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Jesus and Beelzebul

22 Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see. 23All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.” 25He knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. 29Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. 30Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

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Mt 12:22-37. A Blind and Dumb Demoniac Healed and Reply to the Malignant Explanation Put upon It. ( = Mr 3:20-30; Lu 11:14-23).

The precise time of this section is uncertain. Judging from the statements with which Mark introduces it, we should conclude that it was when our Lord's popularity was approaching its zenith, and so before the feeding of the five thousand. But, on the other hand, the advanced state of the charges brought against our Lord, and the plainness of His warnings and denunciations in reply, seem to favor the later period at which Luke introduces it. "And the multitude," says Mark (Mr 3:20, 21), "cometh together again," referring back to the immense gathering which Mark had before recorded (Mr 2:2)—"so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when His friends"—or rather, "relatives," as appears from Mt 12:31, and see on Mt 12:46—"heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him; for they said, He is beside Himself." Compare 2Co 5:13, "For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God."

22. Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil—"a demonized person."

blind and dumb, and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and the dumb both spake and saw.

23. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?—The form of the interrogative requires this to be rendered, "Is this the Son of David?" And as questions put in this form (in Greek) suppose doubt, and expect rather a negative answer, the meaning is, "Can it possibly be?"—the people thus indicating their secret impression that this must be He; yet saving themselves from the wrath of the ecclesiastics, which a direct assertion of it would have brought upon them. (On a similar question, see on Joh 4:29; and on the phrase, "Son of David," see on Mt 9:27).

24. But when the Pharisees heard it—Mark (Mr 3:22) says, "the scribes which came down from Jerusalem"; so that this had been a hostile party of the ecclesiastics, who had come all the way from Jerusalem to collect materials for a charge against Him. (See on Mt 12:14).

they said, This fellow—an expression of contempt.

doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub—rather, "Beelzebul" (see on Mt 10:25).

the prince of the devils—Two things are here implied—first, that the bitterest enemies of our Lord were unable to deny the reality of His miracles; and next, that they believed in an organized infernal kingdom of evil, under one chief. This belief would be of small consequence, had not our Lord set His seal to it; but this He immediately does. Stung by the unsophisticated testimony of "all the people," they had no way of holding out against His claims but by the desperate shift of ascribing His miracles to Satan.

25. And Jesus knew their thoughts—"called them" (Mr 3:23).

and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand—"house," that is, "household"

26. And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?—The argument here is irresistible. "No organized society can stand—whether kingdom, city, or household—when turned against itself; such intestine war is suicidal: But the works I do are destructive of Satan's kingdom: That I should be in league with Satan, therefore, is incredible and absurd."

27. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children—"your sons," meaning here the "disciples" or pupils of the Pharisees, who were so termed after the familiar language of the Old Testament in speaking of the sons of the prophets (1Ki 20:35; 2Ki 2:3, &c.). Our Lord here seems to admit that such works were wrought by them; in which case the Pharisees stood self-condemned, as expressed in Luke (Lu 11:19), "Therefore shall they be your judges."

28. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God—In Luke (Lu 11:20) it is, "with (or 'by') the finger of God." This latter expression is just a figurative way of representing the power of God, while the former tells us the living Personal Agent was made use of by the Lord Jesus in every exercise of that power.

then—"no doubt" (Lu 11:20).

the kingdom of God is come unto you—rather "upon you," as the same expression is rendered in Luke (Lu 11:20):—that is, "If this expulsion of Satan is, and can be, by no other than the Spirit of God, then is his Destroyer already in the midst of you, and that kingdom which is destined to supplant his is already rising on its ruins."

29. Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house—or rather, "the strong man's house."

and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.

30. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad—On this important parable, in connection with the corresponding one (Mt 12:43-45), see on Lu 11:21-26.

31. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men—The word "blasphemy" properly signifies "detraction," or "slander." In the New Testament it is applied, as it is here, to vituperation directed against God as well as against men; and in this sense it is to be understood as an aggravated form of sin. Well, says our Lord, all sin—whether in its ordinary or its more aggravated forms—shall find forgiveness with God. Accordingly, in Mark (Mr 3:28) the language is still stronger: "All sin shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme." There is no sin whatever, it seems, of which it may be said, "That is not a pardonable sin." This glorious assurance is not to be limited by what follows; but, on the contrary, what follows is to be explained by this.

but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

32. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come—In Mark the language is awfully strong, "hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation" (Mr 3:20)—or rather, according to what appears to be the preferable though very unusual reading, "in danger of eternal guilt"—a guilt which he will underlie for ever. Mark has the important addition (Mr 3:30), "Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit." (See on Mt 10:25). What, then, is this sin against the Holy Ghost—the unpardonable sin? One thing is clear: Its unpardonableness cannot arise from anything in the nature of sin itself; for that would be a naked contradiction to the emphatic declaration of Mt 12:31, that all manner of sin is pardonable. And what is this but the fundamental truth of the Gospel? (See Ac 13:38, 39; Ro 3:22, 24; 1Jo 1:7, &c.). Then, again when it is said (Mt 12:32), that to speak against or blaspheme the Son of man is pardonable, but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is not pardonable, it is not to be conceived that this arises from any greater sanctity in the one blessed Person than the other. These remarks so narrow the question that the true sense of our Lord's words seem to disclose themselves at once. It is a contrast between slandering "the Son of man" in His veiled condition and unfinished work—which might be done "ignorantly, in unbelief" (1Ti 1:13), and slandering the same blessed Person after the blaze of glory which the Holy Ghost was soon to throw around His claims, and in the full knowledge of all that. This would be to slander Him with eyes open, or to do it "presumptuously." To blaspheme Christ in the former condition—when even the apostles stumbled at many things—left them still open to conviction on fuller light: but to blaspheme Him in the latter condition would be to hate the light the clearer it became, and resolutely to shut it out; which, of course, precludes salvation. (See on Heb 10:26-29). The Pharisees had not as yet done this; but in charging Jesus with being in league with hell they were displaying beforehand a malignant determination to shut their eyes to all evidence, and so, bordering upon, and in spirit committing, the unpardonable sin.