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Matthew 12:22-37 - Homiletics

The blasphemy of the Pharisees.

I. ITS CAUSE .

1 . The demoniac. The poor man was blind and dumb, and that not from natural causes, but by the cruel agency of an evil spirit. Like the dumb man ( Matthew 9:32 ), he was brought to Christ. He was helpless; he could not see his way; he could not express his wants. The Lord healed him at once; he both spake and saw. We must do our part to bring the helpless to the Lord. There are many, alas! whose eyes the God of this world has blinded, who know not how to pray. It is a good and holy deed to show the way to Christ, to help the helpless, to guide them to the Lord. He can open the lips of the dumb; he can give sight to the blind; he can drive away the evil spirit that keeps the sinner from his Saviour. His arm is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.

2 . The wonder of the people. They were astonished at the Lord's power; they said, "Is this the Son of David?" They felt in their hearts that these mighty works were the signs of the Messiah, the proper works of the Christ. They were ready to believe.

II. THE ACCUSATION .

1 . The envy of the Pharisees. The people were on the point of recognizing Jesus as the Messiah; the Pharisees interfered. The miracle filled the crowd with admiration; it filled the Pharisees with anger and malignity. God's grace hardens those whom it does not save. The very cross is a savour of death unto death to the impenitent. Good men love goodness; evil men hate it.

2 . The charge of complicity with Satan. They could not deny the fact of the miracle; in their wicked jealousy they attributed it to the help of Satan. Once before they had said the same thing privately amongst themselves ( Matthew 9:34 ); now they said it openly to prevent the people from owning the Messiahship of Jesus. "Yes," they said, "he casts out devils; but it is through the power of the devil, in union with him." Oh, what an evil thing is jealousy, it vents its spite upon the best and holiest! How lovely is that charity which thinketh no evil, which rejoiceth in the truth!

III. THE LORD 'S REPLY .

1 . His knowledge. He knew their thoughts. Indeed, they had not only conceived the wicked thought; they had uttered it. But it seems they had not spoken in the Lord's hearing; they had disseminated their falsehoods among the crowd. But he read their thoughts. He reads the envious, unloving thoughts which, alas! dwell sometimes in our hearts. We are ashamed of them, we would not utter them to our nearest friends; but they are known to the Lord. Reverence his presence; strive to entertain no thought displeasing to him.

2 . His wisdom. He refers his adversaries to principles which they could not deny. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. The existence of political parties, as we see them now, is not an unmixed evil; they balance one another; they check one another's excesses. But when they stand opposed in the fierceness of civil war, then the kingdom cannot stand. So there may be anarchy in the kingdom of Satan; it is the kingdom of burning hatred, of envy, of malice; but, like the Pharisees and the Herodians, like Pilate and Herod, it is united against the kingdom of God. The dreaded presence of the Holy One of God gave unity to the hosts of Satan. They were banded together in one in their intense opposition to the Saviour. Satan would not cast out Satan when Christ was at hand: "The serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field." Satan had too much wisdom in his wickedness to weaken himself when his power was beginning to wane before the majesty of the Son of God. Union is strength, division is weakness. Oh that the children of light could learn a lesson from the enemy, and be reunited in one faith and love in the face of the impending struggle with scepticism and unbelief!

3 . His argumentum ad hominem. The disciples of the Pharisees practised certain forms of exorcism; they professed to cast out evil spirits. Did they do it by the aid of Beelzebub? They were not punished; on the contrary, they were held. in esteem. Why should Christ's miracles be attributed to the agency of Satan, when others, not holy as he was, professed to have the power of casting out devils, and yet were not supposed to be in confederation with the prince of darkness? To say the least, it would be only fair that the actions of Jesus should be judged by the same rule as those of these Jewish exorcists. How unfair people are! How constantly they judge themselves and their friends by one rule, those from whom they differ by another! The Christian must aim at absolute honesty and impartiality.

4 . The true explanation of his power. He used none of the strange forms practised by the exorcists, none of the appliances and manipulations which were employed either to impress the patient or to collect the energy of the operator. He simply spoke the word of power. He cast out devils by an energy contrary, antagonistic to theirs—the energy of the Holy Spirit of God which abode upon him. He was full of the Holy Ghost ( Luke 4:1 ) when he met Satan face to face in the wilderness of the temptation. He cast out devils with the finger of God ( Luke 11:20 ). The three blessed Persons are One God; the work of Christ was the work of the Three in One. And if so, the kingdom of God was come. It had come unawares, not with observation; but it was already in the world, active and energetic in the immediate neighbourhood of these unbelieving Pharisees. How else could the kingdom of Satan be invaded 9 Satan was strong; he had seized upon many of the creatures of God, and made them the vessels of his accursed wickedness. The Lord was despoiling him; he was driving him from the unhappy men over whom he had tyrannized. Then the Lord Jesus was stronger than Satan. lie had bound the strong man. By the mystery of his incarnation, by his own victory over the tempter, he had overcome the wicked one. The power of Satan is not now what once it was. The Lord triumphed over him on the cross; by his atoning sacrifice of himself he broke the devil's power over man. He will spoil his house. The Lord has not yet gathered in all the fruits of his victory; he will go on, conquering and to conquer, till all things are put under his feet.

5 . The warning.

IV. THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST .

1 . What is it ? The Pharisees needed the warning; they had come perilously near to the unpardonable sin; they had attributed miracles which were wrought by the Spirit of God to the agency of Satan. But it was Christ against whom they had spoken directly, not the Holy Ghost. Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is the sin of those who "were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost," but yet have fallen away, and "done despite to the Spirit of grace." Such blasphemy is the expression of that "eternal sin" of which our Lord speaks in Mark 3:29 —eternal, unchangeable hostility against God, the strife of the flesh against the Spirit ( Galatians 5:17 ) matured into complete antagonism. The blasphemy which cannot be forgiven seems to be the expression of this awful state in wicked words: that defiance of God, that contemptuous rejection of his revelation which is the ultimate outcome of the wilful quenching of the Spirit in the individual heart.

2 . It cannot be forgiven. St. Paul had spoken against Christ, he had been a blasphemer ( 1 Timothy 1:13 ); but he did it ignorantly; it was not a sin against light, not the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. That blasphemy hath never forgiveness; for he who thus blasphemes sets himself in direct hostility to that Holy Spirit who is the only Source of spiritual life. He could not so blaspheme unless he had first quenched the Spirit; such blasphemy is a proof that the blasphemer would not retain God in his knowledge, and that God hath given him over to a reprobate mind. Many deep, perplexing thoughts gather round these most awful words. Are there sins which, unforgiven here, may obtain forgiveness in the world to come, in the future age? We cannot help asking the question; the answer we must leave to God. It is one of the secret things which he has not revealed, of which we must be content to be ignorant. Only let us remember the awful holiness of the good Spirit of God, let us listen to his faintest whispers; to grieve the Holy Spirit is full of danger, to quench the Spirit is deadly sin.

V. PARABLE OF THE TREE AND THE FRUIT .

1 . If the fruit is good , the tree , is good. If the works of Christ are good, they must proceed from a good source. The Pharisees could not deny the goodness of the works; it was wicked folly to attribute deeds so holy to the evil one. It is a grievous sin to misrepresent the conduct of good men, to suggest unworthy motives for their good deeds.

2. " Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. The Pharisees could not be expected to speak good things, for they were corrupt at the heart. They had said wicked things of Christ; the Lord knew the wickedness of their hearts. Merciful and gentle as he was, he repeated the strong words of condemnation which John the Baptist had used already, "O generation of vipers!" ( Matthew 3:7 ). Their heart had its hidden store of unholy thoughts, sinful imaginations, wicked motives; out of that evil treasure came their evil words. They could not speak good things, for good things issue out of the heart's precious treasure of holy love, heavenly thoughts, blessed hopes; and that they had not. A wicked man may, indeed, speak good things at times, when he is playing the hypocrite. But hypocrisy has always something forced and unnatural about it; it betrays itself sooner or later. In sudden emergencies, in seasons of excitement, when the man is off his guard—then, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."

3 . The judgment of wicked words. We must give account of our words in the awful day. The idle, vain, unprofitable word is sin; it shows the state of the heart. Words, thoughts, deeds, all will be brought into judgment; each department of human life must form a part of the great account. lie whose words were good will so far be acquitted; he whose words were evil will so far be condemned. Then words, fleeting as they may seem, forgotten sometimes almost as soon as spoken, assume an awful character. Let every man beware.

LESSONS .

1 . Bring the helpless to Christ; he can heal the sick soul.

2 . Flee from envy; hate it; crush it out; it is sin; it is the parent of deadly evil.

3 . Remember always, God reads the thoughts.

4 . Be decided in your religion; range yourself on the side of Christ.

5 . Grieve not the Spirit; keep a strict watch over thoughts and words, as well as deeds.

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