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Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (‘Blaspheming the Holy Spirit’ parts 1 and 2).

Matthew 12:22-32

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

22 Then 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 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he 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, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks 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.


Last week’s post looked at the preceding verses to this week’s reading. In Matthew 12:15-21, Jesus left the area where He had healed a man with a withered hand in the local synagogue and went to another place where He continued to heal people and make them whole again. Matthew cited and paraphrased Isaiah 42:1-3 to show the Jews — and us — that Jesus truly is the prophesied Messiah and Saviour.

Now someone brought to Him a man who was blind and mute because of demon possession (verse 22). Our Lord healed the man who could then see and speak.

This is both a physical and spiritual healing. Matthew Henry says:

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 eye of faith, and seals up the lips of prayer.

The people watching this were beside themselves with astonishment. Immediately they asked if He was the long-awaited Son of David (verse 23). John MacArthur analyses this verse for us:

The word there means ‘to be totally astounded.’ It is existemi, and it means to be beside yourself with astonishment; it isn’t just saying, “Well, isn’t that something.” It is losing it. In fact, one translator says that it means to be literally knocked out of your senses. Another one says it is to be out of your mind with amazement. To put it in Junior High talk, it is to be blown away. They just couldn’t handle it; it was an overwhelming thing.

Yet, they were trying to reconcile His humble appearance with His magnificent healing power (emphases mine):

… they are saying, “This can’t be the Messiah, can it?” It’s like an 80-percent no but a 20-percent yes. The ‘no’ comes from the fact that He didn’t fit their bill, their design, their preconception; but the 20-percent ‘yes’ comes from the fact that they couldn’t explain His power.

The Pharisees addressed them and alleged that our Lord was in league with Satan (verse 24). No Jew of the time was going to argue with these men considered to be the paragons of God’s people. And the Pharisees were so wrapped up in their own prestige that they were permanently hard of heart, so much so that they accused Him of getting His power from Beelzebul.

MacArthur explains the name:

That is the old word that originally was the name of a Philistine god, Beel comes from Baal. You’ve heard of worshiping Baal, and that is just the ancient pagan word for ‘lord.’ ‘Zebub’ or ‘zebul’ is best connected in translation to the word ‘flies.’ So we go all the way back to the lord of the flies, or the god of the flies.

The Ekronites worshiped the god of the flies, if you can imagine. It was a play on words, because there is another word ‘zebel’ which means ‘dung.’ So apparently, they even called Beelzebub ‘Beelzebel,’ which was a derisive thing, saying, “Your lord of the flies is nothing more than the lord of the dung.” It would be easy to do that play on words, because flies tend to hang around, well, you get the picture. So that is probably what they had in mind.

Through the centuries, this lord of the flies or lord of the dung title for this deity became a very common title for Satan. So to be the prince of demons or Beelzebub is simply using one of the titles of Satan. Jesus recognized this, because in verse 26, when He answers, He uses the word ‘Satan’ in response to their word ‘Beelzebub.’

Jesus pointed out the absurdity of that accusation (verses 25, 26), effectively asking how and why Satan could be working against his own demons, his servants.

Note that the Pharisees were not addressing our Lord. He was going to talk to them, however.

It is likely that the Pharisees were standing closer to the crowd than to Jesus, so He might not have been in earshot but, because He is omniscient, He knew what they had said.

Jesus went further, asking them how their sons were casting out demons (verse 27). Were they, too, in league with Beelzebul?

Or, He asked them, was He healing through the Spirit of God (verse 28)? If so, then the kingdom of God was present among them. Henry explains:

This casting out of devils was a certain token and indication of the approach and appearance of the kingdom of God (Matthew 12:28) … Other miracles that Christ wrought proved him sent of God, but this proved him sent of God to destroy the devil’s kingdom and his works. Now that great promise was evidently fulfilled, that the seed of the woman should break the serpent’s head, Genesis 3:15. “Therefore that glorious dispensation of the kingdom of God, which has been long expected, is now commenced slight it at your peril.” Note, [1.] The destruction of the devil’s power is wrought by the Spirit of God that Spirit who works to the obedience of faith, overthrows the interest of that spirit who works in the children of unbelief and disobedience. [2.] The casting out of devils is a certain introduction to the kingdom of God. If the devil’s interest in a soul be not only checked by custom or external restraints, but sunk and broken by the Spirit of God, as a Sanctifier, no doubt but the kingdom of God is come to that soul, the kingdom of grace, a blessed earnest of the kingdom of the glory.

Jesus expanded on that further by alluding to a break-in (verse 29). If someone is going to plunder the house of a strong man, he’d better be able to overpower that man and bind him first. Therefore, who is the only one strong enough to bind Satan? Jesus.

Henry analyses the verse:

The world, that sat in darkness, and lay in wickedness, was in Satan’s possession, and under his power, as a house in the possession and under the power of a strong man so is every unregenerate soul there Satan resides, there he rules. Now, (1.) The design of Christ’s gospel was to spoil the devil’s house, which, as a strong man, he kept in the world to turn the people from darkness to light, from sin to holiness, from this world to a better, from the power of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18) to alter the property of souls. (2.) Pursuant to this design, he bound the strong man, when he cast out unclean spirits by his word: thus he wrested the sword out of the devil’s hand, that he might wrest the sceptre out of it

Then our Lord said that anyone who was not with Him was His enemy and that anyone who did not gather — spread His message — would scatter, or be lost (verse 30).

He went on to say (verses 31, 32) that many forms of blasphemy can be forgiven — including those against Himself as the humble Son of Man — once one repents but that against the Holy Spirit cannot be pardoned.

MacArthur says that this is because blaspheming the Holy Spirit is doing what the Pharisees have done: allying the Spirit with Satan.

MacArthur unpacks this for us:

He is saying, “You can speak a word against the Son of Man, and that would be forgiveable because you may speak against Him, seeing nothing more than the humanness.” In other words, your perception may not even allow you to be dealing with deity as a factor. And it is not His power on display, so you may be speaking against Him as Son of Man; you are condemning what you perceive in His humanness (even though you’re wrong), you can understand that you can do that without making a comment on His deity at all, because it is the Spirit who is working, not Him, technically.

Another thought is important here, and that is the fact that this is His humiliation. There is a sense in which He is in a mode of humiliation which invites that kind of criticism. In other words, you might say, “If that is the Second Person of the Trinity, I’m not impressed. I mean, He’s a carpenter from Nazareth.” You could speak a word against the human Jesus in His humiliation, that’s forgiveable; you may just not know the facts, who He really is. You may not have seen the evidence, and are just talking at the human level, without a perception of the divine. That’s what He’s saying.

Nevertheless, when you speak against the Holy Spirit, that will not be forgiven you, not in this time period or in the time period to follow, because when you begin to speak against the Spirit, then you are saying, “I recognize the supernatural, I see the supernatural, only I think it’s Hell, not Heaven.” For that, you won’t be forgiven.

Ultimately — and this is important to be able to explain to people, because these are not easy verses to understand:

If you’re looking on the human plane and that’s all you perceive and understand, you can be brought along to believe and understand. But if, when you have seen the supernatural and the ministry of the Spirit of God through Christ, and you conclude that it is of the Devil, you can’t be forgiven because now, you are speaking against the Spirit of God, the power of God, the energy of God, as made manifest through Christ. So, in a real sense, you’re speaking against His deity, His divine nature, and calling it satanic.

It is easier to understand this in the context of the Pharisees, prime examples of the condemned. They spent a lot of their time following our Lord around, witnessing His miracles and hearing His teaching. Yet, as we saw in Matthew 9:32-34 and in this passage, they accused Him of being in league with Satan. They denied the divine source of His power, the Holy Spirit, and — worse — called it satanic. That cannot be forgiven.

Henry explains:

This is such a strong hold of infidelity as a man can never be beaten out of, and is therefore unpardonable, because hereby repentance is hid from the sinner’s eyes.

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit which began working through the Apostles starting on that day enabled them to spread the Gospel message, preach, teach and heal in Christ’s name. This is why Confirmation — a sacrament for Catholics, an ordinance for Protestant denominations — is so important. Unfortunately, it seems to be the last time many adolescents ever see the inside of a church. Families agree that once their children are confirmed, they do not have to attend Sunday services any more.

This is, I think, in part, because Confirmation classes are not what they used to be. They are rather watered down. Consequently, adolescents do not understand the nature and importance of the Holy Spirit. Another factor is parental. Mum and Dad have forgotten, or never understood, the Holy Spirit, either. Were their clergy to blame, too? Or was it that they drifted away from worship and the faith?

Those of us who have been confirmed or ‘born again in the Spirit’ would do well to consider how we are using the Holy Spirit’s gifts in our relationship with Christ Jesus and in our daily lives.

In closing, parallel verses for today’s passage are in Luke 12:8-10. It is a pity that neither of these was included in the three-year Lectionary for public worship.

Next time: Matthew 12:33-37


Bible ourhomewithgodcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 12:15-21

God’s Chosen Servant

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
    my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I 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     and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”


Last week’s reading ended with Matthew 12:14:

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

As Jesus is omniscient, He knew their intentions and He left (verse 15). The time of His destruction had not yet come. He had more teaching and healing to accomplish.

Although the Pharisees wanted our Lord destroyed, note how the ordinary Jews followed Him. In His mercy, He healed everyone who had need of it. He ordered them not to make Him known (verse 16).


Matthew Henry offers these reasons (emphases mine):

1… in suffering times, though we must boldly go on in the way of duty, yet we must contrive the circumstances of it so as not to exasperate, more than is necessary, those who seek occasion against us[:] Be ye wise as serpents, Matthew 10:16. 2. It may be looked upon as an act of righteous judgment upon the Pharisees, who were unworthy to hear of any more of his miracles, having made so light of those they had seen. By shutting their eyes against the light, they had forfeited the benefit of it. 3. As an act of humility and self-denial. Though Christ’s intention in his miracles was to prove himself the Messiah, and so to bring men to believe on him, in order to which it was requisite that they should be known, yet sometimes he charged the people to conceal them, to set us an example of humility, and to teach us not to proclaim our own goodness or usefulness, or to desire to have it proclaimed. Christ would have his disciples to be the reverse of those who did all their works to be seen of men.

Matthew says this was to fulfil Isaiah’s prophecy (verse 17):

The scope of it is to show how mild and quiet, and yet how successful, our Lord Jesus should be in his undertaking …

He refers to Isaiah 42:1-3:

1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.

I say ‘refers’, because he reinterprets a few of the verses.

Remember that Matthew is writing for a Jewish audience, to convince them that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

John MacArthur explains:

Matthew wants us to know that it is not only the Messiah, but the very Messiah prophesied by Isaiah. So he says, “All this in order that it might be fulfilled what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet.” Isaiah said He would be like this, and the key is in verses 19-20. “He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory.”

That’s the heart of what Isaiah wants to say as the defense of Christ in prophetic literature, but he also adds the beginning of verse 18 and the end of verse 21, so we take it all. It’s one of the most strikingly beautiful descriptions of Jesus Christ in Scripture, taken from Isaiah 42:1-4.

God was speaking to Isaiah, referring to His Son — His chosen servant with whom He is well pleased (verse 18). This is a recurring phraseology in the Gospels:

What did He say at the Son’s baptism? “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” What about at the Transfiguration? “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” What did He do when Jesus died and rose again but exalt Him, place Him at His right hand, and put all authority under Him, and gave to Him to send the Holy Spirit, which is the ultimate act of His commendation. He was commended by the Father. Doesn’t that show you how far off the religious leaders were? The one whom God was commending, they were condemning; the one whom God made alive, they killed.

“Behold My servant, whom I have chosen.” ‘I have chosen’ is a marvelous phrase; it’s a word that is only here in the Greek New Testament and appears nowhere else. It indicates great firmness of choice. For example, it is used in secular Greek to speak of adopting a child, really taking them in in a firm commitment. He has chosen the Son. In Hebrews 1, it talks about how He chose the Son to fulfill this role. In Isaiah 49:1, it says the same thing in the wonderful verse about how the Father has chosen the Son. So much was this a part of the Messianic identity that the Messiah became known as ‘the Chosen One’ in the Jewish mind, so when Isaiah says, “My servant, whom I have chosen,” he is designating a title for the Messiah that the Jews in Jesus’ time would know. They would know that as Matthew is quoting this, he is quoting a Messianic passage; they know that he is saying that Jesus is the Messiah, the Chosen One.

The Spirit was upon Him from the beginning. For mankind, God the Father demonstrated this after Jesus’s baptism, when:

the Spirit of God descended like a dove. But I don’t believe that is when it started; I believe that Jesus Christ was indwelt by the power of the Spirit of God from the time He was conceived. It says of John the Baptist in Luke 1 that he was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb. If that was true of a human being, believe me, it must have been true of the God-Man. It also says in Matthew 1:20 that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew uses ‘Gentiles’ instead of Isaiah’s ‘nations’. Our Lord came for them — the Chosen — first, then for the Gentiles.

Verse 19 speaks of Jesus’s gentle, quiet manner. Indeed, the preceding verses tell us that He left quietly and told people not to speak of Him when talking of their healing. ‘Cry aloud’, MacArthur says, refers not to an agonising cry as at the Crucifixion but an animalistic noise like a bark or shriek. Furthermore, Jesus was not a rabble-rouser, calling for revolution, despite what some misguided theologians purport today.

Verse 20 speaks of His gentleness. Unlike mankind, He would not break a limp reed nor put out a fading light. MacArthur interprets the verse as meaning the hurt, the injured, the spiritually weak:

This is a picture of the hurting people, the ones everyone else steps on, discards, throws away, the bruised reeds that don’t play the tune anymore, the smoking flax that can’t give any light to illuminate the situation. This is the weak, powerless, helpless, ones destroyed by sin and suffering, those bowed down with care, the unworthy, the ones without spiritual resources, the whole world of trampled, despised, ignored, suffering, hurting people. These are the kind of people that human conquerors have no time for, those that the Pharisees walked all over, the broken people. But those are the ones the Lord goes to; He doesn’t break those kind of bruised reeds or put out what’s left of the smoldering flax.

In fact:

He strengthens them. He picks up the reed and plays a melody through it that has never been heard. He will fan the flame that is smoldering on that wick so that it brightens and lights the room. He will pick up the sick and tax collectors and prostitutes and sorrowing and fearful and doubters and hungry and sinners, and meet their needs. That’s the kind of Savior He is, and He is the antithesis of the religious leaders around Him. That is the indication of Isaiah, that He is indeed God with us, Emmanuel, because that is the heart of God.

Ultimately, He will bring justice:

He will win the victory and consummate the victory …

One writer put it this way, “Down in the depths of the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feelings lie buried that grace can restore. Touched by a loving hand, wakened by kindness, cords that are broken will vibrate once more.” Jesus came along and put a new song, fanned the fading flame, reached out to those who suffered. Christ has come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, not to heal those who are well, but those who are sick and face it. How different He is from other religious leaders; He ought to be – He is God.

Therefore, we have hope because of — and thanks to — Him (verse 21).

Despite our suffering in this life, He will wipe away our tears and heal our broken hearts. He will save us and bring us to everlasting life. What a beautiful promise!

Next time: Matthew 12:22-32



Bible readingThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 12:9-14

A Man with a Withered Hand

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”— so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the 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.


Not one of the three Synoptic Gospel accounts of our Lord’s healing of the man with the withered hand is included in the three-year Lectionary.

I wrote about the other two accounts a few years ago: Mark 3:1-6 in 2012 and Luke 6:6-11 in 2013.

The first verses of Matthew 12, the subject of last week’s post, concerned the Pharisees stopping Jesus to ask if it was lawful on the Sabbath for His hungry disciples to pluck grains to eat as a snack. Jesus firmly rebuked them, stating that He was the Lord of the Sabbath. Therefore, it was He who made the observance rules, not they.

In today’s reading, Jesus, the disciples and the Pharisees are in the synagogue — immediately following the grain incident. Hence, verse 9: ‘He went on from there …’

A man with a withered hand was in the congregation and the Pharisees, by now well acquainted with Jesus’s compassionate miracles, asked Him if He planned on healing the man on the Sabbath (verse 10). So, even after He told them He was the Lord of the Sabbath a short while earlier, they persisted in making their Sabbath everyone else’s Sabbath. They refused to bow down before our Lord. They refused to admit they were wrong. They refused to see Him as their Messiah. They believed His healing powers came from Satan. We will see this accusation again later in Matthew 12.

These men knew Scripture inside and out. That knowledge should have penetrated into their hearts and revealed something to them. Yet, they had extreme hardness of heart.

Jesus further explored Sabbath rules with them, asking if it was lawful for an observant Jew of the time to rescue a sheep on the day of rest (verse 11). He told them that a man is worth much more in God’s eyes than a sheep, therefore, it is lawful for Him to heal on the Sabbath (verse 12). By extension, the inference is that we are obliged to follow His example in compassion, mercy and kindness.

John MacArthur tells us that the reason the Pharisees allowed the rescue of a sheep was that the animal would bring in money when sold. Therefore, it was a matter of making one’s livelihood. On the other hand, they would have considered the man’s withered hand to be what today’s health industry would call ‘a pre-existing condition’. Therefore, his healing could wait until after the Sabbath.

MacArthur takes a brief detour in his sermon to discuss the Hindus’ attitude towards humans and animals. Their belief in reincarnation causes them to not harm rodents and other pests consuming their food supply whilst India is full of starving humans at the bottom of the caste system (emphases mine):

They won’t kill a fly because it is the incarnation of someone who is trying to get out of that karma. They won’t kill a rat, a mouse, or a cow. Two-thirds of their food supply is eaten by those things, and that is why they have starvation problems. They let people die all over the place and don’t help them, because it’s their karma. They won’t give money to beggars or help the destitute because they feel they must endure that suffering to earn their way to the next level. So cows are worth more to them than people; cows are sacred, for whatever reason. It’s the same in Judaism, but not quite so religiously defined, and sheep were more important to them economically than people. Ethical conduct is the issue, and the Lord makes it very clear at the end of verse 12, “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

This was to illustrate that when we come to belief in Christ, through God’s grace, we will appreciate that humans are more important in His sight than animals, although we have an obligation from Genesis to care for them and nurture them. God created every living thing.

MacArthur says:

By the way, Mark and Luke tell us that all the while He is talking, He has brought the man with the paralyzed hand and sat him in front of the entire synagogue, and it is very dramatic. He is confronting them and saying, “You tell me. You rescue a sheep; would you rescue a man? Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath?” What can they say? If they say it is lawful to do good, then they are stuck. He would say that it would be good to heal the man. If they say it is not lawful to do good on the Sabbath, then what have they said? What is the alternative, evil? So He asks the question, but they don’t want to answer, so they don’t.

And after the healing, they left to plot against our Lord (verse 14).

In mercy, Jesus asked the man to extend his hand. He did so.

Immediately, Jesus completely restored it. It was the same as his other hand (verse 13).

MacArthur gives us this insight on the healing and on the meaning of the Sabbath:

Was that a good thing to do for that man? If there was ever any meaning in the Sabbath, wouldn’t it be to do good? Sure. And to know to do good, and have the ability to do good, and not to do good is to do evil. If ever there was a time for blessing, it was the Sabbath …

Jesus connected the Sabbath with the heart of God – benevolence, mercy, kindness, goodness. That is the purpose of it all. Jesus came that we might enter into a relationship with God in which He pours out to us grace, goodness, mercy, kindness, peace, benevolence, and tenderness. The Pharisees had completely obliterated that illustration in the Sabbath. Jesus’ lesson is very clear: we broke the ceremonial law to meet our need, but that is the heart of God. We broke a traditional law of not going more than so many feet to serve God; that is the heart of God. God wants mercy to be shown, not ritual. The only function that ceremony ever has is the illustration of a right attitude. If you corrupt the illustration without having the right attitude, you miss the whole purpose.

Matthew Henry has a fascinating insight into the background of the man with the withered hand. Because scholars from centuries ago had not only read writings of the early Doctors of the Church but also valued them, Scripture had more meaning than perhaps it does today.

Of the man, Henry cites St Jerome:

St. Jerome says, that the gospel of Matthew in Hebrew, used by the Nazarenes and Ebionites, adds this circumstance to this story of the man with the withered hand, that he was Cæ mentarius–a bricklayer, and applied himself to Christ thus “Lord, I am a bricklayer, and have got my living by my labour (manibus victum quæ ritans) I beseech thee, O Jesus, restore me the use of my hand, that I may not be obliged to beg my bread” (ne turpiter mendicem cibos).

That is something which we can all include in the teaching of this miracle to others.

Henry draws these lessons from this miracle with regard to animals, people and the Pharisees:

Note, Man, in respect of his being, is a great deal better, and more valuable, than the best of the brute creatures: man is a reasonable creature, capable of knowing, loving, and glorifying God, and therefore is better than a sheep. The sacrifice of a sheep could therefore not atone for the sin of a soul. They do not consider this, who are more solicitous for the education, preservation, and supply of their horses and dogs than of God’s poor, or perhaps their own household.

This is something to bear in mind, particularly today. There are many in the world — including ‘Christians’ — who erroneously place animals and the environment above human need. Our fellow man is worth much more than either. Let us, therefore, focus on man’s needs first.

Next time: Matthew 12:15-21

Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

12 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the 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? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 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.”


According to the three-year Lectionary schedule, the corresponding reading of Mark 2:23-28 is to be read on the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost in Year B. However, I checked the Vanderbilt University Lectionary site as well as those for the Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod for 2014. That reading was not among those listed. The number of Sundays after Pentecost may depend on when Easter falls, with readings adjusted accordingly.

Before I go into a verse-by-verse study, this episode in Christ’s ministry is important for churchgoers to understand. John MacArthur makes an interesting point on Sabbath observance (emphases mine):

Although God rested on the seventh day, God did not command men prior to the Mosaic Law to rest on the seventh day; it was in the Mosaic Law that the requirement was first articulated. Then it became, in the Mosaic Law, a special, covenantal sign between God and Israel. Listen carefully, because many misunderstand this. The Sabbath commandment is one of the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20; it is the only commandment that is a non-moral one, the only one that is a ceremonial command. It is the one of the Ten Commandments that was uniquely between God and Israel as a ceremonial rule; all the other nine are moral absolutes. The reason we know this for sure is because when you get to the New Testament, every other command is repeated. Every one of the Ten Commandments is repeated except the one regarding the Sabbath. It is not repeated in the New Testament because it was a unique covenantal sign, much like circumcision was, between God and Israel.

At the time of Jesus and His disciples, the Sabbath was in fact the ceremonial law of God. It is not a binding law for the church, but it was for Israel. So the Lord would honor the Sabbath, as would His disciples, insofar as God intended it to be honored.


Romans 14 says, “Some people want to keep the Sabbath and some don’t. It’s no big deal; if they want to, it’s because the are doing it traditionally from their Judaism, don’t offend them, let them go. If you don’t want to do it, don’t worry about it.” That’s why Paul says in Galatians 4 and Colossians 2, “Don’t let anyone impose upon you days or Sabbaths.” We have the reality; the shadow is gone. Christ fulfilled it.

That’s why He rose on the first day of the week. The disciples met together on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1), regularly breaking bread on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), and they were to collect their offerings when they came together on the first day of the week (I Corinthians 16:1). Why? Because that was the day that commemorated and celebrated the resurrection. That’s why we meet today, because it’s resurrection day! It’s the new covenant.

Now onto the text. I wrote about the parallel account — Luke 6:1-5 — in 2013. That post gives all the background to what is otherwise a puzzling reading for those who are not well acquainted with the Old Testament.

Matthew 12 begins with this story. MacArthur says Matthew might well have wanted to draw a connection between it and the preceding chapter’s final verses (Matthew 11:28-30):

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In Matthew 12:1, Jesus and His disciples were walking through grain fields on the Sabbath. Hungry, the disciples began picking grains and eating them. They would have rubbed off the chaff and eaten the inner portion, which would have been a bit of a snack. MacArthur says:

They did this commonly. Some of you have lived on a farm and done this; maybe you’ll take the head of the wheat or barley and roll it in your hands to clear the kernel out, then you throw it in the air and the chaff is blown away, and then, as if eating nuts, you eat the grain.

Students of the King James Version will say that these were cornfields. MacArthur tells us why later versions refer to grain:

Some Bibles say ‘corn fields’ but they were probably wheat and barley fields. The grain was likely ripening because of what occurs in the incident in verse 1. If they were there in Galilee, in the Jordan Valley, that would mean that it was around April, nearing Passover season, perhaps, because that’s when grain usually ripens there: in the spring. As you go east from there, the farther east you go, the later it is, until finally, at the eastern parts of that area, it doesn’t ripen until August. But in the Jordan Valley, it would be around April. The harvest must have been very near.

The Pharisees voiced their objections to Jesus (verse 2). Removing chaff from grain was not allowed in their many burdensome Sabbath laws. However, Mosaic law, which God revealed to Moses, said that, in case of hunger, people were allowed to pick, but not harvest, grain on the Sabbath:

The Lord had made a wonderful provision for the traveler in Israel in Deuteronomy 23:25. It says, “When you come into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor’s standing grain.” In other words, there weren’t any restaurants or truck stops or McDonald’s anywhere, so as you were moving along, you would get hungry. So the Lord provided, in Deuteronomy 23:25, within the nation of Israel, that you could take your hands and pluck some of the grain.

In verses 3 and 4 Jesus countered the Pharisees by reminding them of what David and his companions did when they were fleeing for their lives, became hungry and approached the priest in the tabernacle for something to eat. The priest in charge gave them the showbread which only the priests were allowed to consume. The story is in 1 Samuel 21. MacArthur summarises it:

He had been rejected by his people as king, and he was fleeing for his life. He was going south to Gibeah, as it says in I Samuel 21, and Saul was after him. He came to the land of Nob, just north of Jerusalem, where the tabernacle was. He didn’t have any food and he and his men were very hungry. So he went in to Ahimelech, who was ministering in the place of Abiathar, the high priest, and told him that he was hungry. David even told a lie about what mission he was on, but he nonetheless told him that he was hungry. You know what they gave him to eat? The showbread from off the table in the tabernacle.

What was that? Every week, they baked 12 loaves of bread and each loaf was baked with six and a half pounds of flour; these were big, big loaves. They were put in two piles of six each, and represented the 12 tribes of Israel, and placed on the table. Every Sabbath, the loaves would be taken away and new ones put down. When the loaves were taken away, according to Leviticus 24:5-9, they were to be eaten by the priests and no one else. The word ‘showbread’ literally means ‘the bread of presence,’ or ‘the continual bread,’ and it was the representation of God’s perpetual relationship to His people, and it was to be eaten only by the priests. It was sacred, never to touch the lips of a common person, even a person like David, because he wasn’t a priest.

Still, David ate the showbread

Why did God let him do this? Because God never invented any law that was intended to overrule human need. Ceremony takes a backseat to the meeting of a need. God not only allows necessity to overrule ritual, but the ritual in David’s time, and in our Lord’s time, had lost its meaning anyway, because the people were so unholy. God will even violate one of His own ceremonies, not moral laws, but ceremonial law if He has to to meet a need, because God is all about loving men and meeting their needs. The Pharisees didn’t understand this, “That the Sabbath was made for man,” so he could rest and have his needs met. Not man for the Sabbath. David violated the ceremonial law to meet the heart of God, which is to meet needs.

Jesus then went on to ask how priests in the temple could get away with working — e.g. lighting fires for the animal sacrifices — and not be declared guilty of breaking Sabbath law (verse 5).

Jesus said that this concerned something greater than the temple (verse 6), which the Jews highly venerated. At that moment, the field was much more sacred because He was standing in it.  The Pharisees would never understand that, as the events of Matthew 12 and 13 make clear.

Our Lord sharply reminded them that God prefers mercy to sacrifice (verse 7). Hosea 6:6, which Jesus quoted, says:

6For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
   the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

He ended His rebuke by telling the Pharisees that the Lord of the Sabbath — the Son of Man — was in their very presence (verse 8). He would make the rules, not they.

As we will read next week, Jesus and His disciples were on their way to the synagogue.

Matthew Henry concludes:

This intimates, that those labours are lawful on the sabbath day which are necessary, not only to the support of life, but to the service of the day as tolling a bell to call the congregation together, travelling to church, and the like. Sabbath rest is to promote, not to hinder, sabbath worship

That law, as all the rest, is put into the hand of Christ, to be altered, enforced, or dispensed with, as he sees good. It was by the Son that God made the world, and by him he instituted the sabbath in innocency by him he gave the ten commandments at mount Sinai, and as Mediator he is entrusted with the institution of ordinances, and to make what changes he thought fit and particularly, as being Lord of the sabbath, he was authorized to make such an alteration of that day, as that it should become the Lord’s day, the Lord Christ’s day. And if Christ be the Lord of the sabbath, it is fit the day and all the work of it should be dedicated to him. By virtue of this power Christ here enacts, that works of necessity, if they be really such, and not a pretended and self-created necessity, are lawful on the sabbath day and this explication of the law plainly shows that it was to be perpetual ...

Some Protestant denominations still make Sunday a day of restrictions, possibly more than necessary. They have that freedom as long as they do not impose it on others or criticise others for being less observant than they.

Next time: Matthew 12:9-14

Bible spine dwtx.orgThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 11:20-24

Woe to Unrepentant Cities

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”


The parallel passage for today’s verses can be found in Luke 10:13-15, about which I wrote in 2014. That means that neither reading is part of the three-year Lectionary.

That’s a pity, because the lesson Jesus is impressing upon us is that if we do not heed the Gospel message once we hear it, we are condemned for eternity.

Verse 20 begins with the word ‘then’. If you read my post on Matthew 11:16-19, you will recall that Jesus criticised those who rejected both John the Baptist and Him. Today’s reading records His words of rebuke to those who were rejecting His ministry. The people from these cities have seen His miracles and heard His teachings yet refuse to repent.

Our Lord names the cities (verse 21). My post on Luke 10:13-15 gives more detail on the cities, however, today neither Chorazin nor Bethsaida exist. Coincidence? Or divine judgment?

Chorazin was a village near Capernaum, where Jesus lived. The residents knew Him and the Apostles. Yet, they did not accept Him as Lord and Saviour. Bethsaida was a small town northwest of Capernaum. Bethsaida’s residents also actively chose not to accept Him.

The expression ‘woe to you’ means ‘may you be cursed’. Our Lord emphasised His condemnation of those towns by saying that even the cities of Tyre and Sidon — known to be evil, pagan places — would have repented had He gone there. Not only that, they would have donned sackcloth and ashes in the process.

Sidon and Tyre were powerful trading centres. Sidon was a Phoenecian port city, mentioned in Genesis 10. Egyptians sent their wheat to Sidon, where it was then shipped out to other countries along the Mediterranean. Tyre was a fortified city nearby, mentioned in Judges 19. It was known for providing the famous cedars of Lebanon for Solomon’s temple. Regardless of their commercial power, however, Jesus’s audience would have known the bad moral and spiritual reputation both cities had.

However, no matter how sinful Tyre and Sidon were, Jesus said that their fate at judgment would be nothing compared with that of Chorazin and Bethsaida (verse 22). Matthew Henry’s commentary explains (emphases mine):

Though the damnation of all that perish will be intolerable, yet the damnation of those who had the fullest and clearest discoveries made them of the power and grace of Christ, and yet repented not, will be of all others the most intolerable. The gospel light and sound open the faculties, and enlarge the capacities of all that see and hear it, either to receive the riches of divine grace, or (if that grace be slighted) to take in the more plentiful effusions of divine wrath. If self-reproach be the torture of hell, it must needs be hell indeed to those who had such a fair opportunity of getting to heaven. Son, remember that.

That is why these passages from Matthew and Luke should be in the three-year Lectionary!

Jesus went on to condemn Capernaum, where He based His ministry. He said the town would be brought to Hades (verse 23). He said that if He had performed mighty works in Sodom, the people there would surely have repented and the city would not have been destroyed. That is a very strong condemnation, and the Jews would have understood it as such. They knew Sodom was an abominable city that deserved — and received — divine wrath for its sinfulness.

Yet, the residents of Capernaum who had the blessings, grace, miracles and mercy of Jesus among them will be punished more severely for having rejected them (verse 24).

Henry says:

Sodom will have many things to answer for, but not the sin of neglecting Christ, as Capernaum will. If the gospel prove a savour of death, a killing savour, it is doubly so it is of death unto death, so great a death (2 Corinthians 2:16) Christ had said the same of all other places that receive not his ministers nor bid his gospel welcome (Matthew 10:15) It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for that city.

For us, this means:

We that have now the written word in our hands, the gospel preached, and the gospel ordinances administered to us, and live under the dispensation of the Spirit, have advantages not inferior to those of Chorazin, and Bethsaida, and Capernaum, and the account in the great day will be accordingly.

If we reject Christ, having heard the Gospel message, we are just as condemned as those cities.

Incidentally, Capernaum was later destroyed. For centuries, it was impossible to know where the city stood, the destruction was so complete.

However, divine judgement did not fall on the city alone. A condemnation had been passed on all the inhabitants who ignored our Lord in their self-righteousness. They did not have the morality issues that the people from Sodom did. Yet, their condemnation is the greater because they refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah.

John MacArthur has two observations which help us to interpret this passage more fully.

The first is on the use of Hades in verse 23:

… that word is a word that basically is a neutral word, sometimes refers to waiting place, sometimes just refers to sort of darkness, or the place of death, or the grave. But it is used sometimes with more specificity, or more exactness. And, I believe, Matthew uses it here in the sense of torment, in the place where Satan and his demons and the condemned will dwell. He uses it in the sense of hell. That is Matthew’s pattern. He uses Hades one other time and that’s in chapter 16 verse 18 and he talks about the gates of hell. And I think he means in both of these cases, consistent, the place of torment. Matthew also commonly in referring to this same place uses the term Gehenna, which was a word that meant a burning fire; actually it was the term for the dump in Jerusalem which never went out, the fire burned continually. And he uses that twice in chapter 5 and once in chapter 10.

Also, it’s interesting to note that in Luke 16:23 it talks about the rich man being in Hades and being in torment. So, Hades can be a word that reflects torment. And in consistent with Matthew’s approach, that’s what I think he is saying. You are going to a place of torment. And the torment of Capernaum will exceed the torment of Sodom.

Since the 17th century, if not before, some scholars and intellectuals, especially those favouring universalism, have presented us with the neutral connotation of Hades. Yet, it is worth keeping MacArthur’s explanation in mind: that, in some contexts, Hades may well refer to a place far worse — one of torment.

The other point MacArthur made was on sackcloth and ashes:

Sackcloth was the coarse … camel hair, like John the Baptist wore, that turned black. It was a symbol of mourning. And when you wanted to mourn or show humility, you put on sackcloth and then in an oriental custom, threw ashes all over yourself. Or else, you could have a big bed of ashes and just dive in and wallow in it. That was another way you expressed your sorrow. That is not necessarily a biblical custom that was an oriental one. But Job did it, in Job 42:6, he repented in dust and ashes. And so did Daniel in 9, when he prayed that great prayer to God on behalf of his people in captivity, he put ashes on himself.

In closing, we need to exercise caution when we see lax interpretations of Scripture. The explaining away of torment — i.e. the meaning of Hades — is one of these. Some of my readers will find this warning unsophisticated. So be it. What does Jesus say in Matthew 11:25-26?

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

The chapter concludes with one of the best known and best loved Bible verses:

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

May we contemplate this in the week ahead.

Next time: Matthew 12:1-8

Bible croppedThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 11:16-19

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
    we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”[a]


Last week’s entry examined Jesus’s comparison of John the Baptist to Elijah in greatness. He also spoke of the kingdom of heaven and how John’s followers sought repentance and holiness with a deep passion: ‘the violent take it by force‘ (Matthew 11:12). He also referred to the fact that, in John the Baptist’s ministry and His own, the kingdom was suffering violence from persecutors.

Today’s passage has a parallel account in Luke 7:31-35, which I wrote about in 2013.

Our Lord takes issue with those — ‘this generation’ — who have been indifferent to John’s and His message (verse 16). John exhorted the people to repent — and many did, although not all. Jesus came to bring them to salvation. Repentance, then salvation.

However, many were not listening. Jesus likened them to children who refuse to play with their friends in the marketplace (verses 16, 17).

He refers to the two most popular re-enactments — weddings (flute) and funerals (dirge). We play ‘house’ — ‘happy families’, as it is known in Britain. They chose weddings and funerals because both involved large numbers of people, drama, emotion, ceremony and ritual. What’s not to like?

Yet, there were always children who sat on the sidelines carping, refusing to play. Jesus likens those who criticise Him and John to complaining children who never like what their friends are re-enacting in the marketplace.

Jesus explains (verses 18, 19): John led the life of an ascetic, abstaining from most food and all intoxicating drink. People complained about that, saying he had a demon. Then our Lord began His ministry. He had no such restrictions and associated with tax collectors and sinners. People objected to that, too: for that, they called him a drunkard and a glutton.

Jesus concludes by saying that wisdom is justified by her deeds. What does that mean?

John MacArthur unpacks the verse for us (emphases mine):

In other words, you sit back and you criticize no matter what I do or John does, no matter what our message is, you criticize. But in the end the truth will justify itself by what it produces. You can criticize Christ, but where you’re going to run into trouble is when you run into the people whose lives He’s changed, right? You can criticize the church but where you’re going to have problems is when you have to explain why the church has had the impact it’s had on the world. You see, truth or wisdom ultimately is justified by what it produces, and that is an unanswerable argument.

The wisdom of John the Baptist which insisted on repentance and the wisdom of Jesus which insisted on salvation was shown to be justified by what it accomplished in the hearts and the lives of the people who believed. They rendered the right verdict, they who believed. And they become the testimony to the truth. Some people are just critical. And you meet them and I meet them. They’re not even looking for the truth. They just want to find everything wrong with Christ and Christianity and that’s a tragic response. Because in the end, the truth will be justified by what it produces.

These…see, these people had a smugness that made them sit in condemning judgment and they were wrong

Matthew Henry has a similar analysis:

The success of the means of grace justifies the wisdom of God in the choice of these means, against those who charge him with folly therein …  If the unbelief of some reproach Christ by giving him the lie, the faith of others shall honour him by setting to its seal that he is true, and that he also is wise, 1 Corinthians 1:25. Whether we do it or not, it will be done[,] not only God’s equity, but his wisdom, will be justified when he speaks, when he judges.

However, Jesus had not finished; He had harsher words, to be covered next week. A parallel account is in Luke 13:10-15, also excluded from the Lectionary. Lamentable. We need those words of wisdom today more than ever!

Next time: Matthew 11:20-24

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 11:12-15

12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence,[a] and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear,[e] let him hear.


The context of Jesus’s words here are in response to John the Baptist’s followers asking on his behalf if He is truly the Messiah, the One he foretold.

John could not ask in person; Herod had placed him in prison.

The more detailed parallel account of Matthew 11:2-14 is in Luke 7:18-23 and Luke 7:24-30 which I wrote about in 2013. Those posts explain more about the background to John’s question and his imprisonment.

Both Luke’s and Matthew’s Gospels include Jesus saying that John the Baptist was the greatest human being that ever lived. At least the Lectionary editors incorporated Matthew 11:11 into the Gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Advent in Year A (emphases mine):

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

We now understand John the Baptist’s greatness in the words of our Lord. But what of the second sentence?

Matthew Henry says that some scholars have interpreted it in three ways. The ‘least in the kingdom of heaven’ can refer to the saint made fully perfect in wisdom once with Christ or that He was referring to Himself, being regarded as second to John by his followers. However, Henry says there is a third meaning which refers to the Apostles:

it is rather to be understood of the apostles and ministers of the New Testament, the evangelical prophets and the comparison between them and John is not with respect to their personal sanctity, but to their office[;] John preached Christ coming, but they preached Christ not only come, but crucified and glorified. John came to the dawning of the gospel-day, and therein excelled the foregoing prophets, but he was taken off before the noon of that day, before the rending of the veil, before Christ’s death and resurrection, and the pouring out of the Spirit so that the least of the apostles and evangelists, having greater discoveries made to them, and being employed in a greater embassy, is greater than John. John did no miracles[;] the apostles wrought many.

The next verse (12) appears disconcerting, perhaps disturbing, as Jesus says that from the beginning of John’s ministry the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, with the violent taking it by force.

The meaning here is twofold. On the one hand, John was languishing in prison for having spoken spiritual and moral truths to Herod, thereby angering him and his family. At the same time, the Jewish hierarchy was following our Lord, actively opposing Him. On the other hand, John the Baptist brought many people — Jew and Gentile — to repentance in preparation for the Messiah’s coming. The only ones who did not follow his instruction for baptism and turning away from sin were the Jewish religious rulers, who believed they were perfect already.

Both Henry and John MacArthur say the violence of John the Baptist’s ministry in a personal sense meant that his followers began an intense spiritual struggle against sin and desire for God’s holy kingdom. Henry tells us:

Note, They who would enter into the kingdom of heaven must strive to enter that kingdom suffers a holy violence self must be denied, the bent and bias, the frame and temper, of the mind must be altered[;] there are hard sufferings to be undergone, a force to be put upon the corrupt nature we must run, and wrestle, and fight, and be in an agony, and all little enough to win such a prize, and to get over such opposition from without and from within. The violent take it by force. They who will have an interest in the great salvation are carried out towards it with a strong desire, will have it upon any terms, and not think them hard, nor quit their hold without a blessing, Genesis 32:26. They who will make their calling and election sure must give diligence. The kingdom of heaven was never intended to indulge the ease of triflers, but to be the rest of them that labour. It is a blessed sight[.] Oh that we could see a greater number, not with an angry contention thrusting others out of the kingdom of heaven, but with a holy contention thrusting themselves into it!

MacArthur looks at the ministry of John the Baptist, then Jesus’s, saying:

In other words, he’s going to go with a great effect and turn many hearts to God. So if you take it reflexively then the kingdom is moving ahead vigorously. And our Lord was continuing, then, to mark out the greatness of John. Through him the kingdom was vigorously moving ahead. He was God’s tool to purify the people. He was God’s tool to get them ready. And when Christ came the kingdom could be seen, the sick were healed, the lepers were cleansed, the dead were raised, the sinners were forgiven and the kingdom was moving. Yes, many refused but look the end of the verse would read this way: Violent men are taking possession of it. There were the vigorous, violent, forceful who dared to step out, who dared to break with tradition, who dared at all costs to separate themselves from the system, who came and took possession of the reign of God, who enthroned Jesus Christ as Lord.

And that, by the way, beloved, is the meaning of a parallel statement in Luke 16:16, where it says: “The law and the prophets were until John, since that time the Kingdom of God is preached and every man presses into it.” And because of that parallel passage, I think, we’re safer to say that this is a reflexive use of biazō. That it is saying – that the Kingdom is moving ahead under the power of this marvelous man John, and vigorous, aggressive, forceful people are taking that kingdom.

You say, “Well, does that express the proper perspective on salvation?” Yes. In Matthew chapter 7 it says that if you’re going to enter into the narrow gate, you’re going to have to realize that it’s hard to enter, that there must be a striving. Listen to what it says. “Because the gate is narrow and the way is hard which leads unto life and few there be that … what?… find it.” No, you don’t just easily take Jesus Christ, you don’t just easily enter the kingdom, there is a striving. Jesus said if you’re going to come unto Me then you must deny yourself, take up your…what? … your cross and follow Me.

Striving does not mean via must-do works but by spiritual yearning through the discipline of prayer, turning away from sin and keeping Holy Scripture alive in the heart and mind. It is a struggle. It is much easier to take a sinful approach to life, conducting ourselves in a self-satisfying, impulsive, temperamental way that makes us feel better but hurts others as well as our Lord.

Jesus then compared John the Baptist to the prophet Elijah (verses 13, 14). Henry explains:

First, Christ speaks of it as a great truth, that John the Baptist is the Elias of the New Testament not Elias in propria persona–in his own person, as the carnal Jews expected he denied that (John 1:21), but one that should come in the spirit and power of Elias (Luke 1:17), like him in temper and conversation, that should press repentance with terrors, and especially as it is in the prophecy, that should turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. Secondly, He speaks of it as a truth, which would not be easily apprehended by those whose expectations fastened upon the temporal kingdom of the Messiah, and introductions to it agreeable. Christ suspects the welcome of it, if ye will receive it. Not but that it was true, whether they would receive it or not, but he upbraids them with their prejudices, that they were backward to receive the greatest truths that were opposed to their sentiments, though never so favourable to their interests. Or, “If you will receive him, or if you will receive the ministry of John as that of the promised Elias, he will be an Elias to you, to turn you and prepare you for the Lord,” Note, Gospel truths are as they are received, a savour of life or death. Christ is a Saviour, and John an Elias, to those who will receive the truth concerning them.

Finally, Jesus wanted His listeners to pay attention to what He said and keep it in the forefront of their minds (verse 15). His message was not to go in one ear and out the other. Henry analyses it as follows:

“Let all people take notice of this, if John be the Elias prophesied of, then certainly here is a great revolution on foot, the Messiah’s kingdom is at the door, and the world will shortly be surprised into a happy change. These are things which require your serious consideration, and therefore you are all concerned to hearken to what I say.” Note, The things of God are of great and common concern: every one that has ears to hear any thing, is concerned to hear this. It intimates, that God requires no more from us but the right use and improvement of the faculties he has already given us. He requires those to hear that have ears, those to use their reason that have reason. Therefore people are ignorant, not because they want power, but because they want will therefore they do not hear, because, like the deaf adder, they stop their ears.

May those who waver in their faith reread the Gospels, noting their historical significance — yesterday, today and always.

Next time: Matthew 11:16-19

Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 11:1

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.


The intervening verses between our Lord’s healing of the deaf men, covered in last week’s post, and the beginning of Matthew 11 recount His appointment and training of the Twelve Apostles.

All of those verses are included in the three-year Lectionary. I’ll look at Matthew 10 tomorrow apart from this series.

Matthew prepares us for Chapter 10 at the end of Chapter 9 (Matthew 9:35-38):

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

At the beginning of Matthew 11, we find that as the Twelve go to preach, teach and heal, Jesus goes ‘to teach and preach in their cities’.

John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

that means the cities of the disciples, which were the cities of Galilee. Eleven of the twelve of them, with the exception of Judas, were from Galilee. So He continued His Galilean ministry.

He adds that Christ’s ministry was two-fold:

teaching and preaching, and they are different. The synagogue was a place where the Scripture was read and exposited. Philo, the historian, says the synagogue’s main feature was to read and give a detailed exposition of Scripture. So the Lord would go into the synagogue, and since any resident expert who happened to be there could speak, He would take the occasion to speak, and He would take the Old Testament and give them the meaning of the Old Testament and apply it to Himself. He was an expository teacher.

He was also a preacher. The word means ‘to proclaim,’ and He would go from the synagogue to the streets and the hillsides, and the highways and byways, and the corners, and anywhere. He would preach and proclaim His Kingdom. So He continued doing this. We may also assume, based on verse 5, that He continued the miracles of healing, casting out demons, raising the dead, and forgiving sin. So the Lord goes on about His work.

So, Jesus did not take a break whilst the Twelve were invested with the same divinely-bestowed gifts. He continued His ministry.

Matthew Henry says the Apostles were performing miracles while Jesus was preaching and teaching. Which was more important?

Observe, When Christ empowered them to work miracles, he employed himself in teaching and preaching, as if that were the more honourable of the two … Healing the sick was the saving of bodies, but preaching the gospel was to the saving of souls.

Church leaders and clergy can draw upon His example by keeping just as busy as His Apostles. Serving Christ does not allow for directing from the top and remaining idle. All should be equally occupied in spreading the Gospel message:

Note, the increase and multitude of labourers in the Lord’s work should be made not an excuse for our negligence, but an encouragement to our diligence. The more busy others are, the more busy we should be, and all little enough, so much work is there to be done.

Matthew’s message through Chapter 9 establishes Jesus as the Messiah and the Anointed One. Then he changes tack. In Chapters 11 and 12 he tells us about people’s reactions to Jesus. MacArthur explains:

In fact, he lists for us the various kinds of reactions to the claims of Christ. Through giving us brief narrative events in these chapters, he gives us categories of response to Jesus Christ. These chapters are filled with very common reactions to the claims of Christ, which were true then and are true today as much as they were then.

For example, in Matthew 11:1-15 is the response of doubt. From verses 16-19, we see the response of criticism. From verses 20-24, there is the response of indifference. Going to chapter 12, the first 21 verses deal with the response of rejection. Verses 22-23 are the response of amazement, and verses 24-37, the response of blasphemy. Verses 38-45 show the response of fascination.

Those are all the negative responses: doubt, criticism, indifference, amazement, rejection, blasphemy, and fascination. Each of them, in a sense, is kind of a unique response all its own, although there is some overlapping as well. But you’ll notice that I said nothing about the last section of chapter 11 and the last section of chapter 12, because both of those deal with positive responses; the response of faith, the right response.

So by the time you have covered these two chapters, you have run the gamut of possible reactions to the claims of Christ and crystallized the categories. That is very helpful, because you’ll find out as we move through these two chapters, we’ll be able to see the varying responses that are just as true today as they were then, and understand, perhaps a little better, where people are coming from when they react to Jesus Christ.

More to follow next week.

Next time: Matthew 11:12-14


Bible boy_reading_bibleThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (here and here).

Matthew 9:32-34

Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak

32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”


Last week’s post discussed Jesus’s healing of the two blind men who followed Him into the house where He was staying in Capernaum.

His healing the deaf mute took place immediately afterward at the end of a very long day which involved raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead and healing the woman who had the 12-year blood flow. Before that, He condemned the pharisaical method of fasting and cured a paralytic. He was surrounded by crowds the whole time that day, except for brief periods: inside Jairus’s house and at Peter’s house when He healed the blind men.

The blind men with fully restored sight no sooner went away (verse 32) than a demon-possessed deaf mute stood before Him. He might have been someone in the crowd and was presented to Him. However, John MacArthur thinks he was a companion of the two blind men:

Now, this would have been one of their friends.  They were blind, he was deaf and dumb; and together they made a whole person …  And they immediately went out, and they got hold of their friend, “possessed with a demon, and they brought him in.”  This is the commitment of the men.  One of their fellow beggars.

He tells us that the word in Greek for the man’s affliction is

koufos.  It is translated in Matthew 11:5 as deaf.  It probably means deaf and dumb.

If one cannot hear, one cannot speak.

Matthew Henry says that the fact that a demon rendered this man deaf and mute illustrates that Satan is no friend of mankind (emphases mine):

His case, which was very sad. He was under the power of the devil in this particular instance, that he was disabled from speaking, Matthew 9:32. See the calamitous state of this world, and how various the afflictions of the afflicted are! We have no sooner dismissed two blind men, but we meet with a dumb man. How thankful should we be to God for our sight and speech! See the malice of Satan against mankind, and in how many ways he shows it.

That said:

Of the two, better a dumb devil than a blaspheming one.


When the devil gets possession of a soul, it is made silent as to any thing that is good [,] dumb in prayers and praises, which the devil is a sworn enemy to.

Therefore, this state of being can be compared in our time to becoming a slave to the devil and sin, where we forsake a close relationship with the Lord for pleasure, greed, depravity and self-sufficiency.

As soon as Jesus cast out the demon, the man — now fully healed — spoke, causing the crowd to marvel (verse 33). They exclaimed that nothing like this had ever occurred in Israel.

Should we then deduce that the crowd converted that day and followed our Lord ever afterward? Only in the sense that they were curious and amazed.

Henry says that the crowd might have recalled Psalm 98:1:

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.

However, he makes this observation:

The multitudes marvelled and well they might[,] though few believed, many wondered.

They followed Jesus to see miracles.

MacArthur likens the crowd to today’s cinema goers who go for a thrill and then leave it behind. At the time he preached his sermons on Matthew in the 1970s, The Exorcist was showing on the big screen:

I’m amazed at people today, you know.  They, they may, they go see these movies that scare them to death; scare them out of their wits and just sit there and let themselves be scared into a frenzy, sweat.  Some of them have to run out into the lobby at the scary times.  Why would people line up for blocks to see The Exorcist?  Well, you know, there’s a certain funny fascination about that.  As long as you’re sitting in a soft seat shoving popcorn in your mouth and you can leave when it’s over.  See, you, you don’t want to get in the situation.  You just don’t mind watching somebody else in it.  There’s a certain thing about that.  And I believe there was something of this fascination in these people who were terrorized by Christ, but also astounded and amazed at the supernatural.  But they wanted to make sure it was just at arm’s length; and when it began to crowd their status quo, that was the end of it: They wanted Him dead.

Jesus’s miracles were entertainment for the vast majority in the crowd, nothing more.

Another aspect of their fascination was that they expected a temporal Messiah, not a spiritual one.

They were not ready to leave Judaism under the manmade laws of the Pharisees. They were not ready to devote their lives to Jesus. They had what they needed in their lives. He was, sadly, for them, an exciting phenomenon, not the Son of God.

When Jesus became too threatening to the status quo, He had to go:

in Matthew chapter 21, they could make only one conclusion: “And the multitude,” it says, the same multitude that marveled.  That’s a broad word.  The multitude said, “Hosanna to the Son of David:  Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.'”  They threw palm branches at His feet.  That’s the marveling multitude: “Isn’t He wonderful?  Oh, He’s the Messiah.”  The next thing you know, they got the word that He was going against the establishment; that He was preaching a message that they didn’t want to hear; that He was a threat to their security, a threat to their life.  But it says in Matthew 27 that the same multitude screamed at Him to be crucified, that Barabbas should be released, and Jesus should be executed.  But that’s how it is with fickle mobs, you see.  Marveling multitudes eventually screamed for His death.  The fickleness of that superficial fascination; it’s like John 6.  They followed Him for the free food, you know?  They really weren’t interested in what He said.  They liked Him at a distance.  They liked Him doing His miracles.  They were fascinated.  There was a certain awe.  Even though there was a certain terror involved, if you could keep it at arm’s length, it was okay.

The Pharisees were spiritually blind and deaf. Therefore, they accused our Lord of being in league with Satan in driving out demons (verse 34). Their reaction was as psychologically and spiritually complex as the crowd’s but for different reasons. They did not like His preaching, even though they should have recognised it, but they were spiritually bereft. They liked their privileged status and feared the crowd might reject their hold on them. They also did not think that Jesus had anything to say to them. They were the foremost among the self-sufficient. Furthermore, Jesus was not among their number. He did not mix in their circles nor did He have their training. He had to be derided, ridiculed and blasphemed then killed.

Ultimately, the Pharisees had to diminish His power among the people. For now, they shamefully lied about the source of His miracles. Henry says:

The Pharisees blasphemed, Matthew 9:34. When they could not gainsay the convincing evidence of these miracles, they fathered them upon the devil, as if they had been wrought by compact and collusion: he casteth out devils (say they) by the prince of the devilsa suggestion horrid beyond expression we shall hear more of it afterwards, and Christ’s answer to it (Matthew 12:25) only observe here, how evil men and seducers wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13), and it is both their sin and their punishment.

In closing, the parallel account of this healing — creative — miracle and Jesus’s response to the Pharisees is in Luke 11:14-23, about which I wrote last year.

Next time: Matthew 11:1

Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 9:27-31

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” 31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.


This healing — creative — miracle took place after Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead. ‘There’ in verse 27 refers to his house.

Jairus was the ruler of the synagogue in Capernaum, so Jesus would have been on His way to retire for the evening. We do not know where the house in verse 28 was, but it is possible that it was Peter’s home, as Bible scholars say that Jesus stayed there often.

The two blind men had been following Him. No doubt there were crowds around Him, too, as John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

He has two crowds, really:  the crowd that’s been following Him all along, the crowd that pushed their way through the little narrow streets of Capernaum all the way to the house of Jairus, the crowd that was there when he healed the woman with the issue of blood, the crowd that is looking for His miracles, that is fascinated by Him.  And now another crowd has been added; and that’s the crowd of mourners and paid musicians, flute players, and weeping women who were holding the funeral service for the daughter.  The funeral was broken up when He raised her from the dead.  And now He has this whole collection of humanity; and He moves from that place back toward the house in which He was staying; and as He does, the story unfolds. 

The two blind men were persistent, to the point of boldly following Him into the house. He was not about to heal them in public and even told them to keep quiet about the restoration of their sight (verse 30).

However, our two commentaries tell us that Jesus wanted to test their faith before He performed the miracle.

No doubt He could hear their crying, which was actually shrieking. MacArthur explains:

It is a word that has a broad range of possible interpretation, but the word basically means to yell or to scream or to shriek; and in the Gospels it is used of an insane person who is just screaming and shrieking unintelligible babbling.  It is used of an epileptic.  It is used in Mark 5 of the maniac of Gadara who was demon-possessed and was screaming and shrieking and yelling.  It is used in Mark 15 of our Lord on the cross; and it says, “He cried out and gave up His Spirit.”  It is used in Revelation 12:2 of a woman who is screaming the pains of childbirth.  It is a word that doesn’t necessarily have to refer to intelligent speech, intelligent verbalization.  It may be the unintelligible crying in, in agony that we see in those illustrations. 

They were desperate. Their blindness had broken them in the biblical sense. They wanted healing. They needed relief. MacArthur continues:

And it interests me that it says they were not only shrieking and screaming and crying, but they were, interspersed with that, actually saying some intelligible things, such as, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”  But it wasn’t a, a calculated, cold, pedantic, academic kind of thing.  They were crying out in agony and desperation and deep need and shrieking, pleading, begging. That is the desperation of which regeneration is made.

They called Him ‘Son of David’, which was the universal Jewish way of referring to the Messiah.

He asked them whether they believed He could restore their sight (verse 28). They answered in the affirmative, calling Him ‘Lord’.

He healed them simply by touching their eyes and saying (verse 30):

According to your faith be it done to you.

He would have known they believed in Him and wanted to increase their faith, new and imperfect as it was. Matthew Henry says:

They followed Christ, and followed him crying, but the great question is, Do ye believe? Nature may work fervency, but it is only grace that can work faith spiritual blessings are obtained only by faith. They had intimated their faith in the office of Christ as Son of David, and in his mercy but Christ demands likewise a profession of faith in his power. Believe ye that I am able to do this to bestow this favour to give sight to the blind, as well as to cure the palsy and raise the dead? Note, It is good to be particular in the exercise of faith, to apply the general assurances of God’s power and good will, and the general promises, to our particular exigencies. All shall work for good, and if all, then this. “Believe ye that I am able, not only to prevail with God for it, as a prophet, but that I am able to do it by my own power?” This will amount to their belief of his being not only the Son of David, but the Son of God for it is God’s prerogative to open the eyes of the blind (Psalm 146:8) he makes the seeing eye, Exodus 4:11

Note, The treasures of mercy that are laid up in the power of Christ, are laid out and wrought for those that trust in him, Psalm 31:19.

As soon as Jesus touched their eyes, they were able to see fully (verse 30).

At that point, Jesus told them not to say anything about the miracle, even though they did (verse 31).

There were several reasons for this but part of it was because our Lord knew they would be zealous about their healing. Henry tells us:

This was more an act of zeal, than of prudence and though it may be excused as honestly meant for the honour of Christ, yet it cannot be justified, being done against a particular charge. Whenever we profess to direct our intention to the glory of God, we must see to it that the action be according to the will of God.

There were other reasons for Jesus’s request for silence, despite His many miracles recorded thus far in Matthew’s Gospel. It could be that silence was intended against the people of Capernaum, where our Lord based Himself. They knew and saw these miracles, yet did not believe. Another possibility was that the more miracles the people knew about, the further the ire among the Jewish leaders who feared He was becoming more popular than they. He also wanted to guard against an idea among the people that He would be a temporal Messiah.

Ultimately, what we learn from this miracle, that of Jairus’s daughter and the woman with the 12-year blood flow, is that they approached Jesus in their brokenness and desperation. In the case of the blind men, they had not only a physical disability but a spiritual one. They were given faith that they might believe. In their faith, Jesus healed them.

Today, with all its atheism and unbelief, this miracle has relevance with regard to personal desperation and need for redemption. As in Jesus’s time, the self-sufficient and self-righteous do not think they need His saving grace and ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. MacArthur explains:

You never find the self-sufficient people.  You never find the people who think they have the resources.  You never find the people who don’t really have any questions. I talked to a man this week, and I said to him, “You, I can introduce you to Christ.  I can talk to you about Christ.  I can tell you about Christ if you really want to know.”  He said, “I don’t want to know.  I don’t have any need for that.” The thing to do in that situation is pray that God’ll bring him to the place where he has a desperate need, because it’s only desperate people who come.

It’s useful knowing where blindness featured as a disability in our Lord’s era. MacArthur says that congenital blindness was common not only in Israel but other nations in the region. Much of it — though not all — was caused by gonorrhoea, difficult to detect in women:

In fact, the gospel records include more healings of blind people than any other type of healing.  That may indicate its commonness.  Poverty and the unsanitary conditions that went with it, brilliant sunlight, excessive heat, blowing sand, accidents, war, infectious organisms.  All of those things contributed to blindness.  Many of the people were blind from birth; and, very commonly, their blindness from birth was caused by a form of gonorrhea.  Sometimes it was not even known to be existing in the mother; and, yet, when the little baby passed from the uterus down, those particular germs that lodged in that mother’s womb would find their lodging in the conjunctiva of the eye; and, as they did, they would begin to multiply; and within only three days, the child would be permanently blind.  That is why, today, antiseptic drops are put in the eyes of a newborn baby; and for all intents and purposes, we have eliminated that problem.

Because of the link between venereal disease and blindness, the Jews connected it with parental sin that had been passed on to the child:

That may also have been what was in the mind of the question on the heart of the disciples in John 9:2, when they saw the man born blind and they said, “Who sinned?  Did this man or his parents?”  There may have been a theology in that question, but there also may have been a little bit of medicine in that question, or a little bit of the physical.  They may have been saying, “Is he blind because of his parents’ sin?”  Because very often venereal disease contracted in a sinful situation was the cause of a child’s blindness.  So that was a common thing for people born blind.  There were also infective organisms and viruses that were the common cause of trachoma.  Sulfa drugs have pretty well eliminated that nowadays.  But all of these things created the problem of blindness, and it seemed to be a, a major problem, and blind people hung around together.  It was not uncommon to see a couple of blind people hanging onto each other; and, thus, did our Lord say to the Pharisees on one occasion, “You’re like the blind leading the blind.  You both fall in the ditch.”

In closing, a thought on faith. MacArthur cites Richard Chevenix Trench, a devout Anglican of the Victorian Era. Trench served as Dean of Westminster Abbey and as the Archbishop of Dublin. He said:

The faith which, in itself, is nothing is yet the organ for receiving everything. It is the conducting link between man’s emptiness and God’s fullness; and herein lies all the value faith has. Faith is the bucket let down into the fountain of God’s grace without which the man could never draw water of life from the wells of salvation.  For the wells are deep and, of himself, man has nothing to draw with.  Faith is the purse which cannot of itself make its owner rich, and yet effectually enriches by the wealth which it contains.

May we remember this as we go about our daily responsibilities this week.

Next time: Matthew 9:32-34

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