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encouragement theology

Don’t Refuse Him!

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Thoughts from Matthew 12…

 

We all respond differently to the surprises in life. When we see something new, we react with a wide range of responses including boredom, skepticism, interest, commitment, or excitement. 

We often respond to God in the same way. Depending on our mood and our personality, we can be either skeptical, dismissive, or listening and ready to follow Him. There are too many times that God tries to get our attention, yet we instead dismiss or explain away what He is trying to tell us.

But Jesus had a serious message for the skeptics of His day. He came showing that His kingdom was at hand, and He was the coming King. He healed the sick, calmed the storm, and cast out violent demons. No one ever taught like this! He attracted massive crowds — so large that He could not even enter the towns!

Then, the religious leaders saw the crowds and were moved to jealousy. They started questioning Him, then openly challenging Him, until they were finally plotting to destroy Him.

But what about the rest of the people? They still followed Jesus wherever He went. But sadly, they liked His miracles, listened to His teaching, but would not believe Him (see here). He was only a great teacher to them, a popular act. 

It has been about two and a half years into His ministry, and only a year away from the cross, when He reached a turning point. The people brought to Jesus a demon-possessed invalid who had been rendered blind and mute, and He cast out the demon and healed the man. In one act, He gave irrefutable proof that He was their coming King: He healed the blindness, made the mute speak, and cast out the demon. He left no room for doubt!

But even with such proof, the people still refused to believe. They went to their leaders (the Pharisees) for an explanation, and they were quick to accuse Jesus of being empowered by the devil. Jesus responded to the Pharisees that their arguments were senseless and His power showed that kingdom has come. 

But Jesus then went a step further, judging their accusations. Whoever is not with Him is against him, they would not be forgiven for speaking against the Holy Spirit, and their words show that they were evil.

After this scene, Jesus began to turn away from the crowds, focusing instead on His disciples. He will teach parables in public which are only explained in private (Matthew 13). He will also take His twelve closest apostles away from Jewish territory as He begins to prepare them for His arrest and crucifixion (Matthew 14-17).

Matthew 12:22-37
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

 

The Miracle and the Rejection

Matthew 12:22-24
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 

Mark 3:22
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 

Luke 11:14-16
Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 

They brought a demon-possessed man to Jesus who was blind and mute (many commentators agree that he was most likely also deaf). Jesus cast out the demon, healing the man, and the people respond with skepticism. 

The response by the people, “Can this be the Son of David?” is best understood as a question of skepticism, not of belief.a This question expected a negative response, such as “He can’t be the Messiah, can he?”1 8. Therefore, they went to the Pharisees with their skepticism, and the Pharisees quickly returned that Jesus was empowered by Beelzebulb, the prince of demons.c

It is important to note that the Pharisees never denied Jesus’ power. But since they hated him and refused to believe that He could be from God, they needed to attribute His miracles to another supernatural source. Hence their accusation that He was empowered by the devil.

“They had no desire to understand Him; they had no thought of taking His messages seriously. They had made up their minds that He could not be the Messiah, and so everything He did and said they misinterpreted.” – H.A. Ironside3

 

How can Satan Fight Himself?

Matthew 12:25-29
Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 

Mark 3:23-27
And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Luke 11:17-22
But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.

Jesus answered their accusation with a threefold response: 

First, their argument makes no sense. Why would Satan empower Jesus to defeat his own power in the world? Satan would never fight against himself!

Second, their arguments are inconsistent. They criticize Jesus’ power yet praise the power of other Jewish exorcisms. They criticize the power behind Jesus Christ, yet praise the same actions when accomplished by their sons.d 

Third, only someone more powerful than Satan could cast out demons! Jesus is casting out demons by the Spirit of God and therefore the kingdom has come! 

Jesus concluded His arguments with the analogy of a strong man. You can’t rob the strong man’s house until you first overpower him. Jesus has overpowered Satan! He defeated Him at His temptation, and He defeated him again when He rose from the dead! 

 

You Will Not Be Forgiven!

Matthew 12:30-32
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Mark 3:28-30
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Luke 11:23
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Jesus spent His life on earth under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, therefore, their criticism of Jesus’ power as a direct affront to the Holy Spirit. 

There is a lot of discussion about the “unpardonable sin”. Are we to be like the Catholic Church, and have a list of mortal sins? Can we do something so bad, so wicked, that we are beyond God’s ability to forgive?

There is one thing that we can do which puts us beyond God’s forgiveness. He sent the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin and to show that we need to repent and believe in Him. He promised that He would never cast out anyone who came to Him (John 6:37). But if we refuse to repent and trust Jesus Christ for our sins, then we have dismissed the Holy Spirit’s warning. Those who die without ever repenting (turning) to God will die in God’s judgement, sentenced to spend eternity separated from Him!f

“The unpardonable sin is: Recognizing the truth of who Jesus Christ is and refusing to receive the truth in the person of Jesus Christ.” – Stephen Davey9

“They would never be forgiven because they would never believe” – John MacArthur11

“Now the time had come for those who heard Him to take a definite stand: they must be either for Him or against Him – neutrality would not do.” – H.A. Ironside2

 

You will be Judged by Your Words!

Matthew 12:33-37
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Words are important! Jesus showed clearly that the words show the state of the heart. A good heart will produce good words and an evil heart will produce evil words.g h 

Note that Jesus is not teaching that you can lie or to talk your way into His kingdom. Many people can put up a spiritual facade, but their words will ultimately show the real state of their heart. It is a sobering warning that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak”!

 

Conclusion

It is easy to look down at the wicked Pharisees — they stand out as the evil men of Jesus’ day! But how often do we take His words here and use it to examine ourselves?

If you don’t know Jesus Christ, I urge you to respond to the Holy Spirit who has been calling out to you. God is calling you now, but He will eventually stop if you keep ignoring Him! Come to Him before it is too late!

If you do know Jesus Christ, are you listening to Him? Are you listening to the Holy Spirit in your life when you disobey Him? Even when we know Him, we can still stop our ears to His calling. 

Be thankful for Jesus Christ! He shows His power over the spirit world and He has defeated the strong man!

And finally, may we be careful with what we say. We are responsible for every idle word

James 1:19-20
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

 

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References

[1] Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold The King, Kregel Publications, 1980, Matthew 12:22-37, pages 162-165

[2] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Matthew 12, The King’s Authority Denied

[3] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Address 41, Misunderstanding Jesus, Luke 11:14-28

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Matthew 12:22-37, pages 35-36

[5] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Mark 3:20-30, pages 98-100

[6] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Luke 11:14-23, page 174

[7] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book IV, CHAPTER XI: THE FIRST PERAEAN DISCOURSES, TO THE PHARISEES CONCERNING THE TWO KINGDOMS, THEIR CONTEST, WHAT QUALIFIES A DISCIPLE FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AND HOW ISRAEL WAS BECOMING SUBJECT TO THAT OF EVIL (St. Matt. 12:22-45; St. Luke 11:14-36.), https://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.ix.xi.html

[8] Doug Bookman, Life of Christ, Audio Series, Lecture 8. https://www.christianity.com/jesus/life-of-jesus/harmony-of-the-gospels/15-the-unpardonable-sin-and-a-shift-to-parables.html

[9] Stephen Davey, The Unpardonable Sin, Mark 3:20-35, 11/22/1987

[10] John MacArthur, Blaspheming the Holy Spirit, Part 1, Matthew 12:22-30, Nov 1, 1981

[11] John MacArthur, Blaspheming the Holy Spirit, Part 2, Matthew 12:31-32, Nov 8, 1981

[12] John MacArthur, Exposing the Truth About Men’s Hearts, Matthew 12:33-37, Nov 29, 1981

 


Notes

[a] The term, “Son of David” was an idiom for the Messiah (see here).

[b] Beelzebub was the name of an ancient Philistine deity, which means, “Lord of the Flies”. By the time of the first century, it was often changed to Beelzebul (“Lord of the House”) and had become a common name for the devil.6

[c] This was not the first time that the Pharisees accused Jesus of being empowered by Satan (Matthew 9:34, see here). He even warned His disciples about it earlier (Matthew 10:25, see here). But this was the final level of rejection, where repentance was no longer possible.2

[d] There is much discussion about how the sons of the Pharisees would be casting out demons. Jewish exorcisms were not uncommon (e.g. Acts 19:13-16) and were greatly praised by the people. The term “your sons” does not necessarily need to refer to blood relations to the Pharisees, but could also be a general term for faithful young Jews who have cast out demons.

[e] Like the strong man, Satan will also be bound when Jesus returns (Revelation 20)!

[f] “Jesus had come in the power of the Holy Spirit, presenting Himself to Israel as their rightful King. His mighty works, as we have seen, accredited His testimony. The only way in which men could refuse to own His grace and yet recognize His power was by attributing all His mighty works to the Devil. Those who did this gave evidence that they had sinned until their consciences were seared as with a hot iron.” – H.A. Ironside2

[g] John the Baptist had also called the Pharisees and the Sadducees a “brood of vipers” in Matthew 3:7 (see here).

[h] Jesus also said the same phrase in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7), “for the tree is known by its fruit.” “In Chapter seven He employs it to show that words and works indicate character; here it is utilized to prove that words are the manifestation of the heart.” – Toussaint1

 

7 replies on “Don’t Refuse Him!”

[…] Jesus had spent over a year traveling through Galilee, preaching, teaching, and performing miracles (see here and here). He gathered large crowds and the people were excited to see what this man would do next! But when challenged, the people would rather listen to their leaders, believing He was from the devil, than over Him as their King (see here). […]

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