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The Hardest Border. Matthew 12:22-28


The Hardest Border

Text. Matthew 12:22-28

A new situation arises, and the Pharisees are back, ready to turn up the heat with their false accusations.  This encounter will lead to one of the most hotly debated verses in the book of Matthew.  What does Jesus mean when he speaks about ‘the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?’  This is so important that we need to take the passage over two separate studies.  Let’s see the first part, in verses 22 to 28.


The Hardest Border of All – Between God’s Kingdom and the World.  In which are YOU?

1 Miracle and Response.

There are two separate reactions to the work of Christ here that we must note, and they are both very important

  • The demon possessed man.  V22.  Matthew always seems to teach us spiritual lessons from physical conditions.  This poor man was in Satan’s grasp  – and he was held captive.  His demon possession left him unable to speak – unable to cry out to the Lord for salvation, unable to see his way to the Saviour. When the power of Satan is defeated in a soul, the blinded eyes are opened to see God’s glory and the lips are opened to sing His praise. 
  • The watching crowd.    23 And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?Could this be the Messiah?  Tone of voice is important in questions like this!  So was this:- 
    • An enquiry. How many ‘wonder’ about Jesus, wonder if he is who he says, wonder about his life, death, resurrection…   it that’s as far as it goes. How many of these people too their enquiry further?
    • An affirmation. Could this be…  THE SON OF DAVID?  Surely this abundance miracles was evidence enough for them to believe that Messiah was there in their midst. 

Whichever, it certainly provoked a serious reaction from the Pharisees…

2 Anger and Accusation.  V24 Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” 

What was it that they heard that riled them so much?  It was the words of the people, who heard Jesus and saw his works, and wondered if this truly was the Anointed One, the Messiah.  Note…

  • Their desperate tactics.  They have just witnessed a man who was blind and unable to speak being restored fully to health, his whole life turned around, and all they can do is criticise the one who wrought this amazing miracle?  Worse still, to go well beyond criticism and to stoop to the lowest and most base form of blasphemy against Jesus.  Think about what they are saying.
  • Their disparaging tone.  They address the Messiah as ‘This fellow’. You can almost hear the scorn in their voices.  What a way to speak of Jesus, yet they are doing no other than what the world so readily does, when it takes the Saviour’s precious name and uses it as a swear word…
  • Their vile accusation.  They know that no human power lies behind such an amazing miracle, and they don’t want to accept that God is at work in Jesus, so they attribute his miraculous ability to Satan. Look at the name of the devil in this slur.  It is Baal-zebub – Gk Beelzebul the name given to Satan, and found only in the New Testament (Matthew 10:25 ;  Matthew 12:24  Matthew 12:27 ;  Mark 3:22). Baalzebub, was the ba’al (a Canaanite local henotheistic fertility god) the god of the city of Ekron, meaning “the lord of flies,” or, as others think, “the lord of dung,” or “the dung-god.” 2 Kings 1:2-3What a wicked association.  
  • Their wicked hearts.  V25 Jesus not only hears what they are saying, knows their wicked motivation..

And so he answers them with devastating logic…

3 Logic and Warning.

Look how Christ demolishes their foolishness with logical and persuasive argument. and said to them This is itself an act of mercy on the part of Christ, that he might stop their mouths now with sense and reason, and thus allow them time to repent, before they must one day stand before God, and their mouths be stopped by the awesome condemnation of an offended God.  cf Romans 3:19.

  • The principle stated.   Division always results in downfall. Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”  How likely is it that the devil would ensnare a person, and them let him go?  Hardly!  V26 The accusations of the Pharisees are illogical!  It follows by common sense, that if there are only two spiritual kingdoms in the universe, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, if Jesus is not casting out demons by one person, then it can only be the other – he’s working the works of God.  
  • And if true of him, true of others. 27  The Pharisees were being hypocritical here, totally duplicitous, for some of them claimed that they too had a ‘ministry of exorcism.’  Acts 19:13  It was ridiculous to claim that they drove out demons by the power of God, while accusing Jesus of doing the same thing by the power of the devil.
  • The logical conclusion. V28  The logical application is that if Jesus is casting out demons by the power and authority of God then the very Kingdom of God itself is right there in their midst, in the person of its king!   

Now this is important, because this is Jesus teaching us about Satan and his kingdom, and warning us that really there are only two kingdoms in this world, God’s Kingdom and the kingdom of the devil and between them is the hardest border of all.  We are in either one or the other.   


In verse 30, Jesus would make it plain that you can’t be a member of his kingdom, and at the same time remain in the kingdom of Satan.   Matthew 12:30  Now that’s a challenge.  Of which kingdom am I a member?  Am I in God’s Kingdom or in the devil’s grip? 1 Kings 18:21 It matters, because when I draw my very last breath, my eternal destiny is fixed, for ever and ever.

All of this sets the scene for Jesus to illustrate his teaching with an image of a burglar, binding a strong man,  and plundering his house, and  introduce some very important and powerful teaching about the Holy Spirit.  And our next study will examine both those concepts.

© BobMcEvoy February 2019

From → Bible Study, Matthew

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