1. At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.Jesus Heals

The disciples were not stealing. By custom, the poor were allowed to eat their fill as they were passing through a field, as long as they gathered the food only in their hands and did not gather it in any sort of basket. This is what the disciples were doing.

2. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”

The Pharisees considered what the disciples were doing to be harvesting, which was considered work and was not allowed on the Sabbath Day.

3. Then He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:
4. “how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?

The Lord refers to the story in I Samuel 21:6. “So the priests gave him holy bread, for there was no bread there but the showbread which had been taken from before the LORD, in order to put hot bread in its place on the day when it was taken away.” The Lord is putting forth the example of David, Israel’s greatest king, and pointing out that he ate unlawful food out of necessity with the permission of the priests and was not condemned for it.

5. “Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?

One reference to this is Numbers 28:9-10, “And on the Sabbath day two lambs in their first year, without blemish, and two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, with its drink offering—this is the burnt offering for every Sabbath, besides the regular burnt offering with its drink offering.” The priests had more sacrifices to do on a Sabbath day than on a normal day, and yet this increased workload was not considered to be a violation of the Sabbath.

6. “But I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.

The reference, of course, is to Christ Himself. He was greater even than the temple, and yet He did not consider the actions of the disciples to be profaning His Sabbath day.

7. “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

Hosea 6:6 reads, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” The Pharisees did not care about those who may be hungry and in need of food on the Sabbath day. The Sabbath was made to help the people, yet the Pharisees made it more of a burden.

8. “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Again Christ points out that He is in charge of the Sabbath and has the authority to say what is and is not allowed on it.

I have heard it said that this passage is an example of Christ announcing the setting aside of the Sabbath Day. This, according to this theory, is why we do not keep the Sabbath today. According to this idea, Christ confirmed the other “Ten Commandments,” and so we are to keep them, but He set aside this one commandment, so we do not have to keep it.. A careful reading of this passage, however, will demonstrate that this is not what Christ was doing at all. Christ does not claim to be setting aside the Sabbath. Rather, He justifies His actions based upon the fact that what His disciples are doing has Scriptural precedent and is not, in fact, breaking the Sabbath. Let us take care that our theology does not cause us to see things in passages that are not really there at all!

9. Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.

Probably refers to the synagogue of the Pharisees who had been complaining to Him.

10. And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him.

They supposed that He would say “Yes,” and they could use His answer against Him, claiming that He was contrary to the law and a Sabbath-breaker.

11. Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls in to a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?

The Pharisees, who were very greedy and careful of their possessions, would all find it in their hearts to rescue a trapped sheep of theirs, even on the Sabbath day.

12. “Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Christ turns their argument against them. They cannot now accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath without admitting that they value sheep more than men! The fact was that they did indeed value sheep more, but the opinion-conscious Pharisees would never have been willing to admit it, so Christ’s words effectively silenced them.

Notice that He does not argue against the Sabbath, but rather argues that it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. If the Sabbath had indeed been done away with, surely He would have brought in that argument here, or at least talked about it to His disciples afterward. But He did not, as no such thing had occurred.

13. Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other.

Once again Christ says nothing about the Sabbath being done away with, but rather teaches what the Sabbath really was meant to be…not a burden for the people to carry, but a time of rest and rejoicing before God. But if the Sabbath meant that one could not do good or help those in need, then the Sabbath would be no kind of great day at all! This is not the kind of Sabbath that God desired, and it is not the kind of Sabbath that the Lord kept. But He did keep the Sabbath. He just didn’t keep it in the way the Pharisees thought He should.

14. Then the Pharisees went out and took counsel against Him, how they might destroy Him.

They realized that they could not accuse Him of being a Sabbath-breaker because of how He had cleverly maneuvered them so that doing so would result in them looking like they did not care about the people. Thus they take council what else they might do to discredit and destroy Him.

15. But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there; and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all.
16. And He warned them not to make Him known,

The Pharisees intended to harm or kill Jesus, but the time for His death had not yet come. It is certain that the Pharisees could not have killed Jesus if He did not wish them to, yet any sort of confrontation with the Pharisees would have doubtless caused some of them to get hurt. Therefore, Jesus withdrew, and told all those whom He healed not to spread the word about where He was.

17. that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
18. “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen,
My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased;
I will put My Spirit upon Him,
And He will declare justice to the Gentiles.

Although the first part of the quotation was being fulfilled then, the second has never happened in the past. The nations (or Gentiles) are still as clueless about true justice as they ever were. Although Christ did certainly have God’s Spirit upon Him, His declaring justice to the nations is still a future event.

19. “He will not quarrel nor cry out,
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.

The idea is not that He did not speak while walking in the street, but that He did not make any sort of commotion or uproar in the streets, or call for any sort of armed rebellion or revolt. Christ’s path was not a violent one.

20. “A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench,
Till He sends forth justice to victory.

A bruised reed is a reed that has been bent but not broken. There is a method of marking a trail in woodscraft that involves bruising reeds. One basically bends a reed in the direction the trail is heading. One who is following the trail walks in that direction until he reaches another bent reed that is bent in the new direction that the trail now takes. A bruised weed is very weak. There is no way to prop the reed up or make it straight again. Yet the reed is easily broken. The same is true of a smoking flax. This is like the wick of a recently burned out candle. It smokes for a short time and then goes out of its own accord. The slightest interference can cause it to stop smoking and be out for good. Yet this prophecy of Christ tells us that He is so non-violent until justice goes forth into the world that He would not even act in such a way that would break a bent reed or extinguish a smoking wick. This is passiveness indeed!

These verses tell us why the Lord worked so hard to avoid a confrontation with the Pharisees. He could not harm anyone until He had sent forth justice into the world and achieved the final victory. In other words, He will do no harm to anyone upon the earth until the time comes when the Kingdom of God will have conquered the entire world. This is a passage that few Bible scholars are willing to own up to. The idea common among theologians today is that the kingdom will be brought in by great wrath upon God’s part. Yet this passage states that the kingdom will come in without hurting anyone! Though it may be a hostile takeover, it will not be a bloody one. How different from the way human governments conquer one another! But then, the Kingdom of God will be a different kind of government altogether.

21. “And in His name Gentiles will trust.”

The result of this non-violent takeover of the earth is that the nations learn to trust their new Lord. Unlike takeovers today, which involve bloodshed resulting in resentment and bitterness, the lack of violence when God takes over the world results in the peoples of the earth learning to trust in Him.

This quotation is from Isaiah 42:1-4.

22. Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw.

The demon actually caused the man to be blind and mute. This is a strange phenomenon indeed. We know of no such action on the part of demons today. This appears to have been a specific attack aimed at the time of the Lord’s ministry here on earth.

23. And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

By “Son of David,” they were referring to the prophecies of Messiah as the Son of David. They were wondering if this might be so, and they were correct in their surmising.

24. But when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

Hearing the people wondering this about Christ, the Pharisees are filled with jealousy. Prior to this time they were the respected and feared teachers of Israel. That Christ could be taking this place now is repugnant to them. Thus they accuse Him of deriving His power from the devil. See my notes on Matthew 10:25 for further reference to the devil spoken of as Beelzebub.

25. But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

This was the experience of our country in our great Civil War, when great desolation occurred indeed!

26. “And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?

Jesus points out that Satan will not fight against Satan. This would be foolish! Satan knows what he wants, and he works to accomplish it. Casting out his followers would not accomplish anything.

27. “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.

Here is an example of where the term “sons” is clearly used to mean “representatives,” not “male children.” The sons of the Pharisees were their representatives, not their blood children. These representatives of the Pharisees worked to cast out these demons. They had elaborate rituals and methods for doing so. How well these methods worked, or even what they were, we cannot exactly say.

These Pharisees had offered no reason as to why the Lord’s casting out of demons was being done by Satan. They simply made the accusation causelessly because of their jealousy. Yet Christ points out that the same argument could be made against their own sons who cast out demons, and what would they say to that? They have no more proof that their exorcists are working with the help of God than they do that Christ is working with the help of Beelzebub.

28. “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

His casting out of demons had brought them into a knowledge of the soon-coming Kingdom of God, and it had come before them now for their acceptance or rejection before the fact of its actual coming. These Pharisees had a chance to accept the Kingdom of God at that very moment even before it actually took control of the world, but they rejected it.

The way this passage is translated, it would seem that Christ is saying that God’s government has actually come upon these Pharisees. Yet in the Greek this is not exactly the idea. It is more that it has taken a step in advance to them. They had seen the power of the government of God to destroy the power of Satan. Although His government had not yet come in power upon the earth, they had had an advance demonstration of it, like a preview, in seeing this blind and mute man healed. Thus they also had an opportunity to submit to it or to rebel against it in advance of its actual advent on earth. These Pharisees, of course, chose to rebel.

29. “Or else how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

Christ points out that no one would try to rob a strong man’s house until he had first incapacitated the strong man. He could not thus treat Satan’s servants unless He had first bound Satan.

30. “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.

Satan was clearly not working with Christ. Thus Christ could not be casting out demons by his power.

31. “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.
32. “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

This passage is one that many use to justify the idea of an “unpardonable sin.” Yet this passage has no reference to many of the things people set forth as the “unpardonable sin.” It has nothing to do with suicide, for example. Many have tried to frighten people into coming to Christ with stories of unpardonable sins. Yet this passage does no such thing. It is not speaking to people today, but to these stubborn and jealous Pharisees who were accusing Christ of using Satan’s power rather than that of the Holy Spirit.

The real sin that these men had committed was claiming that the manifest work of the Holy Spirit was really the work of Satan. It is understandable that some might speak against the Son of Man, since He looked just like any ordinary man. However, the manifest works of the Spirit that He displayed could not be spoken against and forgiven, for they were the clear work of God, and any who rejected them was knowingly rejecting God. Jesus reveals to these men that, by blaspheming the work of the Holy Spirit as they had just done, they had doomed themselves. They had committed the unforgivable sin of rejecting God, and in such a way as showed that, no matter what God did, they would never accept Him. Therefore, they were from that point on doomed men. This is the “unpardonable sin” which many talk about…rejecting the manifest work of the Holy Spirit and attributing it to Satan. Men cannot commit this sin today, as the Holy Spirit is doing no such clear, manifest work of God in our day. Christ is not walking around and working powerful acts of healing. When we hear the gospel, no such clear signs are given to prove it. Thus, no one can reject these clear signs and commit the unpardonable sin. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven in our day. There is no man who has rejected Christ who cannot turn to Him and open his heart in faith.

33. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.

They were trying to say that a bad tree (Satan) was producing good fruit (casting out demons.) This made no sense, for this cannot be. How could Christ be doing a good work, healing people, and yet be a bad person serving Satan? Either His works were bad and He was bad or His works were good and He was good. The argument of the Pharisees made no sense.

34. “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Jesus further condemns these Pharisees as wicked men. They are evil men, a “brood of vipers” or poisonous snakes. These are strong words for Christ’s enemies. Yet notice that these words of condemnation are not against the people we would normally think of as wicked or deserving of censure, but rather against the supposedly “holy men,” the religious leaders. What an amazing thing this is! We must use great care in assuming today that just because men are called “priest” or “reverend” or “minister” or “pastor” that they are not actually the servants, not of Christ, but of the enemy. For there are many out there who call themselves such whose mouths indeed speak not the words of Christ, but rather the words of Satan.

35. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.

Christ’s point is that these men, being evil, spoke evil things, proving what sort of men they were.

36. “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.

They will have to give account for this flippant remark in the day of judgment, and no good reason can be given by them, for the reason they made this remark is their hearts are evil. This is a staggering thing to think about. Praise God that we have forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, for our words are often worthy of condemnation!

37. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

He explains to them that these very words that they have spoken will condemn them in the coming day of judgment. I wouldn’t be in those men’s shoes for all the money in the world!

38. Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”

These proud men are not even concerned with the fact that Jesus has just effectively doomed them in the Day of Judgment. Instead, they ask Him for a sign. Foolish men! Had not a most evident and miraculous sign just been performed right in front of them? But these men were so arrogant that they seemed to be thinking that, since they were such special men in the sight of God, that God would not communicate with them with the same miracles which He showed to the common people, but would rather have some kind of special miracle for them! This proud belief was, of course, not true. And Jesus has no special miracle for these wicked men. It no longer mattered what He did for these men. They had blasphemed the Holy Spirit, and no sign, no matter how miraculous, could bring them to repentance after that.

39. But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

This is a good passage to demonstrate that, in the Bible, the word “generation” does not mean all the people of a certain age living on the earth at a certain time. Even in English the word “generation” is one of a family of words deriving from the verb “to generate.” In this case, the “evil and adulterous generation” is that evil and adulterous group of men who were opposing the Lord. They had been produced by the teachings and prejudices of the rich, religious community of Israel, and they as its product were evil and adulterous men. There is no possible way that Christ could be referring to all the people of Israel at that time, for He was not speaking to them but rather to these Pharisees, His enemies. They were the “generation” He was speaking of. Thus we see that a “generation” is merely something that is generated, and does not necessarily just refer to all the people living on earth at a certain time.

By calling these men “adulterous,” Christ was not suggesting that they were unfaithful to their wives. He was speaking rather of their unfaithfulness to God. They were disloyal to Him, and thus were considered “adulterous.”

40. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The sign Jesus gives is that He will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. Many have noticed the discrepancy between this and Jesus’ claim that He would rise from the dead on the third day (see Matthew 16:21 for example.) Many different explanations have been given for this. What is obvious is that one of these two statements must utilize a figure of speech. But the question arises, which one?

Many say that this passage is using a figure of speech. Days can stand for parts of days, they explain, and so Jesus meant that He would be in the heart of the earth for part of three days. But those who use this argument have not studied their figures of speech very well. Days can indeed be used for part of days. Therefore, when one wanted to be perfectly clear that he meant 24-hour days, he would use the term “days and nights.” This addition of “nights” to days was used to show the completeness of the days, and to leave no doubt but that full, 24-hour days are meant. Therefore, Jesus is saying here without a doubt that He would be in the grave for a full 72 hours. Knowing this, it is up to the believer to believe what the Scripture says. To a true believer, no traditions about Good Friday will stand in his way of believing the truth!

But what then will we say about the statement that He would rise on the third day? Well, this is the figure of speech! Remember that I told earlier about the tradition of that day which stated that a person’s spirit hovered over his body for 48 hours after death seeking entrance back into it before finally departing. Because of this, it was thought that after 48 hours a person was dead for good with no hope of healing. Therefore, the term “the third day” when applied to a person’s death was used to signify the fact that he was not only dead, but also dead beyond any hope of miraculous recovery. When Jesus then claimed that He would rise from the dead “the third day,” He was saying that He would rise after all the teaching of the day said it was impossible! But God cares little for the doctrines of men. His power is able to perform whatever He wills!

41. “The men of Nineveh will rise in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
42. “The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

These men will be condemned in the judgment. There is no question of that. They had blasphemed the Holy Spirit, and their dooms were sealed. Now Jesus prophesies of the future, and tells them of some who will rise from the dead and be accepted by God in the Day of Judgment. Their actions that caused this acceptance will condemn these men, for they accepted God without any such clear miracle from Him as these Pharisees had just witnessed, and yet these Pharisees rejected the Lord while the Ninevites and the queen of the South did not.

43. “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.

Notice that Christ is speaking of what happens when a spirit goes willingly from a man, not when it is bound and cast out, as Christ had just done. This passage seems to indicate that spirits, although they can exist without possessing humans, develop some sort of “thirst” for human possession once they have possessed a man. Perhaps possession is something that becomes an addiction to them.

44. “Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.
45. “Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”

Notice that the word “last” does not mean “final.” “Last” here is figurative for the resultant state. The man’s condition as a result of the demon going out and coming back is worse than his state before this happened. Thus, “last” can mean “resultant,” not necessarily “final.”

Notice that this passage speaks of “more wicked” spirits. Thus there are degrees of wickedness even in the spiritual realm. Even angels and spirit beings will be judged at the great Day of Judgment, and some will be found to have been more wicked than others. It is not just men who are destined to be judged!

These words form the climax of Christ’s argument, yet they are hard to understand. Notice that they are not really meant to be about an actual demon (although they do chronicle what an actual demon might do.) Rather, they are talking about that generation of wicked men. I cannot say exactly what He was driving at. He seems to be saying that even worse times are ahead for these evil men. Perhaps the Lord will grant me further light upon this passage.

46. While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him.

Notice here that His brothers are spoken of, clearly showing that He had half brothers and sisters, and Mary was not the eternal virgin that the Catholic Church and others try to make her out to be.

47. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”

From Mark 3:21, we learn that this claim of wanting to speak with Him was a ruse. They were convinced that He was mad, and they hoped to apprehend Him and keep Him in custody so that He would stop making a fool of Himself and them! It is sad to think that Mary was led astray by unbelief even as Christ’s half-brothers were, yet this is clearly the case.

48. “But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”
49. And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!

These words might seem slighting to His family, and yet remember their purpose in coming to Him. They had clearly rejected Him, and thus were cut off from Him through unbelief at this time. Praise God that their hard heard were changed later on after His resurrection!

50. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus makes it most clear that none of His family are to be considered anything special in man’s sight. Rather, those who are part of the family of God through their belief in Christ are just as much His family as these were. And yet some churches still insist on worshiping Mary! How sad that the words of God are so easily ignored.