There were challenges to the King’s authority…
- In the rejection of John the Baptist. 11:1-19
- In the condemnation of the cities. 11:20-30
- In the controversy over His authority. 12
Conflict concerning the Sabbath, v.1-21
Conflict concerning Jesus power and its source, v.22-37
Conflict concerning a sign, v.38-50
CONTROVERSY OVER SABBATH-LABOR, v.1-8
- The disciples were poor men involved in missionary work. They understood who Christ was, and did not hesitate to eat from the field.
- The Pharisees did not criticize the disciples but Christ. They put the responsibility for their actions on Him. He had set them free from the traditions of men.
- In Christ’s answer He assumed responsibility for their actions. He reminds them that necessity can over-rule ceremony [1Sam.21:1-6].
- He is, in essence, saying your criticism is due to ignorance, not enlightenment. They did not understand the things of God.
- The King is saying that He has the right to use the Sabbath as He chooses. If priests are free from guilt when offering sacrifices, how much more He who is Lord of the Sabbath.
- Ethics are always more important than rituals.
CONTROVERSY OVER SABBATH-HEALING, v.9-13
- The Pharisees made an immediate connection between the Lord and a man who had a great need. He makes His point by showing ownership, “If a man have one sheep,” not “If a man see one sheep.” He is not just claiming the Sabbath belongs to Him, but the man belongs to Him.
- Ownership is the emphasis, and this is a work of necessity. This is My man. He is Lord of the Sabbath because it is His day, He is Lord of the corn of the field which He makes grow, and by healing and saving this man on the Sabbath, He is fulfilling the purpose of the Sabbath. It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath and particularly to that which is His own.
- As He moved out of the synagogue, He healed them all; they were all His.
- He is greater than the temple; Lord of the Sabbath; Owner of man and the Restrainer of judgment.
PHARISEES SEEK TO DESTROY JESUS, v.14-21
- Jesus knew that the scripture relating to Jehovah’s Servant had to be fulfilled [Isa.42:1-4]. The Trinity is identified in this passage – Christ is “My Servant.” His “Spirit” was on Christ, the Messiah, who proclaimed justice and gave nations hope.
- Christ restrained from judgment during His ministry of grace. He withdrew so that He would not smite them for their hypocrisy.
- Bruised reeds are weakness that is weakened further. Smoking flax is destroying itself. He withheld from this judgment to accomplish His work in His own way and send out blessing to the Gentiles. His mercy had not yet been completely shown. There was more to accomplish.
PHARISEES BLASPHEME THE HOLY SPIRIT, v.22-30
- Here is an underhanded attack. The man brought to Him was without any ability to communicate. He was possessed with a demon. Yet, He was able to instantaneously heal the man.
- The effect of the miracle reveals what the Pharisees complaint was, and why they attacked the Lord Jesus. Now observers believed He could be the Son of David.
- He answers their attacks by a simple statement; “a kingdom divided…” would mean Satan was working for his own destruction.
- The next statement points out the inconsistency of their position, because there were others who were casting out demons and practicing exorcism.
- He now declares that by the power of the Holy Spirit He cast out demons, and they must concede that the kingdom of God has come.
PHARISEES COMMIT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN, v.31-37
- The one unforgivable sin is permanently rejecting Christ [Jn.3:18, 36]. Some would not be able to comprehend a divine Person living among men, and allowances were made for such actions as speaking against the Son of Man. The power evidenced by His deeds should have never been misunderstood.
- Jesus had just performed a great miracle of healing and casting out demons, but the Pharisees rejected this witness of divine power and authority. They attributed His powers to Satan. This specific sin cannot be produced today because the Lord Jesus isn’t here in His physical presence on earth.
- They demonstrated an attitude that is permanently resistant to the Spirit of God, the deity of Christ and the saving power of the Gospel. The Pharisees were strongly condemned by the Lord because their hearts were evil.
- There are three parts to this statement: the first is a warning that if unbelief is persisted in, there is no forgiveness. The second is an appeal to make the tree good and not attribute good fruit to an evil tree. The third is a severe condemnation that cannot be mistaken
THE DEMAND FOR A SIGN, v.38-45
- Jesus had just performed a very significant sign-miracle when he filled out and completely healed a withered hand and another of authority over the powers of darkness. These men were not prepared to accept any sign the Lord might give them. Their use of the word “Master” or “Teacher” was an insult because they refused His teaching.
- The last sign would be that of Jonah. Any other sign would have no effect upon them. In the giving of this last sign, His death, burial and resurrection, a whole new opportunity would be extended to them to repent and believe the Gospel.
- The last judgment is the verdict passed on these men and their generation. The men of Nineveh were honest, they received the sign, they heard Jonah’s preaching and they repented. The queen of Sheba listened to the wisdom of a man. So less enlightened people responded, while there were those there, and today, who should understand but reject the striving of the Spirit of God and reject Christ.
- The last state of such people who cast out the unclean and do not replace it with the clean, is much worse than at the first. We must take care that outward cleanness and decoration does not take the place of a repentant, grace-filled, heart-warmed person whose reality is not “put on.”
THE TRUE BRETHREN OF JESUS, v.46-50
- Mary and her children must have heard of the plans of those who wanted to harm her Son. However, natural ties do not have priority over our devotion to God and His people.
- The Lord did not loose His affection or fail in His love to His mother and brothers. There is the understanding given that the will of God for us is supreme over all other considerations.
- So, if we are actually doing the will of our heavenly Father, we are related to Him as family – as next of kin. It is through this spiritual relationship and devotion to God’s will, that His kingdom is set up. Sacrificial service is a demonstration of how close we are to that which is His will for us.