Chapter

Matthew chapter 12

English Standard Version

18“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 20a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; 21and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” 22Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29Or 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. 30Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32And 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.
New International Version

New American Standard Bible

Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

1At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. 2But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. 3But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? 5Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? 6But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. 7But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. 8For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day. 9And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: 10And, 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. 11And 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? 12How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. 13Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
22Then 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. 23And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? 24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. 25And 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: 26And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 27And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. 28But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. 29Or 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. 30He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. 31Wherefore 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. 32And 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. 33Either 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. 34O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35A 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. 36But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

What does Matthew chapter 12 mean?

Matthew 12 follows Jesus' teachings in chapter 11, where He mourned over how people in those cities rejected Him. Here, He once again comes into conflict with local religious leaders. These mostly involve the ultra-legalistic, tradition-minded Pharisees. By this point in Jesus' ministry, they had begun to amplify their attacks, accusations, and attempts to trap Jesus into saying or doing something they could use against Him.

Jesus and His disciples are walking through a field of grain on the Sabbath, apparently on their way to the synagogue. The hungry disciples pluck heads of grain and eat them as they go along. While the eating of the grain is permissible according to Old Testament law, it violates the Pharisees' traditional rules about what counts as "work" on a Sabbath day. They confront Jesus, accusing His disciples of violating the fourth commandment (Matthew 12:1–2).

In response, Christ poses a series of questions. These show that the Pharisees' manmade standard for "working" on the Sabbath is faulty. Therefore, their accusation is empty. God's laws are meant to be followed, but they are also meant to be understood. Just as God's laws mean more than avoiding only physical sins (Matthew 5:27–28), they are also not meant to prevent men from doing good when the situation requires it. Going even further, Jesus declares Himself Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:3–8).

Afterwards, but on the same day, Jesus and His disciples enter the synagogue. The Pharisees have set Jesus up. A man with a withered hand is present, and they ask Jesus if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus again emphasizes mercy and insists it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. He heals the man. Rather than learning and repenting, the Pharisees deepen their conspiracy to destroy Jesus (Matthew 12:9–14).

Jesus temporarily withdraws, though the crowds keep following Him. Matthew references a passage from Isaiah about Israel and applies it to Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 12:15–21).

A demon-oppressed man is brought to Jesus. Because of the demon, the man cannot speak or see. Jesus heals him, and the man dramatically begins to do both. Those in the crowd ask if maybe Jesus is the Son of David, meaning the Messiah. This is exactly the response those miracles are intended to provoke. Proving their absolute hardness of spirit, the Pharisees immediately say Jesus only casts out demons by the power of Satan (Matthew 12:22–24).

Jesus rebukes their accusation with three arguments. First, why would Satan be divided against himself? Second, couldn't their accusation also go against any Pharisees who casts out a demon? Third, the Pharisees have missed the most important thing: The fact that Jesus casts out demons by the power of God's Spirit means the kingdom of God has come upon them (Matthew 12:25–28).

As the Messiah, Jesus had bound Satan in order to rescue citizens for God's kingdom. He is working against the prince of demons, not for him. Those who are not with Jesus are against Him. This is the passage where Jesus mentions blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In literal terms, this means seeing Christ perform a miracle and attributing that power to Satan. That act, itself, cannot be committed by anyone today. In a broader sense, those who persistently reject God are committing their own version of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Such absolute rebellion against God will not be forgiven (Matthew 12:29–32)

"Harsh" is a mild way to describe the condemnation Jesus applies to these Pharisees. They produce bad spiritual "fruit" for the same reason corrupt trees make inedible crops. He calls them a brood of vipers, pointing out that the words they say reveal the true nature of their hearts. This principle applies, in general, to all people as well: what we think and feel is the origin of what we say and do. Jesus warns everyone listening that they will be held accountable on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken (Matthew 12:33–37).

Some of the scribes and Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign. Of course, He has very recently performed miracles (Matthew 12:9–13, 22). By demanding yet another piece of evidence, these skeptics prove they are insincere. Those committed to disbelief will often claim that they need "just one more" proof or confirmation, which is a lie. In that spirit, Jesus replies that this is the attitude of an evil and spiritually unfaithful generation. The only sign He promises them to see is the sign of Jonah, who was in the belly of the huge fish for three days (Jonah 1:17). The Son of Man will also be in the heart of the earth for three days. This is another reference to His upcoming death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 12:38–40).

At the end time judgment, the men of Nineveh who repented at Jonah's preaching (Jonah 3:6–9) will condemn the generation of unrepentant and unbelieving Israelites who saw Christ in person. Even those pagan, deeply wicked people were willing to submit to God's message. Likewise, the queen of the South, who traveled far to hear Solomon's wisdom (2 Chronicles 9:1) will condemn them, too, for ignoring the wisdom of the Messiah right in front of them (Matthew 12:41–42).

Jesus warns "this evil generation" of Israelites that, because of their unbelief and lack of repentance, they will be like a person possessed by eight evil demons after first being freed from one. He compares the situation to a "house"—a person—being freed of a demon and cleaned, only for the demon to return and find the "house" very much open to possession. So, the demon re-enters and brings along seven more, even more evil spirits. Christ may have come to fight against Satan in that generation of Israel, but if they reject Him, they'll be worse off afterwards than they were before (Matthew 12:43–45).

Finally, Jesus responds to news that His mother Mary and brothers want to talk to Him. Mark includes the fact that His half-siblings and mother are concerned about his mind (Mark 3:21). While He does not dismiss their presence, Jesus expands the idea of a true "family" in His response. He declares that His disciples and all who do the will of His Father in heaven are His brother and sister and mother (Matthew 12:31–35).
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