26. The man, blind, mute and bedeviled
The man, blind, mute and bedeviled….UNTO Jesus was brought one blind, mute and bedeviled; and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.
The people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But the Pharisees said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them,
Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself falleth: it shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.
And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.
But if I with the finger of God cast out devils by the Spirit of God, no doubt then the kingdom of God is come unto you.
Or else, how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and divideth the spoils.
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
¶Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto the sons of men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost is in danger of eternal damnation: it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in theworld to come.
Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.
O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Scripture: Matthew 12:22-30
Meditation 1 of 3:
Which condition is worse — physical blindness or spiritual darkness? Matthew describes a demonized man who was brought to Jesus so he could be healed. This man was not just physically unable to see or speak. He was spiritually oppressed as well. Fortunately his friends brought him to the one who could set him free from his physical and spiritual affliction. Satan loves to keep people in darkness and in fear. He will use whatever means possible, whether it be a physical weakness, a mental affliction, some emotional trouble, or an addiction, to lead people into despair and bitterness, so that they end up distrusting God and his love for them. Jesus has power to set us free from any affliction that might keep us in bondage to fear, sin and despair. Jesus’ ability to set people free from crippling infirmities and from spiritual illness amazed those who witnessed his miracles. No one had done such marvelous works before. When they saw what Jesus did, they openly wondered among themselves if this might be the “Son of David”, a title for the expected Messiah. The Lord wants us to approach him with the same awe and expectant faith as those who brought the “blind and dumb” and the oppressed to Jesus.
Why did the religious authorities react so negatively to Jesus’ healings and exorcisms? Were they jealous of his spiritual power and authority? Or did they feel threatened that Jesus was drawing people to himself rather than to them? They were unable to stop or silence Jesus because the crowds held Jesus in great awe and respect. Some of the religious leaders tried to dismiss Jesus’ authority to perform miracles and exorcisms by claiming that Jesus got his power from Satan rather than from God. This was a serious charge which Jesus could not ignore. Jesus answered their charge with two arguments. There were many exorcists in Palestine in Jesus’ time. So Jesus retorted by saying that they also incriminate their own people (their family members and relatives) who also have power to cast out demons. If they condemn Jesus they also condemn themselves.
In his second argument Jesus asserts that no nation, city, or house divided against itself can survive for long. We have witnessed enough strife, genocide, and civil wars in our own time between peoples and nations who cannot tolerate one another or live peaceably side by side. Strife, prejudice and division inevitably lead to disharmony, hostility, and bitter fighting. Jesus said it would not make any sense for Satan to give anyone else the power and authority to undo the chain of allegiance which his armies give solely to him. If Satan lends his power against his own spiritual forces then he is certainly finished and his army is made weak and powerless. Jesus makes another simple observation: How can a strong person be defeated except by someone who is stronger? Jesus asserted his authority to cast out demons as a clear demonstration of God’s reign and power to rule in peoples’ lives. God’s power is clearly at work in the exorcisms which Jesus performed and they give evidence that God’s kingdom has come. Do you want to experience the Lord’s victory and protection over sin and oppression in your life? If you obey him and submit to his rule, you will certainly know and experience his kingly peace, presence, and protection.
What is the point of Jesus’ grim story (parable) about a strong man’s house being occupied by an evil force? Our foe and the arch-enemy of God, who is called “Satan” and the “father of lies”, is very powerful. Unless we are clothed in God’s strength, we cannot overcome Satan by ourselves. Satan seeks to rule the world in place of God. That is why he uses whatever means he can to get us to obey him rather than God. What does Satan wish to take from us? Our faith and confidence in God and our submission to his kingly rule. Satan can only have power or control over us if we listen to his lies and give in to his will. Jesus makes it clear that there are no neutral parties in this world. We are either for Jesus or against him, for the kingdom of God or against it. Scripture tells us very clearly that there are ultimately only two kingdoms in opposition to one another – the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness under the rule of Satan. If we disregard and disobey God’s word, we open the door to the power of sin and to Satan’s deception and control. If we want to live in freedom from sinful desires and from Satan’s oppression, then our house must be occupied by Jesus where he is enthroned as Lord, Master, Savior, and Shepherd of our soul. Do you know the peace and security of a life fully submitted to God and to his word?
“Lord Jesus, you are my hope, my refuge, and my salvation. Be the ruler of my heart and the master of my home. May there be nothing in my life that is not under your protective care and lordship.”
Scripture: Matthew 12:31-32
Meditation 2 of 3:
What is the unforgivable sin which Jesus warns us to avoid? Jesus knows that his disciples will be tested and he assures them that the Holy Spirit will give them what they need in their time of adversity. He warns them, however, that it’s possible to spurn the grace of God and to fall into apostasy (giving up the faith) out of cowardice or disbelief. Why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit reprehensible? Blasphemy consists in uttering against God, inwardly or outwardly, words of hatred, reproach, or defiance. It’s contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. Jesus speaks of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit as the unforgivable sin. Jesus spoke about this sin immediately after the scribes and Pharisees had attributed his miracles to the work of the devil instead of to God. A sin can only be unforgivable if repentance is impossible. If someone repeatedly closes his eye to God and shuts his ears to his voice, he comes to a point where he can no longer recognize God when he can be seen, and when he sees evil as good and good as evil (Is. 5:20). To fear such a sin, however, signals that one is not dead to God and is conscious of the need for God’s grace and mercy.
There are no limits to the mercy of God, but any who refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. God gives grace and help to all who humbly call upon him. Giving up on God and refusing to turn away from sin and disbelief results from pride and the loss of hope in God. What is the basis of our hope and confidence in God? Jesus’ death on the cross won for us our salvation and adoption as the children of God. The love and mercy of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Spirit are freely given to those who acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Is your hope securely placed in Christ and his victory on the cross?
“Lord Jesus, your mercies are new everyday. Help me to turn away from sin and cooperate with the purifying grace and work of the Holy Spirit in my life.”
Scripture: Matthew 12:33-37
Meditation 3 of 3:
How do you know for certain that a tree is healthy and life-producing? Outward appearances can be misleading or even deceptive. There may be rottenness or decay inside! But if a tree continues to bear good fruit year after year, then you know it is sound and healthy. Jesus uses this analogy as a mirror image of the true condition of one’s heart and moral character. What’s inside of us – the inner core of our being, the place of choice and will, desire and passion, attitude and disposition – will either produce good or bad fruit! And it will be obvious to everyone who knows us what kind of fruit we are bearing.
Our daily speech and actions reveal what is really inside the heart. That is why Jesus called the religious leaders of his day a “brood of vipers”. When they saw Jesus casting out demons they branded him an ally of the devil (Matt. 12:24). The tongue of a viper is double-forked making it doubly effective in striking its enemy! The scribes and Pharisees professed knowledge of God and his law, but they betrayed their evil intention and ill-judgment towards Jesus because he claimed to speak and act in God’s name.
It is often when we are angry that we let our guard down and reveal what we actually think about others. We can say nice things in public when others are watching us. But when we speak without thinking, or when restraints are down, we reveal what is really inside of us, what we really are.
A person will produce good or bad fruit depending on what is sown in the heart. Charles Read said: “Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.” Character, like fruit, doesn’t grow overnight. It takes a lifetime. Jesus connects soundness with good fruit. Something is sound when it is free from defect, decay, or disease and is healthy. Good fruit is the result of sound living — living according to moral truth and upright character. The prophet Isaiah warned against the dangers of falsehood: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20). The fruits of falsehood produce an easy religion which takes the iron out of religion, the cross out of Christianity, and any teaching which eliminates the hard sayings of Jesus, and which push the judgments of God into the background and makes us think lightly of sin.
How do we avoid falsehood and bad fruit? By being true — true to God, his word, and his grace. And that takes character! Those who are true to God know that their strength lies not in themselves but in God who supplies the grace we need to live as his disciples. The fruit of a disciple is marked by faith, hope and love, justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance. Do you cultivate good fruit in your life and reject whatever produces bad fruit?
Cyril of Alexandria, commenting on this passage writes: “When he says ‘treasure,’ Christ refers to the multitude of motives that lie in the soul. It is not by nature that people are good or bad but by their own choice. He makes this plain in his remark to the Pharisees: It is possible for one and the same person at one time to become good, at another time evil, for ‘a good man speaks out of the abundance of his heart,’ and likewise for the bad.”
“Lord Jesus, take my heart, mind and will, and all my thoughts, intentions and actions, and all my desires and affections, and make them wholly yours. Transform me that I may only think and say and do what is pleasing to you and in accord with your will.”