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Chapter 12

12:1 On the sabbath day through the cornfields [tois sabbasin dia tōn sporimōn]. This paragraph begins exactly like 11:25 “at that season” [en ekeinōi tōi kairōi], a general statement with no clear idea of time. So also 14:1. The word [kairos] means a definite and particular time, but we cannot fix it. The word “cornfields” does not mean our maize or Indian corn, but simply fields of grain (wheat or even barley).

12:2 Thy disciples do [hoi mathētai sou poiousin]. These critics are now watching a chance and they jump at this violation of their Pharisaic rules for Sabbath observance. The disciples were plucking the heads of wheat which to the Pharisees was reaping and were rubbing them in their hands (Lu 6:1) which was threshing.

12:3 What David did [ti epoiēsen Daueid]. From the necessity of hunger. The first defence made by Christ appeals to the conduct of David (2Sa 21:6). David and those with him did “what was not lawful” [ho ouk exon ēn] precisely the charge made against the disciples [ho ouk exestin] in verse 2).

12:6 One greater than the temple [tou hierou meizon]. Ablative of comparison, [tou hierou]. The Textus Receptus has [meizōn], but the neuter is correct. Literally, “something greater than the temple.” What is that? It may still be Christ, or it may be: “The work and His disciples were of more account than the temple” (Plummer). “If the temple was not subservient to Sabbath rules, how much less the Messiah!” (Allen).

12:7 The guiltless [tous anaitious]. So in verse 5. Common in ancient Greek. No real ground against, it means [an] + [aitios]. Jesus quotes Ho 6:6 here as he did in Mt 9:13. A pertinent prophecy that had escaped the notice of the sticklers for ceremonial literalness and the letter of the law.

12:9 Lord of the Sabbath [kurios tou sabbatou]. This claim that he as the Son of Man is master of the Sabbath and so above the Pharisaic regulations angered them extremely. By the phrase “the Son of man” here Jesus involves the claim of Messiahship, but as the Representative Man he affirms his solidarity with mankind, “standing for the human interest” (Bruce) on this subject.

12:10 Is it lawful? [ei exestin]. The use of [ei] in direct questions is really elliptical and seems an imitation of the Hebrew (Robertson, Grammar, p. 916). See also Mt 19:3. It is not translated in English.

12:12 How much then is a man [posōi oun diapherei anthrōpos]. Another of Christ’s pregnant questions that goes to the roots of things, an a fortiori argument. “By how much does a human being differ from a sheep? That is the question which Christian civilization has not even yet adequately answered” (Bruce). The poor pettifogging Pharisees are left in the pit.

12:13 Stretch forth thy hand [ekteinon sou tēn cheira]. Probably the arm was not withered, though that is not certain. But he did the impossible. “He stretched it forth,” straight, I hope, towards the Pharisees who were watching Jesus (Mr 3:2).

12:14 Took counsel against him [sumboulion elabon kat’ autou]. An imitation of the Latin concilium capere and found in papyri of the second century A.D. (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 238.) This incident marks a crisis in the hatred of the Pharisees toward Jesus. They bolted out of the synagogue and actually conspired with their hated rivals, the Herodians, how to put Jesus to death (Mr 3:6; Mt 12:14; Lu 6:11). By “destroy” [apolesōsin] they meant “kill.”

12:15 Perceiving [gnous]. Second aorist active participle of [ginōskō]. Jesus read their very thoughts. They were now plain to any one who saw their angry countenances.

12:17 That it might be fulfilled [hina plērōthēi]. The final use of [hina] and the sub-final just before (verse 16). The passage quoted is Isa 42:1-4 “a very free reproduction of the Hebrew with occasional side glances at the Septuagint” (Bruce), possibly from an Aramaic collection of Testimonia (McNeile). Matthew applies the prophecy about Cyrus to Christ.

12:18 My beloved [ho agapētos mou]. This phrase reminds one of Mt 3:17 (the Father’s words at Christ’s baptism).

12:20 A bruised reed [kalamon suntetrimmenon]. Perfect passive participle of [suntribō]. A crushed reed he will not break. The curious augment in [kateaxei] (future active indicative) is to be noted. The copyists kept the augment where it did not belong in this verb (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1212) even in Plato. “Smoking flax” [linon tuphomenon]. The wick of a lamp, smoking and flickering and going out. Only here in N.T. Flax in Ex 9:31. Vivid images that picture Jesus in the same strain as his own great words in Mt 11:28-30.

12:23 Is this the Son of David? [mēti houtos estin ho huios Daueid?]. The form of the question expects the answer “no,” but they put it so because of the Pharisaic hostility towards Jesus. The multitudes “were amazed” or “stood out of themselves” [existanto], imperfect tense, vividly portraying the situation. They were almost beside themselves with excitement.

12:24 The Pharisees [hoi de Pharisaioi]. Already (Mt 9:32-34) we have had in Matthew the charge that Jesus is in league with the prince of demons, though the incident may be later than this one. See on 10:25 about “Beelzebub.” The Pharisees feel that the excited condition of the crowds and the manifest disposition to believe that Jesus is the Messiah (the Son of David) demand strenuous action on their part. They cannot deny the fact of the miracles for the blind and dumb men both saw and spoke (12:22). So in desperation they suggest that Jesus works by the power of Beelzebub the prince of the demons.

12:25 Knowing their thoughts [eidōs de tas enthumēseis autōn]. What they were revolving in their minds. They now find out what a powerful opponent Jesus is. By parables, by a series of conditions (first class), by sarcasm, by rhetorical question, by merciless logic, he lays bare their hollow insincerity and the futility of their arguments. Satan does not cast out Satan. Note timeless aorist passive [emeristhē] in 26, [ephthasen] in 28 (simple sense of arriving as in Php 3:16 from [phthanō]. Christ is engaged in deathless conflict with Satan the strong man (29). “Goods” [skeuē] means house-gear, house furniture, or equipment as in Lu 17:36 and Ac 27:17, the tackling of the ship.

12:30 He that is not with me [ho mē ōn met’ emou]. With these solemn words Jesus draws the line of cleavage between himself and his enemies then and now. Jesus still has his enemies who hate him and all noble words and deeds because they sting what conscience they have into fury. But we may have our choice. We either gather with [sunagōn] Christ or scatter [skorpizei] to the four winds. Christ is the magnet of the ages. He draws or drives away. “Satan is the arch-waster, Christ the collector, Saviour” (Bruce).

12:31 But the blasphemy against the Spirit [hē de tou pneumatos blasphēmia]. Objective genitive. This is the unpardonable sin. In 32 we have [kata tou pneumatos tou hagiou] to make it plainer. What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? These Pharisees had already committed it. They had attributed the works of the Holy Spirit by whose power Jesus wrought his miracles (12:28) to the devil. That sin was without excuse and would not be forgiven in their age or in the coming one (12:32). People often ask if they can commit the unpardonable sin. Probably some do who ridicule the manifest work of God’s Spirit in men’s lives and attribute the Spirit’s work to the devil.

12:34 Ye offspring of vipers [gennēmata echidnōn]. These same terrible words the Baptist had used to the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to his baptism (Mt 3:7). But these Pharisees had deliberately made their choice and had taken Satan’s side. The charge against Jesus of being in league with Satan reveals the evil heart within. The heart “spurts out” [ekballei] good or evil according to the supply (treasure, [thēsaurou] within. verse 33 is like Mt 7:17-19. Jesus often repeated his crisp pungent sayings as every teacher does.

12:36 Every idle word [pan rhēma argon]. An ineffective, useless word [a] privative and [ergon]. A word that does no good and so is pernicious like pernicious anaemia. It is a solemn thought. Jesus who knows our very thoughts (12:25) insists that our words reveal our thoughts and form a just basis for the interpretation of character (12:37). Here we have judgment by words as in 25:31-46 where Jesus presents judgment by deeds. Both are real tests of actual character. Homer spoke of “winged words” [pteroenta epea]. And by the radio our words can be heard all round the earth. Who knows where they stop?

12:38 A sign from thee [apo sou sēmeion]. One wonders at the audacity of scribes and Pharisees who accused Jesus of being in league with Satan and thus casting out demons who can turn round and blandly ask for a “sign from thee.” As if the other miracles were not signs! “The demand was impudent, hypocritical, insulting” (Bruce).

12:39 An evil and adulterous generation [genea ponēra kai moichalis]. They had broken the marriage tie which bound them to Jehovah (Plummer). See Ps 73:27; Isa 57:3ff.; 62:5; Eze 23:27; Jas 4:4; Re 2:20. What is “the sign of Jonah?”

12:40 The whale [tou kētous]. Sea-monster, huge fish. In Jon 2:1 the LXX has [kētei megalōi]. “Three days and three nights” may simply mean three days in popular speech. Jesus rose “on the third day” (Mt 16:21), not “on the fourth day.” It is just a fuller form for “after three days” (Mr 8:31; 10:34).

12:41 In the judgment [en tēi krisei]. Except here and in the next verse Matthew has “day of judgment” [hēmera kriseōs] as in 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:36. Luke (Lu 10:14) has [en tēi krisei]. They repented at the preaching of Jonah [metenoēson eis to kērugma Iōna]. Note this use of [eis] just like [en]. Note also [pleion] (neuter), not [pleiōn] (masc.). See the same idiom in 12:6 and 12:48. Jesus is something greater than the temple, than Jonah, than Solomon. “You will continue to disbelieve in spite of all I can say or do, and at last you will put me to death. But I will rise again, a sign for your confusion, if not for your conversion” (Bruce).

12:44 Into my house [eis ton oikon mou]. So the demon describes the man in whom he had dwelt. “The demon is ironically represented as implying that he left his victim voluntarily, as a man leaves his house to go for a walk” (McNeile). “Worse than the first” is a proverb.

12:46 His mother and his brothers [hē mētēr kai hoi adelphoi autou]. Brothers of Jesus, younger sons of Joseph and Mary. The charge of the Pharisees that Jesus was in league with Satan was not believed by the disciples of Jesus, but some of his friends did think that he was beside himself (Mr 3:21) because of the excitement and strain. It was natural for Mary to want to take him home for rest and refreshment. So the mother and brothers are pictured standing outside the house (or the crowd). They send a messenger to Jesus.

12:47 Aleph, B, L, Old Syriac, omit this verse as do Westcott and Hort. It is genuine in Mr 3:32; Lu 8:20. It was probably copied into Matthew from Mark or Luke.

12:49 Behold my mother and my brothers [idou hē mētēr mou kai hoi adelphoi mou]. A dramatic wave of the hand towards his disciples (learners) accompanied these words. Jesus loved his mother and brothers, but they were not to interfere in his Messianic work. The real spiritual family of Jesus included all who follow him. But it was hard for Mary to go back to Nazareth and leave Jesus with the excited throng so great that he was not even stopping to eat (Mr 3:20).

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