Matthew 12:1-50 - Outline of Matthew (MENU page)
12:1 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn {ie., grain};
and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn
{grain}, and to eat.
the disciples were hungry- Jesus had warned that following Him would not bring them earthly prosperity (8:20).
12:2 But when the Pharisees saw [it], they said unto him,
Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
12:3 But he said unto them,
Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
12:4 How he entered into the house of God,
and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat,
neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
12:5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days
the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
12:6 But I say unto you, That in this place is [one] greater than the temple.
12:7 But if ye had known what [this] meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice,
ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
12:8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
{cp. Mark 2:23-28; Luk 6:1-5}
it is not lawful... on the Sabbath day- The OT Law allowed for their actions (Deu 23:24,25).
His enemies took issue, not with what the disciples did, but with when they did it (Ex 20:8-11). The Pharisees held a very narrow and strict interpretation of the letter of the Law.
have ye not read...? (v.3,5)- Jesus answered them from the Scriptures, showing that God did not share their narrow view.
  1. what David did...- (v.3; 1Sam 21:1-6)
    • David, who was destined to become king, did what was 'not lawful' in order to provide for his men. According to OT Law, the holy bread in the Tabernacle was to be eaten only by the priests (Lev 24:5-9).
    • If the Law was not so rigid as to condemn David, when he was rejected and persecuted by King Saul, would it be inflexible in the case of David's Son, Jesus, the King, whom they rejected?
  2. how the priests profane the Sabbath and are blameless- (v.5)
    • In the course of their priestly duties in the Temple, the priests labor on the Sabbath day.
      ie., They serve according to a higher commandment. cp. Num 28:9,10; Joh 7:22,23
      - - profane-GK=bebeloo, to desecrate, to make common. (For them, the sabbath was a work day.)
      - - blameless-GK=anaitios, guiltless, innocent, without cause of accusation
    • Should ''one greater than the temple'' (ie., Himself) be judged by a Law that does not apply to the Temple priests?
      cp. 2Chr 6:18; Hag 2:7-9; Mal 3:1; Joh 2:19-21
  3. if you had known what this means: ''I will have mercy and not sacrifice'' ( v.7) - He quotes from Hos 6:6 (cp. Hos 6:4-9)
    (also see Mat 9:13; Mic 6:6-8; Isa 1:11-17; 66:1,2)
         In the quote from Hosea ch. 6, the words translated 'mercy' {HB=checed and GK=eleos} refer to 'goodwill, kindness, and faithfulness.' The Lord desires that a man's heart be right with Him and with his fellow men, more than that he observe external religious rituals. Because of their rigid adherence to the letter of the Law, the religious leaders condemned the 'guiltless' {GK=anaitios, trans. 'blameless' in v.5}.
        Who did the Pharisees condemn? They complained to Jesus about His disciples' actions. They condemned Him as their leader (just as David was responsible for appropriating the showbread for his men). They did not understand who He was. Acts 13:27
The Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath day.- How?
  1. He is the Son of Man. - "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27).
  2. He is God the Son ("...in this place is One greater than the Temple" v.6; Mat 11:27).
        The miraculous works that He performed demonstrated that He was Lord over the natural and supernatural realms, and that He had authority to forgive sin (which only God can do, Mat 9:2-7).
        His Lordship extended 'even' {ie., also, likewise} to the sabbath day, since that also was under the purview of God, who established it.
  3. He came to fulfill the sabbath, in the 'rest' that He would give. Mat 11:28-30
        See Heb 4:9,10, where, in v.9, 'rest' is GK=sabbatismos, 'a sabbath keeping'; and in v.10 (also in Mat 11:28,29) 'rest' is GK=katapausis, 'a cessation of labor' (which is also the meaning of the HB word 'sabbath').
        As God rested from His perfect work of Creation, so the believer rests in the Lord's perfect finished work of Redemption.
        The rejected King is our Great High Priest, who (like the Temple priests) would work, even on the sabbath days, until His work was done (Heb 10:11,12).
12:9 And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue:
12:10 And, behold, there was a man which had [his] hand withered.
And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?
that they might accuse him.
12:11 And he said unto them,
What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep,
and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift [it] out?
12:12 How much then is a man better than a sheep?
Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
12:13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand.
And he stretched [it] forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
is it lawful... that they might accuse him...-
The Pharisee's hoped to entrap Jesus into demonstrating that He was a sabbath breaker.
Their question acknowledged both His compassion and His power to heal.
stretch forth thy hand...-
Jesus demonstrated the truth of His claim to be 'Lord of the Sabbath' (v.8),
as He had previously demonstrated His authority to heal all kinds of diseases, and to forgive sins, in ch. 8 & 9.
See the parallel passages: Mark 3:1-6; Luk 6:6-11; and a similar situation: Luk 13:10-17
12:14 Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him,
how they might destroy him.
12:15 But when Jesus knew [it], he withdrew himself from thence:
and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;
{cp. Mark 3:6-12}
12:16 And charged them that they should not make him known:
12:17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
12:18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen;
my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased:
I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.
12:19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.
12:20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench,
till he send forth judgment unto victory.
12:21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
he healed them all...- The evidence was overwhelming as to His identity.
''Behold, my servant...'' (v.18)
But, the Jewish authorities had already rejected the King.
he withdrew himself... he charged them not to make him known-
Jesus acted in accordance with prophecy (v.17). (v.18-21 quote from Isaiah 42:1-4 )
  • He shall not strive, nor cry... nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets-
    • Though His identity was sure, He would not force anyone to receive Him.
    • Though multitudes followed Him, He would not force the leaders to yield to popular opinion.
    • Though He knew His enemies were conspiring to destroy Him, He did not demand a public hearing in self-defense. Rather, He withdrew from confrontation with His enemies, and went about the work to which the Father had sent Him. He invites us to learn of Him (Mat 11:29,30). While His enemies were beside themselves with rage (Luk 6:11), He knew the rest of full submission to, and full confidence in, the Father's will.
    • Contrary to the misunderstanding of many, Jesus was not a political activist engaged in confronting the injustices of society.
  • a bruised {HB=ratsats, crushed} reed shall he not break...-
    The only other occurrence of this expression is in 2Kin 18:21, where it refers to a gentile nation upon which Israel leaned to its own hurt. When Jesus came, Israel was under the umbrella of the Roman Empire and cooperating with flawed rulers like Herod and Pilate. Yet, Jesus did not seek to overthrow them.
  • a smoking {HB=keheh, dark, dim} flax {wick}...-
    Isaiah speaks often of the flickering lamps of Israel's religious leaders, who were bringing spiritual darkness upon the nation through disregard of the light of God's Word (eg., Isa 8:19,20; 9:1,2). This was the situation when Jesus came, as the Light of the world, in obvious fulfilment of the scriptures. Yet, Jesus did not seek to extinquish the dim light of Israel's spiritual leaders.
  • till he send forth judgment {ie., justice} unto victory...-
    Although Jesus did not right the political and spiritual wrongs of His day (Joh 3:17), He did come to exercise judgment and to establish true justice (Joh 9:39; 14:6). By what means did the Servant of the LORD accomplish this? (see Mark 10:45; 1Pet 2:24)
    • The One who would not break the bruised reed, would Himself be bruised and broken (1Cor 11:24).
    • The Light of Life (Joh 1:4,5), who would allow Israel's dim lamp to continue smoldering, would Himself be extinguished.
    • Yet, as, Isa 42:4 goes on to explain: "He shall not fail {HB=kahah, grow faint, become dim} nor be discouraged {HB=ratsats, be crushed, be broken} till he have set {established, accomplished} judgment {ie., justice} in the earth."
      - - ie., His sacrifice, for our sin, would not be the end of Him, but would be the beginning of the true justice which He will establish in the earth (Rom 3:23-26)... not only for Israel, but also for Gentiles {'the isles' refers to the coasts or regions of distant gentile nations}, who would trust in His name, and 'wait expectantly for His Law {HB=torah}.' (His Law is not the rigid compliance with the letter of the Law, but rather a Law of love, written in the hearts of His children, born again in His likeness. Jer 31:31-34)
    Since Israel would reject Him, the offer of salvation would be extended to the Gentiles. cp. Acts 26:17,18
12:22 Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb:
and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.
12:23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?
His credentials caused the common people to consider whether Jesus was the Messiah. cp. Joh 7:40-42
12:24 But when the Pharisees heard [it], they said,
This [fellow] doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
{cp. 9:34}
12:25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them,
Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation;
and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:
12:26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself;
how shall then his kingdom stand?
12:27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast [them] out?
therefore they shall be your judges.
(Mat 10:1; Luk 10:17-19)
12:28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.
12:29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods,
except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
12:30 He that is not with me is against me;
and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils...-
In OT times, Baalzebub {meaning "Lord of the flies'} was a regional god of the Philistines (2Kin 1:2-6). By inquiring of Baalzebub, ungodly King Ahaziah was denying the power of the LORD {Jehovah, the everliving One} God of Israel. Similarly, the Pharisees, by attributing to Beelzebub the power manifested through Christ by the Holy Spirit, were denying the God of Israel who was present among them as Immanuel.
Jesus refuted their accusation (of v.24) logically- (cp. Mark 3:22-27; Luk 11:14-23)
  1. Satan cannot fight against himself. (v.25,26)
  2. Demons cannot be cast out, except by a power stronger than Satan.
    Men who cast out demons must do so by the authority of the Spirit of God. (v.27)
    cp. Mark 9:38,39; Luk 9:49,50
  3. Therefore, since I {Jesus}, cast out demons-
    • I do so by the Spirit of God (v.28),
    • God's Kingdom has come to you, in the person of One who has power over Satan. (v.28-30) cp. 1Joh 3:8; 4:4
he that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad...-
Is this statement in conflict with: 'He that is not against us is for us' (Mark 9:38-40; Luk 9:49,50)?
No. Whether stated negatively or positively, the sense is that: Those, who lead people to Christ, 'gather' with Him (see this word in Mat 13:2,30,47,48), while those, who lead people away from Him, 'scatter' His sheep (Joh 10:12).
12:31 Wherefore I say unto you,
All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men:
but the blasphemy [against] the [Holy] Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
12:32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him:
but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him,
neither in this world
{GK=aion, age}, neither in the [world {ie., age}] to come.
The 'unpardonable sin' is 'blasphemy {ie., slander} against the Holy Spirit'. (cp. Mark 3:28-30)
  • This means ''attributing to Satan the works of the Holy Spirit.'' (v.24)
    The Pharisees, of Jesus' day, were without excuse for ''their continual denial of the obvious truth that the miracles of Jesus represented the power of God'' (9:33,34), which authenticated His message. [in quotes, from NewScofRB]
  • Why is this sin unforgiveable?
    The role of the Holy Spirit is essential to the work of Salvation. In Mat 12:18 (quoting Isa 42:1), the three members of the Godhead are observed working together. By rejecting the testimony of the Holy Spirit, a person rejects the Salvation which God has provided for mankind. Mat 23:13; Luk 12:8-10; Heb 2:3,4
    The Roles of the Holy Spirit in salvation... (follow points [A] - [F] below)
    [A] The Holy Spirit testifies of Christ - confirming the truth concerning Him...
    [B] The Holy Spirit convicts men's hearts of sin and of the need for the Saviour (Joh 16:7-15).
    • Am I guilty of the unpardonable sin?
      ''Anyone who is concerned about his rejection of Christ has obviously not committed this 'unpardonable sin', and can still come to Christ.'' [NewScofRB]
      But the opportunity is time limited. No man can afford to delay his decision for Christ. (2Cor 6:2)
12:33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good;
or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by [his] fruit.
12:34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?
{cp. 3:7; 23:33}
for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
12:35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things:
and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
12:36 But I say unto you,
That every idle word that men shall speak,
they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
{cp. Ecc 12:14; Rom 2:16}
12:37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
O generation of vipers...-
Doesn't this seem like strong language coming from the One who is ''meek and lowly of heart'' (Mat 11:29)?
But His speech came out of the good treasure of His heart, as the Holy Spirit moved Him to confront sin and to warn of judgment.
by thy words thou shalt be... justified {or} condemned-
because our words reveal our heart condition. v.34; cp. Luk 6:43-46
- - eg., words leading to condemnation- v.24, 31
- - eg., words leading to justification- Rom 10:8-11
12:38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying,
Master, we would see a sign from thee.
12:39 But he answered and said unto them,
An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign;
and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly;
so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
They asked for a 'sign,' but they had already dismissed the abundant evidence.
By the 'sign of the prophet Jonah,' Jesus predicted His resurrection.
His enemies understood the sign, but rejected it before hand. cp. 27:63
[C] The Holy Spirit testifies of Christ - in His resurrection (Rom 1:4).
12:41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it:
because they repented at the preaching of Jonas;
{Jonah 3:5-9}
and, behold, a greater than Jonas [is] here.
12:42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it:
for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
{1Kin 10:1-13}
and, behold, a greater than Solomon [is] here.
{cp. v.6}
Jesus predicted that these historical figures, who had responded favorably to God's word,
would judge His contemporaries unfavorably, because they rejected Him, though they had been given greater light.
[D] The Holy Spirit testifies of Christ - through the faith of believers, which condemns the world (eg., Heb 11:4,7).
12:43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man,
he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.
12:44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out;
and when he is come, he findeth [it] empty, swept, and garnished.
12:45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself,
and they enter in and dwell there: and the last [state] of that man is worse than the first.
Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
Jesus compared the condition of Israel, in His day,
to the condition of a man loosed from demon possession, but never possessed of God.
  1. their house was swept (ie., there had been some moral reform) -
    • through outward religion,
    • through the preaching of repentance, by John the Baptist and by Jesus.
  2. their house was empty -
    • because they had not received their King.
  3. Therefore, they would again be afflicted by 'the strong man' that Jesus had come to depose. (v.28,29; Joh 5:43)
[E] The Holy Spirit dwells within believers, disenfranchising the old man, and enabling godliness of life (Rom 8:9-14; Eph 5:18).
12:46 While he yet talked to the people, behold,
[his] mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
12:47 Then one said unto him,
Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
12:48 But he answered and said unto him that told him,
Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
12:49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said,
Behold my mother and my brethren!
12:50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven,
the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
[F] The Holy Spirit produces this new birth. Joh 3:5,6

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