By J.R. Miller
Matthew 12:22-32, 38-42
The heart of Christ was a great magnet that ever drew to it all human suffering and human need. The description given of Him in a quotation from Isaiah (42:3), in the verses immediately preceding this incident, are wonderfully suggestive. His compassion and His gentleness are depicted in the words, "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out."
This prophetic picture of the Messiah found its perfect realization in the life of Jesus. He was the friend of the frail, the feeble, and the bruised. In those days, men despised the weak. The deformed and the incurable were not considered worth saving--but were thrust out to perish. Jesus, however, had special compassion for that which was crushed or broken. He invited the weary to come to Him. The sick, the lame, the blind, the paralyzed and all sufferers soon learned that He was their friend. Wherever He went throngs followed Him, and these throngs were made up largely of those who were distressed and those who had brought distressed friends to be helped or healed.
Now it was one possessed with a demon, and also blind and dumb, that was brought to Him. Nothing is told of the manner of the cure. All we learn is that, "Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see." No wonder the multitudes were astonished. "Could this be the Son of David?" they asked. They thought that possibly a man who did such wonders might be the Messiah--yet it did not seem to them that He was. Or it may be that they feared to give expression to the feeling, knowing how bitter the Pharisees were against Him.
When the Pharisees heard what the people were suggesting, they became greatly excited and set to work to account for Jesus and His power. They felt that they must account for Him in some way, that they must give the multitude some explanation of Him which would satisfy them and prevent their concluding that He was the Messiah. In Mark's account of this incident, we learn that there were scribes and Pharisees present that day who had come down from Jerusalem to watch Jesus and to make a report of what they saw and heard. They set to work to create in the minds of the people the impression that Jesus was working in cooperation with evil spirits, and that it was through Satanic power, that He did the wonders they had seen Him do. So they answered the people's question, "Is not this the son of David?" by saying, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons!" Beelzebub seems to have been an infamous name for Satan, probably having its origin in the story of Ahaziah's idolatry in inquiring of Baalzebub, lord of flies, a Philistine deity (see 2 Kings 1).
One thing to notice here, is the admission that Jesus had really done wonderful works, had actually wrought miracles. They did not attempt to deny this. They felt that some explanation must be given to the plain, simple-minded people who were following Jesus in such numbers. There was no doubt about the supernatural works. We find the same admission throughout the whole story of Christ's public ministry. Herod believed that Jesus had wrought miracles; and in his remorse imagined that John, whom he had beheaded, had risen from the dead. No opponent of Christ in those days ever even hinted that He did not actually do miracles.
Another thing to notice here, is the strange explanation these learned men gave of the miracles of Jesus. They frankly admitted them--but to account for them without confessing that He was the Messiah--they said that He was in league with the prince of evil! The giving of such an explanation of the power of Christ, shows a prejudice that was not only stubborn, but evil. Of course, it was intended also to discredit Jesus by impugning His character. They said He was an agent of the devil. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and said He was doing His Father's will and the works of His Father. They sought thus to slander Him and make him an imposter, an enemy of God.
Wicked men often resort to the same course in our own days, when they are seeking to destroy the influence of Christianity. They cannot deny the good that is done--but they seek to account for it by alleging wrong motives in those who do the good. Sometimes they try to blacken the names of those who represent Christ. They start evil stories about them, to defame their character. That is, they accuse the saints of being in league with Satan.
The answer of Jesus to this charge is clear and convincing. "Jesus knew their thoughts." He well understood their motives. He knows all men's thoughts. We can carry on no schemes or conspiracies without His knowing of them. We can keep no secrets from Him. His answer was: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to ruin." This proved at once the absurdity and preposterousness of the charge His enemies had made. They said He was an agent of Satan. Yet He was not doing the work of Satan--but the work of God. Satan had a man under his power whom he was destroying. Jesus had taken the man, driven out the demon, opened his eyes and ears and healed him. Who could believe that He was in league with the Devil--and was thus undoing the Devil's ruinous work? "If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?" This shows the folly of their charge. All the works of Christ were good works. He came to bless men, to save them, to heal the sick, to make the lame walk, to raise the dead. Are those the works of the Evil One?
One of the strongest evidences of Christianity, is in what it does for the world. In chapter 11 when the disciples of the imprisoned, John the Baptist came asking for Christ, inquiring whether Jesus was indeed the Messiah, they were told to tell John what they had seen Jesus doing, "the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up." These were all works of love, and they proved that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Men are trying to prove today that He is not Divine, denying His miracles, taking away every vestige of the supernatural from His person, His life, His work.
But look at Christianity, not as a creed merely--but as a regenerating force. Look at the map of the world and find the white spaces which show the effect of Christianity in the countries where it has gone. Was it an impostor that wrought all this? Was it one in league with Beelzebub who left all these records of blessing, who transformed these countries? Was it an agent of Satan that made the home life of Christian lands, that built the churches, the asylums, the hospitals, the orphanages, the schools; and that has given to the world the sweetness, the beauty, the joy, the comfort, the fruits of love, which are everywhere the results of Christian teaching and culture? Could anything be more absurd--than trying to account for the mighty works of Christ--by saying the devil did them through Him!
Jesus gives the true explanation of His works in the words: "But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." Christianity is the kingdom of God--in battle with the kingdom of evil. The work of Christ in this world--is to destroy the works of the devil. This is a work in which every follower of Christ has a part. "He who is not with Me," said the master, "is against Me; and he who gathers not with Me, scatters abroad."
One of the most frequently misunderstood of all the words which Jesus spoke, is found in His reply to His defamers: "And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." Does not this seem to refer to the act of the Pharisees, in imputing to the prince of evil--works which Jesus had done through the Spirit? One writes, "The conclusion of the whole is--you are on Satan's side, and knowingly on Satan's side, in this decisive struggle between the two kingdoms, and this is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit--an unpardonable sin."
Thousands of people, however, have stumbled at this word of Christ's and fallen into great darkness, fearing that they themselves had sinned a sin which never could be forgiven. There is not the slightest reason why this saying of Christ should cause anxiety to any who are sincerely striving to follow Christ. It may be said that those who have any anxiety concerning themselves and their spiritual state--may be sure that they have not committed such a sin. If they had committed it, they would have no concern about their soul. Actually, the only unforgivable sin--is the sin of final impenitence. All sin that is confessed and repented of--will be forgiven. "This sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, because the soul which can recognize God's revelation of Himself in all His goodness and moral perfection, and be stirred only to hatred thereby, has reached a dreadful climax of hardness, and has ceased to be capable of being influenced by His beseeching. It has passed beyond the possibility of penitence and acceptance of forgiveness. The sin is unforgiven because the sinner is fixed in impenitence, and his hardened will cannot bow to receive pardon."
"Much torture of heart would have been saved if it had been observed that the Scripture expression is not sin--but blasphemy. Fear that it has been committed, is proof that it has not; for if it has been, there will be no relenting in enmity nor any wish for deliverance." Alexander Maclaren
Accustomed as we are to think of the gentleness of Jesus, His lips ever pouring out love, it startles us to read such words as He uses here in speaking to the scribes and Pharisees who were contending with Him. "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good! For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks!" We are reminded of the manner of the Baptist's speech, when he was calling men to repent. But we must not forget that love is holy, that roses become coals of fire when they fall upon unholiness.
The scribes and Pharisees demanded a sign, something that would assure them that Jesus was what He claimed to be. Sincere and earnest inquirers after, truth always find Christ most patient in answering their questions and making their real difficulties plain. When Thomas could not believe on the testimony of the other disciples, and demanded to see for himself the hands with the print of the nails--Jesus dealt with him most patiently (John 20:24-28). He is always gentle with honest doubt--and quick to make the evidence plain to it. But the men who here demanded a sign were not honest seekers after truth. Jesus knew their thoughts and spoke to them in words of judgment. They were an evil and an adulterous generation--estranged from God, false to Him. They had had miraculous signs--but they had disregarded them. Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah--and before them now was a great Preacher than Jonah. The queen of the South came from afar to hear the Wisdom of Solomon, and a greater Man than Solomon now stood before them. But they believed not, repented not. Impenitence gets no sign.