Jesus And Satan

Matthew's Gospel chapter 12 and verses 22-37. Introduction What is our response to Jesus? What is the response of others to Jesus? Jesus' ministry in chapters 11 and 12 of Matthew's Gospel certainly sharpens people's responses to him. Many follow him and grow in their understanding of him and he heals all their sick (vv15, 16 and 23 of chapter 12). But some sink into deepening unbelief, even into perverse and blasphemous unbelief. Namely the Pharisees - the religious leaders of the day. How often we see the same today. Religious leaders, church leaders opposing and accusing Jesus. Rejecting his miracles, rejecting his virgin birth, rejecting his bodily resurrection, rejecting his word, rejecting his Spirit. Blaspheming against Jesus and against the Holy Spirit. And what about us? And what about those we know? Are we growing in our understanding of Jesus? Are we growing in faith? Or are we sinking into deepening unbelief? Being hostile, accusatory and blasphemous towards Jesus and in danger of rejecting him, the gospel and the work of the Spirit forever and therefore unable to be forgiven. Perhaps you've been coming for a while and you are attracted by Jesus and you are growing in your understanding of him and you do want to put your trust in him. You're almost there. And coming to the events and services of M98 with Jonathan Fletcher has drawn you closer. You're about to open the door of your heart to the Jesus who is knocking and who wants to come in and bring new and eternal life. Or perhaps you've been to some of those events and you enjoyed them but your unbelief is still deep and anyway you believe that you're OK without Jesus. And without thinking you blaspheme. Or maybe you're hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ and you are sinking into deepening unbelief . You are openly accusatory and blasphemous towards him. Where do we stand this morning? And what do we learn from this passage in Matthew about the results of those differing positions, about the depths of unbelief and hostility to Jesus, about the two contrasting themes of faith in Jesus and the response of unbelief which have been contrasted in chapters 11 and 12? Well let's now examine this passage more closely to find out. And my first heading is: THE ACCUSATION But before we look at the accusation of the Pharisees in verse 24 notice the contrast to their response by the people who were following Jesus. Look at verses 22 and 23. Jesus delivered and healed this demon possessed blind and mute man so that he could both talk and see. The people were amazed and they began to see and talk themselves regarding Jesus: "Could this be the Son of David?". Could this man Jesus be the Messiah? Now the Jews did exorcisms, says verse 27, so why were the crowd so astonished? Well here Jesus heals both completely and immediately. That explains why the people were so astonished and that it led them to think of what was promised in the Old Testament. For example, Isaiah 35:5 predicts such remarkable healings when God establishes his Kingdom and the Jews expected that Kingdom to be ruled by "great David's greater Son" as the prophet Ezekiel had written in chapters 35 and 37. So the people here in Mt 12 begin to ask, "Could this be the Son of David?" in response to the healing by Jesus. Now they still have some doubts because Jesus was not the Messiah or Son of David they were expecting. But they were growing in their understanding. They were asking questions - not red herring questions - but central questions such as who is this man? Is he the One? What they were seeing coupled with what they knew led them to ask those questions. Are some of us or those we know asking those key questions? What you've seen and heard recently or perhaps over a long period of time is making you think about and check out the Christian faith in a serious way. The bits of the Bible you have read are beginning to make sense and point to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God who came to save sinners, ie you and me. Why not look at some of the OT prophecies about Christ and see how it all fits together. There are something like 2000 prophecies in the OT which are fulfilled in Jesus. All were written over 400 years before he came as a baby. Look again at the traditional Christmas readings from Genesis, Isaiah and Micah which point to the Saviour and King. And put your faith in him. Grow in your understanding but don't grow long in the tooth in your understanding. Don't keep putting off that decision to follow Christ as Lord. 2 Timothy 3:7 says that some are "always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth". With apologies to the Barclaycard advert , "Don't put it off, put it in Christ". For those of us here who have yet to make that decision have you got open minds to Jesus, willing to grow in your understanding, willing to consider that he could be the Son of David, Saviour and Lord? Or, as in the rest of this passage in Matthew, have you got closed minds with absurd reasons for not wanting to believe? - the reason being that you are in rebellion against Christ and do not want him. As we shall see in a moment there will always be those who are hostile to Jesus and the gospel even amongst the religious and the religious hierarchy. There were some hostile reactions to him during M98. And there was a hostile accusation against Jesus by the Pharisees in v.24. The Pharisees, in contrast to those who followed Jesus, rejected the consideration that this fellow, as they refer to Jesus, could be the Son of David. And instead they accused Jesus of driving out demons by the Prince of demons - Beelzebub or Satan. Look at v.24. The Pharisees could not deny the miracle - the exorcism and healing of this demon possessed blind and mute man. But because of their blindness and religious misunderstandings they gave the only alternative explanation for his actions - that they must be demonic. They were so blind to the reality of who Jesus was and is. To them it was utterly improbable that Jesus could be working by the Spirit of God, for in their eyes he violated the laws of God such as the Sabbath. Their explanation however was blasphemous. As one writer puts it: "Their own assumptions were not challenged by Jesus. Rather it was by their own assumptions that they challenged Jesus." How many do the same today? The minds and hearts of the Pharisees were blind and closed and blasphemous. So how does Jesus reply? In 2 parts. He answers them in vv.25-30 and then he gives them an admonition or warning in vv. 31-37. And in Jesus' reply we learn more about why the Pharisees and others were and are so hostile and blasphemous. Well, those two parts are my next two headings. So to my second heading: THE ANSWER In vv.25-30 Jesus' reply makes it clear that their accusation is absurd, inconsistent and obscures the truth. Look at vv.25-26. Jesus shows the Pharisees that their accusation is absurd. It doesn't make sense to suggest that Satan would oppose Satan. That Satan would oppose himself and his own work. If that were so then he'd be destroying his own work. He'd be divided against himself and his kingdom would not stand. Yes Satan is real and tries to bring division in churches and homes but not in his own kingdom. For he knows the truth that Jesus lays out here in v.25:

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand."

The accusation of the Pharisees is ridiculous. Just as some today make ridiculous charges against Jesus and the gospel and find absurd reasons why not to believe, often not having looked at the evidence closely and not wanting to. Jesus also makes it clear that the Pharisees' accusation is inconsistent and illogical. Look at v.27:

"And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges."

The Jews performed exorcisms and they were the work of God, why then did the Pharisees claim that a greater display of power in exorcism belonged to Satan? The Pharisees were actually suggesting that the greater power belongs to Satan! Some today are inconsistent or illogical in their arguments against Jesus. They display much misunderstanding and a lack of serious thought. They often simply want to dismiss him and are sometimes fearful of what he will change. They want to cling onto power or power over their own lives, rather than submit to the one true King. In vv.28-30 Jesus' reply makes it clear that the Pharisees' accusation obscures the truth about himself. How many religious leaders today do the same and obscure the truth about Jesus - by not believing and preaching his word? Or by not believing in the bodily resurrection of Jesus? Or at this time of year by denying the virgin birth? In fact Jesus' exorcism shows that he has power over Satan, the strong man, and is able to rob him. Look at v.29. And v.28 - Jesus has shown that he is able to break Satan's hold and power and establish God's Kingdom. He was indeed driving out demons by the Spirit of God. The question asked by those following Jesus in v.23 was correct and the answer is yes! In Genesis 3:15, one of the traditional Christmas Bible readings, God says that one of Adam's descendants would come and defeat the devil who had tempted Adam and Eve and all mankind into sin. Here he is Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of David. The One who has now conquered sin, death and the devil by his death and resurrection. Either people recognise him and what he has done and follow him or they are his enemies. Look at v.30:

"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters."

This is very stark. There is no halfway house. There is no middle ground. Those who are not with him are against him and those who do not gather with him scatter. Either we are on God's side or on the side of Satan. We must decide. We can't sit on the fence forever. And that means we must decide about Jesus. If we decide to follow him, the Victor over Satan, as our Saviour and Lord then he will rescue us from the kingdom of darkness. But if we don't we will continue to be against him, scattering with the devil rather than gathering with Jesus. The first letter of John says the same - either we are children of God or children of the devil (1John 3:10). The good news is that if we receive Jesus Christ, if we believe in his name he gives us the right to become children of God ( John 1:12). Plainly here the Pharisees were against him and therefore against God and were only helping the devil to scatter. Again how many religious leaders today are in exactly the same position? Where are we? Whose side are we on? Well that leads us on to my final heading, for there now follows a warning or admonition by Jesus in vv.31-37. So thirdly: THE ADMONITION Look first at vv.31-32:

And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. {32} Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Jesus warns the Pharisees that their attitude is unpardonable.

"In their blasphemous comments about Jesus, the Pharisees were also blaspheming against the Holy Spirit who was working in him. The sin against Jesus was forgivable. He was still working in a way which was which partly hid who he really was. But when the Holy Spirit's working was so clear then the sin was inexcusable." (Dray)

Now let's focus on these verses for a moment as they have caused some Christians a degree of turmoil. Some wonder what these verses actually mean and some wonder if they have committed this unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Well it seems that the sin of blasphemy against the Spirit ...

"is so to resist him and his revelation of Christ that all possibility of forgiveness is closed to usso it is the refusal to recognise Christ and to repent which is the unforgivable sin". (Price)

Jesus made it clear that every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven (v.31) But God cannot forgive the rejection of his Son not in this age or in the age to come. It is the Spirit who bears witness to Christ John 15:26) and who convicts the lost sinner(John 16:7-11).

"If the Pharisees failed to see that the liberty brought to those Jesus exorcised and healed was of God, then their resistance to the Holy spirit was so acute that they were closing all opportunity of conviction and cleansing". (Price)

But why? Why was their resistance to the Holy Spirit so acute and why do some still resist him today? In the final 5 verses of this passage Jesus explains, again using stark language. Look at vv.33-34:

"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. {34} You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."

Jesus shows here that the reason for the attitude of the Pharisees was in their wickedness. They were incapable of coming to repentance. Jesus warns the Pharisees that their words give evidence of the evil in their hearts. The sin against the Holy Spirit is not just a matter of speech. The words spoken are fruit from the sinful heart. What is externally visible in someone's life has its roots internally. Good or bad fruit come from a good or bad tree, says Jesus. His fruit is good and therefore they should recognise him as being good. But their words are bad and, v.34, "From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks". So what you say and do depends on and reveals what you are. The Pharisees' abuse of Jesus could not be treated as a thoughtless passing remark. No, it revealed their true nature. It showed them to be against Jesus rather than for. As long as people remain unchanged at heart, their words and behaviour will show it. In vv. 36-37 we therefore see why your words (v.37) are a sound basis for judgement - because they reveal what you really are. "That's why the the harsh judgement of vv.31-32 could be pronounced on the basis of the Pharisees' verbal abuse. It showed them to be fundamentally against God's purposes." (France) Look at v.36:

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

Careless words, idle quips, words which are worthless and better left unspoken, words which can seem quite innocuous may, because of what they reveal about the person who says them, be the basis for severe condemnation. It is by our conversation at unguarded moments that we reveal our true character. Christmas because of its true meaning and the stresses and strains it can bring can be a time when people's true character is tested. To conclude. Overall this passage tells us that if we come with open minds to Jesus, he will give us an increasing understanding of his work and who he is. And as his Spirit works in our lives we will be convicted of our guilt, of our sin and our need to repent and receive Christ. But if we don't come to Christ, the reason is that we are in rebellion against him and do not want him. Often the evidence for such a rebellion and rejection will be in the absurd reasons we find not to believe. Usually these reasons are seen as clever by the world but in fact they are exactly the opposite. It is the fool who says in his heart that there is no God (Psalm 14).

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