The Pharisees continued to grow more jealous, envious and hostile toward Jesus. Their criticism of the work he was doing was evil and wrong. They could find no real fault with his message and so they made things up. They spoke lies to a depth of evil that was unimaginable considering the good works Jesus was doing. In response Jesus showed wisdom and knowledge, proving them to be foolish and liars in their opposition to him.
In this section we see Jesus cast the evil spirit from a blind and dumb demoniac. The man was healed and all who saw it were amazed. The people knew there was a Messiah to come who would be the Son of David, and they began to wonder aloud whether Jesus could be the Messiah. Jesus indeed was the Messiah and his works and the message he proclaimed testified to this fact. In addition, Matthew’s account of the Lord’s time on earth showed that all of the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah were fulfilled in Jesus.
The Pharisees also knew the Messiah was to come. Their expectation was he would come to rule as a great king, which was also prophesied and will occur after the second coming when Jesus will rule as king. And this was how the Pharisees expected him to appear when he came the first time; to come in great power and glory, not as a lowly son of a carpenter and a man of the common people with a message of salvation to proclaim. They also expected that as the keepers of the law and the temple worship they would be exulted by the Messiah when he came.
Regardless of the works he did and the message of freedom and salvation that he preached, they rejected Jesus as the Messiah. This too was spoken of in the prophets, “Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. But when they tried to arrest him, they feared the multitudes, because they held him to be a prophet.” (Matthew 22:42-46)
Jesus showed them they were the builders who rejected the stone (Jesus) that became the head of the corner. Every house of brick that is built is begun from one corner of the house. That first brick or stone that is laid is the most important of all. If that stone is laid wrong, then every brick after it will be wrong, for that stone determines the position of the house and locks in the position of every other stone that follows. When the Pharisees rejected Jesus, he became the foundation stone of a new house, the New Covenant. This house is not built on law and temple worship but is built on salvation, faith, justice and freedom from sin. It is certainly a much better house than the old house administered by the Pharisees, but they were not prepared to “move house.” And instead they attacked the builder of the new house, Jesus.
They could not attack his teaching and his message, so the Pharisees attacked the wonderful works he was doing. To try to undermine him they accused him of casting out demons by the prince of demons, Be-el’zebul, who is the devil or Satan. Jesus immediately rejected and refuted their position, knowing the evil of their thoughts. He said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand; and if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:25-26) Common sense tells us that a divided kingdom cannot stand. In team sports it is critical that the team play as a unit, each doing their part to help the team win the game. But if the team is divided and selfish and not working together as a cohesive unit, they will lose every game. Likewise in the business world or the political arena today we often see division amongst the leaders. It is disruptive and destructive to that business or government when this occurs, leading to all manner of issues and problems for the people. And they then lose control of their kingdoms because they cannot stand as shareholders sell off their shares and governments are ousted from power.
So when the Pharisees said that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Satan, he sharply rebuked them. Jesus pointed out that if they thought he were doing this by the power of Satan, then by whom were their sons casting out demons? They could not say that their sons were operating in the power of God but Jesus by the power of the devil when both parties were working to the same end. The actions of their own exorcist sons was judgement against the wrong thinking and evil thoughts of the Pharisees in this matter.
Finally Jesus said that if it was actually by the Spirit of God that he was casting out demons, as they would have agreed their own sons did, they were witnessing not some act of the devil, but the expression and working of the Kingdom of God. If that was the case, then perhaps they ought to listen to what he said and give God the glory for the wondrous works that were being done in the name of God by Jesus.