The Family of God

(Matthew 12:46-50)

Everyone knows Jesus had a mother by the name of Mary. But many people do not realise he also had brothers and sisters too. He was part of an earthly family as well as being in the family of God.

This comes as a shock to some people the first time they see this, as common perceptions are that Jesus was an only child. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When Joseph was about to take Mary for his wife and found her to be pregnant he was going to divorce her. He believed she had done wrong by him by having sexual relations with another man. However, he was visited by an angel of God in a dream who explained that the child Mary carried was of God and would be the saviour of the world. Joseph then changed his mind and took her as his wife. But the scripture says, “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-25) Joseph and Mary did not consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born. However after that blessed event, their marriage was like the normal relationship between a man and a woman, which included sexual intercourse and the birth of other children.

In Matthew 12:46 we see that someone came to Jesus saying that, “…his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.” So this verse indicates that Jesus did indeed have physical brothers who were the sons of Joseph and Mary. In Mark 6:3 we see that he had four brothers and he had at least two sisters as well. The brothers are named in this scripture as follows, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” So Jesus was the eldest child of Mary and through her he was half brother to four brothers and at least two sisters for the word “sisters” in this verse is plural.

Now even though we have a physical family on this earth, Jesus shows us that we will have brothers and sisters in the Lord as members of the family of God. This family that we gain in Christ, our brothers and sisters in the Lord, may even be more important in some ways than our family in the flesh. There are many people who are abused and hurt by their fleshly families, but the family of God will not do that to us.

Here in Matthew 12:46-50 we find Jesus showed us that everyone who does the will of the Father is his brother, sister or mother. And if we are thus related to Jesus, we are sons and daughters of God and part of the family of God. The key to becoming part of the family of God is to do God’s will, which is to believe in Jesus Christ and to follow his teachings and ways.

When Jesus spoke to the disciples just prior to Pentecost, he told them they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them and they would be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8) On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to them in the rush of winds and flames of fire and they all began speaking in tongues. (Acts 2:1-4) There was indeed power in this event and afterwards the apostles did many miraculous things, healing the sick, raising the dead and other things, all done by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today there are some in the church who wish to have this power to do miracles. But in thinking that way they miss the point about the power that the disciples received. They received power to be his witnesses so that they could bring people to God and increase the family of God. The real power that the disciples received is the power to become children of God as the apostle John said, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

The power to become the children of God and thus members of the family of God is the true power we have been given. Miracles are just a flash in the pan by comparison, for they will fade away and disappear eventually. In 1 Corinthians 13:8 we see it stated, “Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” All of these miraculous things will cease eventually but love, and especially the love in the family of God lasts forever. It is the power to become the children of God through doing God’s will that is important.

We may lose our fleshly families in the process as our physical brothers and sisters may choose not to follow Jesus. But Jesus promises that if we lose our earthly families we will gain a heavenly family in the family of God. He said in Mark 10:29-30, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”

So we can take heart that even though we may lose the people who are close to us, not that we walk away from them, they will leave us, we will gain a family in God that will sustain us in ways our earthly family cannot. And his promise is that we will receive even more both now and in the future an eternal life with God the Father, Jesus and the rest of the family of God.

One Important Reason to Receive the Holy Spirit

(Matthew 12:43-45)

Jesus gives us two fascinating insights in this short section. First he provides an insight into the spiritual realm. He shows us what happens to a demon when it is cast out of a man. Second, he then gives us a warning to make the necessary changes that will keep the evil spirits away.

In relation to the first point we see that when an evil spirit is cast out it “…passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none.” (Vs. 43) It is clear that for an evil spirit to exist outside the flesh of man is a harsh experience, like being in the desert. There is no rest and it is a difficult existence for the evil spirit. (Don’t take pity on them…they deserve what they get!)

After wandering in this spiritual desert for some time the evil spirit then returns to the man from whom it was cast out. In the example Jesus gives we see the evil spirit finds the “house” from which it came, that is the man it was cast out from, “…empty, swept and put in order.” (Vs. 44) This is showing us that the man has been cleaned up but is empty, ready and waiting for a new occupant. But as the “house” (man) is empty, the spirit goes and gets seven demons worse than him…and moves in.

Now why does the evil spirit bring back seven worse demons than itself? I believe it is for self-preservation and protection. You see if the demon has all these strong and worse demons with him, they may be able to take a stronger hold over the man to prevent him seeking the Lord and thus make their “home” secure…from the Lord. By making the evil in the man stronger they can control him.

Jesus pointed to this in Matthew 12:29 saying, “…how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.” This is important for it tells us both what the evil spirits were thinking and also how we can keep the evil spirits away.

This brings us to the second point, how to keep the evil spirits at bay.

The reason this man had such trouble is that although he had been swept and put in order, ready for a new “tenant”, he was still empty. By being put in order by the Lord he was made ready to receive the Holy Spirit, but the man had not taken that step. Now if they do not receive the Holy Spirit after cleansing of the evil spirit, what is there to stand in the way of the evil spirit returning? But if the new tenant is a “strong man” as referred to in verse 29, then he will prevent the old evil spirit from coming in. And the Holy Spirit is a “strong man” having access to both Jesus and the Father himself.

So the warning we see here is…don’t leave the “house” empty after it has been cleaned. Otherwise the evil spirit squatters will return and, “…the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” (Vs. 45)

Jesus also warned the people of his generation that they too could end up like this. They were being prepared through his teaching and ministry to repent and be baptised (i.e. swept and put in order), in preparation to receive the Holy Spirit. If they chose not to, then they too would be in a worse state than they were previously. So we too must heed his warning. When your “house” is swept and put in order, don’t leave it empty. Fill it with the in-dwelling Holy Spirit so you can be led into all of the truth.

A Sign from God

(Matthew 12:38-42)

The Pharisees and the scribes came to Jesus saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” (Verse 38) What they were actually asking was, “Prove you are the Son of God.”

Jesus had already performed many signs and miracles before their eyes and yet they still did not believe in him. He had cast out demons, healed the sick and even raised the dead, but they did not believe. One wonders what kind of sign they needed to change their hearts and minds.

The truth of the matter is that no sign would have been sufficient for them. It did not matter what Jesus did, their hearts were still hardened against him. With every successive sign they got harder and more furious with him and sought ways to condemn and destroy him.

So asking for a sign was sheer malice on their part. They were cunning and mocking also when they called him teacher, for they did not accept his teaching and did not recognise him as the Son of God. It was evident that such seeking of signs was common amongst the Jews at that time. Even Paul made mention that, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23) Even today we see that those who come into contact with Christians are still seeking proof of who Jesus is through signs. Christians are opposed on many fronts and often they are asked to, “Prove there is a God.” This may be by some profound proof of wisdom or by showing a sign from God, which is exactly the point Paul made. So there is no real change today when dealing with those who are not followers of Jesus.

Jesus response to the scribes and Pharisees was evidence that he understood their hearts and their malice. He said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” In this remark he condemned them for asking for this sign, but also told them that a sign would be shown anyway. The sign would be that three days after he was put to death he would arise in the same way that Jonah returned from supposed death after three days in the belly of the whale.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus said, “And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'” (Luke 16:30-31) Now Jesus has risen from the dead as he said he would, and he did so after three days, giving them the sign of Jonah. Did they believe? No they didn’t. And right through his time of ministry Jesus continually upbraided the scribes and Pharisees for even though they claimed to be followers and teachers of the Law of Moses, they did not keep the law. So as Jesus said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.”

The law shows the difference between right and wrong. It is both a standard and a preparation for it shows what is required to live a good standard of life. It is a preparatory step for we see Paul write, “…the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24 KJV) In the law we see we were being trained. The law contains the wisdom of God for Paul also said the law is holy, just and good. (Romans 7:12) Thus Jesus rightly said that any person, who would not listen to the wisdom of God contained in the Law of Moses or the words of the prophets, would not be convinced if someone (Jesus) were to rise from the dead. Both are from the same source, the power and wisdom of God. So if they ignore and reject one they will ignore and reject the other.

And finally Jesus said of the Pharisees and scribes that through their rejection of him and his teachings, they would be condemned. They did see signs and wonders, but more importantly, they had the Son of God, Messiah and Saviour himself teaching them and they rejected him. Jesus’ teaching was much more important and greater than the teachings of all the prophets of the past, and so to reject him is a greater failure than to reject them. Let us today not make the same mistakes and fail to hear the words of the truth of Jesus so that we do not share in their judgment.

Out of the Abundance of the Heart the Mouth Speaks

(Matthew 12:33-37)

Jesus makes an interesting point in this section, and it is rather at odds with some modern thinking. Here he says, “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” (Vs. 33) The point he is making is that people are either good or bad and you will know them by what they do.

Whatever comes out of a person defines who they are. As he said elsewhere, “…not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matthew 15:11) In this case he was using the traditions of the Pharisees concerning the washing of hands before eating. We know there are hygiene issues today, but the Pharisees were teaching this as a doctrine and making it of greater importance than the law of God. Jesus
showed their folly and error and in his teaching made the above point. What goes into the mouth is food and it goes to the stomach and passes on. But what comes out of the mouth are the thoughts of men expressed as words and if
these are evil, that is what defiles the man. Eating with unclean hands might make you unwell, but speaking evil will cost you your life into eternity.

The words we speak and what we do are controlled by our thoughts and the passions of our flesh. These are the fruits of our minds. Thus a person who does evil bears evil fruits and a person who does good bears good fruit in the
words, deeds and behaviour. The point Jesus was making is that it is not possible for an evil person to bear good fruit and vice versa. He stated as much in the section about being aware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. (Matthew 7:15-20) In that passage Jesus also made the point that, “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:20) It is by this method we are to test for false teachers and prophets.

So if the abundance of the heart of a person is fundamentally evil, that is what will come out of them in words, deeds and behaviour. They may be able to act for a time and masquerade as being good, but in time the truth will come
out and they will be seen for what they truly are.

This position is different to much modern thinking. Today we see teachings from eastern religions about the “Yin and Yang.” This teaching says that in everything good there is some evil and in everything evil there is some good.
That is not what Jesus taught. Jesus shows that we are either one or the other. There are no halfway or part way positions. “Either make the tree good and it’s fruit goof or make the tree bad and its fruit bad.” (Vs. 33) Yin and Yang teachings are positions of compromise, but the word of God is not compromised.

If we accept compromise, how much should we accept before we are totally compromised? Jesus taught about this matter too saying, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but
if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23) What he was saying here is that if we take in evil and accept it into our thinking we will be compromised. And if the light of knowledge in us is compromised by some darkness of un-truth or lies, how dark is our understanding and where will it end? The answer is to reject all evil and not seek out the darkness but to seek the knowledge of the truth that comes from Jesus Christ and God alone.

There is a fearful prospect of judgment in this section too, for Jesus shows we will render account for every careless word we utter. If such is the case we must learn to bite our tongues and mind what we say. As James wrote, “Let
every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19) Good advice if we are to avoid this judgment of all that we say.

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The Unforgivable Sin

(Matthew 12:29-32)

There are many wrong things a person might do which the Lord will forgive them for when they turn to him in repentance. However there is only one thing that the Lord ever said would not be forgiven. We see it here in vs. 31-32 where he says, “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

Jesus and the Father are prepared to forgive men of virtually anything they might do, even if they blaspheme Jesus who is the Son of God. But they will not forgive any person who blasphemes the Holy Spirit. Let us look at this in some more detail.

What is blasphemy? There are numerous dictionary definitions that include: to speak impiously, use profane words, revile, and curse. In short it is to call something evil when it is good. As regards blasphemy of the Holy Spirit it is to say that the good works and actions of the Holy Spirit are demonic or of the devil. We saw in the section just leading up to this that the Pharisees had said that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Satan. This is exactly what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is. Jesus was casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit and these Pharisees said he was using satanic power. They had committed blasphemy of the Holy Spirit Jesus was warning the people of the seriousness of this sin.

Why is it that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven when Jesus said if a man blasphemed Jesus they would be forgiven? To understand that we need to understand something about whom the Holy Spirit is, and more importantly, what the role of the Holy Spirit is in the New Covenant.

The Holy Spirit is our teacher, comforter, counsellor and guide to bring us to the Lord. (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7-15) The work of the Holy Spirit is to transform us from our evil ways and nature into the image of the Son of God. This is accomplished by the spirit who changes us gradually from one degree of glory to another as it says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Now we saw that the Holy Spirit was first received by the disciples at Pentecost in Acts 2:2-4 like this, “And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” So the Holy Spirit is received and enters a man to dwell within him and work with him individually.

Jesus spoke of this indwelling of the Holy Spirit too, “…even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:17) Paul also wrote of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in several places, saying in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” He also warned Timothy to, “…guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.” (2 Timothy 1:14) And he also wrote of the indwelling spirit in Romans 8:9-11.

Now why is this matter of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in man significant in relation to the sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Consider the nature of man for a moment. We know that there is nothing good dwelling in man’s nature as Paul said in Romans 7:18, “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” We may wish to do good but we often fail. The passions of a man are evil and we know that many people will do whatever they can get away with. This is not God’s nature. The nature of man is described by Paul as, “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

We know that the Holy Spirit is holy and given to us individually as a gift from God. And we know also that, “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29) So when God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit he does not take it back.

But we see also that, “… the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.” (Galatians 5:17) And again, “…the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8) So knowing that our human passions and desires are opposed to the desires of the Holy Spirit, how awful a job is it for the Holy Spirit to have to do in us? We are being transformed into the nature of God, but until that state is achieved the Holy Spirit has to put up with all manner of unholiness, strife and evil passion in the human nature as he dwells within each individual.

This must be a terrible job for one who is holy. To have to put up with all manner of evil in man while he works to change man into the nature of God must be the most difficult task ever given to anyone. It is for this reason that I believe that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only unforgivable sin. It is just retribution for the filth and rubbish that the Holy Spirit has to put up with as he dwells within us to do the work of change. And praise God that he is prepared to do this horrible and awful task for it is for our benefit and we should thank the Lord daily for his compassion and be mindful of the Holy Spirit as we live our lives.

A Divided Kingdom will not Stand

(Matthew 12:22-28)

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.

Where there is Life there is Hope

(Matthew 12:15-21)

Jesus left the area knowing that the Pharisees were taking counsel and conspiring how to destroy him. But still his fame and reputation grew, for the people came to him and all who were sick and infirm he healed.

However he was not seeking fame or notoriety, for in all cases he ordered the people not to make him known. This was not merely a case of self-preservation, knowing the malice of the scribes and Pharisees, but it was his nature. It was also that the prophecies about him would be fulfilled.

In vs. 19 we see, “He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will any one hear his voice in the streets.” In this we see that he was not trying to be seen to be someone of importance, even though Jesus was the single most important person to ever walk on the earth. He was after all the Son of God. Instead though we see that he didn’t blow his own trumpet. He did not try to market himself as people do today, nor did he self-promote in any way at all. Instead his words and deeds spoke for him. As Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:25, “So also good deeds are conspicuous; and even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden.”

Jesus also came to level the playing field so that all men would have access to God. Prior to his coming, Israel was the chosen people of God. They received the law and had the prophets and to them were given the promises of the Lord. But in the New Covenant we see that the door was opened for the Gentiles as well so that everyone has access to life. We see in vs. 18, “I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles,” and again in vs. 21, “and in his name will the Gentiles hope.” So it is in Christ that the reconciliation of all men to God has been achieved.

Paul wrote about this reconciliation of the Gentiles and the Israelites in this way, “…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:12-14) And God has reconciled us to himself through Christ (Ephesians 2:16) and also given us the ministry of reconciliation to preach to the world, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

So now we see that all men regardless of race or genealogy are equals in Christ. We are all on the same level and all can approach the throne of God through Jesus Christ. There is no longer any distinction, we are all now the same. Once we were sinners but have now been set free from our sins in Christ Jesus through faith in his resurrection and the power of God. Romans 10:12-13 shows this saying, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” We may not all have been children of Israel in the flesh and able to receive the promises of God, but we can all become children of the spiritual Israel in Christ and thus become children of God.

Finally we see that Jesus is gentle. In Matthew 12:20 it says, “…he will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick, till he brings justice to victory.” By this he is saying that where there is life there is hope. If a person is bruised or suffering, he does not reject or ignore them, nor break them like a plant bruised and ready to be uprooted. Instead he offers help, care, healing and support to try to restore and strengthen. Where there is even a glimmer of light in a person, like a smouldering wick, he does not extinguish the light, but instead hopes that it will be fanned and become fully alight. If there is any chance that a person will come to him for reconciliation to God, he offers full opportunity to do so. No one is rejected, no one is left out who seeks or shows even the slightest desire to come to him.

A good example of this we see in the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. We see that when the prodigal son finally came to his senses and returned to his father broken and repentant, the father did not wait for him, but seeing him in the distance he ran to meet him. Jesus is the same. If we begin to approach him, even from a distance he will meet us on the way to help and guide us. Where there is life there is hope and our hope is in Jesus Christ and the redeeming power of his word.

Self Righteousness and Healing on the Sabbath

(Matthew 12:9-14)

By this time the Pharisees were seeking opportunity to condemn and destroy
Jesus. They were jealous of him and afraid of his power, for all the people
were following this new teaching and the Pharisees were losing their
authority and position over the people.

The problem the Pharisees had was they could find nothing on which to accuse
Jesus and prove him wrong. Here we see them ask him, “Is it lawful to heal
on the Sabbath?” (Vs. 10) They considered healing to be a form of work and
on the Sabbath no man was supposed to work. But they could not fault the
answer Jesus gave them. He said that if any of them had a sheep and it fell
in a pit on a Sabbath, would they not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of
course they would, for if they were to leave it in the pit until the Sabbath
ended, the sheep may die. To a man they would have removed the sheep from a
pit rather than see it harmed. And as Jesus pointed out, a man is of much
greater worth than a sheep.

Jesus showed that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. In the same way
that the Pharisees would not have allowed a sheep to suffer on the Sabbath,
why would they consider it a sin to allow a person with an infirmity or
sickness to be healed on the Sabbath? They were splitting hairs and being
contentious for the sake of their own evil ends. After Jesus had healed the
man the Pharisees went and took counsel how to destroy him.

The New Covenant came into being so that we could be set free from the law
of sin and death and have life. As Paul wrote, “For the law of the Spirit of
life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans
8:1) Paul also showed us that, “Christ is the end of the law, that everyone
who has faith may be justified.” (Romans 10:4) But the Pharisees were not
able to see the righteousness that came from God. Instead they were seeking
to establish a form of self-righteousness based on keeping the letter of the
law. Paul showed the folly of such an approach in Romans 10:3, “For, being
ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish
their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

Jesus was showing this same point to the Pharisees when he healed the sick
on the Sabbath. He said to the Pharisees earlier, “I desire mercy, and not
sacrifice,” (Matthew 12:7), but the Pharisees did not understand him. In
healing the sick he was showing mercy to the sick people. The Pharisees
would have made it hard for the man causing him to wait for another day to
be healed. They would have preferred he showed “sacrifice” by waiting in
pain for the sake of the law. They were legalistic to the extreme and could
not see that what God sought was for man to be merciful to his fellow man.

Jesus showed in another section the degree to which the Pharisees went and
failed in their self-righteous approach. In Matthew 23:23-24 we see these
words:

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and
dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law,
justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without
neglecting the others.
24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

The Pharisees and scribes went to extreme lengths to tithe tiny amounts of
their produce, even down to herbs grown possibly in a window garden or a
pot. But then, as we saw with the man with the withered hand, they neglect
the more important aspects of the law, justice, mercy and faith. Jesus then
shows us a comparison of how foolish they were.

Jesus compared tithing to a gnat, which is one of the smallest insects
known. If we had a drink and swallowed the gnat most people would not even
notice because gnats are so small. If a fly fell in most people would throw
out the drink and get another, or if they swallowed it would gag and cough.
This shows how small a gnat is in comparison to even a fly. But Jesus says
that the failure of the Pharisees was as if a camel fell in their drink and
they continued drinking and swallowed it.

Now a camel compared to a gnat is a huge comparison. A camel stands taller
than a full-grown man and can weigh up to 700 kg (1540 pounds). A gnat on
the other hand is so light you would not even feel it on you. In this
analogy, Jesus showed the difference in the importance of tithing as
compared to mercy, justice and faith. Tithing is insignificant compared to
these other matters. And yet the Pharisees thought that by their tithing
they were doing God’s will. This same issue rages still today with some
churches promoting the importance of tithing over many other matters of the
truth.

But self-righteousness through works of the law, which is the path the
Pharisees were following in their tithing, is no righteousness at all. The
only true righteousness that exists is given by God through faith in Jesus
Christ. To walk in God’s righteousness means to follow Jesus’ example. Do
good and show mercy when it is warranted, as he did to the sick man who was
healed on the Sabbath, for Jesus also showed, “The sabbath was made for man,
not man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath

(Matthew 12:1-8)

At the end of chapter 11 we saw Jesus state that his “yoke was easy and his burden light.” (Matthew 11:30) Now we see him begin to teach things that have reduced that burden of the Old Covenant.

Under the Old Covenant men were required to keep the Sabbath day holy. This was one of the Ten Commandments. On the Sabbath they were not to travel, nor work, nor prepare food. All food preparation was to be done the day before so they could rest and worship the Lord on the Sabbath day.

Now as Jesus and his disciples walked through some grain fields, the disciples plucked some of the grain and began to eat it. The Pharisees, who were sticklers for the smallest points of law took any opportunity to find fault and brought this to Jesus’ attention saying, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” (Vs. 2) The Pharisees expected Jesus would upbraid and condemn his disciples for breaking the law, but instead Jesus responded by showing other instances of where men did what was unlawful and yet were not condemned. David the king entered the temple and took the bread of the Presence, which no one but the priests were allowed to eat, and ate and gave it to those with him and yet he remained guiltless (1 Samuel 21-16). This was clearly a more significant issue than the disciples rubbing a few heads of grain to eat for the bread of the Presence was part of the offering and was consecrated as holy to the Lord. Then too Jesus said of the priests who offer the lamb and cereal sacrifices in the temple on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:9-10), which technically is breaking the Sabbath, also remain guiltless.

Jesus then showed that this new teaching under the New Covenant was greater than the old teachings under the law. At the end of this section he says, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath.” (Verses 6-8)

Under the New Covenant those who come to Christ are guiltless for Jesus has taken away their sin. In the Old Covenant men had to seek forgiveness of sin by sacrifices and offerings, but the forgiveness in the New Covenant is not based on offering sacrifices. The one perfect sacrifice has already been offered and we have been set free from sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice is the only one that can not merely give us forgiveness of sin, but completely remove and take our sin away. John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) This is why Jesus came to offer his own blood on our behalf. So that our sins would be taken away, not simply forgiven.

Expanding on this we see in Hebrews 10:5-6, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure.” God does not want constant offerings for sin. He wants us to not sin at all. He wants us to be merciful toward each other for our weaknesses and not judgmental over minor points of law, which is what the Pharisees were doing. In the constant sin offerings there was also the constant reminder of sin. But when Jesus took away our sins, he also took away the law so that we would not need to continue to make the offerings and would not be bound by sin.

This is too lengthy a subject to go into here, but if you wish to see more on this matter there is a free eBook on you can download here that looks at the Foundation Teachings of Christianity There is much more detail in this booklet covering this message about freedom from sin and freedom from the law through faith in Jesus Christ.

When we are set free from the law through Christ Jesus, we are also set free from the law concerning the Sabbath. This is why the disciples could be considered guiltless for the law applies only to those under the law. In Christ we are set free from the law and no longer under it and thus guiltless.