to work miracles in the power of the Spirit of God. They declared that he worked the miracles in the power of the chief of the evil spirits. To say that was to offer open insult to the Holy Spirit in Jesus. And that is a hopeless kind of sin, because only in the power of the Spirit can men be saved. He who calls the Spirit Beelzebub will never seek his saving help, and so he never will be forgiven or regenerated. Forgiveness only comes to the penitent and humble. It is quite clear that they are neither penitent nor humble who think the Holy Spirit in Jesus is Beelzebub.


1. He may do it with the help of the prince of the devils. Is that a reasonable explanation? If it were merely directing the movements of devils from one sphere of work to another, it might be reasonable; but the case before us is distinctly one of stopping the devils' work. Jesus "cast out" the devils. It is not reasonable to think of princes of devils stopping their subordinates' work. Then see that these Pharisees were shut up to, and obliged to accept, the other possible explanation. Jesus cast out devils by the Spirit of God; that is every way reasonable, according to their own showing, for the good God must be opposed to the work of evil spirits.

II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF ADMITTING THE ONLY REASONABLE EXPLANATION. These Pharisees came under the gravest responsibility. If Jesus wrought in the power of the Spirit, they were bound to believe him, and come into discipleship with him. This they would not do. Then Christ presses home the consequences of their wilfulness. They sinned against light; they resisted inward convictions; they grieved the Spirit; they blasphemed the Spirit; they put themselves into such moral attitudes that they could not be forgiven; forgiveness is of no value to those who are not humble.—R.T.

Matthew 12:34

The law of good speech.

"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." It is in our Lord's mind here to account for the bad speech of the Pharisees. It was the natural expression of bad minds, minds full of prejudice and malice. How could they, "being evil, speak good things"? But a great principle is involved in our Lord's appeal.

I. WORDS MAY BE MERE WORDS. Our Lord calls them "idle words." Much that we say we have not really thought. We often speak first and think last. And such idle words, though they do not express our real selves, often make sad mischief. Words glibly pass our tongues, and we forget them the moment after they are uttered, but they are as scorpion-stings to those who hear; they light up fires like the fires of hell. Therefore Christ warns so severely against words that have no thought and no heart behind them, and yet do their fatal work, saying, "For every idle word that man shall speak, he shall give account in the day of judgment." The first law of good speech is—think before you speak.

II. WORDS MAY UTTER A BAD HEART. The skill of life is keeping bad thoughts from gaining utterance. At the most, they only injure one person if they are kept from utterance. There is no knowing how many they may injure if they get expressed. These Pharisees had bad enough thoughts concerning Christ. If they had kept them to themselves, they would only have ruined themselves. Speaking their thought out, they started evil in other minds; words were agencies for communicating thought to thought; so the mischief ran, other souls were blocked against Christ, and his redeeming work was hindered in men.

III. WORDS MAY UTTER A GOOD HEART. Think pure things, and you need not restrain utterance; you will find pure words. Think kind things, trustful things, God-honouring things, and then, out of the abundance of the heart, the lips may freely speak. What you say will not be "idle things" with nothing behind them; nor will they be evil things with malice behind them. Let God make the soul-fountains of thought and heart fresh and sweet by his Holy Spirit's regenerating and sanctifying, and there need be no fear—our speech will be good speech, "seasoned with salt."—R.T.

Matthew 12:38

Sinful sign-seekers.

Sign-seeking may be either right or wrong. Gideon sought a sign from God for the confirmation of his faith; and to him the sign was given. These Pharisees asked for a sign which they could turn into a confirmation of their unbelief, and to them no sign was given; they must be content with a sort of enigma, or riddle, which they might puzzle over if they pleased. The state of mind of these sign-seekers is of great importance. It explains to us at once that it would Lave been worse than waste for our Lord to have yielded to their wish.

I. THE SIGN THEY SOUGHT. Some miracle, wrought under conditions which they would appoint, anti submitted to tests which they would provide. Illustrate by the recent demand of the scientific man to have the question of "answer to prayer" submitted to what he called "adequate scientific tests." For them to seek a sign at all was to show that the miracles Christ had wrought had not produced their proper moral effect upon them. And anything like a demand for a sign showed that they did not realize their proper relations to a Jehovah-prophet, and to this Jehovah-prophet, who was the Messiah.

II. THE SIGN THEY OBTAINED. Not at all the kind of thing they asked for. Something stated in such a paradoxical way as compelled them to think. The reference to Jonah's being in the sea-monster's belly is not the thing our Lord is using as a sign; that only introduces the sign of Jonah's preaching repentance to the men of Nineveh. That was a sign, or illustration, of our Lord's preaching to the Pharisees; and the sign became a solemn warning; for, while the Ninevites obeyed Jonah, they were resolutely setting themselves against all obedience to Christ; and as Christ was greater than Jonah, so their judgment for rejecting him would be proportionately severe. It is as if our Lord had said, "I will not give you a sign, but I will give you an illustration; and I will take it from the Old Testament history, which you pride yourselves on knowing so well; and from the conduct of a heathen people, whom you sublimely despise. 'They repented at the preaching of Jonah;' 'A Greater than Jonah is here.' How are-you treating him and his message? Verily the men of Nineveh will rise and condemn you, you men of the superior privilege, in the day of judgment." They wanted a sign that they might use to condemn Christ; he gave them a sign which condemned them.—R.T.

Matthew 12:43

Clean, but empty.

A notion prevailed in Chaldea which presents a striking similarity to that appealed to by our Lord in this parable of the evil spirit returning to possess the empty house. It was thought that when once the possessing demons were expelled from the body the only guarantee was to obtain, by the power of incantations, an opposite possession by a favourable demon. A good spirit must take the place of the evil one in the body of the man. This is part of one of their incantations—

"May the bad demons depart!
May they seize upon one another!
The propitious demon,
The propitious giant,—
May they penetrate into his body!"

We must try to see the connection in which this parable stands.

I. IT PICTURES THE HISTORICAL FACT CONCERNING. ISRAEL. The nation had, once for all and resolutely, turned out the demon of idolatry when they returned from Babylon to repossess their land. For a long time the land was clean from that sin, empty of that bad spirit; but as Jesus read the bad hearts of those Pharisees, and the mischievous influence of their teachings, it seemed clear to him that the old demon of idolatry had come back in disguise, and brought with him seven other spirits, worse than himself. That generation was more utterly corrupt than even the old ages of violent idolatry. Hypocrisy, self-will, hard-heartedness, pride, malice, were devils morally worse than idolatry.

II. IT REVEALS AN EVER-RECURRING FACT CONCERNING ALL MEN. They are easily satisfied with reforms that merely mean putting aside some evil indulgence. They give up certain habits, and so are clean; but they only turn out the evil and leave his place empty. A soul must be occupied, and if its interest in evil is removed, it must be interested in good. Religion should fill up all empty places, and leave no room for returning evil. The man who relapses into sin after being delivered from its power, almost always goes greater lengths in sin than he went in the early stages. Every relapse is more dangerous than the disease. "It is quite possible that a man who has conquered some old vice or besetting sin may, as a reformed man, pass under the dominion of spirits who are far more plausible and no less evil than the one he has subdued. Instead of one coarse spirit, think of eight subtle intellects crowding into a man's soul."—R.T.

Matthew 12:49, Matthew 12:50

Spiritual relationships.

There is difficulty in ascertaining the precise relationship to Christ borne by the persons called "his brethren." They were what we should call "blood-relations," but they may not have been either children of Joseph before his marriage to Mary, or children of Mary born after the birth of Jesus. The term is known to have often included cousins, and cousins of different degrees. The point we want is that they came, claiming Christ's special attention, because they were blood-relations.

I. FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS LIE ON A LOW PLANE. Only low comparatively. Until compared with spiritual relationships, it seems to be a very high plane. We regard as morally most valuable the influence and mutual service of family relationships. It is not possible to think of Christ as falling to recognize family ties. They altogether fail in imagination, insight, and spiritual sensitiveness who think our Lord's answer was rude, harsh, and unfeeling. Pulsford says, very suggestively, "A man's relations are as distinct as are his own flesh and spirit. His blood-relatives are often not his spirit-relatives. Blood-relations are of time and for time; kindred spirits are of eternity and for eternity. Natural life has its own associations, and Divine life its own. When the Divine life is quickened in a man he enters into a new world of relationships. And in proportion to the reality and fervour of his new life will be his attachment to his new kindred, and his power of attaching them to him."

II. SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIPS LIE IN THE HIGHER PLANE, BUT ARE WELL REPRESENTED BY THOSE IN THE LOWER PLANE. "It was as if he had said, 'Truly she is my mother, and they are my brethren; but in the higher life, not alone the one who reared me, but every one who is like her is mine. Not alone the gentler companions of my childhood are brothers and sisters, but all who have pure and large hearts. For all true relationship springs from moral states, and not from the mechanical arrangements of society. God is the one Father, and all men become intimately related to each other in proportion as they are intimately related to God'" (Beecher). It is a happy thing indeed when one's near relatives in the flesh are also real relatives, kindred souls, one with us in the love and service of the risen and living Lord.—R.T.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Matthew 12". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/matthew-12.html. 1897.
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