Watch Your Words

Explore the Bible Series

October 7, 2007

 

Background Passage: The Gospel of Matthew 11:1-12:50

Lesson Passage: The Gospel of Matthew 12:22-37

 

Introduction:In the early months of his public ministry, Jesus enjoyed remarkable popularity with the masses of people who flocked to hear the Lord preach and to receive healing from their infirmities.The Gospel of Matthew gives some indication of early tensions between Jesus and the religious leaders of Galilee, but the conflicts, at first, remained sporadic and relatively mild.However, as Jesusí identity became more apparent, and as the Lord challenged the religious status quo, the opposition grew more consistent and intense.This lesson will focus on this period of intensification as the Scribes and Pharisees took exception to Jesusí application of the Sabbath principle.Furthermore, our present study reveals that much of the popular excitement of Jesusí remarkable ministry concealed a shallow and disingenuous response to the Savior. Their inadequate response to the ministry of Jesus provoked a harsh denunciation of their unrepentant hearts (See 11:20-24).

 

The background passage contains a rich storehouse of important teachings of Jesus, teachings that Matthew collected for theological and ďsermonicĒ reasons. I find particularly interesting: the Lordís instructions on proper use of the Sabbath, his response to the charge that he was demon possessed, and the material on the sin against the Holy Spirit.These teachings, of course, are challenging; so, we must approach them with fear and trembling, mixed with a healthy dose of prayerfulness for Godís help to understand and properly apply the Masterís teachings.

 

Outline of the Background Passage:

 

I.                   Jesus and the Disciples of John the Baptist (11:1-19)

A.    Messengers from John (vv. 1-3): By the time Jesusí disciples completed their preaching tour in Galilee, Herod Antipas had arrested John because of the contrivances of the wicked Herodias and Salome (See Mark 6:14f).Herodias, granddaughter of Herod the Great, married her uncle, Herod Philip; then, she abandoned her husband and became mistress to another kinsman, Herod Antipas.John, true to his prophetic call, denounced the unspeakable moral corruption of Herodís court, and Herod had the Baptist arrested.While he wasted away in prison, John sent two of his followers to question Jesus about the Masterís identity.Perhaps the hardships of the hour prompted Johnís faith to stagger a bit, and he sought confirmation of Jesusí identity.

B.     Jesusí response to Johnís inquiry (vv. 4-6): The Lord answered Johnís followers by stating his messianic credentials: the blind receive their sight, he lame walk, and lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead raised, and the poor have good news preached to them.

C.     Jesusí affirmation of John (vv. 7-19): The Lord addressed common misconceptions about John.The Forerunner was not, as common opinion speculated, a soft-handed, effeminate political opportunist; rather, he was a bold, stalwart man of faith and had a rock-ribbed commitment to his divine call as a prophet and messenger of the covenant. He had come, by Godís design, as the harbinger of the Kingdom of God.John acted as a kind of bridge between the Old Covenant and the New; yet, as a man of the Old Covenant, even the least of the Kingdom would experience greater revelation and privilege than John.

 

II.                Judgment and Grace in the Teaching of Jesus (11:20-30)

A.    Judgment on the cities of Galilee (vv. 20-24): Apparently, the Twelve had traveled to at least three towns on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and, though these communities had heard the gospel of the Kingdom and observed great miracles, they had also refused to repent of their sins and embrace the Messiah. The judgment that would come on these people would exceed the legendary justice that fell on Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, and Gomorrah.They had sinned against greater revelation and privilege than these ancient notorious cities of the Old Testament; thus they would endure the greater condemnation.

B.     Grace to the weak and humble (vv. 25-30): Jesus asserted his unique relationship with the Father, and he promised grace to the ďlittle children.ĒThe gentle Savior invited the heavy laden to take his yoke upon them, to bear the instrument of his mastery, and find rest for their souls.

 

III.             Jesusí First Major Conflict with the Pharisees (12:1-50)

A.    Two Sabbath controversies (v. 1-14)

1.      eating grain on the Sabbath (vv. 1-8): The Mosaic Law permitted people to gather a bit of grain from the edges of ripened fields, and the disciples, hungry as they passed by a stand of grain, ate a few handfuls of food.The Pharisees, poised to attack Jesus at the first hint of indiscretion, brought a serious accusation against the Lord.Jesus, of course, did not disobey the Law; rather, he challenged the Phariseesí misapplication of the Sabbath principle.The Lord cited three examples of Old Testament saints disregarding the pharisaical application of the Sabbath principle.

2.      healing on the Sabbath (vv. 9-14): Luke made clear that this healing took place on a different Sabbath than the incident with the grain; nevertheless, the Pharisees ought to entrap Jesus in a compromising situation.They asked Jesus about healing this manís withered hand on the Sabbath, and, true to form, Jesus challenged their poor application of the Law.In this chapter, the Lord made clear that Godís people may do works of necessity and mercy on the Lordís Day. These religious leaders, rigorous in their application of the Sabbath, thought nothing of plotting murder on Godís holy day.

B.     Jesusí withdrawal from the Pharisees to minister to the needs of the people vv. 15-21):According to Matthew, Jesus healed the multitudes in fulfillment of Isaiah 42:1-4.

C.     The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (vv. 22-32): In response to a miraculous exorcism of a demon possessed man, the Pharisees made a grave accusation against Jesus.He, they claimed, did these miraculous deeds by the power of Satan.The Lord defended his character by citing several truisms, and he warned against the dangers of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.As I understand this terrible sin, Jesus meant that the Pharisees had attributed the acts of God t the power of Satan.They had so little spiritual discernment that they could not detect the work of God in the life of this poor possessed man.Their intense hatred of the Lord provoked them to reject the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit.This settled opposition to Godís Kingdom revealed hearts that bordered an irreversible state of condemnation.

D.    Jesusí denunciation of the Pharisees (vv. 33-37): The Pharisees, Jesus observed, were known by their evil deeds and words (their fruits). They were a brood of vipers, offspring of the Serpent.

E.     The Pharisees desired a sign from Jesus (vv. 38-45): Oddly, the Pharisees had criticized Jesus for his wondrous deeds, yet, they also sought a miraculous sign.Perhaps they wanted to discredit the Lord as a traveling magician, but Jesus refused to play their game.Instead, he denied their request for a sign except to promise the sign of Jonah.Of course, Jesus referred to the miraculous deliverance of Jonah from three days in the fishís belly.These rebellious religious leaders were like a demon possessed man who, though he was cleansed from the evil spirit, falls back into his sad condition because nothing filled his heart.

F.      Jesusí interaction with his family (vv. 46-50): As this intense period of spiritual conflict drew to an end, Jesusí mother and brothers sought an audience with him.The Lord, unwilling to entertain any distraction from his fatherís work, refused to yield to the distraction.There is, of course, great consolation for Godís people, in this paragraph.Anyone who followed Jesus would become more than a mere disciple. He regarded his followers as kinsmen, honored and beloved members of his spiritual family.