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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 12

 

 

Verses 1-18

CHAPTER 14

JESUS RETURNS TO GALILEE

Matthew 12:1-18; Mark 2:23-28, and Luke 6:1-5. We find that our Lord spent but two weeks at Jerusalem during this tour, preaching and working miracles all the time, of which we have no record; but the fifth chapter of John giving us one notable miracle and one powerful sermon. Luke informs us that the incident, here recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, took place on the Sabbath following the Passover, which began on the Sabbath, ran through the intervening week, and closed on the ensuing Sabbath; thus, according to Luke's testimony, giving our Savior two-weeks' evangelistic tour in Jerusalem. Inquiry naturally rises why He returns to Galilee so soon, when He had spent about ten months of the preceding year in that country. Our Lord gives the reason (John 4:44). Jerusalem and Judea were the regions of great population, while Galilee was the more thinly settled. Again, as He was a native Galilean, His ministry would not attract the amount of popular attention there as at Jerusalem, and especially on occasions of the great festivals, thus augmenting the probability of their cutting short His ministry by crowning Him King. Therefore He did most of His preaching and performed most of His mighty works in the comparatively thinly populated regions of Galilee.

Mark: “And it came to pass that He was journeying on the Sabbath, through the corn-fields, and His disciples began to pursue the journey, plucking the ears [i.e., the wheat-heads]. And the Pharisees continued to say to Him, Behold what they are doing on the Sabbath, which is not lawful. And He said to them, Have you not read what David did when he had need, and he and those who were with him were hungry? How he entered into the house of God, in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which it is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and he gave it to those who were with him? And He said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” Matthew: “Have you not read in the law that the priests on the Sabbath in the 'temple do profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? But I

say unto you, There is One here greater than the temple. If you had known what that is, I wish mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke all relate this incident, which transpired on the Sabbath following the Passover, while our Lord and His disciples were prosecuting their pedestrian journey back to Galilee. Remember that we are now in the beginning of the second year of our Savior's ministry, two more years and two Passovers yet to come. We see our Lord's critics raise no objection to their plucking the wheat-heads, rubbing them out in their hands and eating them (it is more probable it was barley, as this occurred about the first of May, the beginning of the barley harvest, the wheat coming on about a month later), as this privilege was granted in the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 21:2); but they arraign Him for violating the Sabbath, as this happened to take place on that day, showing how very fanatical they were, that they wouldn't allow them to get a little something to eat on the Sabbath. Excessive zeal on non- essentials has characterized the fallen Churches of every age. At this point they murdered the martyrs, too blind to see their holy lives, and actually massacring them because they did not conform to the non-essential human regulations of a fallen ecclesiasticism. Our Savior here gives them the case of the priests, who offer the sacrifices, and work hard in the temple on the Sabbath, and are blameless. He also corroborates it by the case of David (1 Samuel 21:1-7), who, in his flight from Saul, came to Nob, in the days of Abiathar, the priest, he and his men, in their extremity and destitution, eating the shewbread in the temple, which was lawful only for the priests to eat. “I wish mercy and not sacrifice” is the key to this entire problem. God wants a broken heart and a contrite spirit, a penitent soul, on whom He can have mercy, free and unlimited — i.e., save him for nothing, except the vicarious work of Christ — instead of a great sacrifice, offered in pomp and demonstration by some rich person, whose heart is far from Him, vainly flattering himself that he can pay his way to heaven. In this way millions of wealthy Church members make their bed in hell, depending on their offerings to the Lord, instead of falling, a miserable, bankrupt suppliant, at the feet of Jesus, and there crying for mercy till the heavens bow, and God comes down and answers the prayer of the broken-hearted penitent in the mighty uplift of His omnipotent hand.


Verses 9-14

THE WITHERED HAND

Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; and Luke 6:6-11. Our Lord and His disciples have again reached Galilee, their native land. Luke notifies us that this incident transpired on the Sabbath following the preceding, and that it was the right hand which was utterly paralyzed and withered away. Mark: “And he came again into the synagogue, and there was a man with a withered hand. And they were watching Him if He will heal him on the Sabbath-day, in order that they may accuse Him. And He says to the man having the withered hand, Rise up in the midst. And He says to them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath-day or to do evil, to save life or to kill? And they were silent. And looking round on them with anger, being grieved on account of the hardness of their heart, He says to the man, Reach forth thy hand, and he reached it forth, and his hand was made whole as the other. And the Pharisees, going out, immediately took counsel, along with the Herodians, against Him, in order that they may kill Him.” Doubt less you are surprised over the extreme fanaticism of the Jews on the Sabbath question. You must remember that the penalty for Sabbath-breaking under the law of Moses was death. Sabbath is a Hebrew word, which means rest; i.e., that perfect rest which the sanctified soul finds in Jesus. Now you know that God's method with sin is destruction. You can not have this blessed Sabbatic soul-rest until you crucify the man of sin. Then it is impossible for you to keep it unless you deal death to every disturber; i.e., keep the Sword of the Spirit unsheathed and lifted high, ready to strike the death-blow and cut off every snake-head that pokes out. Therefore the symbolic dispensation punished the Sabbath-breaker with death, confirming to us this grand and glorious truth of entire sanctification by sin's annihilation, received and perpetuated. The fact is, even at that early day in His ministry, the leading preachers and official laymen had determined to kill Him, and were only seeking an opportunity. They thought that if they could condemn Him for Sabbath-breaking, they could secure the edict of the Sanhedrin, which was death by stoning. You see in this, the Pharisees and Herodians unite against Him, taking mutual counsel for His death. Do you not know the Pharisees were the orthodox denomination of the Jewish Church and leaders in the opposition to Roman rule, which they had then endured thirty years, while the Herodians were a political party in favor of the Roman Government.

Hence, you see, they were bitter enemies, either to other. Yet we here find them uniting their forces against Jesus, and taking mutual counsel to kill Him. How wonderfully history repeats itself! Holiness is the abstract of which Jesus is the concrete. Opposition to holiness is nothing more nor less than opposition to Jesus. How frequently do we find the wurring sects laying down the cudgel of controversy, and all mutually uniting against holiness!

During our Savior's response to them on this occasion, Mark says, “Looking round upon them with anger, being grieved on account of the hardness of their hearts.” Here he uses the same word, orge, which Paul used (Ephesians 5:26), “Be ye angry and sin not.” Now how can we be angry and sin not? Why! in the same sense in which Jesus “looked round on them with anger,” as Mark and Paul both use the same word-the former applying it to Jesus, and the latter to the saints of all ages. We can be angry and sin not precisely as Jesus did on that occasion. Fortunately, we have an inspired definition of our Lord's anger on that occasion, “Being grieved on account of the hardness of their heart.” Hence, we see, the anger of Jesus consisted in holy grief. Therefore this is the only sense in which we can be angry and sin not. The more holy we are, and the more like Jesus, the more we realize holy indignation against all sin, in every conceivable form and phase. Hence “anger,” in the sense of holy grief, is characteristic of every true Christian. In this sense, “God is angry with the wicked every day.” Lord, make us all like Thyself!


Verse 14

THE STRAY SHEEP

Matthew 12:14. “What seems to you? If there may be to any man a hundred sheep, and one of them may stray away, does he not, leaving the ninety and nine, going into the mountains, seek the lost one? And if it may be that he find it, truly, I say unto you, That he rejoiceth over it more than over the ninety and nine which went not astray. So it is not the will, in the presence of your Father who is in heaven, that one of these little ones may be lost.” Throughout this memorable discourse, delivered by our Savior at Capernaum — and really, so far as the record goes, His valedictory sermon, before He left home for the last time, bidding adieu to Galilee, where He spent about two and a half years of His ministry, preaching, healing, casting out demons, and establishing His disciples in the doctrines of the kingdom, before He goes away to Jerusalem, Judea, and Perea, to preach the remaining six months of His earthly ministry, and lay down His life for a guilty world — He still keeps those infants, both natural and spiritual, prominent before His audience. One of the popes said, “Give me the first seven years, and I will give you all the balance,” feeling assured that, in that short time, he could so write the dogmata of the Catholic Church on the mind of the child, they could never be obliterated. Such is the wonderful redemption of Christ that He actually saves all in their infancy, committing to us, along with the guardian angels, the noble and stupendous work of keeping them saved. O how the universal Church needs awakening on this momentous interest! You see from the illustration that by prayer, instruction, discipline, and vigilance, we are to keep a standing army of saints and angels around the little ones all the time. Then, in case that one out of a hundred should wander away, we are to go through storms and tempests, thorns and briers, deserts and forests, plain and mountain, craggy steeps, frightful precipices, and yawning chasms, till we rescue the lost.


Verses 15-21

CHAPTER 15

THE FIRST AND SECOND COMING OF CHRIST

Matthew 12:15-21. “And Jesus, knowing, departed thence [i.e., when He ascertained that the Pharisees and Herodians were counseling to kill Him, He departed from that place where He had healed the withered hand on the Sabbath]; and many multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all.” What a wonderful Physician we have! He never fails to cure the patient, our own faith being the measuring-line of His efficiency, whether for soul or body. When your work is done, and the Lord is ready to take you to heaven, though you will have abundance of faith for your soul to sweep into glory, you will have no faith for your body to be healed. That will be a glorious day, because heaven is so much better than health.

“He charged them that they may not make Him known,” i.e., the notoriety of His mighty works would excite the multitude to crown Him King, as the Jews all understood that Christ was to be their King, and they were so tired of the Roman yoke, which they had carried thirty years. O how they longed for Messiah to come and break it off their necks!

“In order that the word spoken by Isaiah the prophet may be fulfilled, saying, Behold My Servant, whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom my soul delighteth; I will place My Spirit upon Him, and He will proclaim judgment to the Gentiles.” This is a beautiful prophetical allusion to the glorious coming of our Lord, when He shall girdle the globe with the splendors and triumphs of His Millennial Theocracy, all the nations of the earth gladly bowing down to His benignant, equitable, and heavenly administration, bringing back the bright days of Eden, which have so long lingered only in the memories of the past, while the nations will “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks, and learning war no more.” The sad memories of the long, bloody ages, which have ground down the nations of the earth into the dust of degradation and oppression, and whitened the plains, will be forgotten, amid universal peace, prosperity, philanthropy, and happiness, all nations delighted with the mild and amiable reign of the glorious King of kings and Lord of lords.

“He shall not strive, nor scream, neither shall any one hear His voice in the streets.” Paul says, “It does not behoove the man of God to strive.” Hence, in harmony with Jesus and Paul, while we should earnestly “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints,” we should not do it in a controversial spirit, but love predominating, having no desire for self- aggrandizement, but only the glorification of God in the proclamation and vindication of truth. There is nothing in this passage against street- preaching, which Jesus and His apostles practiced all their lives. While the people of God preach on the streets, and everywhere else, they are characterized by meekness, humility, and love, in contradistinction to the selfish and uproarious manner of worldly people, shouting aloud, advertising their merchandise, and prosecuting their various secular employments. There is a quietness, resignation, and humiliation peculiar to the saints, most decisively contrastive with the rush and precipitation peculiar to the worldly rabble. This verse lucidly describes Jesus in His humiliation, contrastively with the preceding, which describes Him in His glorious dominion.

“The bruised reed, He will not break.” This is a beautiful symbolism of the humble penitent, crying to God with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. “He will not quench the smoking flax.” Here we have a vivid symbolism of the struggling soul, crying to God for the sanctifying baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire. “Until He may send forth judgment unto victory.” Here we have both works of grace in beautiful juxtaposition the former, describing the agonizing penitent under the strong figure of a bruised reed, which Satan is trying to break and destroy forever; and the hatter, under the vivid metaphor of the flax, smoking and trying to burn, and the enemy throwing on it the chilling waters to put it out, thus beautifully typifying the seeker after a clean heart, longing for the sin — consuming fires of the Holy Ghost from heaven to fall. In both of these cases, it is here certified that our Savior will “send forth judgment unto victory” in the case of the poor sinner seeking pardon — i.e., “the bruised reed;” since He has bled and died, and paid all the debt He owes, in the full light of heavenly jurisprudence, He can give an eternal judgment of acquittal, thus justifying Him freely through the atonement. The fact is equally pertinent in the case of the Christian seeking full sanctification by the refining fire going through the heart in sin-consuming flames — i.e., “the smoking flax;” instead of extinguishing with the cold water of dead formality, He fans it into a roaring flame, wrapping the soul in the copious baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire. As the complete expurgation of every sinful taint has been abundantly provided for in the cleansing blood and the refining fire, He can, in the full light of heavenly jurisdiction, administer a verdict in favor of the entire sanctification of all who approach Him by way of complete consecration and doubtless faith.

“And in His name shall the Gentiles hope.” (Isaiah 42:1.)

He is the “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” whose roaring reverberates round the world, His tread shaking every hand, and His power breaking every chain, and liberating the captive nations whom Satan has bound through the ages.


Verses 22-37

THE UNPARDONABLE SIN (BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST)

Mark 3:20-30; Matthew 12:22-37; & Luke 11:14-23. Mark: “And they come into the house; and again a multitude comes together, so that they are not able even to eat bread. And those who were along with Him came out to arrest Him; for they continued to say, That He is beside Himself.” Their common charge against Jesus was, that He is beside Himself; i.e., gone crazy, that He has run mad, and that He has a demon. Look out! If you walk in His footprints, do not be jostled if they speak of you in a similar manner. Matthew: “Then a demonized man, blind and dumb, was brought to Him, and He healed him, so that the blind and dumb spake and saw. And all the multitudes were astonished? and continued to say, Is not this the Son of David?” Mark: “The scribes, having come down from Jerusalem, were saying, He has Beelzebul, and that through the prince of the demons, He casteth out demons; and calling them to Him, He spake to them in parables, How is Satan able to cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, how is that kingdom able to stand? And if it is divided against itself, that house is not able to stand; and if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he is not able to stand, but has an end.” Beelzebub, E.V., is the name of a heathen god, but Beelzebul is simply another name for the devil, as it here occurs in the original. The scribes at Jerusalem had laid all their wits under contribution, and settled down on a theory which they thought would explain all the demoniacal ejectment which Jesus was doing in Galilee; i.e., that He had entered into a collusion with the devil, who is commander-in-chief of these evil spirits, to cast them out. They thought their theory would bear criticism, as, of course, Beelzebul, the prince of devils, had power over all these demons which Jesus was casting out. Do you not see the utter imperturbability of Jesus amid these vile, false accusations? He simply proceeds to answer their argument and expose their sophistry from a logical standpoint, showing up the utter untenability of their exegesis, as in that case, Satan would be divided against himself, and would destroy and utterly break down his own kingdom. Are there not endless division, discord, and disharmony in the kingdom of Satan? Of course there is, hell itself being the very pandemonium of conflict, rage, and all conceivable dissension, animosity, perturbation, variance, and torment. But the point in all this is, that Satan’s kingdom, both in earth and hell, is a single unit of evil, there being no admixture of good, but evil, with all its endless diversifications. And, pursuant to the Savior’s argument, if the kingdom of Satan had a mixture of good and evil, those elements, mutually antagonizing each other, would ultimate in the annihilation of his kingdom. There is no such a mixture in this world, as here we have the two kingdoms at war with each other, and destined, in the case of every individual, the one or the other, to triumph. Hence you will find the argument of our Savior in this case perfectly tenable from the standpoint of fact and logic. Matthew: “If I cast out demons through Beelzebul, through whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.” We see from this Scripture that the Jews were accustomed to cast out demons. How was that? Do you not know that the Jews, from the days of Abraham, were the chosen people of God? How do we cast out demons? We do it by invoking the mercy and power of God on them to cast out the demons and save their souls; e.g., when we gather around an altar of penitence. In a similar manner did the godly Hebrews cast out the demons by invoking the God of Israel. “And if, by the Spirit of God, I cast out demons, then has the kingdom of God come nigh unto you.” Well said; because none but God can cast out demons. The kingdom of God is the Divine government, in which His power and authority are exercised. Therefore, all of this demoniacal ejectment demonstrates the presence and power of God’s kingdom, involving the logical sequence that the King is present — the very fact which they were so slow to apprehend. Luke: “When the strong man armed may keep his palace, his goods are in peace; but when the one stronger than he having come, may conquer him, he taketh away his panoply in which he trusted, and spoileth his goods. He who is not with Me, is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth abroad.” This world is Satan’s palace, and he is the strong man. So long as he occupies his palace, his goods, which are human souls, are secure in his possession. Jesus is the Stronger Man, who is going to conquer the devil, when He comes in His glory, and take this world out of his hands; i.e., “spoil” it, which does not mean to destroy it; but this is a military phrase, and means to take it as spoils are captured and appropriated by a conquering army. So our Savior, the Stronger Man, in the great wars of Armageddon, is going to conquer Satan, the strong man, and take this world out of his hands; i.e., “spoil” all of his goods, leaving him bankrupt, and locked up in hell. (Revelation 20:3.) The Bible is unlike any other book in the wonderful copiousness of its meaning. While the above paragraph is thus expounded, it has another exegesis, equally true and pertinent. While Satan is the “strong man,” his palace is the human heart, and his panoply, in which he trusts, the evil habits into which he leads his miserable votaries. Jesus, the Stronger Man, conquers the devil in regeneration, taking away the evil habits of the converted soul, in which Satan trusted to hold him fast. Then Jesus goes on, sanctifies that soul, “spoiling” the devil of all his goods, as in sanctification He takes the soul completely out of the hands of the devil. We see here, in this last verse, that no one can stand neutral in this terrible conflict between the strong man and the Stronger Man, but every one is forced to take sides, either with Jesus or the devil, as neutrality in this case is downright conservatism to Satan and rebellion against God. Matthew: “Therefore, I say unto you, All sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto the people, but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven unto the people. Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven unto him; but whosoever may speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in that which is to come.” While there is but one God, He is manifested in Three Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, the latter being the Executive of the Trinity. While the personal Father sits upon the throne of the universe, administering the government of the boundless Celestial Empire, the Son incumbers the Mediatorial Throne at His Right Hand, administering the boundless resources of redeeming grace to all the people in this world, and even the earth itself. Both the Father and the Son send forth the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Trinity, into this world, to shed light on every human being, convict every sinner, convert every mourner, sanctify every believer, and glorify every disembodied saint, and thus prepare this whole world for heaven. He is the Successor of our ascended and glorified Savior in the execution of the redemptive scheme on the earth. (John 16:7.) Hence you see that the Holy Ghost is the Divine Person of the Trinity who deals with human souls, administering the love of the Father and the grace of the Son, saving and sanctifying all who will let Him. There is a great eleemosynary institution for the relief of all beggars, administered by three officers, A., B., and C. A. has his office in London, England; B., in New York, America; and C., is present on the spot with every dying beggar, and ready to dispense the needed alms. Now you see these poor victims of decrepitude and misery must receive the benefits of this philanthropic institution at C.’s hands, as they can never reach A. at London or B. at New York. Here is the dying sinner. The Holy Ghost is with him in his dismal hovel or his gilded palace, ready to dispense to him the infinite benefactions of the loving Father and the dying Son. Suppose he unfortunately reject or grieve Him away, he is at the end of his resources, and must eternally perish. If he will receive the Holy Ghost in conviction, regeneration, and sanctification, He will administer to him all the blessings of the Father and the Son. Blasphemy means contempt. Therefore the ultimate neglect and contemptuous rejection of the Holy Ghost, consummates the sin against Him, which is unpardonable, either in the present age or in that which is to come; i.e., millennial age. Though some very stoutly deny the succession of the gospel age by another, we must remember that the Word of the Lord is the end of all controversy.

Not only this passage, but Hebrews 6:5, and others, speak positively of the coming age. You now see clearly in what the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is unpardonable, consists. It is clearly revealed and expounded by the Savior in this chapter. It is the imputation of the miracles wrought by the Savior, through the Holy Ghost, to Beelzebul; i.e., the devil. In this way the scribes and Pharisees, and others who followed their influence, committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. A simple analysis of this problem will thoroughly elucidate it. If you impute the work of the Holy Ghost to the devil, your doom is sealed, as it is impossible to convince you. Suppose God literally inundates you with evidence, He must give it all by His Spirit, and you will turn it over to the devil as fast as it comes, and see nothing but the devil in it all. Consequently, you are unconvincible. In this way the antediluvian world was ruined, having sunk so deep in the black darkness of sin, they imputed all the efforts of the Holy Ghost to convict and save them to Satanic influence, thus crossing the dead-line and rejecting God. In a similar manner the Jews, as we see here, imputed the miracles of Jesus to the devil, thus committing the unpardonable sin, rejecting the Son, and sealing their hopeless doom, to the awful destruction which soon overtook them in the Roman wars, as the antediluvians had been destroyed by the flood. In a similar manner the present age is fast rejecting the Holy Ghost, and ripening for the great tribulation, which, to illuminated minds, is already heaving in view, while the wonderful fulfillment of the latter-day prophecies draweth nigh. While the fallen Churches of the present age are fast rejecting the Holy Ghost, pronouncing His work fanaticism, and thus imputing it to the devil, whose trend is the unpardonable sin, the world, with wonderful expedition, is plunging into the same yawning abyss, down Satan’s greased plank of infidelity, which is wonderfully and fearfully on the increase, both in Christendom and heathendom. God, in His mercy, waited on the antediluvians to repent till the last hope had fled. He did the same for the Jews. A similar destruction is on the track of the God- rejecting Gentile world (Romans 11:21), though, I trow, God, in His unutterable mercy, as in former dispensations, will wait till they cross the deadline, the Churches rejecting the Holy Ghost and the world espousing infidelity, and thus all putting themselves beyond the reach of redeeming mercy, and sealing their doom in hell. “Make the tree good, and the fruit will be good; make the tree corrupt, and the fruit will be corrupt; for a tree is known by its fruits.” There is no good in this fallen world; it all comes from heaven; therefore when the Holy Ghost is rejected, nothing but corruption is left.

“O ye generation of vipers, how are you, being evil, able to speak good things? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” How awfully plain this preaching, calling His intellectual auditors “generation of vipers!” Do not forget that He is especially addressing the preachers and official members; i.e., the scribes and Pharisees. Does not history repeat itself? Shall we be so blind as to leave this with a congregation 1,870 years ago? God forbid! Let us take it home, wake up, and profit by this awful truth. “A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth evil things.” How awful the state of the Jewish Church! The leading preachers and laymen in the hands of the devil! “I say unto you, That every idle word which the people may speak, they shall give an account for the same in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou mayest be justified, and by thy words thou mayest be condemned.” Language is the exponent of the heart. God has put us here on probation, trying and testing us for vast eternity. “Idle” is argon, from ergon, “work,” and is the strongest negative in the Greek language when preceding a word. Hence it means the very absence of all work. God has put us here to work in His vineyard. Hence we have no time to lose. Idle words mean idle minds and bodies, which are condemnatory in the sight of God. O the momentous issues which hang on our words, the exponents of both soul and body! When we are idle, the devil always finds an open door. We see here, in the contingent tense, it is our prerogative to so speak as to determine our justification or condemnation before the judgment-seat of Christ.


Verses 38-45

CHAPTER 24

THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES SEEK A SIGN FROM HEAVEN

Matthew 12:38-45; Luke 11:16-36. “Then certain ones of the scribes and Pharisees responded, saying, Master, we wish to see a sign from Thee. And responding, He said to them, A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and no sign shall be given unto it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah was in the stomach of the whale three days and three nights, so the Son of man shall he in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” The scribes and Pharisees were not satisfied with His numerous and stupendous miracles of healing the sick, casting out demons, and even raising the dead, but ‘they demanded a sign directly down to the earth, like the falling of the manna in the wilderness. Do you not see how the Infallible Teacher calls those preachers and Church leaders, “A wicked and adulterous generation?” Lord, save us from the same condemnation! Here He says that He will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. This does not mean the tomb, which was not in the heart of the earth, but on the surface. Remember, the soul is the man, and not the body. When our Savior expired on the cross, His human soul, evacuating His body, went into Hades (1 Peter 3:21; Acts 2:27-31), proclaiming His victory in hell, and entering the intermediate paradise, meeting the thief (Luke 23:43), and on the third morn leading up the Old Testament saints (Ephesians 4:8-10), entering the tomb, and receiving His risen body. Some are disposed to be a little critical because the body of Jesus was not in the tomb three whole days. That is certainly very silly criticism. We speak of a ten days’ meeting when we are only in it a few hours every day, thus estimating a part for the whole. The Jews did likewise. If you do not wish to fall under the condemnation of a wicked and adulterous generation, do not hold on seeking signs, demonstrations, and evidences, but take God at his word, and raise the shout of victory, inspired by simple faith in His Infallible Truth, and you will see every Jericho the devil can ever rear up in your way fall down flat. “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here.” A simple matter of fact, when Jonah thus appeared, miraculously, after three days, from the stomach of the whale in the bottom of the sea, and preached to the Ninevites, they repented in sackcloth and ashes. Our Lord here assures them that His resurrection from the dead will be to them the climacteric sign of His Messiahship. He knew that those critical preachers and Pharisees would not believe on Him, even after He had risen from the dead, and therefore the Ninevites would condemn them in the day of judgment. “The queen of the south will rise in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” This was the Queen of Sheba, whose country was at the southern terminus of Asia, bordering on the Persian Gulf. She prosecuted this long and weary journey on a camel, back, through Arabian sands, that she might enjoy the ministry of Solomon. Hence she will be a swift witness against the unbelieving Jews in the judgment-day, and will also condemn you if you do not repent.


Verses 43-45

AWFUL STATE OF THE BACKSLIDER

Matthew 12:43-45. “When the unclean spirit may go out from a man, he goeth through dry places seeking rest, and findeth none.” Here we see the man is converted; this unclean spirit — licentiousness, drunkenness, or profanity, his besetting sin — having evanesced with this filthy demon, which had long polluted his soul by his slimy tread. Now that the demon is cast out, he goes tramping about, hunting a human soul to enter; meanwhile the elements around are dry, uninteresting, and affording him no sustenance, and giving him no satisfaction. “Then he says, I will return to my own house whence I came out.” Now the camp-meeting is over, and his victim has gone back home, exposed to the contaminating influence of his old companions in vice and folly; so this demon, weary and disconsolate of his tramp life around through dry and dreary places, resolves to give up his quest after others, and go back to the soul out of which he was ejected, when the Power fell on that crowded altar. “And having come, he finds it empty, having been swept and beautified.” The man has been genuinely and gloriously converted, the filthy demon cast out, and vast cart-loads of dead frogs, snakes, and immense debris swept away by the mighty bosom of pardoning love, the incoming tide of regenerating grace embellishing every chamber of his soul with the beauty and brightness of the heaven-born life. But there is no inhabitant, as the man has not yet received the second work of grace, in which the blessed Holy Spirit comes and takes up His abode in this beautiful new mansion of His own creation, simultaneously administering a deeper expurgation, eliminating out of the heart the old, sinful trend, transmitted from Adam the First, and always keeping the door ajar for every tramping demon that may chance to pass that way, not only saluting him “Welcome!” but making his quarters exceedingly comfortable. “Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and having come in, they dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” This ejected demon, coming back, reconnoiters the situation of his old home, and finds that it has been swept and beautified; i.e., a great and wonderful change has taken place since he was driven out, all of which was much against him; yet there is one thing decisively in his favor, and ‘that is, the house is empty. If the young convert had only pressed on into sanctification, and been filled with the Holy Ghost, this old demon, recognizing the house so wonderfully renewed, beautified, and purified, and then the Prince of Glory dwelling in it, his courage utterly failing, he would have skedaddled away, and gone in quest of an easier subject. But now that the house is empty, he is much encouraged, rendezvouses his forces, taking with him seven desperate and formidable demons. They effect an entrance; old habits are resumed; and the poor backslider not only floats on the very wave of vice, but rides the topmost billow, as his comrades now are not simply those impure demons, such as he had before he was converted, but the more formidable devils of skepticism and infidelity carry him away in a tornado, precipitating him far away into the bleak wilds of unbelief, contempt, and mockery, turning on him an avalanche of black darkness, and plunging him into hell. “So it shall be to this generation.” These wonderful deliverances of our Savior have not only a personal, but a social, collective, and ecclesiastical interpretation. The besetting sin of the Jewish Church, through all the intervening centuries, was idolatry. They got worse and worse, and seemed utterly incorrigible, till they were carried into Babylonian captivity. That terrible ordeal cast out the demon idolatry. Consequently, after the return from captivity, the Jews never again went into the idolatries of the Gentile world. But what was their history? They retrogressed into cold, dead formality and bleak, hollow hypocrisy, which were seven times worse than their old idolatry. Consequently they rejected their own Christ, and put Him to death, imputing all of His mighty works to the devil, thus grieving away the Holy Spirit, committing the unpardonable sin, provoking the righteous indignation of the Almighty, bringing on them the Roman armies, precipitating their own swift destruction.

Do not the prophecies reveal a similar course and doom appertaining to the Gentiles? So long as the Apostolic Church held fast to the glorious experience of entire sanctification, she remained pure, despite the burning stake and the ferocious lion. After the Emperor Constantine promoted her from martyr fires and the lion’s mouth to Caesar’s palace, she became worldly, plunging headlong into the idolatries of Romanism. The Lutheran Reformation cast out the demon of idolatry, so the Protestant Churches have never gone into image worship, Mariolatry, or the adoration of saints and angels; but she has drifted away into the same dead formality, cold ritualism, human ecclesiasticism, and lifeless, empty hypocrisy, which expedited the ruin of Judaism, and which is doubtless more abominable in the sight of God than papistical idolatry, thus ripening for the terrible fate of the foolish virgins.


Verses 46-50

CONSANGUINITY OF THE HOLY GHOST

Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; & Luke 8:19; Luke 8:21; Luke 11:27-28. “And it came to pass while He was speaking these things, a certain woman, lifting up her voice from the crowd, said to Him, Blessed is the womb having born Thee, and the breast which Thou didst suck. And He said, Truly, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” This is simply the gushing ejaculation of a woman in the crowd, so carried away with admiration of His mighty works and wonderful preaching that she is electrified with the conception of the glorious honor appertaining to the woman who enjoyed the privilege and the blessing of motherhood, thus giving the world such a Son. Matthew: “And He, speaking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers are standing without, seeking to speak to Him. And responding, He said to the one having spoken to Him, Who is My mother and who are My brothers? Reaching forth His hand toward His disciples [Mark says they were all sitting down around Him in a circle], said, Behold, My mother and My brothers. For whosoever may do the will of My Father who is in the heavens, the same is My brother, My sister, and My mother.” Luke says, “My mother and My brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it.” His reputed father, Joseph, is not mentioned here in connection with the family, neither have we a single word in reference to him since Jesus accompanied them to the temple when He was twelve years old. There is not doubt but he died during the ensuing eighteen years. We hear of Jesus having sisters living in Nazareth; doubtless married. Questions arise in reference to these brothers of Jesus — four in number, James, Judas, Simon, and Joses — the Roman Catholics, conservatively to their Mariolatry, claiming that they were the sons of Joseph by a former marriage; and the Protestants, certainly with more plausibility, that they were the uterine brothers of Jesus, and of course younger than Himself, as we have not an intimation that Joseph had a former marriage, and especially from the fact that we always find them in company with Mary, which looks much like she was their mother. Jesus then being thirty-two years old, if they were children of Joseph by a former marriage, it would put them up considerably in bachelorhood, and not seem very plausible that they would have been giving a stepmother so much attention. There is no doubt but they, thinking that He was wearing Himself out, wanted to prevail on Him to relax labor, and go home with them, and take a good rest, which was incompatible with the urgency of His important ministry. We see here, His natural relatives go into eclipse when contrasted with the spiritual. So we all find, as we become more spiritual, our physical consanguinity sinks into deeper eclipse; not that we love our natural relatives less, but the consanguinity of the Holy Ghost is so much sweeter and richer than that of this world, that we find our affections absorbed and literally captured by the saints of God, admiring and appreciating them in proportion to their approximation to that Perfect Man, the fairest among ten thousand and altogether lovely.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 12:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/matthew-12.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 13th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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