************ Sermon on Matthew 12:31-32 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 29, 2018
"Blasphemy Against the Spirit"
On behalf of Classis, I did a church visit to Immanuel's Reformed Church in Salem, Oregon. In response to one of my questions about the preaching, I was told the pastor is doing a series of sermons on difficult verses in the Bible. "What a good idea," I thought to myself. Afterwards I asked the pastor to send me a list of the verses.
So today we begin a series of sermons on difficult verses in the Bible by looking at blasphemy against the Spirit.
To make sense of our text we need to realize there are five different voices that respond to a healing: the man who was healed, the crowds, the Pharisees, Jesus, and the Spirit.
I The Voice of the Healed Man
A The first voice we hear is that of the healed man: he talks and sees after he is healed by Jesus.
Matthew tells us the man was demon-possessed and also blind and mute. But Jesus healed him so he could both talk and see. This does not surprise us because Jesus does miracles like this throughout His ministry. Perhaps He has done this hundreds of times.
What did the man say? What did the crowds hear him say? We aren't told. But we do know he talks and sees.
We know from the Bible that demons possess people; they live in people. There is no question about it. I have seen it first-hand in every church I have served. Demon-possession affects people in different ways. Some who are demon-possessed talk in strange voices. Some are violent and angry. Some jump into fire or water. Some become blind, deaf, unable to talk. And others suffer illness.
Jesus delivers this man from a demon and instantly he has spiritual deliverance from demonic control. And he is healed from all his physical afflictions as well. He was blind, and instantly he sees; he was mute, and instantly he talks; probably he was also deaf, and instantly he hears. This was not one of those phony healings done by some of the preachers you can see on TV today. This was a real and instantaneous healing.
I can't do what Jesus did. I have never even seen something like what Jesus did. We aren't told how Jesus does this but in similar miracles in the Gospels all that Jesus does is touch or command and someone is healed. There was no long, delicate surgery costing thousands of dollars. There was no magic, superstitious rites, or prayer to saints or to other creatures. Jesus simply did it.
B The healing shows us the power of Jesus. The healing is instantaneous. The healing is total, involving body and mind, heart and soul. The healing is obvious, verifiable, seen by all who are there. The healing has permanent results. The power can only be described and understood as supernatural. Jesus demonstrates His power over the demons and the spirit-world.
C And the healing shows Who Jesus is. It is obvious that Jesus has power beyond that of a mere man. It is obvious that there is more to Jesus than flesh and blood. It is obvious that a Jesus with this supernatural power must be the Messiah, the Son of God, the eternal King.
II The Voice of the Crowd
A The second voice is that of the crowds. All the people are astonished at what Jesus did. They were astonished that the demon-possessed man could both talk and see. They heard the man talking. They saw with their own eyes that the man was not seeing.
The crowds were astonished. The Greek word means to be totally astounded. Amazed. Dumbfounded. Overwhelmed. One translation says the crowds were stunned with bewildered wonder. The astonishment was not short-lived, ten minutes of fame. The crowds were in a continual state of amazement.
There was no skepticism. There was no discussion on whether or not the miracle was real. The crowds were convinced that what they saw and heard was the real thing.
B In their astonishment, the crowds were asking about Jesus, "Could this be the Son of David?" Do you realize what this means? "Son of David" is a title for the Messiah. It goes back to God's promise that He would raise up a Son of David who would have an everlasting Kingdom.
You might remember that the Palm Sunday crowds greeted Jesus with this title as He entered into Jerusalem. "Hosanna to the Son of David."
"Could this be the Son of David?" The Messiah? The King who would reign on David's throne forever?
C But now we have a problem. Jesus shows His power. Jesus shows He is the Messiah. The people were astonished. So, where is the crown, the robe, the scepter? How come the people of Israel don't fall before Him in obedience and reverence? How come there is no parade? How come the fighting men of Israel don't rally round Him to overthrow Rome?
We need to answer these questions in the light of a quote from Isaiah in the previous verses.
(Mt 12:18-21) "Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. (19) He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. (20) A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. (21) In his name the nations will put their hope."Messiah Jesus is not the kind of Messiah the people expected. He was a suffering servant. He did not quarrel, cry out, or cause riots and revolts and revolutions. Instead, His time and effort was spent on the poor, the hurting, the sick, the broken. His approach was with gentleness and compassion and not with fire and fury, sword and spear.
III The Voice of the Pharisees
A The third voice is that of the Pharisees.
As far as the Pharisees were concerned, matters were spiraling out of control. Earlier in Matthew's gospel, when men saw Jesus' power over the winds and the waves, they asked, "What kind of man is this?" (Mt 8:27). But now they have gone the next step: "Could this be the Son of David?" Guess what the next step will be: "Truly you are the Son of God" (Mt 14:33).
The Pharisees aren't dumb. They see and hear what is going on. They know what the next step will be. And they go into panic mode. They must stop the crowd from taking the next step. And they must stop it fast. They absolutely cannot let it go any further.
B What follows next is a very sad and tragic moment in the ministry of Christ. For centuries, for generations, through all sorts of struggles and hardships, the people of God lived in the hope of the coming of the Messiah. It was the desire of every Jewish girl to some day be the mother of the Messiah. It was the prayer and cry of every prophet and teacher in Israel to live to see the day the Messiah came. They wanted the Messiah. They wanted the deliverance He would bring. They wanted the fulfilment of all those wonderful prophecies concerning the Messiah and His Kingdom. But when He came, they rejected Him, despised Him, and screamed for His crucifixion.
So listen to the accusation of the Pharisees in verse 24:
(Mt 12:24) But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons."The phrase, "this fellow," is not meant to be a term of respect. It means a nobody, someone from nowhere that counts. This fellow, this nobody, casts out demons and heals by the power of Beelzebub. Beelzebub is an old, old name for the Philistine god Baal which, over the centuries, became a common title for Satan.
In John 8 the Pharisees said Jesus is demon-possessed (Jn 8:48). In Matthew 9 they said Jesus drives out demons by the prince of demons. In Matthew 12 they say he drives out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. No matter what Jesus does, the Pharisees claim it is by the power of Satan.
The Pharisees are correct about one thing. They are correct in thinking what is happening is supernatural. They are correct in recognizing spiritual powers at work. But from there they go wrong in believing it is the work of Satan rather than the work of God.
IV The Voice of Jesus
A The fourth voice is the answer of Jesus to the Pharisees. Jesus tells them four things.
First, Jesus says their charge is absurd, illogical, unreasonable, ridiculous. Listen to verses 25,26:
(Mt 12:25-26) Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. (26) If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?Satan is not going to try and destroy the work of Satan. That's what it comes down to. So if it isn't Satan destroying the work of Satan then it can only be God destroying the work of Satan.
B Second, Jesus points to followers of the Pharisees who also drive out demons. Listen to verse 27:
(Mt 12:27) And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.
There were certain people who sat at the feet of the Pharisees to learn their approach to life, their legalism, their methods. Josephus tells us some of these were involved in exorcisms; they were going around with strange spells and activities, trying to cast out demons. In Acts 19 we are told about seven sons of a Jewish chief priest who were doing this. Whether they were actually able to do this is not important; they were trying to do this and claiming to do this. So how do they do it?
The point Jesus is making is if He does it by the power of Satan then the followers of the Pharisees are also doing it by the power of Satan. Obviously they are not willing to say that.
C Third, Jesus is boxing the Pharisees into a corner. He is forcing them to admit what He does is by the Spirit and power of God and not by the spirit and power of Satan. Verse 28:
(Mt 12:28) But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.Open your eyes, He is saying to them. Open your eyes and see. See that I am stronger than Satan. See that I am from God. See that the Kingdom of God has come. See that I must be the Messiah and the Kingdom has come.
D Fourth, Jesus declares He has overpowered Satan when He healed the man. Verse 29:
(Mt 12:29) Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.Jesus has entered the strong man's house when he healed the demon-possessed man. He has demonstrated He has power over Satan. He has demonstrated He has overpowered Satan. He has demonstrated He is greater than Satan.
V The Voice of the Spirit
A There is one last voice. The voice of the Holy Spirit. This voice says the Pharisees have sinned against the Spirit. This voice says the Pharisees are guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Jesus explains this voice in our text for this evening.
He starts with sins that will be forgiven. He says that "every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men"; and, "anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven." This does not mean a universalism in which everyone is saved. Rather, everyone who repents of their sin and has faith in Jesus will be forgiven.
The Apostle Paul is a wonderful illustration of what I mean. Listen to what he writes to Timothy:
(1 Tim 1:13-15) Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy ... (14) The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (15) Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.He says he was the worst of sinners, a blasphemer and persecutor and violent man. He sinned against Jesus. Yet, he was forgiven.
All manner of sin and blasphemy is forgivable. Jesus, after all, came into the world to save sinners; and God, after all, is in the business of forgiving sin.
B Look at the start of both verses again: "every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men"; "anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven." "But." "But." That little word makes all the difference. "But." Jesus now speaks of a sin that will not be forgiven. "But the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." "But anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."
Why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit unforgivable? In the Gospel of John, Jesus said His Father will send the Holy Spirit to convict the world of its sin, and of God's righteousness in Christ, and of the coming judgment (Jn 16:8). Let me put it this way. The Spirit says, "I've shown you Jesus is the Messiah. I've shown you your sin in rejecting Him. I've shown you your need to repent and believe." Do you hear this voice, congregation? Do you listen to this voice, congregation?
What happens when someone, anyone, doesn't listen to the Spirit? What happens when someone, anyone, resists the Spirit's conviction of sin and refuses to accept God's righteousness in Christ? You know: They can not be forgiven! There can be no forgiveness for those who not agree with the Holy Spirit in regards to sin and Jesus' offering for sin. That's why the sin against the Spirit is unforgivable.
Blasphemy against the Spirit is not an accidental sin. It is not a sin you commit against your will. It is a sin that is deliberate, purposeful, and intentional.
Now, look at this in terms of the Pharisees. Because this is who Jesus has in mind in our text. By refusing to see their sin, by refusing to accept God's righteousness in Christ, they are deliberately blaspheming against the Spirit and the work of the Spirit. They see Jesus. They see His miracles. Like the crowds they should be astonished. Or, like Paul, they should be repentant. But instead their hearts are hardened. They are against Jesus. They refuse to listen to the Spirit. They refuse to accept the Savior. Even though the evidence is staring them in the face, they refuse to believe. This is the unforgivable sin. This is the blasphemy against the Spirit.
The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the last possible response anyone can have to Jesus; because with this response no other response is possible and only the fires of hell await.
Do you know what your prayer and my prayer needs to be? We need to say and sing with the song writer:
Open my eyes, that I may seeIf that was the prayer of the Pharisees, they never would have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit. And, if that is your prayer, you won't commit that sin either.
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
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