Matthew 12:22-31 – What Jesus’ Exorcisms Prove
Translation & Sermon by
Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 27 May 2012
12:22 Then a demonized man was
brought up to Him blind and mute,
and He healed him such
that the blind [and mute] man spoke and saw!
12:23 And all the crowds were
astonished and said,
“This man isn’t the Son
of David, is he?”
12:24 But when the Pharisees heard,
“This man is not
casting out demons – unless it’s through Beelzebub, ruler of the demons.”
12:25 But Jesus, knowing their
thoughts, said to them,
“Every kingdom which
has been divided against itself gets laid waste,
and every city or house
which has been divided against itself is not going to stand.
12:26 And if Satan is
casting out Satan, he has been divided against himself;
how then is
his kingdom going to stand?
12:27 And as for me, if
it is through Beelzebub that I am casting out the demons,
whom are your sons doing exorcisms?
reason they themselves will be your judges!
12:28 But if I myself
am casting out the demons through the Spirit of God,
that the kingdom of God has come upon you.
12:29 Or how can
someone enter into the house of the strong man and grab his stuff
unless first he shall
have bound the strong man? Then indeed he will plunder his house.
12:30 The one who is
not being with me is against me,
and the one who is not
gathering with me is scattering.
12:31 On account of
this, I’m telling y’all that
every sin and
blasphemy will be forgiven to people,
blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
Additional demonstration of Jesus’ Character in Healing (v.22)
12:22 Then a demonized man was brought up to Him
blind and mute, and He healed him such that the blind [and mute] man spoke and
Τοτε προσηνεχθη αυτω δαιμονιζομενος τυφλος και κωφος και εθεραπευσεν αυτον ‘ωστε τον τυφλον
λαλειν και βλεπειν
- The parallel passage in Mark 3:20 says
that this happened in a house.
- What does it mean to be demonized [demon-possessedKJV,NAS,NIV/-oppressedESV]?
- The Jews believed that there was an organized
counter-kingdom of spiritual beings in opposition to the kingdom of God.
They called these rebellious spiritual beings “demons” or “unclean
spirits” and considered them to be under the leadership of a being
alternately called Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, or Beelzebub.
- Jesus does not dispute this; in fact by casting out
demons and naming Beelzebub as Satan in this passage, Jesus affirms the
reality of this rebellious spirit world.
- God tells us in the Bible a lot about the work of the
Holy Spirit and how this Spirit could cause people to speak prophecy (1
Sam 10:10, Acts 2:18), to know truth (John 16:13), to worship God (John
4:23-24), to pray (Eph. 6:18), and even to go places to do God’s will
- God’s word does not tell us a lot about how demonic
spirits work, but it seems that, like the Holy Spirit, Satan and his
demons can plant thoughts in our minds (Mark 8:33), and can cause
infirmities, like the blindness and muteness experienced by the man Jesus
healed. The Bible also speaks of demon-possessed people being thrown into
seizure-like spasms or frozen-paralysis. From the gospel account of the
demon-possessed Gadarines and the pigs that the demons transferred into,
it appears that demons can motivate and empower men and animals to do
certain actions and even to speak through human mouths.
- How does this happen? The Bible does not tell us as much
about that, but it does mention:
- That rebellious thoughts and active disobedience
to God placed Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, in a position where “sin
was crouching at [his] door, desiring to control him.” Cain had not
become a pagan idol-worshipper, but he had murdered his brother and
turned his back on God, and that opened him up to what I believe is
demonic influence. Ephesians 2:2 mentions that Satan works among those
who are “disobedient” to God.
- Then there are those who use religious ceremonies
to actually bring demonic influence into themselves – from the ancient Pagan
oracles who used psychedelic drugs, to the Muslim whirling dervishes,
the Hindu ascetics, the Voodoo practitioners, Buddhist meditators
(sometimes used in the relaxation techniques of some health regimens), and
other Occultic practices in our country (including the Ouija board game sold
by Parker Brothers). They all seem to have in common a letting down of
the rational mind to remove itself from the discernment and wisdom that
were given to us by God. That can open us up (knowingly or unknowingly) to
the direct influence of the spirit world just as much as open rebellious
- Should a Christian
worry about demon possession? I ran across a position paper by the
Assemblies of God (USA) recently on demon possession, and, while I
don’t agree with every detail of the paper, I thought they answered the
overall question quite well:
- “There is a danger… [of going] to an
extreme which is beyond the intent of the Scriptures… This seems to be
the case with some who become fascinated with the subject of demonology.
They are trapped into giving most of their attention to it. The more
demons they cast out, the more there seem to be to cast out, and the
rest of their ministry is practically ignored. This tendency to become
more occupied with casting out demons than with exalting Christ seems
inconsistent with the balance of Scripture.
- “…unless the context shows that an
independent spirit-being is meant, it seems best to take most phrases
such as a haughty spirit, a hasty spirit, a spirit of slumber, a spirit
of jealousy, etc., to be sins of the disposition or lusts of the flesh
(Galatians 6), and not demons. A serious danger in considering all these
sins of the disposition to be demons is that the individual may feel no responsibility
for personal actions and feel that the necessity for repentance is
removed. Actually, the Bible calls people to repent of these things and
to put off these attitudes. The great conflict within us is not between
the Holy Spirit and demons, but between the indwelling Holy Spirit and
the flesh (that is, all the sensory apparatus that tends toward sin)…
- “[Nowhere in the Bible] is there any
indication that any of these “demoniacs” or demonized persons was right
with God… [however, Satan was able to speak through Peter to tempt
- “Most of the older writers say that
genuine Christians cannot be possessed or indwelt by a demon. An example
is John L. Nevius, a Presbyterian missionary who spent nearly 40 years
in China, who saw many cases of demon possession, but never among
Christians. He found that demons did not want to stay in the presence of
true Christians… [However, my father, also a Presbyterian pastor, was
involved in a case where a person who had been involved in the Occult
became a Christian and continued to suffer from controlling demons that
prevented her from taking communion until they were cast out in the name
- [When we were saved, God] “‘rescued
us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the
Son he loves’ (Col. 1:13)… Our redemption is a redemption of the whole
person. The full price has been paid… [and] ‘If the truth remains in
us, we remain in the Son and in the Father’ (1 John 2:24)... [and] ‘The
one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ (1 John
4:4)…” [and no “angels, principalities... or powers… can separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 8:38-39]…
- [Believers can and do sin, but when
that happens,] “The Book of Romans calls not for the casting out of
demons but for a faith act by which one becomes what one is.”
- “We are [nevertheless] in a warfare
against Satan’s forces and they are looking for opportunities to attack
us. (See Eph. 6:12.) …They are out there attacking us, testing us, not
possessing us. The call is to be vigilant and to put our armor on and
take our stand (2 Cor. 10:3–6; Eph. 6:10–18; 1 Peter 5:8,9). Jesus
defeated Satan by quoting the Word of God (Matt. 4). We too must take
our stand on God’s Word and resist Satan and his demons, in faith (James
4:7; 1 Peter 5:8,9). Then the shield of faith will quench every fiery
dart of the enemy (Eph. 6:16).”
- I hope that excursus was somewhat
helpful, but the point of this passage is that Jesus’ power was
(and is) greater than the power of evil spirits, and it was (and is) His
mission to deliver people from bondage to evil spirits.
12:23 And all the crowds were
astonished [amazed] and said, “This man isn’t the Son of David, is he?” [or “Can/Could this be?”ESV,NKJ,NIV]
και εξισταντο παντες
‘οι οχλοι και ελεγον
Μητι ουτος εστιν
- “beside themselves with
- Μητι ουτος εστιν In
Greek there are two ways to say “no/not” which are made to match the mood
of the verb that is being negated. So when someone is communicating in
Greek and they ask a question and they do not match the mood of the
negative with the mood of the main verb, then you know something is fishy.
That is the case here. This grammar indicates that they are expecting the
answer to be, “No, this is not the messiah.” However, the fact that they
are asking the question in the first place indicates that they are trying
to raise discussion on the point. It may well have been a way to ask the
question without getting into trouble with the people who hated Jesus. By
asking it this way, if the person they asked said, “Of course Jesus is not
the Messiah,” they could say, “I thought so, that’s why I asked the
question that way.” But if the person on the other end said, “Well, yes, I
think He could be the Messiah,” then they would know it was safe to
explore with them the possibility that it was true.
- Now we see more opposition:
- First, Mark tells us that some of
Jesus’ own friends or family tried to take Him into custody as a lunatic.
They wanted to lock Him up in an insane asylum. (Mk. 3:21) The Bible
doesn’t give us any more detail on this story; apparently they were
unsuccessful – perhaps because the crowds that thronged Jesus could see
that He was obviously quite rational and lucid. But think of the
emotional pressure to know that not only are there political enemies, but
family and friends have turned against Him.
- Then there is another group mentioned
in the parallel passage in Luke 11:6 who were tempting (or testing) Jesus
by asking Him to produce a sign from heaven.
- And thirdly, the Gospel accounts hone
in on the opposition of some Pharisees who accused Jesus of being in
league with the Devil. The opposition was building!
12:24 But when the Pharisees heard, they said, “This
man is not casting out demons – unless [butKJV, exceptNKJ, onlyNAS,NIV,ESV] it’s through Beelzebub, ruler [princeKJV,ESV,NIV] of the demons.”
‘Οι δε Φαρισαιοι ακουσαντες ειπον ‘Ουτος ουκ εκβαλλει τα δαιμονια ει μη εν τω Βεε[λ-א,B]ζεβουλ αρχοντι των δαιμονιων
- Notice that these were not
local yokels that signed up to be in the Pharisee party at a BBQ; no, these
were high-powered lawyers from the big city of Jerusalem sent to put Jesus
- They didn’t see the miraculous
deliverance, but they heard about it and offered their predetermined
explanation that Jesus was a kook – or worse. (Christians, by the way,
have always born the brunt of prejudiced news reporting from
- The way the Greek wording
goes, it sounds like they start out by denying that Jesus is even able
to cast out demons, and then they suggest the possibility that maybe Jesus
is in cahoots with the Devil.
- The Devil is called
“Beelzebub” here because it was a distasteful name for Satan that was in
use by Jews at the time. It meant “Lord of Flies” or “Lord of Manure.”
- The Pharisees were suggesting
that if indeed Jesus was casting out demons, then it must be part of a
trick whereby one Satanically-controlled man was getting demons to pretend
to be cast out of other people in an effort to actually get demons to
become more influential over more people.
12:25 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts,
said to them, “Every kingdom which has been divided against itself gets laid
waste, and every city or house which has been divided against itself is not
going to stand.
δε [‘ο Ιησους] τας
αυτοις Πασα βασιλεια
πασα πολις η
- Unlike the Pharisees who had to hear about what Jesus did
second-hand, Jesus knew first-hand what they were thinking without anyone
having to tell Him.
- Jesus knows what you are thinking, even if you never tell
anybody, so it is important that you deal with your thoughts before Him
as well as your actions.
- Jesus begins His rebuttal with a proverb about the divide-and-conquer
- One of the most effective ways to beat your enemies is to
divide them so that they cannot combine forces and become strong. Armies
do that all the time in wars – cut through the middle of the enemy’s
ranks and divide them in half so that they can’t share supplies or
manpower and then finish them off.
- That was, for instance, what the British did to conquer
India in the 1700’s – fortify inbetween the states of the crumbling
Indian Mughal Empire so that the states would not be able to unite, then
encourage rivalry between the Hindus and Muslims so that they fought each
other, and the vast Indian subcontinent was brought under the government
of the tiny island of England.
- Once divided, the enemy is as good as destroyed. The word
for “brought to desolationKJV, laid wasteNAS,ESV,
ruinedNIV” is a verb form of the Greek word ερημος
“desert/wilderness.” Divide a country in two and get them fighting with
one another and pretty soon there are no inhabitants left, only
- The War Between the States in America
decimated the U.S. population and changed the demography of our country.
- This word is also used in the O.T. to describe what
happened to the country of Israel after all the people had been taken
into exile (Lev. 26:22ff, Neh. 2:3, Isa. 1:7, 6:11).
- By the way, here we see that the house is the microcosm of
the city and the country.
- A house has its own system of government with leaders and
followers like a city and country do.
- Satan knows how effective the “divide and conquer”
strategy is, and he works hard to drive wedges in between husbands and
wives and between brothers and sisters to split them apart and get them
fighting one another.
- We need to do all we can to preserve unity in our homes!
Divided we will fall.
- Jesus proceeds from this
proverb to lay out 3 premises which would flow from the Pharisees’
accusation, testing each one logically to see if they are true. He begins
by assuming for the sake of argument that each premise is true,
though He arrives at the conclusion that the first two premises are
- “They [the Pharisees] now find out
what a powerful opponent Jesus is. By parables, by a series of conditions
(first class), by sarcasm, by rhetorical question, by merciless logic, he
lays bare their hollow insincerity and the futility of their arguments.”
12:26 And if Satan is casting out Satan,
he has been divided against himself; how then is his kingdom going to stand?
και ει ‘ο Σατανας τον Σαταναν εκβαλλει εφ’ εαυτον εμερισθη πως ουν σταθησεται ‘η βασιλεια αυτου
- By the time Satan starts
casting followers of Satan out, there has been a division in His ranks and
the ones he’s casting out aren’t his followers. (Vincent, Hanna) The ruin
of his evil kingdom of rebellion against God would be at hand. It’s not
going to stand much longer!
- This would be reason for good
people to rejoice. If the Pharisees really believed what they said, they
should be happy that Jesus is casting out demons. Instead they’re mad at
Jesus and trying to kill him!
- The Pharisee’s position defies
sense, but even more, it implicates the Pharisee’s own disciples in
wrongdoing, as Jesus brings out in his second premise:
12:27 And as for me, if it is through
Beelzebub that I am casting out the demons, through whom are your sons [childrenKJV,
peopleNIV] doing exorcisms? For this reason they themselves will
be your judges!
και ει εγω εν Βεε[λ-א,B]ζεβουλ εκβαλλω τα δαιμονια ‘οι ‘υιοι ‘υμων εν τινί εκβαλλουσιν Δια τουτο αυτοι κριται εσονται ‘υμων
- Jesus starts the second
premise with an emphatic “I/εγω/as for
me” to contrast Himself with Satan who was the subject of the first
- In Acts 19:13, we read of the
sons of Sceva – Jews who were not Christians but who were casting out
demons. Whether these particular Pharisees had sons employed in such
enterprise or whether the word “sons/children” has the more generic
meaning of “someone who has many of the same characteristics that you do”
is anybody’s guess. The point is that there were people with whom these
Pharisees would identify and not want to disassociate themselves from who
also cast out demons.
- Jesus also suggested that those people – the
Pharisees’ children – should stand in judgment over the Pharisees, instead
of the Pharisees standing in judgment over Jesus. A humiliating prospect.
- Now, Jesus is saying, if it were true that the only way to cast out
a demon was to use the power of Satan, then the Pharisees would have to
admit that not only was Jesus in league with the Devil, but so were they,
if their children or co-workers were also casting out demons. If the only
way to cast out demons was by the power of Satan, then the Pharisees could
not say that they were of God and Jesus was of Satan; they would rather be
all in the same boat.
- The Pharisees, of course would
not want to agree to that, and so, by their own admission would have to
admit that there is another power by which demons could be cast out, and
if there is another possibility besides Satan, then it should be
considered at least a possibility that Jesus was casting out demons by
that power instead.
- In fact, Jesus has already
negated the possibility that Satan was the power by which He cast out
demons because common sense ruled out the possibility that Satan was
damaging his own holdings.
- That leaves the power by which
the Pharisees followers cast out demons as the only power by which Jesus
could have been casting out demons, once again placing Jesus in the same
boat with the Pharisees, a prospect the Pharisees could not tolerate.
- And what was that power by
which people could be freed from the control of demons?
12:28 But if I myself am
casting out the demons through the Spirit of God it follows that [then,
surelyNKJ] the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Ει δε εγω εν Πνευματι Θεου εκβαλλω τα δαιμονια αρα εφθασεν εφ’ ‘υμας ‘η βασιλεια του Θεου
- εν Πνευματι Θεου “by the agency of the Spirit” – the “Holy Spirit” as
explained in v. 32, also called the “finger of God” in Luke’s parallel
account (Lk. 11, cf. Ex. 8:19)
- εφθασεν In other places, this word is used to mean “Arrived” (2
Cor 10:14, Phil 3:16) or “Anticipated” (1 Th. 4:15). “come upon you before
you expected it” ~Vincent
- The “epi” preposition “the kingdom of God is come upon
y’all” is the same preposition used in v.26 where Satan is postulated as
being “divided upon himself.” The epi is not good news to
those who were in opposition to Christ, it is a negative sense of God
showing “hostility” to them and turning “against” them.
- “God the Redeemer has appeared to them
unasked, but they (so far as they can) banish Him afar and can not endure
to give Him a place when He is present and equipped to save them.” ~J.
- This kingdom of God, however is the kingdom which destroys
Satan’s kingdom, that is inaugurated by Jesus casting out demons. It is
good news for all who are groaning under the oppression of sin which seems
to control you.
- And how does Jesus accomplish this? By “binding” “the
12:29 Or how can someone enter
into the house of the strong man and grab [spoilKJV, plunderNKJ,ESV,
carry offNIV] his stuff [goodsKJV,ESV, propertyNAS,
possessionsNIV] unless first he shall have bound the strong man?
Then indeed he will plunder [spoilKJV/ robNIV] his house.
Η πως δυναται
εις την οικιαν
και τα σκευη αυτου [δι-]αρπασαι
εαν μη πρωτον
- The definite article “the” is
there in Greek before the word “strong man,” but it doesn’t always mean
that we have to put a “the” there when we translate into English. In this
- the KJV, ESV, and NIV decided
to drop the “the” and have Jesus just stating a general principle or a
- The NAS, on the other hand,
keeps the “the,” perhaps to narrow the focus of this general principle to
refer particularly to Jesus’ task of binding The Strong Man –
Satan, before plundering Satan’s possessions. (This
is also Vincent’s position.)
- The parallel account in Luke
11 pictures a “strong man fully armed” who is guarding his own court,
keeping his possessions safe, but then a “stronger” man comes and
overpowers him, stripping him of all his defenses and then claiming his
possessions. So Jesus is stronger than Satan and is going to strip Satan
of all his power.
- This also gives us an insight
into the way Satan thinks. He will fight to keep people under his
possession. And, “it is necessary for Satan to be cast out with violence,
so that God may win His Kingdom among men.” ~J. Calvin
- So the fact that Jesus is
casting out demons indicates that he is tying the hands of Satan in order
to loot Satan’s possessions. The people who are ensnared in lies and
addictive sins and demonic oppression are the very booty that Jesus has
come to grab out of Satan’s house. After casting out beaucoups of demons, Jesus is going to save His people from their
sins by dying for them.
- This knowledge however, is not
some esoteric philosophy to sit on. It calls for a response. If the
kingdom of God has come and if Jesus inaugurated it by casting out demons
by the power of God and plundering Satan, then it is very important to be
in a right relationship with Jesus:
12:30 The one who is not being with me
is against me, and the one who is not gathering with me is scattering.
‘Ο μη ων μετ’ εμου
κατ’ εμου εστιν και
‘ο μη συναγων μετ’
- Jesus gives these statements
in the negative because He’s talking to Pharisees that have confronted Him
with unbelief and hostility:
- What does it mean to “not be
- Parallel phrases in the Bible
talk about being “in/with Christ.” Granted, the following verses use a
different preposition than the one Matthew uses here, but I still think
they can help us understand Matthew’s meaning of being “with” Christ, and
that has to do with finding our identity in Christ – acknowledging that
the name “Christian” really is a defining element of who you are that affects
everything in your life, because your life is oriented around Him.
- 2Cor. 5:17 Therefore if any
man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed
away; behold, all things are become new.
- Rom. 8:1 There is therefore
now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk
not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
- Eph. 1:10 That in the
dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all
things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on
earth; even in him:
- 1Cor. 1:30 But of him are
ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and
righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
- Eph. 2:10 For we are his
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God
hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
- Rom. 8:17 …heirs of God and
fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we
may also be glorified with Him.
- Gal. 2:20 "I have been
crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ
lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith
in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
- Gal. 3:27 For all of you
who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
- Being “with Christ” means
trusting in Him to make you right with God, following His example, and
doing what He commanded. It means seeking fellowship with Him and
continuing to be associated with Him, even if it means you experience
persecution from other people who hate Him. The participle “being with
me” indicates not just a one-time decision but a continuing character
- The concept of “gathering”
with Him further defines what it means to be “with” or “not with” Him. (NASB
“Christ is the magnet of the
ages; He draws or drives away.” ~ATR
- Matt. 3:12 “His winnowing
fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor;
and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the
chaff with unquenchable fire.” (cf. 13:30)
- Matt. 13:47 “Again, the
kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering
fish of every kind”
- Matt. 18:20 “For where two
or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
- Matt. 22:10 “Those slaves went out into the
streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and
the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.”
- John 11:51-52 “…Jesus was
going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order
that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are
- “Satan is the arch-waster,
Christ the collector-Savior.” ~Bruce
- Gathering together not only includes inviting people to believe
in Jesus and participating in His mission of collecting people to
Himself, gathering together is also a characteristic activity of the
church. It is used throughout the book of Acts to describe the meetings
of the early church. (Acts 4: 31; 11:26;
13:44; 14:27; 15:6,30; 20:7,8; 1 Cor. 5:4) To gather with Jesus includes
gathering together regularly with His body the church and not forsaking
that (Heb. 10:25).
- There is no neutral ground,
says Jesus. If you are not with Him you’re against Him. That means that
agnostics are, in God’s eyes, in the same category as atheists.
- Jesus implies here that the
religious leaders of His day should have joined up with Him when they saw
that He was freeing people from enslavement to Satan. Jesus was saying to
the Pharisees, in effect, “It was for you to give me your support and to
lend a hand in setting up God’s Kingdom. For whoever does not help is in
some way an opponent…” ~J. Calvin
- APPLICATION: Are we quick to
join in and support God’s people when they are fighting evil, or are we quicker
to criticize them for not doing it our way?
- Jesus said that whoever is not
with Him scatters. What does that mean?
- Remember the Tower of Babel
in Genesis 11? When people rebelled against God, God scattered them with
- The actual word “scatter”
occurs several times in the Bible referring to enemies, starting with the
Psalm that David wrote after Saul’s death and the kingdom had been
solidified under David’s kingship: 2 Samuel 22:4 “…I will call upon the
Lord who is worthy to be praised, and I shall be saved from my enemies. …14
The Lord thundered out of heaven, and the Most High uttered his voice.
And he sent forth arrows, and scattered them, and he flashed
lightning, and dismayed them. (Brenton cf. Psalms 18 & 104) Here
the scattering speaks of God’s judgment.
- Another key time the word
occurs is when Ezekiel demonstrated after his hair-cut what was going to
happen to the kingdom of Judah,. Ezekiel 5:10-13 …I will execute
judgments in thee, and I will scatter all that are left of thee to every
wind. Therefore, as I live, saith the Lord; surely, because thou hast
defiled my holy things with all thine abominations, I also will reject
thee… A fourth part of thee shall be cut off by pestilence, and a fourth
part of thee shall be consumed in the midst of thee with famine: and as
for another fourth part of thee, I will scatter them to every wind; and a
fourth part of thee shall fall by sword round about thee…” (Brenton)
And that is indeed what happened during the fall of Jerusalem to
- Later on, in John 10:12,
Jesus talked about sheep that were under the care of hired men who would
run away when wolves came, and how those sheep (signifying people) would
be ripped up and scattered by the wolves, but how that wouldn’t happen to
the sheep under the care of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
12:31 On account of this, I’m telling
y’all that every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven to people, but the
blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
Δια τουτο λεγω ‘υμιν Πασα
‘αμαρτια και βλασφημια αφεθησεται τοις ανθρωποις ‘η δε του Πνευματος βλασφημια ουκ αφεθησεται [τοις ανθρωποις-א,B,f1]
- In case there is any doubt, the “Spirit” referenced here
against whom blasphemy is such a serious issue is the Holy Spirit, as v.32
as well as the parallel account in Luke 12:10 explain.
- Mark 3:30 explains that the accusation that Jesus had an
unclean spirit was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and that it makes
one “guilty of an eternal sin.”
- “What, then, is this sin against the Holy Ghost - the
unpardonable sin? One thing is clear: Its unpardonableness cannot arise
from anything in the nature of sin itself; for that would be a naked
contradiction to the emphatic declaration of Mat. 12:31, that all manner
of sin is pardonable. And what is this but the fundamental truth of the
Gospel? (See Acts 13:38-39; Rom. 3:22-24; 1Jn. 1:7, etc.). Then, again
when it is said (Matt. 12:32), that to speak against or blaspheme the Son
of man is pardonable, but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is not
pardonable, it is not to be conceived that this arises from any greater
sanctity in the one blessed Person than the other. These remarks so narrow
the question that the true sense of our Lord’s words seem to disclose
themselves at once. It is a contrast between slandering “the Son of man”
in His veiled condition and unfinished work - which might be done
“ignorantly, in unbelief” (1Tim. 1:13), and slandering the same blessed
Person after the blaze of glory which the Holy Ghost was soon to throw
around His claims, and in the full knowledge of all that. This would be to
slander Him with eyes open, or to do it “presumptuously.” To blaspheme
Christ in the former condition - when even the apostles stumbled at many
things - left them still open to conviction on fuller light: but to
blaspheme Him in the latter condition would be to hate the light the
clearer it became, and resolutely to shut it out; which, of course,
precludes salvation. (Heb. 10:26-29). The Pharisees had not as yet done
this; but in charging Jesus with being in league with hell they were
displaying beforehand a malignant determination to shut their eyes to all
evidence, and so, bordering upon, and in spirit committing, the
unpardonable sin.” ~ATR
- John Calvin explains that blasphemy against the Holy
Spirit occurs when God’s grace to save and heal people is revealed, but
detractors attempt to stop and hinder it. Those who fight God’s grace out
of ignorance and blindness may be brought to repentance and forgiveness,
just as the Apostle Paul, who admitted in 1 Tim. 1:13 that he himself was
a “blasphemer” but he obtained pardon. But “blasphemy against the Spirit
is a sign of reprobation… In this way God avenges contempt of His grace:
He hardens the hearts of the reprobate so that they never desire to
- Even now, Jesus is offering forgiveness to the Pharisees
and to you and me for any ways we have blasphemed Him in our thoughts and
words, any ways we have not trusted Him the way we should have, any ways
we have not joined in with Him in His saving work like we should have.
Even now He calls us to gather to Him like chicks under their parent’s
wings and gather other people along with us so that He might deliver us
from the power of Satan and sin in His kingdom which has come upon us.