5 October 2016

Matthew 12:22-32

“Can this be the Son of David?” (v. 23)

Psalm: Psalm 21:1-7


After the encounter in the Synagogue when the man with the withered hand was healed it is clear that Jesus' reputation had gone ahead of him. In today's passage people in the crowd are beginning to wonder just who Jesus is. Is he the one who the Jews believed would be divinely appointed as God's representative to bring in the new age? A Messiah, who would be the true successor of King David and thus termed the Son of David, was this he? Tradition had it that this person was already amongst them, but that his identity would remain unknown until the time for his appearing should come, and that when that moment came he would manifest himself with signs and wonders. As Jesus heals the demoniac (who we may now see to be a mentally ill man) the people clearly begin to ask themselves: is this the time? is this the son of David?

We can perhaps imagine the Pharisees' emotions when they heard the people speaking in this way. They need some way to counter the allegations. Immediately they claim that it is by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons that he is able to undertake such healings: it cannot be from God. Again Jesus turns what they are saying on its head, saying that a city or a kingdom divided against itself will fall and therefore why should Satan cast out Satan when this would mean that his kingdom, his dominion would be destroyed. He goes on to remind them that there are exorcists within the Jewish faith community and acknowledged by them - are they saying that these people are working for Satan rather than God? However, he points out that if it is the power of God's Spirit which is at work in such exorcisms then a change will come about: to use his words "the kingdom of God has come to you" (v. 28).

Jesus then adds a warning that although many sins can be forgiven, sins against the activity of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. A E Harvey in his commentary on the New Testament feels that this last part of the account may have come from the early Church where there had been some kind of dispute going on about the manifestations of the Spirit within their community. However the encounter points the reader to the enormity of God's power as demonstrated by Jesus.

To Ponder

  • Healing or cure: what is expected of a Healing Ministry? To what extent are we looking for miracles or for the work of the Holy Spirit in a person's life?
  • Do we sometimes question the way in which some people practice their faith and think that it must be wrong because it is different? What might that say about us?
  • When we hear the words "your sins are forgiven", what is your reaction or response?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.