Take your Bible with me this morning and let’s look to the twelfth chapter of Matthew. We worship the Lord in the study of His Word as He unfolds to us His truth, and we respond with open hearts. Matthew chapter 12, and I want us to look at verses 43 through 50. Matthew 12:43-50, the last section of this great twelfth chapter.
We are all exposed, I am quite sure today in our society, to the current emphasis on morality. We hear about the new right. We hear about the Moral Majority. We hear about a great call from many parts of our country that says to our nation we must return to our roots, to the standard of behavior and ethics and morality and religion upon which our nation was founded. And this hue and cry has come rather repeatedly in our particular time in history, but it really isn’t anything new, even for America. There have been other times in our history when there has been a call to morality. Even in my own lifetime, I have seen the Roman Catholic Church holding up its own standards of morality as against the society’s disintegration around it, such things as abortion and divorce. We’ve all been, I think, made aware of the morality of the Mormons, particularly the Mormans, although there are many other groups which equally call for a moral, ethical kind of behavior. We have been made aware, I think, of the morality of even the Moonies, who have a very high ethical standard. And for years and years in our country, liberal Christianity has developed into a system of ethics with only a sort of a quasi-definition of God somewhere in the middle of all of it.
I can remember years ago when I was young, there was a move in our country known as Moral Rearmament, which was publishing a lot of materials and letters and books calling America to a moral perspective. There has even been some familiarity in our lifetime with the John Birch Society and extreme right-wing groups who have called for a moral America. So really it’s nothing new, but I would just add that it has never been so much the message of the evangelicals as it has become in the last two or three years. And many evangelical churches are preaching morality and patriotism and loyalty to the standards of America, and spending their time influencing legislators and judges and other national leaders and lobby groups to try to keep America moral or to take America back to a moral position. And very often spending far more time attacking the national drift away from morality than in calling people to know Jesus Christ. As I said, the most well-known group in our society is the Moral Majority. They really do want to bring America to a position of morality and most assuredly seek every political avenue possible to accomplish that.
Now I want to say at the very beginning that I agree with morality, so that I won’t be misunderstood. I definitely agree with ethics and morality and standards, and I believe that we should adhere to those which are the truths revealed in the Word of God. But morality by itself is in many ways more dangerous than immorality. Now that may shock you, so I’ll say it again. Morality by itself is in many ways more dangerous than immorality. Now that really shouldn’t shock you, because that’s essentially exactly what we see around the life of Christ. And that is basically what our Lord is teaching us in the passage we’re going to look at today: The danger of morality, the danger of ethics, the danger of religion, the danger of reformation, the danger of cleaning up your life, of changing from evil habits to “good habits.”
Now let me see if I put you in the context in your thinking. The Pharisees were classic moralists. There was no other group in existence at the time more committed to ethics, standards, principles of life, morals than the Pharisees. They lived by a complex and demanding ethical moral code. Laws for everything existed, and their life was utterly and totally circumscribed by a mass of legislation and morality. In some ways, they would be the moral majority of their time. They were calling people to ethical behavior based upon the laws of their own pious tradition. But in the process of their moral pursuit, they were in fact rejecting God Himself, who was in their midst in human form. So that while they were deeply entrenched in morality, they were damned to hell. And it appears as though the more they came to commit themselves to morality, the more they set in concrete their own judgment. They cleaned up their life outwardly, and so effectively did they do this that they convinced themselves that they were righteous and they were moral and they were good. Consequently, when someone came along preaching the message of sin, they were not interested in listening. And so under the illusion of their own self-righteousness, they became unreachable.
Jesus had little trouble reaching the harlots. He had little trouble reaching the thieves and the robbers and the criminals and the outcasts and sinners of society, including the tax collectors, the extortionists. But He had an almost impossible time reaching the religious, self-righteous, moral people who were under the illusion and self-deception that because of their goodness, everything was okay between them and God. You see, they recognized no sin, so they needed no Savior. And that is always the danger of morality, that morality creates an illusion of safety when in fact the person who is moral may be in the greatest danger of all. We see this particularly among the Mormons, who feel so secure because of their morality, when in fact they are so insecure and under the judgment of God and so hard to convince.
Look for just a moment at Matthew 23, and I think this will help put this into perspective. The twenty-third chapter of Matthew, down through verse 33, is an indictment of the moralists, the religionists, the Pharisees, and in all of this there are several things that stand out very pointedly, and I want to draw them to your attention. Verse 25 is a good place to start. “Woe” – or curse be – “unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like whited tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” Now the real issue was that this was true about them, and the sad fact is they did not recognize that, because such is the illusion of morality, such is the illusion of self-righteousness. There never lived a group that was more adamantly committed to a moral code than the Pharisees and there never lived a group so far from God. You see, the legacy of self-righteousness is the deceit that leaves a person with an empty insides and no real sense that that is the case.
Now back to Matthew 11 and 12 for a few thoughts as we look at the passage. The theme of 11 and 12, as I’ve been telling you, is the rejection of Jesus Christ by the scribes and Pharisees and the people as well. They rejected their Messiah. In the first ten chapters, He was presented; in chapters 11 and 12, we have the chronicles of their rejection. Now they didn’t just reject Him, they went so far as to say He was satanic in verse 24, and as a result of their accusation that He was satanic, they were unforgivable. In verse 31 and 32, the word of our Lord is that they were doomed forever by their conclusion that Jesus was of Satan and they would not be redeemed.
So chapter 12 then concludes, starting in verse 43, with our Lord’s response to that ultimate rejection. Now remember last Lord’s Day, we looked at verses 38 and following. We looked at the fact that there was going to come upon these Christ-rejectors a judgment. And that even Gentiles would condemn them in the day of judgment, because Gentiles who had less believed, such as the Ninevites, who heard Jonah; such as the Queen of Sheba, who listened to Solomon. And Jesus says, “You’re going to be condemned by them because you have had a greater than Jonah and a greater than Solomon and you haven’t listened and you haven’t believed.”
So He has given them the message of judgment. He’s given them the message of condemnation, and to sum it all up, as it were, to bring it to a climax at the end of chapter 12 before he begins a brand new section in chapter 13, our Lord speaks to them finally with what really amounts to an invitation. Because in the midst of the multitude that was there, there would be some who would believe, some who would listen, some who would respond. And so there is, if you can see it as I see it, a simple call and warning in this last section. Now the purpose of this section can be summed up very simply. It is to warn them not to listen to the religion of the Pharisees and moralists but to come to Jesus Christ, and there is a big difference. On the one hand you have reformation. On the other hand you have relationship. And those are the two points that I want to talk about - reformation as opposed to relationship.
To illustrate again what we’re going to see in the passage, just simply remember the occasion of Luke 18 where the Lord gave a parable. And the parable was of two men that went into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, a religionist, a moralist, and the other was a tax collector, an immoral extortioner. And this is the way the parable went. “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I possess.’” That is a typical prayer of a moralist. “I thank You, God, that I don’t have any problems. I thank You, God, that I’m okay, that I’m alright the way that I am. I’m not an extortioner. I’m not unjust. I’m not an adulterer. I don’t live like this tax collector. In fact, on the positive side, I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I possess.” Just checking in to let God know he’s still as holy as he’s always been. That’s the moralist. On the other hand, the tax collector, standing afar off, will not lift his eyes unto heaven. He is beating on his breast and crying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” And Jesus said that man went to his house justified rather than the other.
Morality in and of itself, beloved, is a damning thing. Self-righteousness is a damning thing. You’d be better off to be immoral and face the reality of your needs so that you would come to a Savior, than to live under the illusion that because you have a moral code on the outside, all is well on the inside between you and God. That is the message of this passage.
Now let’s begin by looking at reformation in verses 43 to 45. This has to be one of the most fascinating little parables that Jesus ever told. And here in this parable, the Lord gives the results of morality, the results of the ethical, religious approach. You see it, as I said, with the Jews. You see it sometimes with the Roman Catholics. You see it with liberal Protestants. You see it sometimes even in an evangelical setting. You see it with Mormons and moralists and religionists of the world who pursue a moral approach to life but do not have in their lives the living Christ. And that is what our Lord is going to say in this passage.
Let’s begin in verse 43. “When an unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest and findeth none.” Now let’s stop there. The main character in this parable is an unclean spirit. And unclean spirit is a demon. That phrase, unclean spirit, is used several times in the New Testament. It refers to demons, fallen angels who have become the hosts of Satan, who reflect the instruction of hell and the pit – vile, wretched, wicked spiritual creatures. I might add at this point that the idea of the unclean spirit indicates their immorality, the filth and vile character of their nature. But I would also add that there are some more wicked than others. In other words, even among the demons, there may be spirits, unclean spirits, and more unclean spirits. That’s indicated to us in verse 44 where it tells that – or verse 45, rather, that when this demon returns, he comes with seven others that are more wicked than himself. The idea is simply that all demons are vile, wretched, wicked beings, but they are not all as vile and wretched as they could be. They go from vile and wretched to most vile and wretched.
And so there is dwelling in this man a vile, wretched, unclean, demonic spirit. This tells us that that’s where they like to be. This is an insight into the fact that these beings live in men. And in this case this one goes out of a man. It doesn’t tell us how. We don’t know how specifically in this case. We shall see, I think, the best explanation as we move through the story. But the spirit has gone out; he leaves. And then he walks through dry places. And so we see this restless spirit moving through the barren waste of a desert, the dry places.
And I really don’t know why particularly this demon goes there, and I don’t want to extrapolate too much out of it, but it seems to me a fitting place for demons to be, in the barren heat and desolation of the desert. It has always interested me that in a very similar situation, the Lord confronted Satan in a place called The Devastation, of limestone, rock, and scorching sun, barren of any growth at all, according to some biblical scholars. And so there may be an affinity among demons to the waste places, but this one, at least, found his way into those places. And you’ll notice that there’s a restlessness with this spirit. He seeks refreshment. He seeks rest and cannot find it. It’s as if he needs a place to work out his filthy activity. This disembodied demon is restless until he can find a place back in a human life. I think that is a very important thing for us to note, because our Lord, in effect, in this verse is saying demons go in and out of men and seem to be more at home in them than out of them.
He concludes then in verse 44. “I will return into” – whose house? – “my house from which I came.” That is a most interesting statement – my house. There is a sense in which the demon belonged there, in which he perceived that it was his own dwelling place. Demons not only function within men, but apparently they take up a somewhat permanent residence there, is we can that in that term my house. He wanted to go back to the man he had left, perhaps more so than to go into another man. And so he went back, verse 44, “And when he is come, he finds the house empty, swept, and adorned.” Now I believe that’s the key to understanding what’s going on in this parable. Why did the demon leave in the first place? Well, I believe this was an unclean demon. It says so, a vile demon, and most likely the man went through some kind of a moral reformation. Some way, he cleaned up his act. He got rid of some really evil vices.
And men do that, you know. They can stop doing all the evil they could be doing. They can clean up their act, or they can see, for example, the fearful consequences of their sin and they can do the best that man can possibly do to sort of straighten themselves out. That’s why we have New Year’s resolutions. That’s why we have calls to moral behavior. I mean, even prostitutes may to stop their prostituting and try to live a respectable life. Criminals may give up their crimes and try to live as respectable citizens. There is possibly in the heart of man the capacity to sort of reform himself. He may be responding to the fear of prison or the fear of death or the pressure of people he loves and cares about or whatever it is. And religion may be a part of it. He may actually be responding to religious pressure. It is very possible that this could have been an individual out of whom even our Lord had sent this demon, because we know our Lord healed people that were not necessarily saved. Of the ten lepers that He healed, only one came back and was redeemed, so it may have been a person who was delivered by the Lord Himself. But my own feeling is that the Lord is illustrating here an external kind of cleansing, a moral reformation, a kind of cleaning up your act approach.
And I think in a great sense, that is precisely what had gone on as a result of the ministry of John the Baptist. When John the Baptist came preaching repentance, it says that all Jerusalem and Judea went out to him to the Jordan River, and they were confessing their sins, repenting, and being baptized with the baptism of John. Now they were not receiving the Lord Jesus Christ, they were just cleaning up to get ready to receive Him. They were sweeping out the house. They were adorning the house with their reformation and their repentance and getting their life right in anticipation of the coming of Messiah. But when the Messiah came, the vast majority of the people never let Him in. And so they sat there, all cleaned up and adorned, but refusing the entrance of the Messiah.
And the ultimate end of it all is in verse 45, the demon goes and gets “seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that man is worse than the first.” They never let Christ come in to fill the empty place. The key word, and you ought to just circle it in your Bibles at the end of verse 44, empty – empty. You see that’s reformation. You just clean up, but Christ never comes in. They would not receive Christ. Theirs was a superficial, external morality, but there was no place for Christ, no room for Him. And many of them had come to John the Baptist and repented and been baptized, and of course the Pharisees were preaching the gospel of morality without Christ.
I think you could perhaps have your thinking stretched a little bit in this regard by listening to the nineteenth chapter of Acts. This would be somewhat typical, I think. And this, of course, is much later in the development of the church, but an incident happens that feeds into this story. Paul is coming to Ephesus and he finds some disciples there. And so he says to them, “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” And they said, “We have not so much as heard whether there is any Holy Spirit.” I mean, they haven’t even heard about the Holy Spirit. “So he said unto them, ‘Unto what then were you baptized?’” I mean, what baptism did you have? If you had been baptized into the body of Christ, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, you would have no doubt have heard of the Holy Spirit. In fact, you may have even seen manifestations of the Spirit, as others did. So, unto what baptism were you baptized? “And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’” Oh. In other words, they were baptized with the baptism of repentance in the wilderness, preparing their hearts for the Messiah, but as of yet didn’t even know who the Messiah was. So the house was swept and garnished, but there was nobody home. And hurriedly, “Paul said, ‘John verily baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is on Christ Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” In other words, they believed in Christ, and the empty place was filled with Christ.
So our Lord’s parable may relate or reflect, at least, upon that preparation ministry of John, where in a sense, the cleaning up of the life and the demons go out when that moral reformation takes place, because a vile, wretched, evil, unclean spirit might not be at home in a person trying to live a moral life, and so that demon leaves initially. But if Christ doesn’t come in, that place stays empty. Then eight demons are going to come back, and it will be worse then than it was in the beginning. Now the empty house, then, speaks of the spiritual vacuum that is created when people get moral but don’t know Christ. And the reason it’s more dangerous than immorality is because it says right here, the lips of our Lord, that instead of just having one unclean spirit, you get eight back. A religious, self-righteous, moral person becomes a victim of Satan in a way that an immoral person doesn’t.
Now there’s a sense in which Jesus could even be speaking nationally here. If you want to look at the history of Israel, you can see it as a time when they had an unclean spirit, from Egypt to the Babylonian captivity. In the Babylonian captivity, they cleaned up their house got rid of idolatry, and maybe they were empty. When Christ came, they wouldn’t let Him in, and finally in the end, the anti-Christ and all his hosts will enter the nation in league in the Great Tribulation. So whether you see it in its broad range of historical perspective or whether you see it in a very limited sense of history at that moment in time, I think the message is very clear. Just cleaning up the outside, sweeping the house, getting it ready, and leaving it empty is going to leave you open to a worse problem than you had before.
You say, why so? How is it that it’s worse to be moral? Simply, I think, because of this: The sinful person who is aware of his sinfulness has more vigilance than the moral person who has no such awareness. And I think what happens is when a person becomes self-righteous and moral, he then loses the sense of fearfulness about evil. He then feels himself beyond the activity of Satan so that Satan can come in en masse, without that individual ever being aware or vigilant or prepared to deal with it. And you’ll notice in verse 45 it says that, “They enter in and dwell there,” and the word dwell is katoikeō, which means to settle down and be at home. They’re comfortable there. They’re entrenched. It is the same word exactly used in Ephesians 3:17, when Paul prays that Christ may settle down in your hearts by faith. They come in and they find their permanent settling place in the heart of a moral person. Better the person should have been immoral and face the immorality of his life than to be living under the illusion of morality and be demon-infested.
Listen to the words of our Lord in Matthew 23:15. “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Now listen to this. “For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte.” In other words, to convert someone to the Pharisaic morality. “And when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” Why so? Because the disciple who is discipled into self-righteous legalism is usually more committed to it than his teacher. The person who is new at it is usually more committed to it than the one who has been around a long time and has seen all the loopholes. You are already sons of hell by your morality without Christ and you are making double sons of hell out of your proselytes. Morality makes a person a son of hell, and the more you are subscribed to self-righteous morality, the more you intensify your hellish relationship.
Now I don’t believe then that the church’s message is morality in a vacuum without Jesus Christ. I think God has called us to preach the gospel. Jesus didn’t preach morality; He preached salvation, repentance from sin. I am not interested in making America moral without Christ. All that’ll do is give them a false sense of security and maybe increase their prospects for damnation. So I guess in some ways, it’s better to be immoral than moral. It is better to be irreligious than religious. I find it much easier to reach someone who is overwhelmed with their sense of sin than to reach someone who is overwhelmed with their sense of righteousness, don’t you?
By the way, immoral people didn’t blaspheme and immoral people didn’t cry for Christ’s death. Immoral people didn’t plot His execution. The harlots didn’t do it. The thieves didn’t do it. The murderers didn’t do it. The religious people did it. That’s the curse of morality. Moral, religious, self-righteous people, confident they are holy in themselves, are utterly deceived into believing that Satan has nothing to do with them, and they have no vigilance, they have no protection, and they can be swarmed by demonic hosts. And the end, it says in verse 45, the last state is worse than the first. Listen, self-righteousness and morality is a curse that ties men up and draws them away from true conviction that can bring salvation.
Listen to an illustration from 2 Peter chapter 2. And here, you have a picture of some people who even come to Christianity and they listen to Jesus Christ’s message, and they have a head knowledge. And it says, verse 20, most interesting, “They have escaped the pollutions of the world.” It doesn’t say they have been cleansed or they have been truly purged, but through the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, through the standards of the Lord, and the exposure to Christianity, they have escaped the world’s pollutions. They have cleaned up their act. They’ve “gotten religion.” They’ve started living sort of the Christian moral code. But, “They are entangled again in it and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they had known it to turn from the holy commandment. Why? Because you have a greater judgment if you have a greater amount of knowledge. Right? So not only is there an intensification of demonic activity potentiated, but there is definitely an intensification of judgment on that moral person. That’s essentially the message of Romans chapter 2, as we’ve been learning.
And then He gives a proverb to illustrate it. He says, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” Morality is a dog who eventually will go back to his own vomit. Morality, in and of itself, is a sow who goes back to the mire. It’s like taking a big hog out of the muck and giving her a bath, painting her toenails and putting a ribbon on her neck, and letting her loose. And she’ll go back to the slop she came from, because there’s no change in her nature. And the dog may wear a rhinestone collar and a little sweater and have his nails painted too, but you may find him sometime licking up his own vomit, because there is no change in his dog’s nature. People who escape the pollutions on the outside may intensify the damnation that awaits them because they have an empty inside. They’re like lepers with no sense of pain who eventually rub off their extremities and don’t even know it.
And so I think our Lord is warning the people in the multitude there who might be still open to hearing. And He’s saying, “Don’t follow the path of the Pharisees. Don’t follow their lead into a moral life that is void of Christ or your end is going to be worse than your beginning.” And that’s the way it going to be, verse 45 says, at the very end with this wicked generation. I believe He has in mind there the very people to whom He spoke; the people at that time. This group of people is going to be living proof of that. Their end is going to be worse than their beginning; they will become demon-infested, judged by God, and of course, it got worse and worse, and finally the terrible judgment of 70 A.D. destroying Jerusalem and all of its environs. But more than that, their eternal souls lost in hell forever because they had morality and left an empty place in their hearts.
Now that takes us from reformation, I think, to a second word that we have to look at that’s very important here, and that is the word relationship – relationship, starting in verse 46. Reformation, beloved, is not salvation. It is not regeneration. It is not redemption. In fact it may only increase the very opposite. In order to have a true redemption and a true regeneration, there must be a right relationship. And so the Lord finishes with what I think is a beautiful invitation, and it was made possible in the setting there by the arrival of Jesus’ family, His mother and brothers. Verse 46, “While He yet talked to the people” – and He’s in a house, by the ways, because chapter 13 verse 1 says that, “He went out of the house.” So He is in the house. He’s got the crowd as well as the Pharisees there. Now it says that while he was there, “His mother and brothers” – Mary and His brothers, his half-brothers, sons of Joseph and Mary – “stood outside, desiring to speak with Him.”
Now here is His family. Matthew 13, I think it’s verse 55, gives us the names of His brothers. They’re His half-brothers. And they are concerned about Him. It doesn’t tell us why they were there, but we can assume why they were there. They loved Him. Oh, it says in John 7 verse 5 that His brothers did not believe He was the Messiah, but certainly they cared for Him. And Mary knew, and she loved Him. And the word perhaps that came back to them was the word that we would have expected to reach them, that Jesus had really gone far now. Now He was giving these terrifying rebukes to the leaders. In Mark, I think it is chapter 3 verses 21 and 22, it tells us that the friends of Jesus reported that He had become mentally unbalanced. The people that knew Him best were saying, you know, He’s gone off the deep end. I mean, He’s gone over the hill. He’s lost it. He’s His mind. He’s going too far. And now, of course, they’re accusing Him of being satanic and there is a plot to kill Him. I really think that Mary and His brothers came, probably prompted by Mary, on a sort of a rescue mission to try and get Him out of the situation that He was getting Himself so deeply entrenched. They knew He was being accused of terrifying things. They could see the imminence of His death and wanted to help, and so they came. And they stood outside and told someone they wanted to see Him.
Verse 47, “Then one said unto Him” – the fellow they told, the person they told goes inside and says, “Behold, Thy mother and Thy brotheren are standing outside, desiring to speak with Thee.” Now frankly, that could be very embarrassing. I mean, to be in there and to be a grown man and to be teaching and to be just, you know, exercising tremendous authority against these Pharisees and scribes and unbelievers and really the blistering, dynamic, dramatic language of judgment. And you’re there in all of that presence of power, and this guy comes in and says, “Your mother wants you.” I mean, basically, that could be a little embarrassing. “Excuse me, my mother wants me.” But it wasn’t for Jesus, because as always, He was the master of every occasion. He was the master of every situation. And this was not a time for mothers and brothers to dominate His life, even though they cared and loved Him. This was a time for preaching a message that needed to be preached, and they gave Him His opportunity.
So i verse 48, He seizes that opportunity and He answered and said to Him that told Him – He says to this fellow, “Who is My mother and who are My brotheren?” And your first reaction to that would be to say, “He has gone off the deep end. He doesn’t even know His own family.” Now this is not to say that He is denying the reality that they were His family. It’s not to say that He didn’t love them. We know He loved them; He redeemed His brothers. It was not until after the cross and the resurrection that they really believed, but they did believe. Scriptures indicate that to us, and James, His brother, became the head of the Jerusalem church. And it certainly is not indicate that He had no affection for Mary, because you see Him hanging on the cross, and the one great thing that He does, of course, in terms of taking care of what’s left on earth is to be sure that Mary is given to John and John is given to Mary, so that John can care for her. So we know He loved them.
But He’s trying to say, at this point, that earthly, physical relationships are not an issue with Me. “Who is my mother? Who are My brothers?” In other words, “Who’s really related to Me? Who’s really in My family? Who really has any intimacy with Me? Who can really put demands on Me in regard to responsibility and fellowship?” And verse 49 He answers His own question. “He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples” – who were there – “and said, ‘Behold, My mother and My brotheren!’” You want to know who’s related to me? There they are. They’re related to Me. They’re My family. They’re my spiritual family. And that’s the only real family that matters. And in a very real sense, I think this extended itself to Mary and the brothers as an invitation as well. Mary had to be redeemed just like everybody else. That’s why then the angel gave her the message, you’ll remember, she thanked God her Savior. Remember that statement she made? Sure, she had to be redeemed. So did His brothers. And I think there may have been latent in that an invitation to them. And certainly they would have been encompassed in the wide invitation to all who were there. He was saying, “Relationship, to Me, is a spiritual issue. And these who believe in Me are related to Me.”
And if we can somehow connect this passage with the former one, what the Lord is offering here is a relationship as over against a reformation. And He is the only one who can fill that empty place. And so He gets their attention with His little dialogue about His mother and brothers. And then He says, “You need to know that the people who believe in Me are related to Me.” Then the question immediately comes up: How do you get that kind of relationship? How do we become one of Your mother and sister and brotheren? How does that happen? And so in verse 50 He simplifies it in a beautiful statement. “For whoever” – aren’t you glad that word is there? Whoever. There’s no limit on that term – “shall do the will of My Father who is in heaven, the same is My brother and sister and mother.”
Now that’s a great truth. Jesus says, “To be related to Me is not a physical thing, it’s a spiritual thing. And these people who believe in Me are related to Me.” The natural question is, “Well, how do we get that relationship?” And He says, “By doing the will of My Father.” Notice He put in there, “The will of My Father who is in heaven.” They were asking for a sign from where? From heaven. And the Father had given them a sign from heaven, and I believe that’s why He says this. What is the will of the Father in heaven? Show you what it is. Back up to Matthew 3 verse 17. And at the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ, “A voice from heaven” – and it’s the voice of the Father – “saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” What is the will of the Father then in heaven? That the people on earth acknowledge Jesus Christ as His Son. What is God’s will? Then what is it that they should do that is the will of the Father in heaven? It is that they should accept Jesus as His Son and be as pleased with Him as God is with Him.
In the seventeenth chapter of Matthew and the fifth verse, while on the mount of transfiguration, the voice of God again comes out of heaven. This time a bright cloud overshadows them and a voice out of the cloud, and this is what the Father says, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Now that’s the same statement from the 3:17, and then He adds, “Hear ye Him.” What is God’s will? That you recognize the Son, that you believe in the Son, that you have a faith relationship with the Son. God’s will is that in believing through the Son you might have eternal life.
Look at Matthew 18 verse 11 – marvelous passage that expresses the Father’s will – “For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost.” Oh, you see, that’s a great insight into the will of the Father. Isn’t it? Jesus said, “I am come to do the will of Him that sent Me.” Here He said, “I am come to save.” Therefore, the will of Him that sent Me is to – what? – to save. To same men. And then He illustrates it, “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them is astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine and go into the mountains and seek that which has gone astray? And if so be that he finds it, verily I say unto you, he will rejoice more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine which didn’t go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should” – what? – “perish.” It is the will of the Father that you hear the Son. It is the will of the Father that you believe in the Son. It is the will of the Father that you be saved. It is not the will of the Father that you perish. Doing the will of the Father in Heaven, then, is simply coming to salvation in Christ. Second Peter 3:9, Peter put it this way, “God is not willing that any should” – what? – “perish, but that all should come to repentance.” First Timothy 2:4, “God our Savior who will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” God’s will is that people be saved.
Back in Matthew 7 verse 21 is another verse that we need to note in this regard. There are going to be a lot of people who claim this relationship but don’t have it. “Not everyone that saith unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ – that passage always interests me. It certainly indicates that the people who never say, “Lord, Lord,” aren’t going to be saved, so then the Lordship of Christ is the key issue. Certainly the people who never say, “Lord, Lord,” aren’t going to be saved, because some of the people who do say, “Lord, Lord,” aren’t even going to be saved. But they’re going to come and say, “Lord, Lord,” but they’re not going to enter into the Kingdom by saying something, they’re going to enter into the Kingdom by, “Doing the will of My Father who is in heaven.” It isn’t what you say, it’s what you do. And doing the will of the Father is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and receiving the gift of salvation that He offers.
I believe that is the invitation of Matthew 12. So you contrast reformation in verses 43 to 45 with relationship in 46 to 50. And that’s why, beloved, you can have a Pharisee who doesn’t cheat and lie and steal and commit adultery, who gives tithes of everything he possesses, who fasts twice a week and goes to hell, because he’s swept up the place and adorned it, but he’s empty. And on the other hand, you can have a tax collector who is an extortioner and an adulterer and a cheat and a liar and all of that, and he goes to heaven, because he has Christ on the inside. And believe me, when Christ comes to the inside, He will clean up the life. Cleaning up the life superficially on the outside is only to intensify the probability of damnation.
In Acts 4:12 the apostles put it so succinctly, “Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” In the name of Jesus. The only message heaven ever had was that Jesus was the way of salvation. All the rest of the Scriptures surround that major message. There are plenty of people calling for morality. We’re calling for a relationship with Jesus Christ. That is our message, and out of that relationship comes true morality, as generated and affected and maintained by the power of the Holy Spirit. Bow with me in prayer.
Father, thank You for the gift of salvation given to sinners such as we are - unworthy, undeserving. Thank You that You’ve told us so many times that You have come to save us. But in order to be saved, we have to know we need to be saved. We need to be redeemed. We need to be cleansed. We can’t do it ourselves. Thank You that it is in the total reality of our utter sinfulness that there is hope for us. That as we see ourselves as immoral, we put ourselves in the place of being made truly moral by the power of Christ. And Lord, deliver any here in our midst from the illusion that their self-generated morality is sufficient. May they not lose the vigilance that would prevent them from being infested with demons and made a greater son of hell than ever.
Father, help us at this time of the year to preach our message, the message of a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ - the very message that He preached – and may there be many who come into that relationship. Break those walls of security and deceit that hide the self-righteous from the truth. And may there even be some modern Pharisees, moralists, who see the folly of self-righteousness and come as sinners to Christ.
While your heads are bowed, in just a closing moment, if you don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ this morning, this has really been a very simple message from our Lord. And I think you understand what He’s been saying, and I would just encourage you to open your heart to Christ. It isn’t enough to sweep it out and adorn it. That’s so dangerous – just fooling yourself. But you do need to live a pure life, but not in a vacuum – one filled with Jesus Christ. If you don’t know Him, I trust that right now, you will open your heart to receive Him.
Father, we pray that You will bring to the prayer room those whom Your Spirit is calling, that You might move on the will of all who are here to be obedient to You in whatever You’re saying. We worship You and adore You for the great salvation You have offered us, that does not require of us anything but the recognition that we have nothing and to turn to You in faith. We pray that You will save those, Lord, who are lost, and those of us who already know You, make this a time when we proclaim that same message to others for Your glory, in Christ’s name. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.