DUNCAN/A great healing and unpardonable sin
Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 12:22-32. As Matthew records here a great miracle, so also he records a terrible warning. For there is nothing more healing than the embrace of Christ. But so also there is nothing more damning than the rejection of Him. God Himself teaches us here that we ought to trust in Christ, that we ought to adore Him for His works, and that we ought to join Him in gathering souls in for the kingdom. And he warns us that to reject Christ is to cut ourselves off from the only source of hope in this life, or the one to come. We will see four things from this passage. First, an amazing healing. Second, the Pharisee’s wicked response. Third, Jesus’ response to the Pharisees accusation. And fourth, Jesus’ condemnation of their sin.
I. An Amazing Healing
In verses 22-23 you will see an amazing healing, and you will see an amazing response from the crowd. There in those verses, we see that Christ’s deeds and doctrine show him to be the Messiah. Christ is brought a man who is demon-possessed, and the physical manifestation of that demon-possession is that he is blind and speechless. And the Lord Jesus Christ does a great sign in connection with that demon’s possession of the man. He casts out the demon. The man is instantaneously healed. And the miracle again shows the heart of Jesus.
Matthew is once again showing you the compassion of Christ towards those who are not merely physically disabled, but those who are spiritually in the bondage of Satan. The crowd is absolutely astonished. In verse 23 they ask the question, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” They are not willing to state flat out that this is the Messiah, but they detect a connection between Jesus’ teaching, and Jesus’ compassion, and Jesus’ power, and Jesus’ deeds, and the fact that he is the Messiah.
In Christ’s power over the physical and the spiritual world, He shows Himself to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God. And it is for us as we deal with this passage today, to ask ourselves the question, “Have we accepted that truth about Him?” It is possible to go to church all one’s life and never to truly have personally embraced that truth about Christ? Though we profess His name in baptism, though we profess His name in the Lord’s Supper, it is possible to live life even in the context of the church, and not to have truly embraced the reality that Jesus is the only Savior?
II. The Pharisees’ Wicked Response
In verse 24 we see the wicked and blasphemous response of the Pharisees to what Jesus had done. Jesus had done a great miracle. The crowds were amazed. The Pharisees are immediately mobilized in opposition of the Lord. And in that verse we see that Christ’s deeds only provoked the Pharisees to greater opposition. Look at verse 24, “When the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.’” They see the crowds being swayed by what Jesus has said and done, and they want to quickly attempt to put a spin on what Jesus has done. And so they attempted to attribute the source of Jesus’ power to do the healing not to the Lord, but to the evil one himself. Now we must not fail to see the wickedness inherent in the charge that these men had brought against Jesus. They have seen the truth and yet they call it evil.
III. Jesus’ Response to the Pharisees’ Accusation
In verses 25-29 Jesus gives a devastating rejoinder to the Pharisees. We are told, by the way, in verse 25 that Jesus knew their thoughts. The first part of His response is in verses 25-26. The first thing that He says is that their claim about Him is absurd. He says it is absurd to claim that He is casting out demons by the power of Satan. He says in verse 26, “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?” He shows the patent absurdity of their particular charge.
But the second thing he says is in verse 27. He shows that their criticism is unfair, it is inconsistent. He says in verse 27, “If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges.” He shows that the sons, the followers of the Pharisees, whichever way they answer that question will undercut the criticism which the Pharisees have brought against him. The third thing that He says in response is in verse 28. There He says, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” He shows that their criticism deliberately obscures the greatest work of the Holy Spirit in history. I want you to see what the Lord Jesus is saying loud and clear. The Holy Spirit had been at work under the old covenant. He had done mighty works in the old covenant, but never before had there been a greater work of the Holy Spirit than the recreation of God’s people and the expansion of God’s kingdom.
IV. Jesus’ Condemnation of Their Sin
Fourthly, Jesus says that their sin is unpardonable. You will see in verses 31-32 He is saying that their actions reflect a reprobate heart. And then finally we see in verses 30-32, Jesus issues a dire warning. It’s all part of His same response to the Pharisees. And yet when you get to verses 30-32, it is as if Jesus is turning the focus of His response away from the Pharisees and to the crowds. And he says two things. First, in verse 30 He says, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” The Lord Jesus is saying there can be no middle ground. Notice also, He says that if we are against Him (and by the way you can be against Him either by being openly opposed or simply apathetic to His claims), then you are actually contributing to the scattering of the sheep, which will make them even more vulnerable to the prey of Satan.
The second thing that Jesus says is in verses 31-32. He says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unpardonable. And again, His target is the particular sin of the Pharisees. By this He means a defiant, irreverence for the Holy Spirit’s work manifest in speech.
In this passage, Jesus again presses home to us the impossibility of neutrality in religion. One must either be for him and embrace him, or against him and reject him. So may we embrace Him to the full.
The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.