Matthew 12:22-45 A House Divided Cannot Stand.
Matthew recorded Jesus’ affirmation that he is the Servant spoken of at Isaiah 42:1-4, the Beloved of the Father, upon whom the Spirit would rest, who would extend the good news of the kingdom to the Gentiles, in whom they would trust (vv. 15-21). As the Beloved Servant, coming to do the work assigned him of the Father, with the anointing of the Spirit, in sending justice to victory, he demonstrated his true prophetic witness with the casting out of demons, and thus the defeat of Satan and his rule over men. As a case in point, Jesus delivered a demon possessed man, and this man went from being blind and mute to seeing and speaking (v. 22). Not surprisingly “the multitudes were amazed and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?’” (v. 23).
It is interesting that they refer to David. No doubt they were looking for a covenantal succession, David’s son who would ascend to the throne, and thus many assumed a strictly political kingdom. However, Jesus demonstrated and spoke of a kingdom that was first of all spiritual in nature. The Pharisees sought to counter Jesus claims by saying that the power by which he cast out demons and healed the sick, was from Satan and not the covenantal LORD (v. 24). Therefore the point follows, which was that it made no sense that Satan would be extending his kingdom rule by casting out his minions from the domain of men. The casting out of demons was done by the Spirit, and therefore either one was with Jesus, who had the Spirit, doing the Father’s work, or one was with Satan.
A house divided against itself cannot stand (vv. 25-30). This is the context of the words of verses 31-32. In suggesting that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Satan, they were calling the Holy Spirit, by whom Jesus was casting out demons, an unholy spirit. This is the unpardonable sin. One can even speak a word against the Son, as the Pharisees and other religious leaders often did, but to cast aspersions on the Holy Spirit was unforgiveable. It is also in this context that Jesus backed up his claims by making what is also an obvious point, that one cannot get good fruit, namely the casting out of devils, from a bad tree (v. 33). It was the Pharisees, and those with and like them, who were the bad trees speaking bad words (v. 34).
The heart is the core of who a person is, and one’s words flow from the state of one’s heart. Good words and deeds come from a good heart, and bad from bad (v. 35). What is in the heart is what one treasures most. Words spoken are a serious business, for we all shall have to give an account of the words we have spoken (v. 36). By our words we may be justified, or by our own words we may be condemned (v. 37). For the scribes and Pharisees, supposedly men of the holy scriptures, Jesus works were not enough of a sign of the authenticity of his message, for they sought for another (v. 38). It is probable that when Jesus refers to that generation as “adulterous” that he has in mind their breaking of the covenantal bond (v. 39).
As the Beloved Servant he was called to take the good news of salvation by grace through faith to the Gentiles, and so the sign of Jonah was fitting. Just as Jonah refused to take a message of repentance and faith to the Ninevehites, even so this generation could not see the Father’s plan for the world. So also Jesus, in the place of sinners, would suffer an accursed death being “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (v. 40). Nineveh repented when they heard the gospel from Jonah, and for this reason they would condemn those who had greater light and yet would not believe in the one sent (v. 41). This was wisdom they did not want to hear, and so also the Gentile queen of Sheba would also condemn them, since she sought it out, also with lesser light (v. 42).
Matthew then records that Jesus returned to the subject of unclean spirits. The Pharisees and their cohorts accused Jesus of working his deliverances by the power of Satan, and so they committed the unpardonable sin of calling the Holy Spirit unholy. Now Jesus makes the point that clearing out the strong man’s occupancy is not enough if there is not something put in his place. If a person were just delivered of an evil spirit or spirits, and their heart was not also filled with the Spirit, then those evil spirits would be determined to marshal their forces and come back stronger (vv. 43-44). However, we can thank God that greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world (I Jn. 4:4). Such was the state of that generation who refused to receive Jesus as the Messiah (v. 45).