Matthew 12

#Mt 12:1| XXXVIII. JESUS DEFENDS DISCIPLES WHO PLUCK GRAIN ON THE SABBATH. (Probably while on the way from Jerusalem to Galilee.) #Mt 12:1-8 Mr 2:23-28 Lu 6:1-5| At that season, etc. See TFG "#Mr 2:23|". #Mt 12:2| Thy disciples do that which it is not lawful to do upon the sabbath. See TFG "#Mr 2:24|". #Mt 12:3| But he said unto them, Have ye not read. See TFG "#Mr 2:25|". #Mt 12:4| How he entered into the house of God, etc. See TFG "#Mr 2:26|". #Mt 12:5| Or have ye not read in the law, that on the sabbath day the priests in the temple profane the sabbath. That is, degrade and put to common use. And are guiltless. Having cited a passage from the prophets, Jesus now turns to the law--the final authority. He also turns from a parallel argument concerning sacred food to a direct argument concerning the sacred day. The Sabbath was the busiest day in the week for the priests. They baked and changed the showbread; they performed sabbatical sacrifices (#Nu 28:9|), and two lambs were killed on the sabbath in addition to the daily sacrifice. This involved the killing, skinning, and cleaning of the animals, and the building of the fire to consume the sacrifice. They also trimmed the gold lamps, burned incense, and performed various other duties. The profanation of the Sabbath, however, was not real, but merely apparent. Jesus cites this priestly work to prove that the Sabbath prohibition was not universal, and hence might not include what the disciples had done. The fourth commandment did not forbid work absolutely, but labor for worldly gain. Activity in the work of God was both allowed and commanded. (TFG 211-212) #Mt 12:6| But I say unto you. Asserting his own authority. That one greater than the temple is here. The word "greater" is in the neuter gender, and the literal meaning is therefore "a greater thing than the temple." The contrast may be between the service of the temple and the service of Christ, or it may be a contrast between the divinity, sacredness, or divine atmosphere which hallowed the temple, and the divinity or Godhead of Christ. But, however we take it, the meaning is ultimately a contrast between Christ and the temple, similar to the contrast between himself and Solomon, etc. (#Mt 12:41,42|). It was a startling saying as it fell on Jewish ears, for to them the temple at Jerusalem was the place honored by the very Shekinah of the unseen God, and the only place of effective worship and atonement. If the temple service justified the priests in working upon the Sabbath day, much more did the service of Jesus, who was not only the God of the temple, but was himself the true temple, of which the other was merely the symbol, justify these disciples in doing that which was not legally, but merely traditionally, unlawful. Jesus here indirectly anticipates the priesthood of his disciples (#1Pe 2:5|). (TFG 212) #Mt 12:7| But if ye had known what this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. This passage is quoted from #Ho 6:6|, and is reiterated at #Mt 9:13|. It is an assertion of the superiority of inward life over outward form, for the form is nothing if the heart is wrong. The saying is first suggested by David himself (#Ps 51:16,17|), after which it is stated by Hosea and amplified by Paul (#1Co 13:3|). The quotation has a double reference both to David and the disciples as above indicated. Having given the incident in the life of David, Jesus passes on from it without comment, that he may lay down by another example the principle which justified it. This principle we have just treated, and we may state it thus: A higher law, where it conflicts with a lower one, suspends or limits the lower one at the point of conflict. Thus the higher laws of worship in the temple suspended the lower law of sabbath observance, and thus also the higher law of mercy suspended the lower law as to the showbread when David took it and mercifully gave it to his hungry followers, and when God in mercy permitted this to be done. And thus, had they done what was otherwise unlawful, the disciples would have been justified in eating by the higher law of Christ's service. And thus also would Christ have been justified in permitting them to eat by the law of mercy, which was superior to that which rendered the seventh day to God as a sacrifice. (TFG 212-213) #Mt 12:8| For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath. See TFG "#Mr 2:28|". uses this expression. Greswell may be right in thinking that it indicates the return back to Galilee from the Passover, since a cognate expression used by John expresses such a journey from Galilee to Judaea. See #Joh 7:3|. And went into their synagogue. The use of the pronoun "their" indicates that the synagogue in question was under the control of the same Pharisee who had caviled about plucking grain on the Sabbath (#Mt 12:2|). Where the synagogue was is not known. Some argue that from the presence of Herodians it was at Sepphoris, which was then capital of Herod Antipas. But Herodians were likely to be found everywhere. On the synagogue, see TFG "Mr 1:39". (TFG 214) #Mt 12:10| A man having a withered hand. The hand had dried up from insufficient absorption of nutriment, until its power was gone, and there was no remedy known by which it could be restored. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? They were afraid that Jesus might not notice the man, so they spoke about him. But, taught by their experience in the grainfield, they changed their bold assertion, "It is not lawful" (#Mt 12:2|), and approached the subject with a guarded question, hoping to get an answer that could be used as a ground for accusation. That they might accuse him. See TFG "#Mr 3:2|". (TFG 214, 215) #Mt 12:12| How much then is a man of more value than a sheep! A man who had but one sheep would set a high value upon it (#Mt 12:11|). But the most valuable sheep is not to be weighed in the balance against a man. The fact that Jesus used this illustration shows clearly that such an action was allowed at that time, though the rabbins forbade it afterward. It is lawful to do good on the sabbath day. See TFG "#Mr 3:4|". (TFG 215) #Mt 12:13| Stretch forth thy hand. See TFG "#Mr 3:5|". #Mt 12:14| But the Pharisees went out. See TFG "#Mr 3:6|". #Mt 12:15| XL. JESUS HEALS MULTITUDES BESIDE THE SEA OF GALILEE. #Mt 12:15-21 Mr 3:7-12| Jesus perceiving it withdrew from thence. See TFG "#Mr 3:7|". #Mt 12:16| And charged them. See TFG "#Mr 3:12|". #Mt 12:17| That it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet. #Isa 42:1-4|. Partly taken from the Septuagint and part an original translation. (TFG 218) #Mt 12:18| Behold my servant . . . I will put my Spirit upon him, And he shall declare judgment to the Gentiles. The word translated "servant," means also "son," but it is rightly translated "servant" here, for the Father uses another word when he would designate Jesus as specifically his Son (#Mt 3:17 17:5|). Jesus was a servant in form (#Php 2:7|), and in obedience (#Heb 10:9|). The word "judgment," as used in the Old Testament, from which it is here translated, means "rule," "doctrine," "truth." It is usually here understood as meaning that Jesus would reveal the gospel or the full truth of the new dispensation to the Gentiles. (TFG 218) #Mt 12:19,20| He shall not strive, nor cry aloud, etc. These two verses find their fulfillment in the events of this paragraph. Jesus did not strive nor quarrel with the Pharisees, but having victoriously put them to silence, he meekly and quietly withdrew from their presence, and the healing of the multitudes which followed him as aptly fulfilled the prediction about the reed and the flax, for these two words, symbolic of weakness (#Isa 36:6|) and patience-trying annoyance (#Pr 10:26|), fitly represented the sick and lame and blind--sinners who, by affliction, had been made contrite and poor in spirit, remorseful and repentant, and who were brought to Jesus to be healed. (TFG 218) #Mt 12:20| A bruised reed shall he not break. And smoking flax shall he not quench, Till he shall send forth justice to victory. If the hollow cylinder of the reed is bruised, its strength is gone, and it is no longer able to stand erect. Flax was then used where we now use cotton, as wicking for lamps. Imperfection in the fiber of it would cause it to smoke. A violent man, irritated by the fumes of the smoking wick, would put it out, and cast it from him. But the Lord's servant would patiently fan it to flames. The statement that he would not break these bruised reeds, nor quench this smoking flax, was an emphatic declaration, by contrast, that he would heal their bruises and fan their dying energies and resolutions into a flame, until he sent forth judgment unto victory; that is, until the gospel--the authoritative announcement of the divine purpose or will--shall be sent forth and advanced to its final triumph. Christ shall show patient mercy and forbearance until the gospel shall practically exclude the need of it, by triumphing over Jewish opposition and Gentile impiety so as to bring about universal righteousness. (TFG 218-219) #Mt 12:21| And in his name shall the Gentiles hope. This verse sets forth the breadth of Christ's conquest over all nations. It reaches beyond our times into a future which is yet to be. But it was partially fulfilled by the presence of Idumaeans and citizens of Tyre and Sidon in the multitudes which Jesus healed--unless we say that only Jews from these quarters are meant, which is not likely. (TFG 219) #Mt 12:22| XLVIII. BLASPHEMOUS ACCUSATIONS OF THE JEWS. (Galilee.) #Mt 12:22-37 Mr 3:19-30 Lu 11:14-23| Then was brought unto him one possessed with a demon, blind and dumb. The man was brought because he could not come alone. While Luke does not mention the blindness, the similarity of the narratives makes it most likely that he is describing the same circumstances as Matthew and Mark, so we have combined the three accounts. (TFG 299) #Mt 12:23| And all the multitudes were amazed, and said, Can this be the son of David? It was a time for amazement, for Jesus had performed a triple if not a quadruple miracle, restoring liberty, hearing and sight, and granting the power of speech. It wakened the hope that Jesus might be the Messiah, the son of David, but their hope is expressed in the most cautious manner, not only being stated as a question, but as a question which expects a negative answer. The question, however, was well calculated to arouse the envious opposition of the Pharisees. (TFG 299) #Mt 12:24| Beelzebub the prince of the demons. See TFG "#Mr 3:22|". #Mt 12:25| And knowing their thoughts he said unto them, etc. See TFG "#Mr 3:23|". House. Family. (TFG 300) #Mt 12:26| If Satan casteth out Satan, etc. See TFG "#Mr 3:23|". #Mt 12:27| If I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges. The sons of the Pharisees were not their children, but their disciples (#2Ki 2:3 Ac 19:13,14|). Josephus mentions these exorcists (The Antiquities of the Jews, 8.2,5, and The Wars of the Jews, 7.6,3), and there is abundant mention of them in later rabbinical books. Our Lord's reference to them was merely for the purpose of presenting an argumentum ad hominem, and in no way implies that they exercised any real power over the demons; nor could they have done so in any marked degree, else the similar work of Christ would not have created such an astonishment. The argument therefore is this, I have already shown you that it is against reason that Satan cast out Satan; I now show you that it is against experience. The only instances of dispossession which you can cite are those of your own disciples. Do they act by the power of Satan? They therefore shall be your judges as to whether you have spoken rightly in saying that Satan casts out Satan. Third argument: See TFG "#Mt 12:28|". (TFG 301) #Mt 12:28| But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you. Jesus exercised this power in unison with the Spirit of God. Jesus here draws a conclusion from the two arguments presented (see TFG "Mr 3:23" and see TFG "Mt 12:27"). Since he does not cast out by Satan, he must cast out by the power of God, and therefore his actions demonstrated the potential arrival of the kingdom of God. The occasional accidental deliverance of exorcists might be evidence of the flow and ebb of a spiritual battle, but the steady, daily conquests of Christ over the powers of evil presented to the people the triumphant progress of an invading kingdom. It is an argument against the idea that there was a collusion between Christ and Satan. Fourth argument: See TFG "#Mr 3:27|". (TFG 302) #Mt 12:29| Or how can one enter into the house of the strong man, etc. See TFG "#Mr 3:27|". #Mt 12:30| He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. Jesus here addresses the bystanders. In the spiritual conflict between Jesus and Satan, neutrality is impossible. There are only two kingdoms, and every soul is either in one or the other, for there is no third. Hence one who fought Satan in the name of Christ was for Christ (#Lu 9:50|). {*} In the figure of gathering and scattering, the people are compared to a flock of sheep which Jesus would gather into the fold, but which Satan and all who aid him (such as the Pharisees) would scatter and destroy. {*} The converse of this statement is found at #Mr 9:40|.--Ed. (TFG 302-303) #Mt 12:31| Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men. See TFG "#Mr 3:28|". #Mt 12:32| And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, etc. See on #Mr 3:28,29|. #Mt 12:33| Either make the tree good, and its fruit good, etc. The meaning and connection are: "Be honest for once; represent the tree as good, and its fruit as good, or the tree as evil, and its fruit as evil; either say that I am evil, and that my works are evil, or, if you admit that my works are good, admit that I am good also and not in league with Beelzebub" (Carr). (TFG 304) #Mt 12:34| Ye offspring of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? Realizing the hopelessness of this attempt to get an honest judgment out of dishonest hearts, Jesus plainly informs them as to the condition of their hearts. Their very souls were full of poison like vipers. Their sin lay not in their words, but in a condition of heart which made such words possible. The heart being as it was, the words could not be otherwise. "What is in the well will be in the bucket" (Trapp). (TFG 304) #Mt 12:35| The good man . . . and the evil man. We have here a summary of the contrast given in #Mt 12:33,34|. The good heart of Jesus brought forth its goodness, as the evil hearts of the Pharisees brought forth their evil. (TFG 304) #Mt 12:36| That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. It may have seemed to some that Jesus denounced too severely a saying which the Pharisees had hastily and lightly uttered. But it is the word inconsiderately spoken which betrays the true state of the heart. The hypocrite can talk like an angel if he be put on notice that his words are heard. (TFG 304) #Mt 12:37| For by thy words thou shalt be justified, etc. Jesus here makes words the basis of the judgment of God. Elsewhere we find it is works (#Ro 2:6 2Co 5:10|), and again we find it is faith (#Ro 3:28|). There is no confusion here. The judgment in its finality must be based upon our character. Our faith forms our character, and our words and works are indices by which we may determine what manner of character it is. (TFG 304-305) #Mt 12:38| XLIX. SIGN SEEKERS, AND THE ENTHUSIAST REPROVED. (Galilee on the same day as the last section.) #Mt 12:38-45 Lu 11:24-36| Teacher, we would see a sign from thee. Having been severely rebuked by Jesus, it is likely that the scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign that they might appear to the multitude more fair-minded and open to conviction than Jesus had represented them to be. Jesus had just wrought a miracle, so that their request shows that they wanted something different. We learn from Mark (#Mr 8:11|) that they wanted a sign, not coming from him, but from heaven, such a sign as other prophets and leaders had given (#Ex 9:22-24 16:4 Jos 10:12| #1Sa 7:9,10 12:16-18 1Ki 18:36-38 2Ki 1:10 Isa 38:8|). "In Jewish superstition it was held that demons and false gods could give signs on earth, but only the true God signs from heaven" (Alford). The request was the renewal of the one which had assailed him at the beginning of his ministry (#Joh 2:18|), and re-echoed the wilderness temptation to advance himself by vulgar display rather than by the power of a life of divine holiness. (TFG 305) #Mt 12:39| An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign. While the Jews of that generation could well be accused literally of adultery, Jesus here evidently uses it in its symbolic sense as used by the prophets. They represented Israel as being married to God and as being untrue to him (#Ex 34:15 Jer 3:14,20|). There shall no sign be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet. They did not accept miracles of healing as a sign, and only one other kind of sign was given; namely, that of Jonah. Jonah was shown to be a true prophet of God, and Nineveh received him as such because he was rescued from the fish's belly, and Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead (#Ro 1:4|). Also see TFG "Mt 16:4". (TFG 306) #Mt 12:40| For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Jesus was one full day, two full nights, and parts of two other days in the grave. But, as the Jews reckoned a part of a day as a whole day when it occurred at the beginning or end of a series, he was correctly spoken of as being three days in the grave. The Jews had three phrases, namely: "on the third day," "after three days," and "three days and three nights," which all meant the same thing; that is, three days, two of which might be fractional days. With them three full days and nights would be counted as four days unless the count began at sundown, the exact beginning of a day (#Ac 10:1-30|). For instances of Jewish computation of days, see #Ge 42:17,18 1Ki 12:5,12 Es 4:16 5:1 Mt 27:63,64|. The Greek word here translated "whale" is "sea monster." It is called in Jonah "a great fish" (#Jon 1:17|). Because of the supposed smallness of the whale's throat, many think that it was the white shark, which is still plentiful in the Mediterranean, and which sometimes measures sixty feet in length, and is large enough to swallow a man whole. But it is now a well-established fact that whales can swallow a man, and there are many instances of such swallowings on record. The expression "heart of the earth" does not mean its center. The Jews used the word "heart" to denote the interior of anything (#Eze 28:2|). The phrase is here used as one which would emphatically indicate the actual burial of Christ. (TFG 306-307) #Mt 12:41| The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here. Literally, "repented into the teaching of Jonah." The meaning is that they repented so that they followed the course of life which the preaching prescribed. The phrase, "stand up," refers to the Jewish and Roman custom which required the witness to stand up while testifying in a criminal case. The idea here is that the Ninevites, having improved the lesser advantage or privilege, would condemn the Jews for having neglected the greater. Nineveh's privilege may be counted thus: a sign-accredited prophet preaching without accompanying miracles, and a forty-day period of repentance. In contrast to this the Jewish privileges ran thus: the sign-accredited Son of God preaching, accompanied by miracles, in which many apostles and evangelists participated, a forty-year period in which to repent. On Nineveh, see TFG "Lu 11:30". (TFG 307) #Mt 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 ends of the earth. A Hebraism, indicating a great distance. To hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The queen of Sheba is supposed to have been queen of Sabaea, or Arabia Felix, which lies in the southern part of the peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. But Josephus says she was from Ethiopia in Africa. Her testimony will also be based on the compared privileges, which stand thus: notwithstanding the dangers and inconveniences, she came a great distance to be taught of Solomon, but the Jews rejected the teaching of the Son of God, though he brought it to them. The teaching of Solomon related largely to this world, but Christ taught as to the world to come. (TFG 307-308) #Mt 12:43| The unclean spirit . . . passeth through waterless places. Places which are as cheerless to him as deserts are to man. On unclean spirits, see TFG "Mr 1:23". Seeking rest, and findeth it not. Rest is the desire of every creature. Jesus here gives us a graphic description of utter wretchedness. (TFG 308) #Mt 12:44| Then he saith, I will return into my house. He still claimed it as his property. When he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. It was empty, having no indwelling Spirit, swept of all righteous impressions and good influences, and garnished with things inviting to an evil spirit. (TFG 308) #Mt 12:45| Then. Seeing this inviting condition. Goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits. To reinforce and entrench himself. More evil than himself. While all demons are wicked they are not equally so. And they enter in and dwell there. Take up their permanent abode there. Even so shall it be also unto this evil generation. In the application of this parable, we should bear in mind that it tells of two states or conditions experienced by one man, and the comparison is between these two states or conditions and not between the condition of the man and other men. Such being the parable, the application of it is plain, for Jesus says, "Even so shall it be unto this evil generation." We are not, therefore, to compare that generation with any previous one, as many do; for such would be contrary to the terms of the parable. It is simply an assertion that the last state of that generation would be worse than the first. The reference is to the continually increasing wickedness of the Jews, which culminated in the dreadful scenes which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem. They were now like a man with one evil spirit; they would then be like a man with seven more demons added, each of which was worse than the original occupant. (TFG 308-309) #Mt 12:46| L. CHRIST'S TEACHING AS TO HIS MOTHER AND BRETHREN. (Galilee, same day as the last lesson.) #Mt 12:46-50 Mr 3:31-35 Lu 8:19-21| His mother and his brethren stood without. See TFG "#Mr 3:31|". (TFG 311) #Mt 12:47| Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, etc. See TFG "#Lu 8:19|". Seeking to speak to thee. This message was at once an interruption and an interference. It assumed that their business with him was more urgent than his business with the people. It merited our Lord's rebuke, even if it had not behind it the even greater presumption of an attempt to lay hold on him. (TFG 311) #Mt 12:48| Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? See TFG "#Mr 3:33|". #Mt 12:49| Behold my mother and my brethren! See TFG "#Mr 3:34|". #Mt 12:50| For whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, etc. See TFG "#Mr 3:35|".
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