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Matthew 12 is our Scripture lesson this morning in this beloved gospel. For this Lord's Day and next, we'll be looking at verses 22 and following. We will be studying the section of Scripture that presents to us what is commonly known as the unpardonable sin - blaspheming the Holy Spirit. In verse 32, we find the key to this passage. Our Lord says, "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come."
By the very words of our Lord Jesus Himself, He states that there is an unforgivable sin, and it is to speak against the Holy Spirit. This is a familiar passage to many Christian people, but it not always understood. There have been many false fears that have arisen because of a misunderstanding of this passage. For today and for next time, we will concentrate on the passage and trust that the Spirit of God will give you clear understanding as to what it means to blaspheme the Spirit and how and why that was an unpardonable sin.
Let's back up from there. God, by virtue of His very nature, is a God of forgiveness. It is not His nature to be unforgiving; rather, it is His nature to be utterly forgiving. The Scripture says, for example, in Psalm 86:5, "You, Lord, are good and ready [eager] to forgive." In Psalm 103:3, it says, "He forgives all your iniquities." Daniel, in that great ninth chapter, where he offered his prayer to God, designates God as, "The God to whom belong mercies and forgivenesses." In Exodus 34:6-7, it says, "The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." At the end of the prophet Micah's message, in Micah 7:18, he says, "Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea."
God forgives. The Old Testament is literally loaded with indications that God forgives. Adam and Eve sinned, and God forgave; the patriarchs sinned, and God forgave; the people of God, under the leadership of the judges, sinned, and God forgave; under the kings, they sinned, and He forgave. Throughout the flow of the history of the covenant people, God forgave and forgave and kept on forgiving. In the New Testament, it is the same. John the Apostle says, "My little children, He has forgiven all your sins for His name's sake." The Apostle Paul said to the Ephesians, "He has granted us redemption and the forgiveness of sins." Isaiah said, "Though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
God is in the business of forgiving. That is the essence of the biblical message: man is a sinner, God forgives. So we consider the fact that there is, in this passage, an unforgivable sin - something that demands our clear understanding because on the surface, it may appear that God is going against the very grain of His nature unless we understand truly what He is saying.
It doesn't really matter how severe the sin, God can still forgive. There are people who think they have sinned some kind of sin that is so bad, heinous, and gross that there will never be forgiveness, but that's not the case. In my mind, the worst sin that any human being could ever, would ever, or has ever committed is very clear. The worst possible sin would be to kill the Son of God. I can't imagine anything worse than that; it not only embodies murder, but the most hateful, venomous, vicious rejection of God. Yet it is precisely that sin which Jesus demonstrates is forgivable. In Luke 23:34, as He hangs on the cross, He looks down at those who have taken His life, then He looks to the Father and says, "Father, forgive them." Even killing the Son of God is forgivable. It isn't the volume of sin that is unforgivable any more than it is the kind of sin.
In our last baptism, we had the wonderful privilege of baptizing a little girl who wasn't yet 12 years old; she didn't have a long track record of sin, and the Lord forgave. I also baptized a 91-year-old man whom God forgave. It isn't the volume that is unforgivable, it isn't necessarily a certain kind of sin. The unforgivable sin is a unique thing and in no way does it violate the forgiving heart of God.
If you look in the Scripture, you'll find illustrations of the fact that God forgives idolaters, murderers, liars, cheaters, deceivers, gluttons, covenant-breakers, fornicators, adulterors, homosexuals, the covetous, drunkards, extortioners, and criminals of all types. He even forgives the people who think they have no sin, and that may be the most magnanimous forgiveness of all. That is the supreme sin: to think yourself sinless. He forgives the self-righteous.
Some say, "Then it must be that this is the sin of rejecting Christ." If the sin of rejecting Christ was unforgivable, then none of us could be forgiven, because every one of us, before our redemption, were Christ-rejectors. That is forgivable. In fact, John 16 says that the Holy Spirit has come into the world to convict the world of sin because they don't believe in Christ. Paul is living testimony that God can forgive even a blasphemer. In the first chapter of his letter to Timothy, he says, "I was a blasphemer."
Then are some too rotten to come? No, Jesus said, "He that comes to me I will in no wise cast out." God is a forgiving God; there is no limit to His forgiveness. But may I suggest this to you? There is no forgiveness at any time without the meeting of a condition, and that condition is repentance and confession, a turning to God. In the new covenant, the condition is repentance, confession, and an act of faith in Jesus Christ. Just to give you a little hint: the reason the Pharisees couldn't be forgiven, why they were beyond pardon, was because they perceived themselves as beyond the need for repentance.
Let's look through this passage, and we'll go down to verse 30 this morning, leaving the climax for next time. As we approach this passage, Jesus was preaching and teaching and healing and casting out demons in Galilee. He had proliferated His ministry by multiplying Himself by twelve, as it were, and sending out His chosen Twelve. He had given them power over disease and demons, so that they could multiply the healing ministry and ministry of deliverance. He had given them the message to preach - that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. They are now busily engaged in the proclamation of this message.
As there is an escalation of the proclamation, and of the evidences of healing and deliverance, the King is presenting Himself to the people and giving them a taste of His Kingdom. It is a demonstration that He is the Messiah, and it shows them glimpses and previews of what will occur when the Kingdom comes, finally and fully. As there is an escalation in the dimension of exposure, and an increase in the opportunity for ministry, at the same time, there is a mounting rejection. John 1:11 is being fulfilled, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." The Gospel writers, at this juncture in the life of Christ, begin to record the attitude of rejection that is moving against Christ and coming more and more to a climax.
Luke 11, for example, records a similar blasphemous accusation, as does Matthew. But Matthew selects this one, in verses 22 and following, as the symbol of the climax of the rejection of Christ. There were many such blasphemies of Christ, but this one is Matthew's incident to bring the whole thing to a head, as it were. This is the point at which we really see, ultimately and finally, that the leadership of Israel will not accept Christ.
Remember, we've been seeing this as it mounted through chapters 11-12. The first 10 chapters present the King, and 11-12 present the rejection of the King. It has been moving along all the while, but now we see it in focus. We have begun to see a kind of ascending perspective. First we saw that some people doubted Him, and some criticized. Then there was indifference, then rejection. Now, there is not just rejection but open blasphemy of Him, and they have reached the epitome of rejection.
I confess to you that this is indeed a tragic moment. I don't think we can really understand the pathos of this moment. For centuries, for generations, through all of the unbelievable struggles of the people of God, they had lived in hope of the Messiah. It was the desire of every Jewish girl that she should mother the Messiah; it was the heart-cry of every prophet and teacher in Israel that he should live to see the day the Messiah came. They wanted that deliverance; that was their hope and dream. But when He came, they rejected Him, turned on Him, and wanted Him dead.
As we come to chapter 13, then, something new is happening. All of a sudden, we face the word 'mystery.' Chapter 13 has something different going on, something that has never been seen in the past. God is going to cut out a new channel. Israel's intention and course, from God's perspective, was to reach the world. Israel was never seen to be the end, but only the means to the end. But they had blocked the channel with their obstinacy, sin, and rejection, and God moves to cut a new channel.
This is really the heart and soul of God's new work that is ultimately climaxed in the church, when it is born at Pentecost. It begins to take its shape in chapter 13 because Israel has reached an utter impasse in chapter 12. We are at the point of the climax, as Matthew presents it, of Israel's rejection of their Messiah.
The sad thing is that they reject their Messiah. I believe that, in the future, God will bring that nation back because He must fulfill the word of His covenant. In the time intervening, millions of Jews will die without God. It's a tragedy. Let's look at verses 22 and following, and let's focus on this very important passage, where we see the climax of the rejection of Christ.
There are five segments in the passage, and we can study those five key words and understand the flow. The first word is activity; it all breaks loose at a certain event, a certain activity. Verse 22. "Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute," and we can assume that he was also deaf, because the dumbness might indicate that. "He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw."
We are not shocked by that, because we have seen Jesus do that before. He has done this hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of times in His ministry. There is nothing particularly novel about that healing; it is a consummate expression of His healing power because it involves dealing with demons, which He did, and it involves a physical illness factor. So we really see the gift of power, as it were, or the casting out of demons, as well as the gift of healing deliverance from physical infirmity.
At this point, it is impossible for the people to deny the power of Jesus; they can't deny it because it is utterly impossible, and they don't try to deny it. The mobs, crowds, and multitudes that swirl around Jesus as He moves through Galilee are absolutely dumbfounded at His power. They don't try to argue that. He has demonstrated miraculous ability over and over and over again, and they know that such power can only be described as supernatural; they know there is no other way to describe it. It is instantaneous, split-second, total healings and deliverances with absolutely obvious, verifiable, permanent results. There is no way to describe it other than to say He is supernatural. But they were ambivalent about who He was.
Even though they knew He was expressing supernatural power, the blind man in John 9 says, "You're confused about Him? I used to be blind, and now I see; you tell me where He came from. It's obvious He's not from this neighborhood." It was very clear to them that He had power beyond anything they could perceive in the human dimension. While they could see that, they were yet reluctant to accept Him as their Messiah because He did not fit their preconceived perspective as to what the Messiah would be.
They were saying to themselves, "Where is the fanfare and parade? Where are the trumpeters, the clash of swords, the army? Where is the revolution in the streets? Where is the fire and fury and overthrow of Rome? Where are the crown and throne? This guy is a meek, humble, gentle, compassionate, carpenter who runs around with poor people and doesn't start riots or stir up people. He won't argue, wrangle, or mix it up. Can this be the Messiah? This can't be the Messiah, can it? No, it can't be. Sure, He can do stuff, but maybe there is another explanation." That is the ambivalence they felt, and that is precisely why the passage prior to the one we're looking at this morning, the one we dealt with last week, is so important.
Verse 17 says, "He is this way because Isaiah said He would be this way. He would be a servant; He would not wrangle, hassle, argue, or cause riots and revolutions in the streets. He will not trample over people, or seek to gain great ends. He will, rather, concentrate on the poor, hurting, broken people, whose flickering wick is almost out. He will be gentle and compassionate."
Back in Matthew 11:28-30, it says He'll be meek. This is what they couldn't handle, even though Matthew points out that it is what Isaiah said would be true of Him; He will come not only to conquer, but will come in meekness, gentleness, and compassion. They didn't see that part of it, so that passage was important for them to note as they read his gospel later, that Jesus was not contrary to Old Testament pictures of the Messiah.
They are, nonetheless, in this ambivalence, saying, "It is obvious that He is supernatural; we don't even dispute that. But is He really the Messiah?" This healing triggers the whole issue. The Pharisees are there, dogging His footsteps, and Luke tells us that the scribes from Jerusalem have joined them, and many of the scribes would be Pharisees. We've already learned from verse 14, comparing it with Luke, that the Herodians are in on it. So this little group of leaders - the Herodians, the Pharisees, and the scribes - are dogging His steps all the time, looking for a way to trap Him into His own death. Then He does this miracle.
Demons possess people; they live in people, there is no question about that, we know it. The Bible is clear on that. They can affect people in many ways, and in ways you might not even know. There are demons who may function in the gray flannel of Wall Street. There are demons, on the other hand, who may cause people to flail around in the fire and froth at the mouth. There are demons who may create in people physical illnesses or blindness, deafness, or dumbness, as in the case of this one, but demons activate themselves through human beings; that is Satan's ploy, and one of the ways in which he functions.
Jesus approaches this individual, delivers him from the demon, and instantly, not only does he have spiritual deliverance from demonic control, but total wholeness. He was blind, and instantly, he sees; he was dumb, and immediately, he talks; he was deaf, and immediately, he hears everything. All of his faculties function as if there had never been a problem. That is a far cry from the phony healings you see today.
Last Sunday night, I watched one of those guys on television, and he was supposed to be healing deaf people. He said, "Now you can hear," and he stood right in front of the person and said, "Baby," really slowly. Well, even a deaf person is going to understand when you move your mouth like that; he or she can repeat the same basic movement of the mouth and get some kind of sound. That isn't healing; it is a fraud. Those people don't have instantaneous ability to listen to everything and communicate perfectly.
I'll tell you something that I've never seen in his healing line, and that's a blind person. I've never seen one of those in anyone's line, but Jesus could do it. There wasn't even a question that it was supernatural. By the way, He delivered the man without incantations, exorcisms, or magical rites; He did it just by a word.
That leads to our second key word - amazement. Verse 23. "And all the multitudes were amazed and said, 'Could this be the Son of David?'" Now you get a pretty good indication that this was convincing, there wasn't even a discussion; everyone was amazed. The word there means 'to be totally astounded.' It is existemi, and it means to be beside yourself with astonishment; it isn't just saying, "Well, isn't that something." It is losing it. In fact, one translator says that it means to be literally knocked out of your senses. Another one says it is to be out of your mind with amazement. To put it in Junior High talk, it is to be blown away. They just couldn't handle it; it was an overwhelming thing.
The imperfect tense indicates a kind of continual state of being out of your mind with astonishment, saying, "There is just no way to explain it! It's incredible!" So there is a very natural response, they said this. The Greek use of meti expects no answer to this question but allows a possible 'yes.' You could translate it this way, "This can't be the Son of David, can it?" In other words, there is an ambivalence.
'Son of David' is a title for the Messiah based on II Samuel 7:13, where God said He would raise up a Son of David who would have an everlasting Kingdom, so Son of David became a moniker for the Messiah. When Jesus came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as we know it, they cried out, "Son of David," which was a Messianic title. It meant the ultimate King who would reign on David's throne, the great Messiah. So they are saying, "This can't be the Messiah, can it?" It's like an 80-percent no but a 20-percent yes. The 'no' comes from the fact that He didn't fit their bill, their design, their preconception; but the 20-percent 'yes' comes from the fact that they couldn't explain His power.
Earlier, they had said, "What kind of person it this?" when they saw the power. Now they have progressed. Then, they were saying, "What kind of person is this?" but now they have come one more step; now they are saying, "This isn't the Messiah, is it?" Do you know what the next step would be? "This is the Messiah, isn't it?" The next step after that is, "This is the Messiah." They are on the road, and you know what? When the Pharisees hear the question, they go into an instant panic; they must stop the process and stop it fast. They can't let it go any further.
The very suggestion that this man might be the Messiah, no matter how remote in their thinking, cannot be allowed to be introduced to them as a possibility. The Pharisees and scribes and Herodians cannot tolerate that. If the people get any idea about Him being the Messiah, the game is up as far as the Pharisees are concerned, because Jesus has already blasted them in Matthew 5-7-7 and said that their righteousness does not equal that necessary for the Kingdom, and their treatment of every dimension of life, religious and secular, is in violation of God's original intention. They can't possibly survive the exaltation of Jesus Christ; it would be the end of them.
So we move to word three, the accusation. Look at what they say in verse 24. "Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, 'This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.'" The phrase 'this fellow' is a way to translate a derisive concept. It means 'nobody,' a nondescript 'whoever He is,' a 'no one from nowhere' approach. They are saying, "This can't be the Messiah. We can't even tolerate such a thought. What He does is by Satan's power."
If you look at this verse, you'll see that the Pharisees heard it and responded, but you don't see where they were or who they said it to, so we have to pull in a little bit of help from the other gospels. The best we can reconstruct is that Jesus had probably gone inside a house, and was in there with the people around Him, and they were saying, "This can't be the Messiah, can it?" The Pharisees, of course, had gathered on the outside of the house, so they were separated from Jesus by some distance, so they began to poison the crowd. They are saying this to the people, not to Jesus. Another good indicator of that is in verse 25. It says, "Jesus knew their thoughts," which assumes that He didn't hear what they said in His own ear, but He doesn't need to hear, because He can read minds.
They were poisoning the people, and saying, "He does this by the power of Beelzebub." I want to give them credit: they saw the issue clearly, and there was no question in their minds. What He did obviously took supernatural power; there was no way they could avoid that. Let me tell you, that is a monumental apologetic for the life of Christ that, when His enemies who hated Him the most, could do nothing but conclude that what He did, He did by supernatural power.
Those are His enemies, so there was no way to argue that. A person who comes along and tries to argue that is a fool. We not only have the testimony of His friends, but of His enemies, that He was doing things that were beyond human capability. You can't come along with any patronizing stuff about Him being a good man, a nice guy, a good teacher. His friends won't let you, and neither will His enemies. That is a category of information that Jesus does not allow you to stand in.
You must conclude that He is supernatural, and then it becomes an issue of whether you think it is God or Satan, because those are the only two supernatural kingdoms that exist. Obviously, they weren't going to assign Him to God, so they only had one alternative. They saw the issue very clearly. The Pharisees, then, from my standpoint, become some of the greatest defenders of the supernatural character of Christ; they have to defend the fact that He is supernatural.
So they say, "He casts out demons," and they recognized that; they had never seen anything like it. But they say He does it by Beelzebub. That is the old word that originally was the name of a Philistine god, Beel comes from Baal. You've heard of worshiping Baal, and that is just the ancient pagan word for 'lord.' 'Zebub' or 'zebul' is best connected in translation to the word 'flies.' So we go all the way back to the lord of the flies, or the god of the flies.
The Ekronites worshiped the god of the flies, if you can imagine. It was a play on words, because there is another word 'zebel' which means 'dung.' So apparently, they even called Beelzebub 'Beelzebel,' which was a derisive thing, saying, "Your lord of the flies is nothing more than the lord of the dung." It would be easy to do that play on words, because flies tend to hang around, well, you get the picture. So that is probably what they had in mind.
Through the centuries, this lord of the flies or lord of the dung title for this deity became a very common title for Satan. So to be the prince of demons or Beelzebub is simply using one of the titles of Satan. Jesus recognized this, because in verse 26, when He answers, He uses the word 'Satan' in response to their word 'Beelzebub.'
They are saying, "Satan is in Him." They have already said, "Demons are in Him," in John 8, and that He was the Devil in person in Matthew 10, and now they are saying the Devil is in Him. One way or another, they have ascribed Him to Satan. Isn't it interesting that whether they said He was demon-possessed, or the Devil incarnate, or the Devil is in Him (which is the same thing), they must recognize the supernatural character of what He does. This leaves them only two options: God or Satan, because those are the only supernatural kingdoms that exist, and they opt for Satan.
By their own apologetics, if they're wrong about Satan, what option does that leave us? Only one, and that is that He is God. Watch how Jesus deals with that and destroys their stupid accusation. Verse 25. "But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them."
They didn't say anything to Him; they spoke to the crowd. They wouldn't confront Him, but He confronts them. He didn't hear what they said, but He read their thoughts, and Matthew just slides that in in case you have any question about His power; He reads minds. He read their thoughts. In Mark 3, it says they were outside the house, so He called to them. He yelled at them; He was going to expose them and carry on this whole deal in public.
In a real sense, that is a compassionate act on Christ's part, for to those Pharisees, and to them alone, it would be a demonstration of His power because they and they alone would know that He could read their thoughts. Even in that, there is something of a wooing, a demonstration of power to them that speaks of His willingness to yet prove Himself.
We go from the activity to the amazement to the accusation. Let's look at the answer, and this is marvelous. Jesus answers their accusation by telling them that there are three things wrong with it. Number one, it is absurd. That means illogical, unreasonable, stupid, inane. Watch verse 25. "He said to them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.'"
That is a truism; you don't have to be a Phi Beta Kappa to figure it out. A kingdom, a house, or a city divided against itself will fall; you can't have civil war and survive. You can unify one against another and survive, but you can't destroy the one. You can't have chaos in a house, a city, a nation, without having the whole thing begin to fall apart. A kingdom divided against itself can't stand; that is simply a truism that anyone can understand, so they should understand it.
He then makes the application. Verse 26. "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?" When He said what is in verse 25, they would have to nod and agree that it was true. So if Satan is casting out Satan, then he is divided against himself. How will his kingdom survive? In other words, "Do you think Satan is so stupid that he's going to commit suicide? Is he going to have all the demons casting each other out, defeating their purpose? Is he setting up a plan: have this bunch of demons work the planet and this bunch try to stop them?" That wouldn't make a whole lot of sense; give him a little credit. Outside the Trinity, he's the most intelligent being in existence. He's saying, "It's absurd. Your conclusion is asinine."
Follow the reasoning. Jesus did deeds that could only be explained as supernatural. Since even His critics knew that, they only had one of two choices: either He did them by the power of Satan or by the power of God. They chose the power of Satan, but Jesus says, "That's absurd." What alternative is left? By their own stupidity, they are forced into the very obvious truth that what He does is by the power of God. It's tremendous; talk about putting them in a corner with their own words.
Let me add a footnote. Satan is not going to try and destroy his own work, but Jesus spent all of His ministry casting out Satan. If He was doing that by the power of Satan, then Satan is destroying his own kingdom, and that is not his goal.
Let me point out two things I want you to notice. While I don't believe that Satan is going to go about casting out Satan all the time, I do believe that there will be inconsistency in Satan's kingdom. Don't be surprised, then, as you look at how Satan operates, if you see that, from time to time, he is inconsistent. It is very important to note that, and the reason is very simple. Satan is utter, total evil, and utter evil will be utterly chaotic, because evil is chaos. So within Satan's domain, there will be chaos. In that chaos, there will be inconsistency, plus he is not omnipotent, so he can't control everything; he is not omniscient, so he doesn't know everything, although he can fly fast and pick up any information he needs pretty quickly. He is not omnipresent either.
So because he is not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent, and because there is chaos in evil, there will be a certain sense in which there is chaos in his kingdom. But not to the extent where he is going around casting himself out. He may have a pile of uncooperative demons, messing with something that he'd rather them not mess with, but he himself will not dwell within an individual, go around, and cast himself out.
Let me add another footnote. I believe there are times when Satan disguises himself as a worker for God and appears to be casting demons out to reinforce that he is on God's side. I think this can be seen in the history of exorcisms in the Roman Catholic System, and even in some modern exorcisms in far out, almost cultic-Charismatic fringe groups, where there is the appearance that demons are being cast out. But that is a deception to make people think that this is God's way of dealing with Satan, when in fact it isn't. I don't think those exorcisms even happen; I think Satan deceives and makes people think they happen.
While we agree that Satan may deceive and want us to think, on some occasions, that he is casting out demons in the name of God; and while there is going to be chaos in his chaotic, evil system, at the same time, the statement Jesus makes is still true. Satan will not go around casting out his demons and defeating his own system. Therefore, if Jesus is doing this and it is a flow of life in His ministry, you can be sure He is not of Satan. So the Pharisees' accusation was absurd.
Secondly, it was prejudiced. It showed the rotten, evil bias of the Pharisees' hearts. Verse 27. He says, "If I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?" What did that mean? In other words, "Don't your sons do the same thing?" Who were their sons? It was simply a reference to the sons of the Pharisees, or the disciples of the Pharisees, such as in II Kings 2:3 where it talks about the sons of the prophets.
There were certain people who sat at the feet of the Pharisees to learn their system, their legalism, their approach to life. They became known, as it were, as the sons (or disciples) of the Pharisees. Among those were the groups who were involved in exorcisms; they were going around with strange incantations and activities, trying to cast out demons. Josephus talks about them. We even meet a gang of them in Acts 19; they were miserably unsuccessful, and trying to usurp the Jesus movement and get it on their side. They were trying to attach Jesus to their activity and use His name because it seemed to have so much magical power. The demons even said to them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who in the world are you guys?" Even the demons didn't bother with them.
So Acts 19 indicates that there were some groups of Jewish exorcists, no doubt disciples of the Pharisees. They certainly wouldn't be disciples of the Sadducees, since they didn't believe in demons. They were out doing the same things with their incantations and magic. When they heard the name 'Jesus' worked, they'd throw His name in and do whatever holy hocus-pocus needed to be done to supposedly deliver people. It didn't really happen, as I said, but that isn't the point.
The point is, Jesus is saying, "You've got your own disciples doing the very same thing. Why would you say that I do it by the power of Satan unless you're totally and utterly prejudiced against Me? Because when they do it illegitimately, you ascribe it to God, but when I do it and the evidence is irrefutable, you ascribe it to Satan. It is the same activity on the surface, it just shows how prejudiced and biased you are."
People, that is the heart of the matter in dealing with Jesus Christ. People do not reject Jesus Christ because of a lack of evidence that He is God; they reject Him because they are biased against Him. They are biased, for the most part, because men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. They don't want the intimidation that Christ brings into their sinful life. In their bias, instead of being open to receive Him, they push Him away and therefore have to conclude absurd and prejudicial things about Him.
He even takes them a step further and says, "Why don't you let your sons be your judges? Let the ones who are doing it be your judges." He's implying to ask them the question, "Do you do this by the power of God or of Satan?" What do you think they are going to say? If they say they do it by the power of Satan, they'll betray the whole system and condemn themselves. But on the other hand, if they say they do it by the power of God, then they'll affirm that Jesus is doing the same thing; He must be doing it by the power of God too. Let them judge.
They were so prejudiced and biased. Thirdly, His answer says that they were rebellious. This is the climax. Not only were their accusations absurd, biased, and inconsistent, but it showed their rebellion against the Kingdom. Verse 28. "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you."
Oh man! What a statement! The truth is that He does cast out demons by the power of the Spirit of God; anything else would be absurd. So we know it is God's power. By the way, Jesus, in His incarnation as a servant, was stripped of the use of His own prerogatives, was obedient to the Father, and energized by the Spirit. So the Spirit was doing this through Him; underline that in your Bible, because it is the key to understanding the unpardonable sin, which we'll get into next time.
He says, "If I do this by the power of the Spirit of God," and why does He say that? Because at this point, by the time you get to verse 28 in the conversation, that is the only remaining alternative because He has eliminated the other one. The alternative that He does it by the power of Satan is ridiculous and absurd, and reveals total prejudice because they themselves have a supposed ministry casting out demons, which they say is of God, and not only that, but Satan wouldn't cast out Satan. So by both of those arguments, He has shown there is only one alternative left, and that is that He does it by the power of the Spirit of God.
You can see the absolute genius of the divine mind; He had them in a corner from which they could never get out. He says, "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you." What does that mean? The Kingdom is wherever the King happens to be, and He is saying, "I am the King, and the Kingdom is near you." Boy, that puts them in a really serious position. The Kingdom is near, and they are so far away. The are worse than Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum; those cities were indifferent, but the Pharisees aren't indifferent, they are blasphemous.
There is a Kingdom future, in the millennial Kingdom; there is a Kingdom future even beyond that, in the eternal Kingdom of the new heavens and new earth, and we believe in that. But we also believe that the Kingdom is wherever the King is, and I believe that the King lives in my life, so the Kingdom is there, the sphere of His rule. He is saying to them, "I am the King. That is the only alternative, and if I am the King, then the Kingdom has come to you. Won't you recognize that?" There is no other alternative.
Hasn't He demonstrated the powers of the Kingdom, healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, freed the demonized, raised the dead, pardoned the sinners, preached the truth, unmasked the hypocrites? He's done everything to demonstrate who He is, and there is no other explanation than that He is supernatural and no other way than to say that His supernatural power comes from God, because anything else would be utterly absurd. If that is true, then the Kingdom is here.
He demonstrates that marvelously in verse 29 by another trusim. He is saying, in effect, "The Kingdom of God is overpowering the kingdom of Satan, can't you see that? This is the Kingdom of God. In delivering it, I have demonstrated My power over the kingdom of Satan, or else, how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house."
Let's say there is a guy who is very strong, and he owns a house, and you want to rob his house. You don't go in and say, "I'd like you to help me; I'm going to rob you. I'd like four of those, five of those." No! You'd have to tie him up. In order to tie up a strong man who knows you're going to rob his house, believe me, you have to be stronger than he is. People say that when you get into a situation where something like that happens in your home, you tend to be about three times as strong as you normally are. When you're threatened with life-and-death issues, your adrenaline starts pumping, and you have a resource you call upon and become tremendously strong.
Here is someone who is robbing the house, and he is going to tie up someone who is not only strong to begin with, but who gets stronger and stronger as he realizes what is going on. In other words, this is a very strong man who can bind a strong man. That is a truism: if you are going to rob a house and the house is owned by a strong man, you will have to tie him up.
What is He saying? He's saying, "Haven't I demonstrated to you, by the ability that I have to tie up Satan, that I am greater than he? Haven't I shown you that My ability to steal his property, to control his hosts, to throw out his demons, to deliver men who are captive to his system and free them from their diseases, haven't I shown you that I can spoil his house? If I can spoil his house, I can bind him up; and if I can bind him up, then I am greater than he." The theology of Israel was the same as our theology; they knew well that Lucifer was the anointed cherubim, the only one higher than he was God Himself. There is only one person who can bind the Devil.
I hear people going around saying, "I'm going to bind Satan." Forget it, folks. You couldn't get in that house because you're not strong enough to bind that man. There is only one who can bind him, and to find out who it is, read Revelation 20. At the beginning of the millennial Kingdom, the Lord binds him for 1,000 years. This is a little taste of the Kingdom. If you need any greater demonstration that Christ can bind Satan in the millennium than this, then you're not looking very closely. He proves He can tie him up because He can plunder his house and steal men who are captive to His system. He can deliver the demons out of them and control the whole operation.
Earlier, we read about a man who had in him a legion of demons. A legion could be anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 Roman soldiers, and Jesus delivered him with a word, instantaneously. He had control over all the demons, over the men who were captive to the demons, and could spoil Satan's house any time He wanted. That is the essence of Colossians 1:13, that Christ has come to deliver men from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His dear Son. He has power over that dominion, that world, and if that is true, then there is only one greater, and that is God. So He must be who He claimed to be.
Christ entered Satan's house, tied him up, and stole his property. He is still doing that, by the way, did you know that? Once, we were all Satan's property, weren't we? We were children of wrath, like the Jews in John 8, "Sons of our father, the Devil." We belonged to him, and were ruled by the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2), and He took us out of his hand and delivered us, just as He delivered this soul on that day. Jesus had already demonstrated His power over Satan in Matthew 4 in the temptation; this is just a reaffirmation of that.
In Luke 10, the Lord talks about having total power over Satan, and even says, "I commit unto My disciples the same power over Satan." Jesus had begun to tie Satan up, something He will do fully in the Kingdom and throughout eternity, when He binds him for 1,000 years, lets him loose a little while, and then casts him into the pit of fire. The death-blow to Satan was struck at the Cross, where Jesus destroyed him who had the power of death, even the Devil (Hebrews 2). Presently, Satan is still running around, but his power is limited, his doom is sealed, and his time is short.
What is Jesus saying? He's saying, "I'm the King and I've proved it by My ability to control Satan's dominion. If I'm the King, then the Kingdom is here." What does that mean? It's available to you; enter it. How do we enter? By faith in Christ. Then He tells them they have to make a decision. Verse 30. "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad." He used a similar phrase in Mark 9:40, but He had a whole different meaning in mind. There, He was talking about service; here, He is talking about salvation.
What He means here is very simple: there is no neutrality. You either gather or scatter; you either say, "Jesus is of Satan," or, "Jesus is of God." You only have those two options because you can't deny His supernatural power. If you want to say that He is of Satan, then you have said an absurdity and revealed your prejudice, because He went about doing good things, and delivering people from Satan. Why would you say that He is Satanic when you will say of others who do the same that they are not? You are prejudiced and absurd, and you reveal that at the bottom of it, you are rebelling against the reality of the Kingdom that is here.
Beloved, there is nothing you can do with Jesus Christ but to affirm that He is who He claimed to be. There is no middle ground; you can't say that He was a nice man, good teacher, moral fellow, religious leader. He is either of Satan or of God, and if you don't want to stand with the absurd, biased, rebellious Pharisees, then you're left with the fact that He is of God, and you can bring the whole thing down to this: "You're either with Me or against Me." It's that simple.
First of all, that's your personal relationship. You're either with Him by faith, having affirmed that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world; or you're against Him, saying that He is of the Devil. Once you've made that decision, it affects how you operate. You will either gather with Him in to the Kingdom, or you will scatter away from the Kingdom. So verse 30 deals with personal relationships and your effect on others. You are either a part of drawing men into His Kingdom or a part of sending them away based on whether you're with Him or against Him.
What Jesus is saying is this, "There is no question about who I am; none at all. The only people who make wrong conclusions are absurd, prejudiced, rebellious people who are not for or with Me, but are against Me. They do not want to gather into My Kingdom but scatter." It is those kinds of people that He addresses in verses 31-32. Who are those that commit this sin? When can it be committed and how? We'll see that next time. Don't miss it.
Let's pray. Search our hearts, Lord, to see if there is any area of consideration that we have left untouched regarding Jesus Christ. If there are some who have not yet confessed Christ as Lord, open their hearts to Him. We pray that they might do that today. Help us to see clearly that there is no neutrality; you either believe that Christ is of God or of the Devil. There is no middle ground. Help us to be grateful that You have made options so clear to us that we can see that Christ is who He claimed to be.
If there is any beloved heart and soul here who has not yet embraced Christ, may this be the day that they do that, the day that they open their life to Him, confessing Him as Lord. Father, we pray that no one will turn their back on Him. Thank You that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose for us, that He wants to forgive our sin and save us as we come in repentance to Him. God, we pray that You will work a repentive work in the hearts of all who need Christ. Bring to the prayer room all those that You would have to come.
Thank You for the clear word of Scripture to us, and for Your great heart of forgiveness, that when any sinner comes, desiring to repent and confess, You'll receive that sinner no matter what the sin. Receive sinners today, Lord, and thank You for continuing to cleanse us who believe. Give us a day of blessedness; bring us together again tonight, realizing the great privilege that is ours to fellowship with Your people and be in Your Word. We thank You in Christ's name, Amen.
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