Matthew 12:43-50 How to Get a Big Brother to Keep You Safe

Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church Manhattan, KS, 1July 2012


12:43 Now, whenever an unclean spirit goes out from a man,

            it goes through waterless places, seeking – yet not finding – rest.

 12:44 Then it says, “I will go back into my house from which I went out!”

            And when it has come, it finds [the house] unoccupied, swept and decorated.

 12:45 Then it goes and takes with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself

            and, upon entering, they take up residence there,

                        and that man’s last [state of affairs] become worse than the first.

Thus it will be also to this evil generation.


12:46 While He was still speaking to the crowds, you see,

            His mother and His brothers had been standing outside, seeking to speak with Him.

12:47 Then someone said to Him,

            “Look, your mother and your brothers have been standing outside, seeking to speak with you.”

12:48 But He, in answer, said to the one who spoke to Him,

            “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”

 12:49 And after extending His hand over His disciples He said, “See, my mother and my brothers,

 12:50 For whoever did the will of my Father in the heavens, that one is my brother and sister and mother.”

Intro: Brothers standing up for each other

When I was a boy, my mom used to take me and my brother and sister to the pool on hot summer days. Have any of you been able to cool off in a pool this hot week? Well, one day we got to the pool and saw the Calhoun family there. Now there were three or four brothers in that family, and they had a reputation for being a little on the rough side. Now, I was a little older than the Calhoun boys, so I wasn’t afraid of them, and I got into a splash battle with one of the younger Calhoun brothers. We were just having fun, but the oldest brother saw me splashing his little brother and he decided I was being too rough and that he needed to come to the rescue of his little brother. He positioned himself on the side of the pool, and when I came up for air and grabbed the railing, he kicked me in the side of the head with all his might. The force burst my eardrum and left me in so much pain I couldn’t swim for the rest of the day. He was a good big brother, watching out for his little brother and protecting him from getting picked on.


Have you ever had times in your life when people more powerful than you were taking advantage of you and you just wished you had a big brother who was stronger and smarter than them who could swoop in and come to your rescue?


We live in a world where there are not only people who will take advantage of you, there is also an unseen world around us of spirits – both evil spirits (the Devil and his demons) and good spirits (God and His angels). Evil spirits are capable of doing nasty things to humans, and all kinds of evil things happen to people all over the world. Are we just helpless pawns in the power of the devil, or is there a big brother who can keep us safe from the powers of darkness which are stronger than us?


In Matt. 12:43, Jesus launches into a brief discourse on the way demons operate:


12:43 Now, whenever an unclean spirit goes out from a man, it goes through [aridNIV, dryKJV] waterlessLit places, seeking – yet not finding – rest.

  ‘Οταν δε το ακαθαρτον πνευμα εξελθη απο του ανθρωπου διερχεται δι’ ανυδρων τοπων ζητουν αναπαυσιν και ουχ ευρισκει

·         How does Jesus know so much about demons? Because He is God. If His miracles were not a big enough tip-off, His supernatural knowledge of the spirit world should be a clincher. He obviously has inside information about demons, just as He displays inside information about heaven later when He informs the Bible scholars about the non-existence of human marriages in heaven.

·         anhydrous – Israel was surrounded by deserts to the South and East, and this Greek word is often used to describe these deserts, so it was natural to think that if the spirits went away from the people, they would go out into these outlying deserts where there were almost no people. In addition, the character of these spirits seems to match the characteristics of those desert areas – there is no life in them, and thus people given over to wickedness and who associated with these evil spirits are themselves called anhydrous in 2 Peter 2:17 and Jude 1:12 (Such people also have no rest - Rev. 14:11).

·         These unclean spirits are looking for “rest” – the “pause that refreshes” – the kind of rest from labour which God offers in the Sabbath (Ex. 23:12);

o       it is a rest which comes from God and is prepared by God for His people.

o       In Gen. 8:9, the inability to rest is pictured by the dove that Noah sent out, who is flying to and fro over the floodwaters, but there is not a single tree or piece of land to light on, so it just has to keep flying.

o       Jesus said, “Come unto me… and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:29) The unclean spirit which lives in rebellion to God and Jesus has no rest because they want nothing to do with the one person who can give rest.


12:44 Then it says, “I will go back into my house from which I went out!” And when it has come, it finds [the house] unoccupied [emptyKJV,ESV], swept and decorated.

  τοτε λεγει Εις τον οικον μου επιστρεψω ‘οθεν εξηλθον και ελθον ευρισκει σχολαζοντα σεσαρωμενον και κεκοσμημενον

·         I have mentioned before the typical activity of spirits – whether good or bad – to place thoughts in the minds of humans. Now we see a further insight into the way spirits – both good and bad – look at us humans. The demon calls its human host his “house” – a place to live, a center of identity, nourishment, nurture, action, recreation, and procreation.

·         Similarly, James 4:5 says of God, “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell [house] in us.” (NASB) There is something about the Holy Spirit as well as evil spirits which craves and enjoys living within humans.

·         The three characteristics of this person listed by Jesus seem to be attractive to evil spirits:

·         scholazonta: loitering, at leisure, vacationing, not at work, unengaged, uncommitted, hanging out, not occupied with business.

o       Part of Pharaoh’s accusation that His Israelite slaves were asking for leave to worship God in the wilderness because they were lazy (Exodus 5:8 &17)

o       Commanded of God in relation to disengagement from busy-ness which distracts you from your relationship with God. (Psalm 46:10) "Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations..." (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:5) But this is a problem in relation to the spirit world.

o       If spirits crave human cohabitation, and an evil spirit is expelled from a human, and that human subsequently lives free from the influence of any spirit – be it the Holy Spirit or a demonic spirit, then that person is free game for any spirit to influence him.

o       Spirits are territorial, like dogs. If there’s a stray dog looking for a place to live, he sniffs the trees to see what houses have already been staked out by other dogs. If he encounters a bigger, meaner dog that’s already marked out a territory, the stray dog is going to keep going to another house that isn’t already staked out by another dog.

o       The good news is that if we are Christians, we have the biggest dog on the block guarding our house, and we have nothing to fear from evil spirits. Our house is occupied. 1 Cor 3:16 “Haven’t y’all known that y’all are the inner-sanctum of God, and [that] the Spirit of God resides in y’all?” (NAW)

o       And that Spirit has unlimited power: Act 1:8 “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses…” (NASB)

o       2 Tim. 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (NASB)

o       But if the Holy Spirit is not there to replace the void left by the evil spirit, you’re free game.

o       The second of the three words Jesus uses to describe this hapless person is:

·         sesarwmenon – swept –

o       used in Jesus’ parable of the woman who lost one of her ten coins (Lk. 15:8) and so she swept the house to get rid of all the clutter and trash and dust on the floor that might hide her lost coin.

o       And when a room is clean, there is no more garbage emitting offensive odors, no more Legos to step on, no more unsightly messes; it just makes you want to sit down in the room and enjoy it!

o       The third word Jesus uses to describe this person that is like blood to sharks is:

·         kekosmēmenon – this word is used in the Bible to describe:

o       Solomon decorating the temple with gold and precious stones (2 Chron. 3:6, cf. Luke 21:5), and the precious stones decorating the walls of heaven (Rev. 21:19).

o       The rich decorations in King Ahasuerus’ dining hall (Esther 1:6, cf. Ezek. 23:41).

o       Women putting on jewelry, makeup, and fine clothing (Jer. 4:30, Ezek. 16:11-13, Rev. 21:2), or proper, modest, discreet clothing (1 Tim. 2:9).

o       Figuratively adorning oneself with an attractive attitude of faith and submissiveness
(Titus 2:10, 1Pet. 3:5), or gracing a city with justice, mercy, and humble faith (Micah 6:9).

o       It’s also used once of trimming lamp wicks (Matthew 25:7) and once of decorating tombs, perhaps with whitewashing and flowers (Matthew 23:29).

o       From this I conclude that the idea of “decorating” and “embellishing” is the general idea of this word, and I favor the KJV “garnished” or Green’s translation “decorated,” over all the other English translations which say, “put in order.”

o       This person who has been freed from demonic oppression for a little while has become more attractive!


12:45 Then it [the unclean spirit] goes and takes with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself and, upon entering, they [dwell/live] take up residence there, and that man’s last [state of affairs] [final condition(s)NIV] become worse than the first. Thus it will be also [in/with] to this evil generation.

  τοτε πορευεται και παραλαμβανει μεθ’ εαυτου ‘επτα ‘ετερα πνευματα πονηροτερα εαυτου και εισελθοντα κατοικει εκει και γινεται τα εσχατα του ανθρωπου εκεινου χειρονα των πρωτων ‘ουτως εσται και τη γενεα ταυτη τη πονηρα

·         Jesus has just cast out a demon and has been accused of doing it in collusion with Satan. If this were the case, then Jesus explains, those people out of whom He had cast demons would all revert back to even more miserable demonic oppression. But if they didn’t, (and indeed, they did not), then it was by the Spirit of God that Jesus was delivering people from demons.

·         The demon-possessed man in Gadara said he was possessed by a legion of demons (Mark 5:9), so perhaps he was a case where there was a significant accumulation of evil spirits like Jesus is talking about here.

·         Only if a more powerful spirit takes up residence will there be any deterrent to evil spirits in greater numbers gaining greater control of a person’s life. The scriptures tell us that Jesus takes up residence in the hearts of Christians through the agency of the Holy Spirit: Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:16-19 that Christians can “be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell [same word as what the evil spirits do] in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (NASB)

·         From this we must take a warning against superficial revivals:

o       John the Baptizer could cleanse thousands of Jews and get them to clean up their act and stop living in flagrant sin, but if, in putting off that sin, they did not accept the Lamb of God (Jesus) in faith, receiving the Holy Spirit, it was a revival doomed to fail; it won’t last.

o       Christianity is not mere fire insurance for those who are frightened of the fires of hell and are now living harmless lives; it is a company of those who are not merely running away from hell but running to the arms of Christ, not merely not doing wrong, but positively doing the good works He has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10).

o       We can sing praise songs until we feel like we’ve had a religious experience,
we can try to be better people and clean up our act,
we can even take on a rigorous code of legalistic behavior in order to be accepted as godly by some group of Christians, but it will crash and burn if you have no spiritual power in your life to preserve that righteousness and protect you from evil, and you’ll end up worse than ever.

·         Phil. 4:7, on the other hand, tells us that “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NAW)

·         This goes back to the concept of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The unforgiveable sin is not just uttering a curse word, the unforgivable sin is not looking to Jesus and His Spirit to give you the truth and power you will need to guard you.

·         Many Jews in Jesus’ day did indeed believe in Him, but most did not. They hardened their hearts against Jesus and against Christianity, and within 40 years of Jesus’ time, the nation of Israel would be wiped off the face of the earth by the Romans. That’s the way it was with the evil generation of Jesus’ day. Their ending state was worse than their beginning state.


12:46 While He was still speaking to the crowds, you see, His mother and His brothers had been standing outside, [desiringKJV/wantingNIV/askingESV] seeking to speak with Him.

  ετι [δε-א,B] αυτου λαλουντος τοις οχλοις ιδου η μητηρ και οι αδελφοι αυτου ειστηκεισαν εξω ζητουντες αυτω λαλησαι

·         So here Jesus is, making His own mother wait until He’s done speaking!

·         The parallel passage in Mark 3 mentions some from Jesus’ own people or family coming to seize Him and take Him into custody because they felt He was insane.

·         That was at the beginning of Jesus’ whole reply to the Pharisees to answer their false charge that He cast out demons by the prince of the demons back in Matt. 12:24.

·         It’s possible that this party was the same as Jesus’ mother and brothers mentioned here in v.46.

·         Mark 6:3 gives us the names of His brothers: James, and Joseph, Judah, and Simon, and mentions that He had sisters too.

·         And they’ve been standing outside the house all this time through Jesus’ speech, just waiting to grab him and lock Him up in an insane asylum!

·         If that is the case, then Jesus is not showing disrespect to His mom by making her wait; He’s just resisting being hauled off to the loony pen.


12:47 Then someone said to Him, “Look, your mother and your brothers have been standing outside, seeking to speak with you.”

  [ειπεν δε τις αυτω Ιδου η μητηρ σου και οι αδελφοι σου εξω εστηκασιν ζητουντες σοι[1] λαλησαι-א,B,ESV]

·         All Greek manuscripts of the Bible, with the exception of two old ones, have this verse. Curiously, the ESV Bible, alone out of the English translations, follows those two manuscripts and omits this verse entirely. It is in the two parallel accounts of Mk. 3:32 & Luke 8:20, so it’s genuine.

·         Although it is mostly a repeat of the previous verse and doesn’t add much information, it does set the stage for what Jesus says next.

·         In v.47, someone in the crowd recognizes Jesus’ mother and brothers (Joseph is though to have died some time earlier).

o       This person in the crowd may be merely alerting Jesus to the presence of His family, but

o       I detect in this Perfect tense verb (“they have been standing outside” instead of simply “they are standing outside”) somewhat of a rebuke to Jesus about the impropriety of making your mom wait outside for some time.

o       In effect, he’s saying, “Jesus, you’ve got some explaining to do about why you’re treating your mom this way!”

·         As usual, Jesus uses the occasion to teach a powerful lesson to His followers:


12:48 But He, in answer, said to the one who spoke to Him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”

 ο δε αποκριθεις ειπεν τω ειποντι[2] αυτω Τις́ εστιν ‘η μητηρ μου και τινες́ εισιν ‘οι αδελφοι μου;


12:49 And after extending His hand over His disciples He said, “[BeholdKJV,NAS/HereNIV,NKJ,ESV] See, my mother and my brothers,

 και εκτεινας την χειρα [αυτου-א,B,Vg] επι τους μαθητας αυτου ειπεν[3] Ιδου η μητηρ μου και οι αδελφοι μου

·         In an incredible display of revolutionary thinking about family relationships, Jesus passes by His own mother who gave Him birth and raised him, and His own brothers and sisters with whom He grew up, and confers the same intimately-close family relationships upon His disciples – and not just the 12 closest disciples either, He includes the women sitting there and calls them mothers and sisters.

·         Here then is a man with knowledge and power over the spirit world who is willing to stand by His disciples and be that big brother who can keep them safe in a dangerous world.

·         Here is that strong son that every elderly mother needs to lean on to keep her safe in a dangerous world.

·         Now, that’s nice that Jesus offered that kind of relationship to his disciples, but could His offer possibly extend to us? And if so, what do we do to get that kind of security? He continues:


12:50 For whoever did the will of my Father in the heavens, that one is my brother and sister and mother.”

 οστις γαρ αν ποιηση[4] το θελημα του πατρος μου του εν ουρανοις αυτος μου [καιθ,f13] αδελφος και αδελφη και μητηρ εστιν.

·         The Aorist tense of the verb “does” appears here, and usually we translate an Aorist verb in the past tense, so here it would be “did.” “Whoever did the will of my Father…”

o       Of course, a Christian’s life will be characterized by a continuing desire to do God’s will and a continuing obedience to God, but the Aorist verb tense Jesus chooses here emphasizes what is already a done deal.

o       These people became spiritual family when they started doing the will of God whose last command out of the heavens was, “Listen to my beloved son!” These people have already gathered around Jesus and have already been listening to Him teach.

o       Jesus is not telling them that if they will be good boys and girls then they will, at some point in the future, earn His love as family members. He is telling them that they are already His mothers and siblings. The verb of being in this verse is Present tense. These disciples already are His family.

·         Of course, they did not physically give birth to Jesus nor did they share the same mother; Jesus is obviously speaking figuratively again and drawing a contrast between physical family and spiritual family.

·         The subject of this sentence is emphatic, with an extra pronoun which is omitted by the NIV, NKJ, and ESV. “…The sameKJV /heNAS is my brother…” Are you that one? Are you one who is doing the will of God?

·         John 6:39-40 “And this is the Father's will… that every one which sees the Son, and believes on Him, may have everlasting life…”

·         If so, Jesus calls you His brother, His sister! You have that big brother.

·         Heb. 2:11 “For both He who makes us holy and we who are made holy are all of one: for which cause He [Jesus] is not ashamed to call them Brothers”

·         Rom. 8:15-7 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.

·         Do you have any idea what it means to be a joint-heir with Christ? If all things have been given to Him and we are joint heirs, that means all the gold, all the technology, all the food, all the power, everything will be held jointly between us and Him.

[1] Patristic text reads σε ἰδεῖν (“to see Him”), a figure of speech also common to English, which means the same as the Majority text, Textus Receptus, and Critical text above (“to speak to Him”).

[2] This is the reading of the Majority of Greek manuscripts, including C, L, θ, f1, f13, and is printed in the Textus Receptus. The Critical text, however, based on א, B, and D, use the synonym λεγοντι.

[3] The Patristic text inexplicably has ἔφη – a synonym in the Imperfect tense (“was saying”).

[4] The CT, Maj, Patristic, and TR all have the Aorist Subjunctive (the uncertainty of which lies in the whoever-ness of the subject, not in whether or not they do God’s will), there are several variants among the uncials, from Present Indicative (D) to Present Subjunctive (C) to Future (K, θ, L).