Matthew 12

Listen to Matthew 12

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

1 At that time 1Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and 2they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, 3"Look, your disciples are doing 4what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath."
3 He said to them, 5"Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him:
4 how he entered the house of God and ate 6the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
5 Or have you not read 7in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?
6 I tell you, 8something greater than the temple is here.
7 And if you had known 9what this means, 10'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 For 11the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath."

A Man with a Withered Hand

9 He went on from there and 12entered their synagogue.
10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, 13"Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"--14so that they might accuse him.
11 He said to them, "Which one of you who has a sheep, 15if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out?
12 16Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So 17it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."
13 Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And 18the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.
14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

God's Chosen Servant

15 Jesus, aware of this, 19withdrew from there. And 20many followed him, and he healed them all
16 and 21ordered them not to make him known.
17 22This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
18 23"Behold, my 24servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. 25I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory;
21 26and in his name the Gentiles will hope."

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

22 27Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw.
23 28And all the people were amazed, and said, 29"Can this be the Son of David?"
24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, 30"It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons."
25 31Knowing their thoughts, 32he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.
26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?
27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, 33by whom do 34your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.
28 But if it is 35by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then 36the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29 Or 37how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed 38he may plunder his house.
30 39Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
31 40Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but 41the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
32 And whoever speaks a word 42against the Son of Man 43will be forgiven, but 44whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in 45this age or in the age to come.

A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit

33 46"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, 47for the tree is known by its fruit.
34 48You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, 49when you are evil? 50For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
35 51The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.
36 I tell you, 52on the day of judgment 53people will give account for 54every careless word they speak,
37 for 55by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

The Sign of Jonah

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, "Teacher, 56we wish to see a sign from you."
39 But he answered them, 57"An evil and 58adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
40 For 59just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, 60so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
41 61The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and 62condemn it, for 63they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, 64something greater than Jonah is here.
42 65The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, 66something greater than Solomon is here.

Return of an Unclean Spirit

43 "When 67the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through 68waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.
44 Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order.
45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and 69the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this 70evil generation."

Jesus' Mother and Brothers

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, 71his mother and his 72brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.[a]
48 But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"
49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!
50 For 73whoever 74does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

Matthew 12 Commentary

Chapter 12

Jesus defends his disciples for plucking corn on the sabbath day. (1-8) Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the sabbath. (9-13) The malice of the Pharisees. (14-21) Jesus heals a demoniac. (22-30) Blasphemy of the Pharisees. (31,32) Evil words proceed from an evil heart. (33-37) The scribes and Pharisees reproved for seeking a sign. (38-45) The disciples of Christ are his nearest relations. (46-50)

Verses 1-8 Being in the corn-fields, the disciples began to pluck the ears of corn: the law of God allowed it, ( Deuteronomy 23:25 ) . This was slender provision for Christ and his disciples; but they were content with it. The Pharisees did not quarrel with them for taking another man's corn, but for doing it on the sabbath day. Christ came to free his followers, not only from the corruptions of the Pharisees, but from their unscriptural rules, and justified what they did. The greatest shall not have their lusts indulged, but the meanest shall have their wants considered. Those labours are lawful on the sabbath day which are necessary, and sabbath rest is to froward, not to hinder sabbath worship. Needful provision for health and food is to be made; but when servants are kept at home, and families become a scene of hurry and confusion on the Lord's day, to furnish a feast for visitors, or for indulgence, the case is very different. Such things as these, and many others common among professors, are to be blamed. The resting on the sabbath was ordained for man's good, ( Deuteronomy 5:14 ) . No law must be understood so as to contradict its own end. And as Christ is the Lord of the sabbath, it is fit the day and the work of it should be dedicated to him.

Verses 9-13 Christ shows that works of mercy are lawful and proper to be done on the Lord's day. There are more ways of doing well upon sabbath days, than by the duties of worship: attending the sick, relieving the poor, helping those who need speedy relief, teaching the young to care for their souls; these are doing good: and these must be done from love and charity, with humility and self-denial, and shall be accepted, ( Genesis 4:7 ) . This, like other cures which Christ wrought, had a spiritual meaning. By nature our hands are withered, and we are unable of ourselves to do any thing that is good. Christ only, by the power of his grace, cures us; he heals the withered hand by putting life into the dead soul, works in us both to will and to do: for, with the command, there is a promise of grace given by the word.

Verses 14-21 The Pharisees took counsel to find some accusation, that Jesus might be condemned to death. Aware of their design, as his time was not come, he retired from that place. Face does not more exactly answer to face in water, than the character of Christ drawn by the prophet, to his temper and conduct as described by the evangelists. Let us with cheerful confidence commit our souls to so kind and faithful a Friend. Far from breaking, he will strengthen the bruised reed; far from quenching the smoking flax, or wick nearly out, he will rather blow it up into a flame. Let us lay aside contentious and angry debates; let us receive one another as Christ receives us. And while encouraged by the gracious kindness of our Lord, we should pray that his Spirit may rest upon us, and make us able to copy his example.

Verses 22-30 A soul under Satan's power, and led captive by him, is blind in the things of God, and dumb at the throne of grace; sees nothing, and says nothing to the purpose. Satan blinds the eyes by unbelief, and seals up the lips from prayer. The more people magnified Christ, the more desirous the Pharisees were to vilify him. It was evident that if Satan aided Jesus in casting out devils, the kingdom of hell was divided against itself; how then could it stand! And if they said that Jesus cast out devils by the prince of the devils, they could not prove that their children cast them out by any other power. There are two great interests in the world; and when unclean spirits are cast out by the Holy Spirit, in the conversion of sinners to a life of faith and obedience, the kingdom of God is come unto us. All who do not aid or rejoice in such a change are against Christ.

Verses 31-32 Here is a gracious assurance of the pardon of all sin upon gospel terms. Christ herein has set an example to the sons of men, to be ready to forgive words spoken against them. But humble and conscientious believers, at times are tempted to think they have committed the unpardonable sin, while those who have come the nearest to it, seldom have any fear about it. We may be sure that those who indeed repent and believe the gospel, have not committed this sin, or any other of the same kind; for repentance and faith are the special gifts of God, which he would not bestow on any man, if he were determined never to pardon him; and those who fear they have committed this sin, give a good sign that they have not. The trembling, contrite sinner, has the witness in himself that this is not his case.

Verses 33-37 Men's language discovers what country they are of, likewise what manner of spirit they are of. The heart is the fountain, words are the streams. A troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring, must send forth muddy and unpleasant streams. Nothing but the salt of grace, cast into the spring, will heal the waters, season the speech, and purify the corrupt communication. An evil man has an evil treasure in his heart, and out of it brings forth evil things. Lusts and corruptions, dwelling and reigning in the heart, are an evil treasure, out of which the sinner brings forth bad words and actions, to dishonour God, and hurt others. Let us keep constant watch over ourselves, that we may speak words agreeable to the Christian character.

Verses 38-45 Though Christ is always ready to hear and answer holy desires and prayers, yet those who ask amiss, ask and have not. Signs were granted to those who desired them to confirm their faith, as Abraham and Gideon; but denied to those who demanded them to excuse their unbelief. The resurrection of Christ from the dead by his own power, called here the sign of the prophet Jonah, was the great proof of Christ's being the Messiah. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale, and then came out again alive, thus Christ would be so long in the grave, and then rise again. The Ninevites would shame the Jews for not repenting; the queen of Sheba, for not believing in Christ. And we have no such cares to hinder us, we come not to Christ upon such uncertainties. This parable represents the case of the Jewish church and nation. It is also applicable to all those who hear the word of God, and are in part reformed, but not truly converted. The unclean spirit leaves for a time, but when he returns, he finds Christ is not there to shut him out; the heart is swept by outward reformation, but garnished by preparation to comply with evil suggestions, and the man becomes a more decided enemy of the truth. Every heart is the residence of unclean spirits, except those which are temples of the Holy Ghost, by faith in Christ.

Verses 46-50 Christ's preaching was plain, easy, and familiar, and suited to his hearers. His mother and brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him, when they should have been standing within, desiring to hear him. Frequently, those who are nearest to the means of knowledge and grace are most negligent. We are apt to neglect that which we think we may have any day, forgetting that to-morrow is not ours. We often meet with hinderances in our work from friends about us, and are taken off by care for the things of this life, from the concerns of our souls. Christ was so intent on his work, that no natural or other duty took him from it. Not that, under pretence of religion, we may be disrespectful to parents, or unkind to relations; but the lesser duty must stand by, while the greater is done. Let us cease from men, and cleave to Christ; let us look upon every Christian, in whatever condition of life, as the brother, sister, or mother of the Lord of glory; let us love, respect, and be kind to them, for his sake, and after his example.

Cross References 74

  • 1. For ver. 1-8, see Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5
  • 2. Deuteronomy 23:25
  • 3. [ver. 10; Luke 13:14; Luke 14:3; John 5:10; John 7:23; John 9:16]
  • 4. [Exodus 20:9-11]
  • 5. 1 Samuel 21:1-6; See Matthew 21:16
  • 6. Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5-9
  • 7. Numbers 28:9, 10; [1 Chronicles 9:32; John 7:22, 23]
  • 8. ver. 41, 42; [ver. 8; Haggai 2:9; Malachi 3:1]
  • 9. Matthew 9:13
  • 10. Cited from Hosea 6:6; [Micah 6:6-8]
  • 11. [Matthew 9:6]
  • 12. For ver. 9-14, see Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11
  • 13. [Luke 14:3]; See ver. 2
  • 14. [Luke 11:54; Luke 20:20; John 8:6]
  • 15. [Exodus 23:4, 5; Deuteronomy 22:4]
  • 16. Matthew 6:26; Matthew 10:31
  • 17. [John 5:16, 17]
  • 18. [1 Kings 13:4]
  • 19. Mark 3:7; John 10:39; See Matthew 10:23
  • 20. Matthew 19:2
  • 21. Mark 1:25(Gk.); Mark 3:12; Mark 8:30; Luke 4:41(Gk.); Luke 9:21; See Matthew 8:4
  • 22. See Matthew 1:22
  • 23. Cited from Isaiah 42:1-3
  • 24. Acts 4:27, 30
  • 25. [Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18; John 3:34; Acts 10:38]
  • 26. Isaiah 42:4(Gk.); [Isaiah 11:10; Romans 15:12]
  • 27. For ver. 22-24, see Luke 11:14, 15; [Matthew 9:32-34]
  • 28. John 4:29; John 7:26, 31; See Matthew 9:27
  • 29. John 4:29; John 7:26, 31; See Matthew 9:27
  • 30. Mark 3:22; See Matthew 10:25
  • 31. See Matthew 9:4
  • 32. For ver. 25-29, see Mark 3:23-27; Luke 11:17-22
  • 33. [Acts 19:13]
  • 34. [2 Kings 2:7]
  • 35. [ver. 18]
  • 36. Matthew 19:24; Matthew 21:31, 43; Luke 17:21
  • 37. Isaiah 49:24
  • 38. [Isaiah 53:12]
  • 39. Luke 11:23; [Mark 9:40; Luke 9:50]
  • 40. For ver. 31, 32, see Mark 3:28-30; [Luke 12:10; Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26; 1 John 5:16]
  • 41. [Acts 7:51; Hebrews 10:29]
  • 42. Matthew 11:19; John 7:12; John 9:24
  • 43. 1 Timothy 1:12, 13
  • 44. [See ver. 31 above]
  • 45. [Ephesians 1:21]
  • 46. Matthew 7:16-20
  • 47. Luke 6:43, 44
  • 48. Matthew 3:7; Matthew 23:33
  • 49. Matthew 7:11
  • 50. Matthew 15:18, 19; Luke 6:45; [Matthew 13:52; Ephesians 4:29]
  • 51. [See ver. 34 above]
  • 52. [Ephesians 5:4, 11; 2 Peter 1:8]
  • 53. Ecclesiastes 12:14; Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 4:5
  • 54. See Acts 17:31
  • 55. [Matthew 5:22; James 3:2-12]
  • 56. Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11, 12; Luke 11:16; Luke 23:8; John 2:18; John 4:48; John 6:30; 1 Corinthians 1:22
  • 57. Matthew 16:4; For ver. 39-42, see Luke 11:29-32; [Mark 8:11, 12]
  • 58. Isaiah 57:3; Mark 8:38; James 4:4
  • 59. Jonah 1:17
  • 60. [Matthew 17:22, 23]
  • 61. Jonah 1:2
  • 62. Hebrews 11:7; [Jeremiah 3:11; Ezekiel 16:51, 52; Romans 2:27]
  • 63. Jonah 3:5
  • 64. ver. 6
  • 65. 1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chronicles 9:1
  • 66. [See ver. 41 above]
  • 67. For ver. 43-45, see Luke 11:24-26
  • 68. [Psalms 63:1; Jeremiah 2:6]
  • 69. 2 Peter 2:20-22; [John 5:14]
  • 70. ver. 39
  • 71. For ver. 46-50, see Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21
  • 72. Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; John 2:12; John 7:3, 5, 10; Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:19
  • 73. [John 15:14; Hebrews 2:11]
  • 74. Matthew 7:21; [Luke 11:28]

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Some manuscripts insert verse 47: Someone told him, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you"

Matthew 12 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.