46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
What sort of interruptions does your service to God suffer? Perhaps you are a choir member who frequently has to miss rehearsals because... Or you might be a Sunday School teacher who is too busy to stop and pray daily for your students. Is there anything truly important enough for which we should stop the work of the kingdom?
Jesus was in a serious confrontation with the Pharisees at the house where He seemed to be headquartered. In the midst of an attempt to teach them that they could not live righteous lives by their own efforts, He was interrupted by a message from His family. For whatever reason, but probably because of the crowd, they were standing outside of the house waiting to speak to Him.
Undeterred from His work, He used the opportunity to finish His lesson on a positive note. "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?" What a clever way to recapture the attention of the crowd! Was He disowning His family? Of course not. He was, however, about to redefine human relationships in a way that the people had never heard before.
Pointing to His disciples, He shouted, "Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."
There are several things that we should learn from this: 1) A familial relationship with God is possible for all persons, 2) As part of God's family, we gain new brothers and sisters, and the new family comes before flesh and blood 3) In the family of God, there is neither male nor female.
Jesus referred to God as His Father and to His disciples as His family members. That which made someone His brother or sister or mother was their obedience to the "will" of the Father. This does not mean simply obeying God's law, because it is His will that we do much more than that. It is God's will that we love Him with all of our hearts, minds and strength, that we trust Him with our lives, that we commit ourselves to His Son Jesus Christ, and that we live in a relationship with Him. The elements of each of these things cannot be spelled out in a written law. They are in the law of the Spirit. The people who do these things are Jesus' brothers and sisters and are members of the family of God.
The new family that we have in Christ comes before our flesh and blood relationships, because it is Jesus' will that we are one with one another and one with Him, who is one with the Father. This does not decrease the love that we are to have for our families, but properly places that love in second place among our priorities. Because doing the will of God must be a priority in our lives, the family of God, which consists of people doing His will, must also come first.
Notice that Jesus pointed to His male disciples and said, "Behold my mother and my brethren!" His mother was placed on an equal level with His disciples. There is no distinction in the kingdom of heaven. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Ga 3:26-28) Those, who have declared Christianity to be opposed to women's rights, should rethink their position.
Perhaps we all need to redefine our family relationships. Do you spend more time with God than with others? Do you speak critically of members of God's family, while defending an unbelieving, flesh and blood family member? Do you feel a special bond with God's family? What interruptions are coming between you and God's will for your life? Pray about these things.
Before The Throne:
Ask the Lord to help you set the right priorities for your life and relationships. Ask Him to help you improve your relationship with Him. Pray for the ability to truly love your fellow Christians as you would your own mother and siblings. Praise Him for bringing you into the family of God through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.
For Further Study:
(v.46) ** yet. Mark 2:21; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:10, 19-21; * his. Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3; John 2:12; John 7:3, 5, 10; Acts 1:14; 1Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19;
(v.48) ** Who is. Matt 10:37; Deut 33:9; Mark 3:32-33; Luke 2:49, 52; John 2:3-4; 2Cor 5:16;
(v.49) ** his disciples. Matt 28:7; Mark 3:34; John 17:8-9, 20; John 20:17-20;
(v.50) ** do. Matt 7:20-21; Matt 17:5; Mark 3:35; Luke 8:21; Luke 11:27-28; John 6:29, 40; John 15:14; Acts 3:22-23; Acts 16:30-31; Acts 17:30; Acts 26:20; Gal 5:6; Gal 6:15; Col 3:11; Heb 5:9; Jas 1:21-22; 1Pet 4:2; 1John 2:17; 1John 3:23-24; Rev 22:14; ** the same. Matt 25:40, 45; Matt 28:10; Ps 22:22; John 20:17; Rom 8:29; Heb 2:11-17; ** and sister. Song 4:9-10, 12; Song 5:1-2; 1Cor 9:5; 2Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-27; and mother. John 19:26-27; 1Tim 5:2;
Beware of Empty Houses
43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
After the death of Solomon, the severe dictatorship of his son Rehoboam caused the ten northern tribes of Israel to revolt, and the kingdom was divided. From that time forward, both northern and southern kingdoms began a steady downward slide toward rebellious and adulterous living, until God finally sent each of them into captivity.
The southern kingdom of Judah was in captivity in Babylon for seventy years when God returned them to their homeland. The wickedness was cleansed from them, but now they relied on their own righteousness for their salvation. They were conquered by the Greeks, but they did not change. They were conquered by the Romans, but they did not change. The Messiah, Son of God, was sent to them, but they called Him a devil, denying that the Holy Spirit was in His miraculous works, yet demanding proof of His identity.
Jesus told them this parable of the "unclean spirit," a common way of referring to Satan, who was often pictured as dwelling in the wilderness. When the devil goes out of a man, he can find no rest, because it is His cause and purpose to possess, control and destroy people. There is no rest for him, if he has no one to destroy. The wilderness is uninhabited, dry of human beings, and thus it is without rest for the unclean spirit. He therefore returns to his home in the person whom he left.
When the spirit returns, he finds the old homestead empty and clean. The person was relieved to rid himself of the devil and cleaned his house, but failed to replace the spirit with something good. Now there is room for even more spirits. Seven more join the original spirit, and the person is hopelessly lost to their domination.
This was Judah. Back from the captivity, they had resolved to live in strict obedience to God. They had thrown out evil, but they had done it in their own weak flesh, failing to replace it with something better. They looked to the law for their salvation, but not to God. They prided themselves in their own empty righteousness, unaware that the devil was all the while moving in with his seven other spirits. (The number seven represents the completeness of the possession.)
This was the state of the people of Jesus' generation. They were worse than they were right before their captivity; self-righteous on the outside and thoroughly evil on the inside. Is it any wonder that Jesus called them a generation of vipers?
Now, let's look at ourselves. Are you a repentant Christian, trying your best to obey God's law, to appear righteous to everyone who knows you, and to do good works? That is wonderful, if it is so, but there must be something more. You need to replace the evil spirit with the Holy Spirit. You need to fill yourself with the person of Christ. Your good works must be works of the heart and not works of duty. There must be more than an outward change in your behavior.
If you sink a water bucket to the bottom of the pool and use a cup to empty the bucket, you will find that the task cannot be done. However, if you fill the bucket with bricks, the brickswill displace the water from the bucket. The same principle applies in this wicked world in which we live. The evil is always there, applying pressure, rushing in as fast as we empty ourselves of it. It will fill us and grow seven times until our last state is worse than the first. Let Jesus fill you with the Holy Spirit and watch what happens.
You can sing the most beautiful praises to God, but they are just hypocritical words, if they do not express what is within you. Preach the word like a pro... God prefers the amateur who is Holy Spirit driven.
Before The Throne:
Whatever you ask in Jesus' name will be given, if you ask believing. Ask Him to fill you, to control you, to displace all of the sin within you. Commit yourself to being Holy Spirit driven. Praise Him, that such a thing is possible.
For Further Study:
(v.43) ** the unclean. Luke 11:24; Acts 8:13; ** he. Job 1:7; Job 2:2; 1Pet 5:8; ** dry. Ps 63:1; Isa 35:6-7; Isa 41:18; Ezek 47:8-12; Amos 8:11-13; ** seeking. Matt 8:29; Mark 5:7-13; Luke 8:28-32;
(v.44) ** my. Luke 11:21-22; John 13:27; Eph 2:2; 1John 4:4; ** he findeth. Matt 13:20-22; Ps 81:11-12; Hos 7:6; John 12:6; John 13:2; Acts 5:1-3; Acts 8:18-23; 1Cor 11:19; 2Thess 2:9-12; 1Tim 6:4-5, 9-10; 1John 2:19; Jude 1:4-5; Rev 13:3-4, 8-9;
(v.45) ** seven. Mark 5:9; Mark 16:9; Eph 6:12; ** more. Matt 23:15; ** and the. Luke 11:26; Heb 6:4-8; Heb 10:26-31, 39; 2Pet 2:14-22; 1John 5:16-17; Jude 1:10-13; ** Even. Matt 21:38-44; Matt 23:34, 32-39; Luke 11:49-51; Luke 19:41-44; John 15:22-24; Rom 11:8-10; 1Thess 2:15-16;
God With Us
41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. 42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
Walk with Jesus in Capernaum. He was God become man, a huge sacrifice, making Himself of no repute. He had come to walk with men, to teach them the truths about God, to fellowship with them and finally to demonstrate His love by dying for them on the cross. The crowds of ordinary people flocking to Him sensed His greatness, but their leaders called Him a devil. Everywhere He went, the scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees were present to denounce His love as acts of the devil.
Jesus gave that generation a once in an eternity opportunity to walk in a learning and loving relationship with God. Jesus was wisdom; Jesus was truth; He was love; He was their salvation; and He was eternal life. God incarnate walked among His people. It was an opportunity that no man had ever enjoyed. The Word had become flesh." He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." (John1:10-11)
In our scripture passage for today, Jesus continued His rebuke of that evil and adulterous generation by calling their attention to Nineveh, a Gentile and heathen society. God sent Jonah to them. Jonah wasn't the Son of God, in fact, the people of Nineveh didn't know who he was. Jonah was just a mere mortal man like the rest of us. He did not go to them to demonstrate his love for them; he really didn't even like them and didn't want them to be spared destruction.
Jonah preached repentance to the people of Nineveh. It was repent or be destroyed. There were no alternatives, no relationships, no miracles, and no signs to prove that he spoke for God. "Repent or God will destroy you!"
Nineveh repented, but not Judah.
Likewise, He reminded them of the queen of Sheba, another Gentile. This queen left her country to come and hear the Godly wisdom of Solomon. Her reply to his teachings was, "Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice." (1Kings 10:9)
God had given the people of Judah so much more reason to repent that their hardness was inexcusable. "And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Lu 12:47-48)
The people of Nineveh, Jesus said, would sit in judgement over the rebellious Pharisees and their cronies. Can you imagine how that must have chilled them to the bone, to think that a Gentile nation would be their judge?
Who will sit in judgement over our generation? "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." We have been given much more than Judah. We can not only walk with Jesus, but we can live with His constant presence and direction. We have been given the opportunity to be one with Him as He is one with the Father. Oneness is much more than a simple human relationship.
We have the historical record of His miracles and of His resurrection to look at. The Jews knew nothing of the resurrection. We have the written testimony of those who watched Him ascend into the heavens and disappear in a cloud to be at the right hand of the Father. The Jews had no such evidence. We have seen the growth of His church around the globe and how it all began with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Jews had none of that.
Who will judge our generation? Who will judge you and I, if we do not repent and go tell the others? If all we can do is sing, then we had better begin singing in the streets. If all we can do is cook, we had better begin serving the poor in the name of Jesus. If we are homebound, we need to pick up the phone and make some calls. If we are too shy to speak, we need to begin writing our testimonies and sending them to our families and friends. Time is getting short and our judgment is near.
Before The Throne:
Pray for the lost world around you, but pray fervently enough to want to do something about it. Faith without works is dead. Ask for the strength, direction, and courage to tell the world about Jesus.
For Further Study:
(v.41) ** men. Lu 11:32; ** rise. Isa 54:17; Jer 3:11; Ezek 16:51-52; Rom 2:27; Heb 11:7; ** this. Matt 16:4; Matt 17:17; Matt 23:36; ** because. Jon 3:5-10; * behold. John 3:31; John 4:12; John 8:53-58; Heb 3:5-6;
(v.42) ** queen. 1Kgs 10:1-13; 2Chr 9:1-12; Luke 11:31-32; Acts 8:27-28; ** hear. 1Kgs 3:9, 12, 28; 1Kgs 4:29, 34; 1Kgs 5:12; 1Kgs 10:4, 7, 24; ** behold. Matt 3:17; Matt 17:5; Isa 7:14; Isa 9:6-7; John 1:14, 18; Phil 2:6-7; Heb 1:2-4;
38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
"While working for an organization that delivers lunches to elderly shut-ins, I used to take my four-year-old daughter on my afternoon rounds. She was unfailingly intrigued by the various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions, she merely turned and whispered, 'The tooth fairy will never believe this!'" (Author unknown)
Seeing is not the same as believing. The Pharisees had seen many things which proved that Christ, at the very least, was a prophet from God. Yet they insisted that He was from the devil and, by that assertion, caused themselves to be exposed as wicked men.
Next, another group of them decided to adopt a different tactic. They came saying, "Master." In other words, they were acknowledging, although hypocritically, that Jesus was a teacher of men. This group was going to be nice to Him and help Him discredit Himself.
"Master, we want to see a sign from you." This was the kid's tooth fairy staring at the glass of teeth. They wouldn't believe it, if they saw it. They had already witnessed hundreds of miracles, not just the ones of which the Bible tells us. John 21:25 says, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written everyone, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen." So, what sign could Jesus give them that would make a difference?
Do you see the miracles that God is doing all around you every day? Do you see how God connects to His people when they sing His praises? Isn't that a miracle? The good things that happen to you are all blessings from God, and the apparently bad things are just the preparations for more good things. Wicked hearts are being miraculously changed, drug addicts converted, prostitutes are confessing Christ and prayers are miraculously answered. Seeds become flowers or tall, massive trees. Isn't that a miracle too?
Perhaps you do not see these things as miracles. You need a sign from God. Then there is only one sign for you, one piece of evidence that you either believe or not. If it is not sufficient for you, you are eternally lost. There will never be a more dramatic sign than this given.
"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." Jesus is very specific about this sign. He would be in the grave three days and three nights. We should accept nothing more nor less. This was the only sign that He would offer, the only proof of whom He was. Certainly, He would not estimate it, cut it one minute short, or adapt it to fit some custom, because this would make Him a liar and the hypocritical Pharisees the winners.
I do not know what your church teaches about Jesus' burial and resurrection, but if you count the days and nights that He was in the grave, you probably do not come up with three of each. The reason for this is that many years ago the Catholic church changed the dates for the celebration of the resurrection, and this has caused confusion ever since.
Jesus was crucified on the Passover and raised exactly three days and three nights later, but because that holy day falls on a different date every year, it was changed in order to make it easier to remember. Both the Catholic and the Protestant churches have tried ever since to interpret the Bible in ways that would justify the false traditions that arose around the new date, but they have destroyed the only sign that Jesus offered.
We cannot go into a study of the calendar here, but if you carefully study the Passover and its customs along with the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection you will see that Jesus was in the grave exactly as He said, three full days and three full nights. If you need a sign, that is it. You must either believe in Him or remain lost.
Before The Throne:
Give God the praise for the many signs that He performs every day for your benefit... for the miracle of birth, for sunshine and the rain, and for the people in your church who were all blind, but now can see. Ask Him to help you rejoice in the works that He is doing and to join Him. Pray that He will increase your faith.
For Further Study:
(v.38) ** Master. Matt 16:1-4; Mark 8:11-12; Luke 11:16, 29; John 2:18; John 4:48; 1Cor 1:22;
(v.39) ** adulterous. Isa 57:3; Mark 8:38; Jas 4:4; ** no sign. Matt 16:4; Luke 11:29-30;
(v.40) ** as. Jon 1:17; (* so. Matt 16:21; Matt 17:23; Matt 27:40, 63-64; John 2:19; ** in the heart. Ps 63:9; Jonah 2:2-6;
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. 34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 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. 36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
What's in a word?….. Let's see! "..the Spirit of God moved….. and God said, Let there be…." And everything that ever existed came into being. "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." The power and authority of God was conveyed by a single spoken word.
God's word is the medium by which He accomplishes His will. "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11) When He speaks, His words represent His character, express His creativity, and grace His creatures with His love.
Jesus Christ was called the Word, "...by whom all things were made" and who was given as an expression of God's love. He cast out demons with His words, healed lepers, cripples, the deaf and dumb, and the blind, and called forth the dead with just His word. And all power and authority was given to Him by His Father. The greatest gift ever was given to men by Jesus' words, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
But, you are also a child of God, if you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior. You are an heir to the power that is vested in the spoken word. "Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done." Go ahead…Try it!
There is a good reason why the mountain didn't jump when you told it to. Although you are a Christian and a new creation on the inside, that new creation is still living in the old flesh that has suffered under the curse of Adam's depravity since your birth. The words you speak are not always the same as would come out of the mouth of God. In fact, for some reason the tongue seems to be the last thing that Christians learn how to control. Why, then, should God entrust you with such power?
In our passage, Jesus continued lecturing the Pharisees about their blasphemous tongues. "The tree is known by its fruit," He said. The words we speak are our fruit and they reflect what is growing inside of us.
Jesus was obviously very passionate about the misuse of the tongue. "You bunch of snakes, if your hearts are filled with the evils of the great serpent, Satan, how can you be expected to say anything good? Your words reflect what is in your hearts." Their blasphemy was not simply a few uttered words, but was something that came from very deep in their souls. It reflected hearts that were not submitted to God.
Good hearts bring forth good words. These are the hearts of men who are new creations in Christ, who have the Holy Spirit guiding them, and who live by the faith of Jesus Christ. Words, which encourage others and build the kingdom of God, come from men who have been immersed in the righteousness of Christ by means of their total surrender to Him.
We will be called to account for every idle word that we speak. Every word that is not constructive, that is not well thought out, and that does not accomplish the will of God will be judged. Language is a gift from God and a very powerful tool. We must be very careful how we use it. Our words are an indication of our spiritual condition and of how we will fare on judgement day.
Now, do not get depressed over your inability to cast a mountain into the sea by simply telling it to jump. I do not know anyone beside Jesus who had quite that much faith. Christians are new creations, but we are young and growing creations. We do not have the wickedness of the Pharisees, yet there is a constant battle within us between the spirit and the flesh. Let the power to cast a mountain be your goal as you grow in faith and purity of heart. Learn to control your tongue and remember:
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1John 3:2) One day you will mature and have the full faith of your Lord Jesus.
Before The Throne:
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Pray that the words coming from your mouth will at all times reflect that your heart is tuned to these good things. Ask God to mold you into the image of Christ.
For Further Study:
(v.33) ** make the good tree. Matt 23:26; Ezek 18:31; Amos 5:15; Luke 11:39-40; Jas 4:8; ** and his fruit good. Matt 3:8-10; Matt 7:16-20; Luke 3:9; Luke 6:43-44; John 15:4-7; Jas 3:12;
(v.34) ** generation. Matt 3:7; Matt 23:33; Luke 3:7; John 8:44; 1John 3:10; ** how. 1Sam 24:13; Ps 10:6-7; Ps 52:2-5; Ps 53:1; Ps 64:3, 5; Ps 120:2-4; Ps 140:2-3; Isa 32:6; Isa 59:4, 14; Jer 7:2-5; Rom 3:10-14; Jas 3:5-8; ** for. Lu 6:45;
(v.35) ** good man. Matt 13:52; Ps 37:30-31; Prov 10:20-21; Prov 12:6, 17-19; Prov 15:4, 23, 28; Prov 16:21-23; Prov 25:11-12; Eph 4:29; Col 3:16; Col 4:6;
(v.36) ** every. Eccl 12:14; Rom 2:16; Eph 6:4-6; Jude 1:14-15; Rev 20:12;
(v.37) ** For by. Pr 13:3; ** justified. Jas 2:21-25;
The Unpardonable Sin
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. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me!" It was not unusual to hear that being shouted on the playground when I was a child. Nearly every kid used the line as a way of fending off the hurt caused by the harsh words of others. It was a lie. Everyone, who has ever repeated it, knows that they were badly hurt by what had been said to them.. The tongue is a seriously offensive weapon.
It shouldn't seem strange to us, then, that the only sin ever branded as unpardonable is a sin of the tongue. It is a sin that many Christians have worried about, wondering if they have ever committed it. Therefore, let's try to understand Jesus' words.
The two verses consist of two parallel statements which are directed to the Pharisees. The use of "Wherefore" tells us that Jesus is referring back to what has previously been said by the Pharisees. Each statement is divided into two sections: 1.) a declaration of the universal mercy and grace of God 2.) The exception.
The first part of the statements is positive. "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven…" It is very difficult, from a human standpoint, to imagine that, no matter what we have ever done against God, He can and will forgive us. Every manner of sin... lying, deceit, adultery, worshipping false gods, Sabbath breaking, theft, murder, rape, and blasphemies of every type. There is nothing that is beyond God's power to forgive.
Of course, this does not mean that every person shall be forgiven. Forgiveness is offered to all men through Jesus Christ, but sin holds them captive. Therefore, God's grace must be granted them, and its recipients will benefit from His infinite power of forgiveness.
Then, what is the unpardonable sin? Let's look at what the Pharisees did.
First, they witnessed the miraculous works that Jesus did, works that could only have been done by the power of the Holy Spirit. Their own leaders claimed to perform the same exorcisms, and these were accepted by them as the work of the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees were knowledgeable men, who knew the truth concerning Jesus' identity and the power by which He worked. This is made clear to us in the testimony of Nicodemus. "There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."(John 3:1-2)
Secondly, the Pharisees had their own selfish agenda, which could not continue in the light of Jesus' teachings. So, in spite of their knowledge that the Holy Spirit was at work, they attributed everything that was done to the credit of Satan. They blasphemed the Holy Spirit in a premeditated act, in order to thwart the works and purpose of God.
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is something very serious. It does not include the sins of ignorant men, whose eyes have not been opened to the truth. It does not include the incidental vain usage of the name of God, resistance of the Spirit's pull on your heart, nor most other sins which might be considered blasphemy. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a knowledgeable and permanent resistance of Him and a crediting of His work to evil for selfish and vain purposes.
If you are worried about having committed this sin, stop, because you probably haven't committed it. Such persons could have no guilty conscience, no interest in changing their lives, no concern for their eternal security. Look at the Pharisees' attitude. The clearer it became that Jesus was their Messiah, the Son of God, the harder they fought Him until they nailed Him to the cross. And, this was done to serve their own interests and with full knowledge of what they were doing. These men found no forgiveness neither in this life nor that to come.
Before The Throne:
If you have not received Jesus, you must understand that it is never too late. Lay aside your selfish interests and love Him with all your heart, and all your strength, and all of your soul. Pray for Him to come into your life and to change you into the person God intended you to be. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven, so ask. Thank Him for His wonderful grace.
For Further Study:
(v.31) ** All. Isa 1:18; Isa 55:7; Ezek 33:11; 1Tim 1:13-15; Heb 6:4; Heb 10:26, 29; 1John 1:9; 1John 2:1-2; ** but. Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:10; Acts 7:51; 1John 5:16;
(v.32) ** whosoever. Matt 11:19; Matt 13:55; Luke 7:34; Luke 23:34; John 7:12, 52; Acts 3:14-15; Acts 3:19; Acts 26:9-11; 1Tim 1:13, 15; ** but. John 7:39; Heb 6:4-6; Heb 10:26-29; ** it shall not. Job 36:13; Mark 3:29; Luke 16:23-26;
Get With It!
30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
Once upon a time, many, many years ago, I had the task of organizing a small jazz combo to play for a special affair, which I could not attend. I had four excellent musicians. A drummer, bassist, guitarist and a pianist. When I heard the pianist play I was thrilled to be able to get such a talented musician for the occasion. The problem came when I tried to get the four to play together.
It turned out that this great sounding jazz pianist could only play in one key, D Flat. The guitarist and bassist had to transpose all of the music into his key. That was difficult to do without a lot of rehearsal time, which we did not have. Four fine musicians did not always sound so good when they played together. Everything revolved around the pianist. They had a choice: play in his key or sound bad.
Life is like that. Jesus said, "If you do not play in my key, you are playing against me."
Earlier, in His argument against the Pharisees' charge that He cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub, He pointed out the Jewish religious leaders who also claimed to cast out devils. If He was under the power of Satan, their own religious leaders also had to be under demonic influence. If they were under the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was under the same power.
However, there was a great gap separating Jesus from the Jewish exorcists. The statement in our verse was probably made with them in mind. Jesus wanted to make it clear that they were not working for the same cause. The Jewish exorcists were, in fact, working against Him.
In the Gospel of Mark, there is an instance of another person casting out devils. (Mark 9:38-40) We read, however, that he was casting out devils "in Thy name." Jesus responded by saying," Forbid him not: …… For he that is not against us is on our part." This man was doing miracles in the name of Jesus. Jesus was obtaining the credit for the miracles and God would be glorified. Everyone was playing in the same key.
There are many people in the world who do good works, and many organizations. The American Red Cross, the United Way, the March of Dimes etc. all do good works. But who is getting the credit? Who is being glorified? What eternal effect does their work have? Good works which are not done in Jesus' name are works that are done against Him.
Likewise, there are many religions in the world that teach many good things. Some say there is no difference between these and Christianity, that we all worship the same God, but in different ways and under different names. Like the Jewish exorcists, however, these religions are anti-Christ religions.
Jesus has given us a way for determining the difference between those who are for Him and those who are against Him. We need only to ask whether or not their work is to gather people to Jesus. If they are not actively gathering the people into His kingdom, they are part of the forces that are scattering them. There is no neutral ground. You cannot find a neutral key in which to play a hymn. Everyone must sing or play in the same key or there are very unpleasant results.
There are many people in our churches who think they can be in neutral and still get to heaven. I call them "pew stuffing". They park their carcasses in the pew every Sunday morning, but they never do any more for the Lord than the stuffing in the padded pews on which they sit. Some have been Christians for thirty or forty years and have never attempted to gather a single soul into the kingdom of heaven. What a sad surprise they will suffer on judgement day.
What key are you in? D flat is a difficult key. Sometimes the Christian life is difficult also. It requires us to make changes in the way we play the hymn called "Life." Does your music gather or scatter? Does your testimony gather or scatter? Do your good works gather or scatter?
Before The Throne:
Pray that God would help you gather His sheep into the fold. Ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to help you reach out to minister to people in Jesus' name. Ask God to show you areas of your life where you are perhaps doing good works, but are not gathering the flock.
For Further Study:
(v.30) ** that is. Matt 6:24; Josh 5:13; Josh 24:15; 1Chr 12:17; 1Chr 12:18; Mark 9:40; Luke 9:50; Luke 11:23; 2Cor 6:15; 2Cor 6:16; 1John 2:19; Rev 3:15-16; ** gathereth. Gen 49:10; Hos 1:11; John 11:52;
The Strong Man Is Bound
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.
Would the devil help
Jesus to destroy evil? The Pharisees had made the silly assertion that Jesus was working for the devil when He cast a demon out of the blind and mute man. This short parable was told by Jesus as part of His argument against the Pharisees' accusation, but it is also a clever metaphor describing His entire ministry. Twenty-first century Christians can read this verse and be comforted by the knowledge that the strong man has been bound.
Naturally, the strong man in the parable is Satan. Jesus was using this parable to help them see that, not only will a strong man stop you from entering his house to steal his goods, but you will have to tie him up before you can get away with anything. Satan was no different.
In another sense, the story is a fulfillment of scripture. "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children". (Isaiah 49:24-25)
The strong man's "house" represents the kingdom of this world and the evil that the god of this world perpetrates. (2 Cor 4:4)Everyone who is under his influence, subject to doing his deeds, and the servant of sin is in his kingdom, or house.
He holds the minds and souls of unbelievers captive and has blinded them to God's truths. They are the "prey" and the "captives" of Isaiah 49:24-25 (above) and have been in his possession since the fall of Adam. Sinners, unable to save themselves, are his goods, and Jesus had come to take them away from him. The Pharisees' assertion that Jesus was working for him was foolishness. The devil's house would not be plundered without a fight. "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Gen 3:15)
The devil never has been totally free to work his evil upon man. He has always needed the permission of God, who is Sovereign over all things. (Job 1) Jesus, however, came to put and end to all evil. He died on the cross for His people's sins, and in so doing destroyed the hold that the devil had on them. Those who received Jesus as their Savior are now able to resist him, and he flees from them. The devil has been bound. His goods are being plundered by the Son of God and restored to their rightful place in the kingdom of heaven. The day will come when He will be cast into the lake of fire along with all those who continue to follow him. The strong man's house will be gone.
We should take comfort in the knowledge that Satan no longer has power over us. We are not his goods anymore. The Son of God has delivered us from his bondage.
Before The Throne:
And then I cried, "Dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit,"
And somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory.
O victory in Jesus my Savior, forever.....*
Begin this day in joyful prayer. Praise your Savior for His victory over evil. Thank Him for setting you free from your sins. Sing a hymn of victory and joy. The strong man is bound and his house is being plundered!
For Further Study:
** Isa 49:24; Isa 53:12; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21-22; 1John 3:8; 1John 4:4; Rev 12:7-10; Rev 20:1-3; Rev 20:7-9;
By Beelzebub or By the Spirit?
25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.
Clear thinking is essential to being a good Christian. In our modern education systems, we have neglected to teach the art of clear thinking, called logic, and the results have been devastating to society. People are no longer able to recognize faulty logic and are easily persuaded by it. The use of logical persuasion only leaves them with a blank stare on their face. Therefore, the tactic of attacking someone's integrity has become the most popular and effective means of argument.
A friend of mine, who is the pastor of a small local church, and I were discussing the various translations of the Bible. It became apparent to me that he did not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. When I questioned him about it, he insisted that he did believe in inerrancy. Then, he told me that only the original manuscripts were inerrant. My reply upset him terribly, because he could not accept the logical train of thought. It went something like this: "If you believe that only the original manuscripts were inerrant, and you acknowledge that we do not have any original manuscripts from which to translate the Bible, you must believe that the Bible is translated from faulty manuscripts and therefore, though it may be accurately translated, contains errors."
Of course my argument was faulty, because, without the ability to think clearly, one can "believe" anything he wants. I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, but I was trying to show this man that the misinformation he was being fed would lead him down paths that he did not want to travel. He needed to be able to sort through what was being taught to him in a logical manner.
The Pharisees had thrown good reasoning aside and had resorted to attacking Jesus' integrity. They had begun to tell the people that He was in league with Beelzebub, which was the god of Ekron, but is used here as another name for Satan. Without hearing them, Jesus knew their thoughts and countered their arguments with reasoning that proved the kingdom of God was in their presence.
His first premise was that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Any kingdom, organization, or cause that is bent on self-destruction will eventually succeed in destroying itself. If Satan sent his demons out to possess the souls of men and then sent Jesus to cast those same demons out of men, he would have no success in ruling anyone. Satan was clever, and to ascribe such foolish tactics to him was illogical.
Secondly, Jesus pointed out that there were people in the Jewish religious establishment ("your children") who also claimed to cast out demons. If the people were to accept the premise that, in order to cast them out, Jesus had to be in league with the devil, they would also have to consider that their own religious leaders were in league with him. And, if that was their conclusion, they would be judged severely by them.
On the other hand, if their own leaders cast out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit, they had to admit the same power in Jesus. The difference was dramatic, however. Jesus did not need ceremony nor rituals. He only needed to speak the command and the demons obeyed.
In His presence they trembled and even worshipped Him, acknowledging that He was the Son of God. If the Jewish leaders cast out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit, then the only logical conclusion the Pharisees could reach was that they had witnessed the power of the kingdom of God in the person of Jesus.
Clear thinking is a godly attribute. Christians are often accused of preaching a blind faith, but nothing could be farther from the truth. God has given us ample evidence of His existence, His love for us, and of His mercy and grace. He wants us to look at the evidence and make logical deductions from it. The atheist who accuses us, however, looks at the intelligent design of the creation and attributes it all to chance. That is blind faith and clouded thinking.
We live in an age where information is abundant, but without the ability to sift through it and think clearly, we are also in danger of being led to false conclusions.
Before The Throne:
Pray that God would increase your ability to think clearly, to present your beliefs in a clear and logical manner, and to help you recognize lies when you hear them. Ask Him to open the minds of those to whom you minister, so that they would be able to understand and recognize that the kingdom of God has come and that they can be a part of it.
For Further Study:
(v.25) ** Jesus. Matt 9:4; Ps 139:2; Jer 17:10; Amos 4:13; Mark 2:8; John 2:24-25; John 21:17; 1Cor 2:11; Heb 4:13; Rev 2:23; ** Every kingdom. Isa 9:21; Isa 19:2-3; Mark 3:23-26; Luke 11:17-18; Gal 5:15; Rev 16:19; Rev 17:16-17;
(v.26) ** his. John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11; 2Cor 4:4; Col 1:13; 1John 5:19; Rev 9:11; Rev 12:9; Rev 16:10; Rev 20:2-3;
(v.27) ** by whom. Mark 9:38-39; Luke 9:49-50; Luke 11:19; Acts 19:13-16; ** they. Luke 19:22; Rom 3:19;
(v.28) ** I cast. Matt 12:18; Mark 16:17; Luke 11:20; Acts 10:38; ** then. Matt 6:33; Matt 21:31, 43; Isa 9:6-7; Dan 2:44; Dan 7:14; Mark 1:15; Mark 11:10; Luke 1:32-33; Luke 9:2; Luke 10:11; Luke 11:20; Luke 16:16; Luke 17:20-21; Rom 14:17; Col 1:13; Heb 12:28;
When Good Is Called Evil
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. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
Jesus continued His ministry as normal. He had probably come back from Galilee and was at the house where He usually stayed. The people continued to flock to Him, and a group of them brought their demon possessed friend to Him for help.
This friend was both blind and unable to speak, but not because of any physical problems. The man's condition was caused by the devil which possessed him. Jesus had cast devils out of many people and He had healed many of illnesses and disabilities, but Matthew may have included this instance as an illustration of the true ministry of Jesus.
Men who allow their lives to be governed by sin are the servants of the devil. They are both blind to the wonderful truths of God and are unable to speak those truths to others. They are equally unable to improve their own condition. If brought to Jesus, however, by the preaching of the gospel of salvation, they can have the opportunity to receive His help. Through Jesus, there is victory over the devil. Blind men can be made to see and understand the mystery of God's grace and will preach the same to others.
When Jesus healed the man by casting out the demons, the people were amazed at his authority and power, much like they were in a prior similar instance. (Matthew 9:22-34) They began to wonder if he could be the Messiah that was promised to them. The Pharisees were not as convinced, and Matthew focuses on their reaction, which also parallels the earlier instance.
"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20) The O.T. prophet described the typical reaction of those with wicked hearts to the works of godly men. Having no legitimate argument to make against them, they call their good works evil, and point to their own evil as though it were good. They confuse innocent observers and win some of them over to their side through faulty logic.
The Pharisees tried to discredit Jesus with deceptive logic and name calling. Their argument was that, if He had power over the devils, He must be in league with Satan, their chief. Why else would the demons obey Him and not any of the other religious leaders? They made the casting out of devils to be something that seemed evil.
We can see this kind of behavior all around us today. Many politicians are quick to characterize anyone who advocates applying Godly principles to government as evil. Those who defend the lives of the unborn are depicted as evil, as are those who want biblical principles of morality to be taught to our children. There seems to be no end to the ways that the wicked can twist the truth to make good seem like evil.
"He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD." (Pr17:15) Most of us have had a time when we tried to justify our own sins. We were angry at those who condemned what we were doing, telling them that the scriptures say, "Judge not that ye be not judged." We made them sound like the sinners.
Before The Throne:
What unjust criticisms lie in your heart? Confess them and ask God to help you see the good in all of His work and to keep you from making Pharisaical judgments. Pray for your nation's leaders to follow God's direction and to stand strong against the wicked attacks that they must face every day. Pray for those who call evil good and good evil.
For Further Study:
(v.22) ** was. Matt 9:32; Mark 3:11; Luke 11:14; ** he healed. Mark 7:35-37; Mark 9:17-26; ** blind. Ps 51:15; Isa 29:18; Isa 32:3-4; Isa 35:5-6; Acts 26:18;
(v.23) ** the people. Matt 9:33; Matt 15:30-31; ** Is not. Matt 9:27; Matt 15:22; Matt 21:9; Matt 22:42-43; John 4:29; John 7:40-42;
(v.24) ** when. Matt 9:34; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15;
Behold My Servant
17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. 19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. 21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
How was the Messiah described in the scriptures? Remember that Matthew was writing primarily for the Jewish people, who had interpreted only part of the scriptures concerning Him. Taking these out of context from the other Messianic passages, they expected a strong military leader to take over the throne and defeat their enemies, the Romans. If Matthew was going to convince them that Jesus was their Messiah, he would have to show them proofs from the Old Testament Prophets.
Having told of Jesus' confrontations with the Pharisees, their plot to kill Him, His retreat to Galilee, His identification by demons as the Son of God, and His desire for them to keep His identity quiet, Matthew had to have some very convincing proofs that these things were appropriate behavior for the Messiah.
Jesus, he said, had to do these things, because Isaiah prophesied that He would. Thus he paraphrased Isaiah 42:1-5, which was acceptable practice in those days and was also more useful to his purpose.
"Behold, My Servant," which could also be translated as "My Son", reminds us of what transpired at Jesus' baptism. (Matthew 3:17) There may have been a question in the minds of Matthew's Jewish readers. Why would anyone rely on the testimony of demons for the identity of the Son of God? Why did demons worship Him? Why did He not want them to tell anyone? Matthew answers these by tying Isaiah 42:1 to the events in Jesus' life.
He was God's Beloved. Chosen by God and "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,…" (1 Peter 1:20) He was chosen because only He was worthy of the task. There was no other who was so righteous as to be able to pay the penalty for the sins of others. Nor was there any other who was so faithful as to make Himself the sacrifice for those sins, in order to please His Father.
Anointed with the Holy Spirit, He came to show judgment (justice) to the Gentiles. The Gentiles were especially attracted to his teachings. They came all the way from Tyre and Sidon to hear Him speak, but they would not hear Him argue (strive) with His enemies nor raise His voice to brag about His divinity or to get their attention. He was meek and lowly and asked them not to reveal that He was the Son of God.
The scriptures did not point to a political and military leader, but to this Jesus whom God loved. They pointed to one who was gentle, who would not even bruise a reed nor snuff out the flame from a wick in anger. Although all power was granted to Him, He would harm no one, not those whose hearts were dried and brittle like a reed nor whose spirits were fragile as the flame of the wick in a lamp. He would be gentle until justice was done on the cross, and the sins of His people were washed clean. His church would stand up in victory and even the Gentiles would come to trust in Him.
Are you convinced that He was the Son of God? Have you surrendered yourself totally to Him and become the recipient of His mercy and grace? Do you trust in Him for your salvation? If the Holy Spirit is affecting a change in your heart and mind, Jesus may be showing you justice whether you are a Gentile or a Jew. Old things will pass away and all things will become new.
Before The Throne:
Thank God for this Messiah who came to save and not to rule. Confess Him as your Lord and Savior. Examine your life and surrender every part of it to Jesus. Then, ask God to show you the role that He wants you to play in the building of His kingdom.
For Further Study:
(v.17) ** it. Matt 8:17; Matt 13:35; Matt 21:4; Isa 41:22-23; Isa 42:9; Isa 44:26; Luke 21:22; Luke 24:44; John 10:35; John 12:38; John 19:28; Acts 13:27; ** saying. Isa 42:1-4;
(v.18) ** my servant. Isa 49:5-6; Isa 52:13; Isa 53:11; Zech 3:8; Phil 2:6; Phil 2:7; ** whom I. Ps 89:19; Isa 49:1-3; Luke 23:35; 1Pet 2:4; ** my beloved. Matt 3:17; Matt 17:5; Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; Eph 1:6; Col 1:1, 13; 2Pe 1:17; ** I will. Matt 3:16; Isa 11:2; Isa 59:20-21; Isa 61:1-3; Luke 3:22; Luke 4:18; John 1:32-34; John 3:34; Ac 10:38; ** and he. Isa 32:15-16; Isa 49:6; Isa 60:2-3; Isa 62:2; Jer 16:19; Luke 2:31-32; Acts 11:18; Acts 13:46-48; Acts 14:27; Acts 26:17-18; Rom 15:9-12; Eph 2:11-13; Eph 3:5-8;
(v.19) ** Matt 11:29; Zech 9:9; Luke 17:20; John 18:36-38; 2Cor 10:1; 2Tim 2:24-25;
(v.20) ** bruised. Matt 11:28; 2Kgs 18:21; Ps 51:17; Ps 147:3; Isa 40:11; Isa 57:15; Isa 61:1-3; Lam 3:31-34; Ezek 34:16; Luke 4:18; 2Cor 2:7; Heb 12:12-13; ** till. Ps 98:1-3; Isa 42:3-4; Rom 15:17-19; 2Cor 2:14; 2Cor 10:3-5; Rev 6:2; Re 19:11-21;
(v.21) ** Isa 11:10; Rom 15:12-13; Eph 1:12-13; Col 1:27;
15 But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; 16 And charged them that they should not make him known:
Jesus had come to a critical point in His ministry. The Pharisees were now plotting to destroy Him and that would eventually bring about His crucifixion. Yet, He knew that His ministry was not complete. His commitment to that ministry and to the Father who had sent Him was never so important as at that moment.
In response to the threat of the Pharisees, He decided to move His work to a less conspicuous place near the Sea of Galilee. We should not think that He feared them, however, but that, because He knew the time for His death had not yet come, He made a prudent decision to move. He did not move secretly. Great multitudes followed Him. In fact, Mark wrote that they came "from Judaea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon…" The whole world seemed to know His whereabouts.
And His commitment to His ministry was undaunted. He continued to teach them and to heal "them all." He was an example for each of us to follow, faithfully carrying out His work in spite of the dangers. He demonstrated that God's work is not constrained to one church building, one neighborhood, nor one city, but that the same spiritual needs are present everywhere we go. We should work at our calling, regardless of where we are or how dangerous the situation.
Jesus' ministry at Galilee also shows us what happens when we remain faithful to our work. Even in the more remote area by the seashore, He had multitudes coming to Him. When we remain faithful to our ministry, God remains faithful to us. There is nothing that can thwart the will of the Almighty. He will make faithful servants successful in accomplishing His will. No man nor group of men can prevent the gospel from being preached.
When we are ministering in the will of God, however, we must also be patient and wait upon Him. His schedule may be different from ours. The multitudes received Jesus as the Messiah and as the Son of God, but it was not time for this knowledge to be widely known.
Oddly enough, it was the demons, whom He was casting out, that identified Him to the crowds. "And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known." (Mark 3:11-12) Even these evil spirits worshipped Him, but His charge to them and to all those who overheard was given in a strict and authoritative manner. They were not to reveal His true identity. Perhaps, either the time was not right, or people simply needed to recognize who He was by what they saw and heard in person.
Jesus was not only faithful to His ministry and to the will of God, but also to the timing of God. It might have been very easy for Him to allow everyone to know that He was their Messiah. They would have made Him King, protected Him from the plotting Pharisees and followed Him to conquer the world. That, however was not God's will.
Before The Throne:
What is God's will for your ministry today? Pray for the direction that you need for your work. Where will you share the gospel of salvation and grace today? Pray for strength, prudence, commitment, and patience. Commit yourself to work harder in spite of the difficulties.
For Further Study:
(v.15) ** he withdrew. Matt 10:23; Luke 6:12; John 7:1; John 10:40-42; John 11:54; ** great. Matt 4:24-25; Matt 19:2; Mark 3:7-12; Mark 6:56; Luke 6:17-19; John 9:4; Gal 6:9; 1Pe 2:21;
(v.16) ** Matt 9:30; Matt 17:9; Mark 7:36; Luke 5:14-15;
14 Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.
Self-centeredness is the most dangerous of all human characteristics, even when it is exhibited as self-righteousness. The self-centered person sees himself as the center of the universe. He becomes his own god. The self-righteous man is not much different. He thinks of God as being indebted to him for his good behavior. Having earned his way into heaven, he might even begin to see himself as the good guy and God as a person full of anger and condemnation.
The thing that makes such persons dangerous lies in the fact that their self is all they have. Their world is built around self-esteem, self-satisfaction, self-indulgence, self-reliance, and self-aggrandizement. When their self is endangered, their entire universe is set on the verge of collapse, and they become scared and desperate.
Examine the situation of the Pharisees and the other religious leaders of that day. Their identity and self worth was based solely on their self-righteous lifestyle. Their position in society was dependent on the recognition that they received for their obedience to the religious laws. Their authority over other Jews was due to their obedience to the same laws. Their eternal future was due only to their own perfect obedience.
Enter Jesus Christ, who says, "You don't even understand the law. How can you pretend to obey it?" Suddenly the earth trembles and everything that these Pharisees have spent their lives working for begins to sway dangerously. Where is their righteousness, if the law that they obey is wrong? Where is their right to the kingdom of heaven, if they have misinterpreted the law all of their lives? Where is their station in life, if they are reduced to common depraved sinners?
They had to defend their position, so they set a trap to show that this Jesus was nothing but a blasphemous sinner. He ate and drank with sinners, His disciples didn't fast, His disciples picked grain on the Sabbath, He claimed to be more important than the temple, He implied that He was God, and He healed on the Sabbath, yet He was guilty of no offense. His challenges to their law were knowledgeable and solid. His reproofs were issued with authority. They had no legitimate rebuttal to His arguments and their self-righteousness was being exposed as a fraud.
What was left for them? Since their whole lives were based around self, their pride would not allow them to confess their sins and repent. Their only alternative was to destroy the One who was threatening them. Whether this was right or wrong was not a consideration for them. This was a matter of the survival of the self, their unrecognized god, the foundation for their existence.
So they gathered together and they plotted. Anger, bitterness, and embarrassment, all growing out of the worship of self, saw their manifestation in the premeditation of Jesus' murder. Luke's account of this scene says, "And they were filled with madness"
Don't you know, dear Reader, that you have the same problem with self that the Pharisees have? Haven't you ever been upset, hurt, or angry when someone criticized your skills, or your beliefs, or your favorite habits etc.? Haven't you ever been a little bit jealous when someone substitutes for you in some task or position and then gets much more praise than you've ever received? That is because your self is being attacked.
When your life is built on your abilities, your work, or your creativity you will be offended and hurt by anything that threatens it. However, when your accomplishments are recognized as coming from the Spirit of God working in you, when it is God's ministry, you will not be offended. You will trust the outcome to God, because you recognize it as His ministry and not your own. You will be able to respond to attacks on your ministry in a godly way, because He is the center of the ministry, not you.
You could also become every bit as dangerous as the Pharisees, if you do not deny self and follow Jesus. Try to apply what we have discussed in other areas of your life... at work, at home, at the ballpark, or at the mall. How much self is involved in what you do there?
Before The Throne:
Pray that God would help you to decrease so that Jesus can increase in your life. Ask Him to help you put on the new man, the one who is totally surrendered to Christ. Ask for His help in putting away jealousy, anger, resentment and other destructive emotions. Come to Him and receive your rest.
For Further Study:
(v.14) ** went. Matt 27:1; Mark 3:6; Luke 6:11; John 5:18; John 10:39; John 11:53, 57;
9 And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: 10 And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. 11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? 12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. 13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
"Excuses! Get your excuses here! Guaranteed to work, excuses for just $1.00 each. Hurry, hurry, Get your excuses!"
Anyone who has spent much time visiting church members with poor attendance records could get into the business. We have acquired such a good inventory of excuses for not coming to church. Then there is the job of recruiting volunteers….. we get more excuses. Is there one I haven't heard? Whatever you want to escape doing, ask me for a good excuse.
"We missed church, because our alarm didn't go off." Oh, how many times do you miss work? I like the ones about not being able to get up so early. Those people have no problem getting to work by 7:00 AM, but it's too early to get to church by 10:00AM. "It's so hard to get the children ready on time." But…but… you get them to school by 8 o'clock every other day of the week.
Many people have so little zeal for the things of God that they let anything come between them and what they know is His will for their lives. And we shouldn't be pointing our finger at others, because we all have our own bag of excuses that we use regularly. We are all guilty of not doing the things we know we should and could do for the kingdom of God.
Jesus, however, knew His mission. He was a pauper in the excuse market. He never needed to use excuses, because He was passionate about what He had to do. Nothing stopped Him from accomplishing the mission that His Father had assigned Him.
The Pharisees were very stirred up about the things He had been teaching and the claims He had made. He knew that they would try to gather evidence about Him in order to persecute Him. Yet the dangers of what might have happened did not keep Him from going to their synagogue on the Sabbath.
At the synagogue was a man with a crippled hand. We have no evidence that the man asked Jesus for help, but the Pharisees seemed to be using him as bait. Mark 3:2 tells us, "And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him." They were hoping He would make a mistake, so they asked Jesus whether He thought it was legal to heal the man on the Sabbath day.
It would have been easy for Jesus to make excuses for not helping this man. He could have rationalized that, since the man had been crippled for so long, one more day wouldn't matter. He could have told Himself that there was no need to give His enemies more ammunition, when He could heal the man just as well on the following day. This was a lesson that He had already taught them in the grain field, that God prefers mercy over sacrifice. He could have said, "I have come to worship, not to debate."
But Jesus never made excuses for not doing what He knew was right. He healed the man to illustrate the lesson, which many have forgotten, even today. The lesson was that God cares more for people than for animals and He wants us to do good works on the Sabbath day. These Pharisees would pull an animal out of a pit on the Sabbath day, but they wouldn't help a fellow human being. The Sabbath day was an excuse for their own selfishness.
What opportunities has the Lord placed in front of you that still lie unfinished? What are your excuses? Are they more valid than the danger Jesus faced at that point in His ministry? Use your prayer time today to be honest with God.
Before The Throne:
Ask God to help you get past your own excuses and to firm up your commitment to Him. Confess your failures to do the things that you know you should do. Pray for the faith to face the world's modern versions of the Pharisees, the legalists and those who lay traps for God's people. Ask for the wisdom to recognize their plots and the faith to overcome them.
For Further Study:
(v.9) ** he went. Mark 3:1-5; Luke 6:6-11;
(v.10) ** which. 1Kgs 13:4-6; Zech 11:17; John 5:3; ** Is it. Matt 19:3; Matt 22:17-18; Luke 13:14; Luke 14:3-6; Luke 20:22; John 5:10; John 9:16; ** that. Isa 32:6; Isa 59:4, 13; Luke 6:6-7; Luke 11:54; Luke 23:2, 14; John 8:6;
(v.11) ** what. Luke 13:15-17; Luke 14:5; ** and if. Exod 23:4-5; Deut 22:4;
(v.12) ** is a. Matt 6:26; Luke 12:24; ** it is. Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9
(v.13) ** and it. Luke 13:13; Acts 3:7-8;
Greater Than The Temple
6 But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. 7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
Our study for today is a continuation of Jesus' confrontation with the Pharisees concerning the picking and eating, by His disciples, of a few handfuls of Barley on the Sabbath day. Jesus had challenged the knowledge of the Pharisees by referring them to the story of David and his men eating the show bread from the tabernacle and to Numbers 28:9 which directs the priests to work at preparing the offerings on the Sabbath day.
In this second part of the story, Jesus continued to challenge their knowledge and understanding of the scriptures. By sandwiching a scripture reference between two statements that identified Himself as the one who wrote it, He certainly inflamed their anger so much that they were ready to make the decision to kill Him (v 14).
The first statement, "But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple," was made as a comparison between the works of two temples. The first was the temple in Jerusalem, which like the tabernacle of old, had many priests doing the work of the ordinances for sacrifice and worship on the Sabbath. If that temple, which at that time was the symbol of the glory of God and of His relationship with Israel, was so important as to require and to make it permissible to work on the Sabbath, work would certainly be permitted on behalf of the One greater than the temple.
Of course, the second temple of which Jesus spoke was Himself. "Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body." (John 3:19-21) Some less reliable manuscripts of Matthew 12:6 may imply that Jesus was not speaking of Himself, but we will stick to the rendering of the Textus Receptus.
Jesus' human body was certainly the temple of God. He was the divine presence, dwelling among His people, and building the temple of the Lord (Zec 6:12-15). His church, as the body of Christ, is the temple of the Lord in the person of the Holy Spirit. To the Jewish population, only God was greater than the temple. Jesus said He was here.
Next, with the full authority of God Himself, He presents His challenge. "But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless." This is a quote of Hosea 6:6, but it was made in order to draw their attention to the entire chapter. Take time to read it. It speaks directly to Judah (v. 4) and the injustice of her priests (v.9), condemning them for their lack of mercy and hypocritical sacrifices. The injustices are an attack on God's person, for "...there have they dealt treacherously against me."
Those who live in darkness are exposed and terribly embarrassed when the light of God's truth shines on them. How these men must have cursed Jesus under their breath! But, He wasn't finished.
"For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day." Could any man possibly make this claim? Scripture says, "And 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," Only God could be Lord over the Sabbath day. He rested from His work on that day, He blessed it, He set it aside for holy purposes, and only He could be Lord over it! The Pharisees had no right over the Sabbath. They did not have authority to write laws concerning it nor to misinterpret its laws for their own interests.
However, Jesus had all the right and power over the Sabbath and everything else in God's creation. He was the temple, the embodiment of the divine, the God incarnate, and, as the book of Daniel referred to Him, the "Son of Man". (Dan 7:13)
Will you yield to His authority in prayer today? Or will you continue with your religion the way you have always done it, relying on your works, rituals, and legalisms?
Before The Throne:
Pray that your demonstration of God's mercy would lead others to Jesus Christ, that your meekness would show them how to surrender, and that your humble lifestyle would help them learn Christian values.
For Further Study:
(v.6) ** Matt 23:17-21; 2Chr 6:18; Hag 2:7-9; Mal 3:1; John 2:19-21; Eph 2:20-22; Col 2:9; 1Pet 2:4; 1Pet 2:5;
(v.7) ** if. Matt 9:13; Matt 22:29; Acts 13:27; ** I will. Isa 1:11-17; Hos 6:6; Mic 6:6-8; **condemned. Job 32:3; Ps 94:21; Ps 109:31; Prov 17:15; Jas 5:6;
(v.8 ) ** Matt 9:6; Mark 2:28; Mark 9:4-7; Luke 6:5; John 5:17-23; 1Cor 9:21; 1Cor 16:2; Re 1:10;