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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament
Matthew 12

 

 

Verse 1

Not long afterward. Not far from the first of May—about the time when grain begins to ripen in the fields of Judea. Walking through the wheat fields. There were paths through the fields. Began to pick the heads. Moses permitted this (see Deuteronomy 23:25).


Verse 2

When the Pharisees saw this. See note on Matthew 3:7. Some of them were always trying to trap Jesus. Look, it is against our Law. Moses said doing this was legal, but the Tradition of the Elders said it was illegal to eat grain on the Sabbath which had been threshed out in the hand by rubbing, since this involved work on the Sabbath day. The Pharisees made strict laws about everything, carrying these to absurd extremes. They said an egg, laid on Sunday, could not be eaten, since it represented work done on the Sabbath [Saturday]. (See note of Acts 1:12.)


Verse 3

Jesus answered. He cites the case of David to show that what his disciples have done is not wrong. (1 Samuel 21:1-6)


Verse 4

He went into the house of God The tent (Holy place— Hebrews 9:2) at Nob. [the temple had not yet been built at that time.] The bread offered to God: "the Bread of the Presence" (Hebrews 9:2). Twelve loaves, each made of seven quarts of flour, were arranged in two rows on a special table. After being there seven days, they were eaten by the priests, and twelve new loaves placed on the table. They were symbolic of Israel's special relationship to God! also of the Bread of life—Jesus Christ—who would be given to the whole world.


Verse 5

Or have you not read. The Sabbath was the busiest day for the Priests, who technically were in violation of the Sabbath Law, because of the work they were doing on that day. (compare John 7:22-23). Jesus cites this to prove his point.


Verse 6

Greater than the temple. If the priests can do this (Matthew 12:5), then the disciples of the Lord of the temple are blameless in their service to Christ.


Verse 7

The scripture says. They said that they obeyed the scriptures. Jesus argues that kindness to the hungry pleases God more than the animal sacrifices on the altar in the temple.


Verse 8

Lord of the Sabbath. It was for the good of man that the Sabbath was made (Mark 2:27) The Son of Man (Lord of Mankind) can do with the Sabbath whatever he wishes to do.


Verse 9

Went to one of their synagogues. Jesus and his disciples must have been on the way to it when they met the Pharisees.


Verse 10

Is it against our Law? Luke says it was the man's right hand. It was crippled [withered, paralyzed], so it could not be used. This made a perfect test-case for the Pharisees and teachers of the Law (see Luke's record), since there was no urgency to heal it. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law had "strange" ideas about their rules and regulations. They believed that even to build a fire, or to put out a fire, was displeasing to God if it was done on the Sabbath. The sick were expected to wait until the next day, and it was against their rules to set a broken bone on the Sabbath. They were looking for an excuse to accuse Jesus of wrongdoing before the authorities.


Verse 11

What if one of you has a sheep? Their "strange" idea of "law" allowed them to do this.


Verse 12

And a man is worth much more than a sheep. If they were allowed to rescue a sheep, why not a man? So then, our Law does allow us. The Sabbath was meant for man's good. Therefore, says Jesus, it is right to do good on the Sabbath.


Verse 13

Stretch our your hand. Jesus heals him by speaking a word. Song of Solomon, they have no excuse to charge him with breaking the Sabbath. [Note the man was required to stretch out his hand—which demonstrated his faith in Christ.]


Verse 14

Made plans against Jesus to kill him. Mark says they met with some members of Herod's party (see Mark 3:6). These people made a "show" of being very religious, but were really enemies of God.


Verse 15

When Jesus heard about it. Jesus had a special work to do, so he avoided confrontation with these people at this time, by leaving Capernaum.


Verse 16

Not to tell others about him. Those healed were not to tell others [at this time] since it would intensify the problem with the Pharisees and interfere with his mission.


Verse 17

To make come true. Matthew says this a number of times. Prophecy coming true was very important to the Jew. This prophecy is from Isaiah 42:1-4.


Verse 18

Here is my servant. Christ came as a servant. (Philippians 2:6-11) I will put my Spirit on him. See Matthew 3:16-17. To all peoples. Not just to the Jews. Compare Mark 3:8.


Verse 19

But he will not argue or shout. He would not be a demagogue.


Verse 20

He will not break off a bent reed. The hollow stem of a reed lost its strength when bent. This is symbolic of his kindness to our need. He does not break, but heals. Nor put out a flickering lamp. Their lamps were a cup of oil with a wick of flax floating on it. The flickering light of such a lamp is symbolic of our human weakness. He helps us, even though we are imperfect (1 John 1:8-10).

He will persist until. Justice did triumph when Jesus rose from death on the third day (John 16:33).


Verse 21

And all peoples. The prophets said many times that the Messiah would be the world's Savior—not just the Jews only, but the Gentiles as well. He is the hope of all mankind (compare John 4:42).


Verse 22

Then some people brought to Jesus. A man who was demon-possessed. See notes on Matthew 8:28-29.


Verse 23

Could he be the Son of David? That Isaiah, the Messiah-King who was expected to come (Isaiah 11:10; 2 Samuel 23:1-5).


Verse 24

When the Pharisees heard this. Mark says some of these were teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem. The religious authorities were watching Jesus closely. Beelzebul gives him power to do so. This is the charge they made. See note on Matthew 10:25. "Beelzebul" is another name for Satan, the Devil.


Verse 25

Jesus knew what they were thinking. They had not spoken to Jesus, but had spoken directly to the people. Any country that divides itself. A broad truth. Governments and nations fall when they are divided internally.


Verse 26

So if one group is fighting another. If it is Satan's power that drove out the demon, Satan would be fighting himself—which would be absurd. [Be wary of saying a good work is the work of Satan! Listen to Gamaliel (Acts 5:33-39).]


Verse 27

Well, then, who gives your followers the power? There were Jewish exorcists who drove out evil spirits (demons). See Acts 19:13-14. Their own followers proved them wrong in what they had said—by driving out evil spirits through God's power.


Verse 28

No, it is God's Spirit. This is a sharp confrontation. The power of God's Spirit in Jesus proves he is the Son of David—the promised Messiah (Matthew 12:23). The Kingdom of God has already come upon you. See Luke 17:20-21; Romans 14:17. The question was: Did the power of Jesus represent Satan or God? Jesus declares it is the power of God!


Verse 29

No man can break into. What Jesus means here, is that in freeing the demon-possessed Prayer of Manasseh, he has also shown himself much stronger than Satan.


Verse 30

Anyone who is not for me. The Kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of Christ oppose each other. No one can be neutral If you do not help Christ gather men and women for God, then you are guilty of helping the Devil scatter them! Not to decide—is to decide! See Matthew 7:15-23.


Verse 31

For this reason I tell you. What he has just said in Matthew 12:30. No one can be neutral. Will not be forgiven. Mark 3:30 explains that this sin was saying that the Spirit in Jesus was really the spirit of the Devil. This sin will not be forgiven, because the person who does this cuts himself off from the only source of help, It is "unforgiveable," because the one who says this WILL NOT COME to Jesus to ask forgiveness—since he firmly believes Jesus is working for the Devil. The one who commits this sin would not "worry about it," since he does not believe he has committed a sin.


Verse 32

Against the Son of Man. Many said things against Jesus while he was here in human form—and later learned the truth, repented, and were set free from their sins. Note that Christ prayed for those who nailed him to the Cross. Against the Holy Spirit. They said evil things against the Holy Spirit when they said that what Jesus did was the work of Satan. The New Testament is the voice of the Holy Spirit here in this world. We have in it the complete will of God. If anyone rejects this, no further evidence will be given. This is an eternal sin, because no sin unforgiven here, in this world, will ever be pardoned or forgiven in eternity. The very worst sin is to reject the Holy Spirit's evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. The very best work is to believe the Holy Spirit's evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.


Verse 33

To have good fruit. Fruit is evidence (Matthew 7:15-20). Jesus is saying that if his own actions and life were evil, this might prove he was working through the power of Satan. But if his actions and life were good, this proved his power came from God. Compare what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:3.


Verse 34

How can you say good things? They were poisonous and evil, like snakes [these enemies of his]. They could not praise God or say good things, because of their condition. Read Jesus' prophecy on Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39).


Verse 35

A good man brings good things. This is evidence of his motivation in life. See Galatians 5:22-23. A bad man brings bad things. That's all he has! See Galatians 5:19-21.


Verse 36

Give account of every useless word. This is much stronger than it seems. Useless means: "hostile, malicious, slanderous, poisonous, evil." The thing which some of the Pharisees were doing in saying Jesus worked through the power of the Devil. [It does not mean laughing and joking (clean jokes).]


Verse 37

For your words will be used. We will face our words! Evil words spoken against God and the Holy Spirit will bring his wrath and vengeance. See Jude 1:15. Declaring Jesus' name publicly will gain his promise! (Matthew 10:32)


Verse 38

We want to see you perform a miracle. See Matthew 16:1; Luke 11:16; Luke 11:29. They had just seen him drive out an evil spirit. They wanted to trap Jesus.


Verse 39

How evil and godless. Remember: he is speaking to his enemies—those who said he did his miracles by means of Satan's power. He did not do miracles to satisfy curiosity, or to make himself popular.


Verse 40

In the same way that Jonah. See Jonah 1:17. (Note there is no "whale" there. It was a "big fish," possibly a white shark which is reported to be able to swallow a horse whole. God prepared it specially.) The miracle was that Jonah's life was protected during the time spent in the big fish. This is symbolic of the time Jesus would spend in the grave and then be raised from death. Three days and three nights. This is a Jewish expression. Jesus said in Matthew 16:21, that he would be raised to life "on the third day." Mark records this as "after three days" (Mark 8:31). In Jewish usage, "three days and three nights," "on the third day," and "after three days," all mean the same period of time. (See 2 Chronicles 10:5; 2 Chronicles 10:12; Esther 4:16; Esther 5:1.) Christ was buried Friday evening, was in the grave Saturday, and raised from death very early Sunday morning.


Verse 41

On the Judgment Day. The example of the people of Nineveh cancels any excuse these Jews might have for their failure to repent. When Jonah warned the people of the city, they turned from their sins. Jesus is superior to Jonah, but these Jews would not turn from their sins at his warning.


Verse 42

The Queen from the South. The Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1). Her example condemns these Jews. Jesus is greater than Song of Solomon, yet they do not come to him to learn.


Verses 43-45

43-45. When an evil spirit. This is a parable, and its meaning is based on the last sentence: "This is the way it will happen to the evil people of this day." This is the climax of the passage which goes back to Matthew 12:22. Many (but not all) of the Jews rejected Christ and said evil things about him. It was this group who crucified Jesus. It was this group who began persecuting the church of Christ. And it was this group who ravaged and destroyed themselves in the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.) when 1,1000,000 of them died. John the Baptist called them to repent (the evil spirit going out); but when they were pure (empty, clean, and all fixed up) they did not fill themselves with Christ. Therefore, when the evil spirit (sin) returned, he brought seven others worse than himself—which implies they became seven times as evil as they had been! (See Matthew 23:29-36.) To us TODAY: if we do not fill our purified lives with good, we lay ourselves open to the powers of the Devil. (See Hebrews 6:4-6).


Verse 46-47

His mother and brothers. On his brothers, see Matthew 13:55. At this time, his brothers did not yet believe he was the Messiah.


Verse 48-49

48-49. Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? The fact he is the Messiah supersedes ordinary relationships. Look! Here are my mother and my brothers! The strongest ties are the spiritual ties. Those who are united to Christ spiritually (Galatians 3:26-27) are closer to him and to each other—than any can be through the "blood ties" of human relationship.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 12:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/matthew-12.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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