Matthew 12:1-6 Jesus sets about to immediately challenge their notion of the Sabbath and its real purpose. The Sabbath was a sign between God and Israel (Exodus 31:12-17). The disciples were not working on the Sabbath, they were eating, satisfying their hunger Deuteronomy 23:24-25
What the disciples did was perfectly lawful, they were not placing any of the food in a basket and harvesting, they were only satisfying their hunger which was lawful. He gives the illustration of David and his men when they were hungry fleeing Saul in 1 Samuel 21.
Then He shares with them another illustration of the Priests who also work on the Sabbath without breaking the Law. He lets them know that something greater than the ministry of the Temple was going on before them. This is what the writer of Hebrews was shares with the Jewish believers; that Jesus was greater than the Temple, Moses, the Priesthood etc.
Matthew 12:7-8 – The Sabbath was never to restrict acts of mercy, the Scripture cited is from Hosea 6:6. Observing the Sabbath in some ways was a sacrifice. In fact because Israel failed to observe the Sabbath of allowing the land to lie fallow every seven years they were kept in captivity until the land had its rest. Justice and Mercy were met in the Sacrificial system. Matthew 15:6 he is not to honor his father or his mother.
The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath, he declares here that the Sabbath was given to honor Him. He is claiming his deity in no uncertain terms. That which the Sabbath foreshadowed was now present. In the New Covenant we have the freedom to observe whatever day we choose to honor the Lord of the Sabbath (Romans 14:5-6, Galatians 4:9-19, Colossians 2:16).
Matthew 12:9-14 – To illustrate the importance of mercy over tradition Jesus now enters the Synagogue and heals on the Sabbath. It is the Pharisees who set the scenario giving him a man whose healing will not save his life. Breaking the Sabbath here was not an issue of life and death. To put the issue of healing a man not in critical condition on the Sabbath Jesus points out a Talmudic truth.
It was lawful to help an animal caught in pit, this was valuable property. He sought for them to understand how much more valuable to God is wholeness of man. We live in a society today in which groups of people place more value on animals than on man. He castigated them for their hard hearts and then healed the man.
He challenged their tradition, their authority and their understanding of God and His word. They now determined to rid themselves of this prophet/messiah. There are some scholars who believe it is at this point that God sets Israel aside, and no longer offers the Kingdom to Israel but begins the process to make the Gentiles the leaders of the new Kingdom that the King has come to bring to the world.
Matthew 12:15-17 – Now Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah and the promise of the Messiah’s work among the Gentiles. He warned those healed not to speak of it. Why? First of all healing were to be first reported by law to the priest (Leviticus 14:2-32). Another reason could be that if He became known for his ability to heal the people would soon take it for granted. The response to the Father and His power would not have the same impact.
Still another reason could have been that He wanted to remain as the prophet foretold Isaiah 53:1-2 Who has believed our message? He did not perform His miracles to gain popularity and influence, In fact He avoided this at all cost. He came to bring a Kingdom that would be not of this world, one that would rule the hearts of men. It would be a rule from the inside out, not from the outside in. His primary work was to save the souls of men, not their bodies.
Matthew 12:18-21 are a paraphrase of the words of Isaiah 42:1-4. The Servant in many cases refers to Israel but here it is clearly the Messiah. He has the Spirit of God upon Him (Matthew 11:2) and He will bring justice to the nations (Matthew 9:7,11:3-4,16:5). He will be gentle, and faithful, giving the Law of the Lord “to the islands”, a reference to the nations.
This unique servant did what Israel could not. He perfectly carried out the will of the Father. He will not quarrel, nor cry out – This is a reference to the manner he proclaimed the Kingdom. It was not with persuasive words or cleverness it was the simple proclamation of the Good News. Ecclesiastes 9:17 The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 1 Corinthians 2:1-4.
Matthew 12:22-30 This miracle of this healing is lost on virtually all who are unaware of the theology of the Pharisees with regard to the exorcism of demons. There was no question among those present that the man brought before Jesus was demon possessed. No Jewish exorcist could begin to heal him because he could neither talk nor hear or see. In Jewish theology in order to exorcise a demon the procedure was to make the demon identify itself, then once identified the demon would be named and commanded to leave.
However the man was deaf and mute and so there was no way that the demon could be identified, and removed. That is why wnen Jesus removed this demon they were astonished. The word for their reaction is “Existemi”, which means to be totally astounded. The reaction is that this is truly a sign of the Messiah, “This is the Son of David”.
With this the Pharisees reacted with the accusation that Jesus was able to this by virtue of his association with the devil. They were confronted with supernatural power, either it was from God or elsewhere. His response was firstly this would go against the kingdom of darkness. Secondly he asks them by what power do their followers cast out demons (Acts 19:13-14).
Finally he suggests that if in fact He was casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom has come upon them. Every religious Jewish person knew that the prophets foretold that these kind of miracles would be the mark of the Messiah (Isaiah 29:18, 35:5-6). The Messiah was also to be the promised King Psalm 2:6, Jeremiah 23:5) it is in this vein that He was asserting that the King, and the Kingdom had come upon them. Everything that Jesus did was opposed to the kingdom of Satan. He healed sickness and disease, He raised the dead, he forgave sin, he preached love and forgiveness.
Matthew 12:31-32 – The sin against the Holy Spirit is calling the Spirit that dwelt fully in Jesus, demonic. These were people who saw God’s divine power working through Jesus but willfully refused to acknowledge its source. Israel was to be a fruitful Vineyard but it only brought forth useless grapes Isaiah 5:1-5, Matthew 21:33ff.
Matthew 12:33-37 – After committing the sin against the Holy Spirit, Jesus warns about the careless use of the tongue. He begins with an illustration concerning a tree and its fruit. Jesus starts by calling those around Him to decide about Him and His work. Either He is evil and does evil work or He is good doing good work. Then He confronts the Pharisees and tells them that they are worse than bad trees, you are a brood of vipers. You are not passive killers but aggressive ones.
There are times when Jesus confronts evil and calls it what it is. To everything there is a season. There are seasons in which we must confront evil and hypocrisy, that passes itself off as a way of godliness, and expose it for what it is. Vipers are deadly snakes that poison and kill. The false religion based on traditions and the teachings of men were as deadly to people as a vipers bite was.
Jesus states clearly that like a bad tree, bringing forth bad fruit, the Pharisees who pedaled a man made counterfeit religion were unable to teach or know what is good. The fact of the matter is that while the Pharisees were blatantly ungodly all of mankind is unrighteous. Ecclesiastes 7:20 Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins. Romans 3:9-10.
Matthew 12:34-37 The proof of what was in their hearts, is revealed in the things that they say with their mouth. The Bible teaches that the heart is where our thoughts and actions flow from, rather than our emmotions. Emotion in the Bible comes from the bowels or stomach in Scripture (yiddish – kishkas). The heart demonstrates our character and what we say reveals what is in our hearts. James 1:26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.
Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you. It is the words that we speak that will be used to judge us because they reveal what is in our hearts. The words we speak demonstrate what is truly in our heart. If we are truly children of God the words that we speak will reflect our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Every thoughtless word that we speak we will be judged by, both the unrighteous and the righteous. Psalm 141:3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. Unbelievers will be judged at the great white throne judgment. Revelation 20:12. Believers will be judged as to their rewards at the Judgment seat of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:10.
Matthew 12:38-42 -It is evident that the scribes and Pharisees were not sincere in asking Jesus for a sign. They were already convinced that the miracles that they had seen were from the devil. They were looking for a clear way to prove that He wasn’t the Messiah. A “sign” here was understood at thetime to be a miraculous physical event like Joshua’s prayer to make the sun stand still Joshua 10:12-14.
While Jesus might be able to cast out demons because of his association with demons, He would never be able to control the physical universe. There is no Old Testament prophecy that said that the Messiah would perform a sign of the kind they were looking for. Jesus knew their hearts and called them an adulterous generation. This is an allusion to Ezekiel 16 where God in very graphic terms describes Israel as His wife who has played the harlot with the idolatrous ways of the surrounding nations.
The Pharisees and Saduccees were more concerned about their cozy relationship with Rome and protecting the limited authority that they had, then understanding what God was doing though His Messiah. To the righteous who loved the Father there was no great sign needed. The Apostles believed, Simeon and Anna in the Temple believed John 5:23….
He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. The only sign given will be the sign of Jonah who spent three days and three nights inside the whale. In saying this he verified the reality of Jonah’s experience, that it was not just a story but fact. The sign of Jonah was not believed by the leadership of the Jewish people, yet it should be noted that according to some statisticians there were over one million Jewish people who came to faith in Jesus in the 1st century.
Matthew 12:43-45 – This parable describes a man who is delivered from a demonic spirit. It may have been through the man’s self control and cleaning up his house, it could be an illustration of individuals who experience deliverance by the Lord. We are not told exactly how the demon was removed from the man’s life. The fact that the man’s body is described as the home of the unclean spirit seems to indicate that this spirit was a long term resident in his life. That he was out seeking rest only to find waterless places is an allusion to the desolation, and discomfort that the spirit found when not living in a body.
Evidently living in an animal, human or otherwise is far more restful for demons than outside (Matthew 8:28 ff). After finding no rest the demon returns to “his house”. He finds it unoccupied by any other spirit, as well as clean. The man had cleaned up his life but there were no locks on the door because the house was devoid of any spiritual occupant. The man had not filled the newly cleaned house with the Spirit of God. No life without the indwelling Spirit of God is able to stand against the forces of evil unless the Lord Himself is allowed to occupy it.
The result was that not only did the initial “unclean” spirit return, but he brought some of his associates with him. These other spirits were far worse than the original unclean spirit. Some think that cleaning up their lives and becoming religious will bring them a changed life. More times than not such thinking leads to a spirit of religion, this makes it even more difficult for the real life from God to be given.
The Pharisees were a classic illustration of what living a clean and godly life can do unless it is filled with the Spirit of God. Marx was correct when he said that religion is the opiate of the masses. Like opium it dulls one’s mind to truth and allows them to believe an illusion to be true.
Matthew 12:46-50 – The arrival of Jesus’ family gives Jesus an excellent opportunity to illustrate what it is to be a true follower of His, and so a disciple of God. Real disciples are the ones who make up His true family. Some think that this was an act of disrespect to his mother and brothers, but nobody loved His family more than He did. We are told in Scripture that His brothers did not believe in Him prior to His glorification, John 7:5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him. In all likelihood his family came to warn him about his growing unpopularity, and his impending arrest by the authorities.
They likely wanted Him to flee, until the pressure dissipated. Probably in much the same way that Peter wanted nothing to happen to the Lord Matthew 16:21-23. Whoever does the will of God is my family, this is an allusion to the all inclusive call of the Lord to anyone who will respond to the call of the King.