Matthew 12



Lord of the Sabbath (12:1-8)

(Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5)

1-8 See Mark 2:23-28 and comment.


A Man Healed on the Sabbath (12:9-14)

(Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11)

9-14 See Mark 3:1-6 and comment.

God’s Chosen Servant (12:15-21)

15-16 See Mark 3:7-12 and comment.

17  Jesus told those He healed not to tell who He was (verse 16). Here Matthew quotes from Isaiah 42:1-4 to explain why Jesus wanted to keep His identity secret.

18  God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, says about Christ: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen.” Christ was called not only a Son, but also a servant. God put His Spirit on Him (Mark 1:10-11; John 3:34). Christ will proclaim justice to the nations—that is, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles. Christ came to establish God’s justice and righteousness on earth.

19 But Christ will not quarrel or cry out. He did not come as an earthly king to defeat His enemies. He did not seek arguments. He did not seek to establish His kingdom by force. Christ came quietly, without show. His kingdom was not visible; it was within men (see Luke 17:20-21 and comment). Christ came to establish God’s rule in men’s hearts.

However, the Jews believed their Messiah would be like an earthly king. Therefore, Jesus did not want everyone to know He was the Messiah. Otherwise, the people would have tried to make Him a king. They would have prevented Him from being crucified. They would have prevented Him from giving His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Thus God’s plan for man’s salvation would have been blocked (see Mark 1:34; 3:12; 5:43 and comments).

20-21 Jesus came not with force but with gentleness (Matthew 11:29). A bruised reed he will not break. A person bruised and weakened by sin, discouragement, and failure Christ will strengthen and restore. If such a person comes to Christ, He will not break or reject him. Jesus said: “… whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37).

A smoldering wick he will not snuff out. A person whose faith is weak Christ will not condemn.

In the end Christ will prevail completely over Satan. Christ will lead justice to victory. He will raise up the downtrodden, He will release the oppressed (Luke 4:18). He will bring salvation to all who turn to God and believe. All nations will put their hope in Christ (verse 21).


Jesus and Beelzebub (12:22-32)

(Mark 3:20-30; Luke 11:14-23; 12:10)

22-32 See Mark 3:20-30 and comment.

A Tree and Its Fruit (12:33-37)

(Matthew 7:16-18; Luke 6:43-45)

33-35 As a man’s heart is, so will be his actions and his words. Jesus called the Pharisees vipers, because there was poison in their hearts. Because their hearts were poisonous, their words were poisonous too, even though they at first sounded sweet. An evil heart produces evil and false words, just as a bad tree produces bad fruit. A tree is recognized by its fruit (see Matthew 7:1618; James 3:10-12 and comments).

36  Here Jesus gives a very stern warning: On the day of judgment we will have to give an account of every careless word we have ever uttered.

We do not think enough about the day of judgment. God remembers everything we do, whether big or small, good or evil53 (see Matthew 25:31-46). He even remembers every careless word. And we shall receive our eternal reward according to what we have done in this life (see 2 Corinthians 5:10 and comment).

A man’s heart is revealed by his careless words. These are the words men say without thinking; they just come out. Evil men and hypocrites can, with practice, speak eloquently and pray fervently. They can say all the right things if they make an effort. But their careless words will reveal their true inner thoughts (see James 3:10-12). If there is evil in our heart, it will sooner or later be manifest by our words (verse 34).

37  Our careless words so accurately reveal what is in our hearts that Jesus says we will be judged by our words; we will be either acquitted or condemned by our words. When God judges us, He looks at our heart. These careless words issue from our heart. A good heart will always produce good words, and an evil heart will produce evil words. Therefore, by our words God is able to judge our hearts.

How can we control our careless words? We can control them by making our heart right. If our heart is right, then our careless words will be right also.

The Sign of Jonah (12:38-45)

(Mark 8:11-12; Luke 11:24-26,29-32)

38-39 See Mark 8:11-12 and comment.

40  When the Jewish leaders asked Jesus to show them a sign proving that He was the Messiah, Jesus said that only the sign of the prophet Jonah would be given to them (verse 39). Jonah was an Old Testament prophet. God sent him to the wicked city of Nineveh to tell the people there to repent. But Jonah disobeyed God and took a ship to another city instead. But a terrible storm came up at sea, and Jonah was forced to confess that he had been disobedient to God. The ship’s sailors, supposing the storm to be a curse from God upon Jonah, threw Jonah overboard in order to save the ship. A huge fish swallowed Jonah, and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish for three days (Jonah 1:1-17). In the same way, Christ would remain three days in the heart of the earth54 after He was killed. Therefore, the sign of the prophet Jonah means that Christ would die and after three days rise from the dead. This would be the sign to the Jews that Christ was truly the Messiah.

41  God caused the huge fish to vomit up Jonah (Jonah 2:10). Then God again commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh, and this time Jonah obeyed. The people listened to Jonah’s preaching and repented and believed God. Therefore, God spared them the punishment He had planned for them (Jonah 3:1-10).

Thus, at the last judgment, the men of Nineveh will be saved. They will be counted righteous by God, because they repented and believed. It can be said that the men of Nineveh, by their example, by their righteousness, will in a way bring to light the unrighteousness of the Jews; they will condemn the Jews of Jesus’ day. The men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah. Now the Messiah Himself had come, one greater than Jonah, and still the Jews refused to repent. Therefore, their guilt will be counted very great. This is why Jesus called the Jews of His day a wicked and adulterous generation (verse 39). They were wicked because of their evil hearts, and they were adulterous because they had betrayed God, their true husband, and had gone with the world.

42  The Queen of the South will also judge this generation, that is, the Jews of Jesus’ time. This queen is the Queen of “Sheba” (part of Arabia), who came to listen to King Solomon’s55 wisdom. She sought the truth from Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-13). But from Christ, who is greater than Solomon, the Jews did not seek the truth. Therefore, the Queen of the South also will condemn those Jews at the last judgment.

43  When an evil spirit is driven out of one person it seeks for someone else to enter (see Mark 5:8-12). If there is no one to enter, the spirit goes to an arid place where it waits until it finds a new person to enter.

44-45 However, the evil spirit may return to the same person from whom it was driven out. If that person is unoccupied and swept clean (verse 44), then the evil spirit will re-enter that person. Perhaps other evil spirits will also enter.

The meaning of this teaching is as follows. When a man comes to Jesus and repents of his sin, Jesus forgives him. Jesus cleanses him. He casts out his sin. Just as Jesus cast out evil spirits, so He casts out our spirit of selfishness and pride when we repent. However, many people came to Jesus and to John the Baptist and repented of their sins, but then quickly fell away. Why? Because they did not receive the Holy Spirit. The spirit of sin had left them, but the Holy Spirit had not come in. Their “houses” had been left unoccupied and swept clean. They had not brought forth the fruits in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). Their faith had not grown. And so the old spirit of sin and selfishness came back in.

And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. Such people have tasted the blessing of Christ, but in the end reject Him. Such people cannot be brought back to repentance again (see Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Peter 2:20 and comments).


Jesus’ Mother and Brothers (12:46-50)

(Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21)

46-50 See Mark 3:31-35 and comment.