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When Kingdoms Collide

Date: Apr. 8, 2016

Author: Bob Henkins

Matthew 12:22-50

Key Verse: Matthew 12:30

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” 

These days in our nation there seems to be a clash of cultures. It has become even more pronounced during the presidential election season. The clash seems to be between liberal and conservative, left and right, blue and red. These confrontations have become more intense, protests and fights have broken out as people support which side they are on. Many think it’s about the election but I believe that it’s more than that, I believe that we’re seeing what happens when kingdoms collide. And by kingdoms, I mean groups of people that have similar values, beliefs and cultures. When these different groups collide the sparks fly. Likewise, in today's passage, we see the collision of two different kingdoms: The kingdom of God and that of Satan. There is a contrast between the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of demons and unlike American politics where there are conservatives, liberals and independents, there is no middle ground. All of us must stand on one side or the other and depending on which side you’re on, the consequences are serious.

Since we’ve been away from Matthew’s gospel for a couple of weeks because of Easter, I think it’s good to remember where we left off. At the beginning of chapter 12 a controversy erupted and Jesus is in the middle of it. This controversy revolved around Jesus’ healing ministry and it continues in this passage take a look at verses 22-23. “Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” The story starts out with some people bringing a deaf and mute man to Jesus to be healed. I don’t know why but the author attributes this man’s problems to being demon possessed. It must have been evident because both the author and the Pharisees clearly see it. So Jesus graciously heals the man and the people are wondering, “Who is this guy and where does he get his power?” So they asked themselves, “Could this be the Son of David?” The Son of David is a reference to the Messiah and what we see here is that some of them believed Jesus to be the Messiah while others didn’t. Verse 24 tells us that when the Pharisee heard what the people were saying “…they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” The Pharisees couldn’t help themselves they just blurted out whatever came to their mind. What I find interesting is that Jesus’ critics can’t deny his supernatural powers because they’ve seen the miracles first hand with their own eyes. No ordinary person could do what Jesus does. Since they can’t deny Jesus’ power, they try to discredit it and say that it couldn’t possibly have come from God because Jesus doesn’t align with them, so the only one other source must be Satan and thus the stage is set for the clash of kingdoms.

Why would anyone want to do this? Obviously a miracle happened because a deaf and mute man was healed. They should have been celebrating having witnessed such an event seeing a man restored, who was no longer a burden on society and could now become a productive member of the community. It was a joyful time. However, that was not their goal. If you remember at the beginning of the chapter 12, after Jesus healed a man with a shriveled hand, the Pharisees started to plot how they could kill Jesus (Mt 12:14). If they acknowledged Jesus’ power came from God now, then they would have to listen to him, and they weren’t going to do that, but, if his power came from the devil, then they could label him a sorcerer which was an offense that carried the death penalty. Maybe their words weren’t so flippant after all. 

After hearing their statement Jesus knew what they were thinking, and instead of condemning them, he tries to help them understand the foolishness of their logic. Jesus sees this head on collision coming and he’s trying to save their life. According to their way of thinking, Jesus was driving out demons by the power of demons, in other words, it’s as if Jesus was a higher ranking demon and he was just ordering this demon to leave the man alone. So Jesus says to them, “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?” (v25-26) As we know, internal enemies are more dangerous than external enemies. When the members of a kingdom, city or household are united, they are strong, but when they begin to fight with each other, it’s the beginning of disaster for them. We all want our families to be happy and prosperous, and for our children to grow well. In order for this to happen, a husband and wife must become one (Gen 2:24). If they fight with each other and the family is divided, all are wounded, especially the children. Abraham Lincoln understood the devastation that division brings and he famously used the “house divided theme” in a speech after he won the Republican nomination for the Illinois state senate. President Obama even used a variation of the theme in his red states & blue states speech at the DNC that got him nationally recognized. The principle of “United we stand, divided we fall,” applies in the spiritual realm as well. Jesus indicates that demon possession increases Satan’s kingdom therefore Satan wouldn’t seek to cast out demons (v26) that would be undermining his own work and eventually his kingdom would collapse. Moreover, in verse 27 Jesus points out that he wasn’t the only exorcist in the area. Other Jews must have done it as well. So according to their logic, their charge against him also condemns them as well because if Satan is the one who enables exorcisms, then other Jewish exorcists must also be devilish.

After Jesus exposed the irrationality of the Pharisees he offers a different possibility, take a look at verse 28. “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” This implies that Jesus belongs to the kingdom of God and he is bringing healing and salvation. At first it seems like there are many kingdoms in the world, but spiritually speaking, there are only two: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. We can understand them as the kingdom of light and of darkness, the kingdom of love and of hatred, the kingdom of life and of death. The kingdom of Satan clearly has power, that’s why those trapped in his kingdom are suffering, like the deaf and mute man in this passage. The problem is that no one can escape from Satan’s kingdom by their own power. Only Jesus, who exercises God’s almighty power against Satan, can set us free (Ac 10:38). The power of God is overwhelming and destroys all opposition. Jesus’ view of the situation was different, while the Pharisee’s talked about the demons control, Jesus emphasized the power of God. In verse 29 he uses a metaphor: “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 plunder his house.” In this verse, the strong man is Satan and his possessions are people that he’s bound and have under his control like the blind and mute man. This is terrifying, however the good news is that Jesus invaded Satan's territory, like the marines on D-Day, bound him up, and set the prisoners free. Of course, Satan resisted, but resistance is futile because Jesus is stronger than him.

Jesus goes on to warn the Pharisees to be careful because they are treading into dangerous territory. Look at verse 30. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” According to Jesus, there are only two kinds of people: those who are with Jesus, and those who are against him; those who gather with Jesus, and those who scatter. Those who are with Jesus have hope in his kingdom love their neighbors and try to plant faith in Jesus by teaching God’s word. They struggle to deny themselves to build up the kingdom of God. God works through them and people can be saved. Jesus’ people try to grow to be like Jesus, following his example and gather his flock and lead them to God’s kingdom. On the other hand, those who are not with Jesus are against him. Some are subtle and on the surface they don’t appear to be against him, while others, like the religious leaders, who intentionally try to destroy the work of Jesus. They try to scatter people by planting doubt, fear and hatred. In the process, they hurt people. Most of all, they slander the Holy Spirit, calling his work the work of Satan. While Jesus forgives those who slander him, if we discount the Holy Spirit, who is the one that changes people’s hearts, who else can we go to? The Bible says that people like this cannot be forgiven in this age, or in the age to come (31-32).

Most people think to themselves, “I’m not that bad,” but I believe that we’re too easy on ourselves and don’t truly see ourselves before God. We make ourselves look better than we are. So how can we get a good gauge and check to see which side we really are on? Jesus says the way to check is to evaluate what kind of fruit you produce. Verses 33-35 shows us how, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” The scary thing is, the Pharisee’s thought they were doing God’s work but they had been deceived and were actually serving the devil. I don’t think that this was their intention but is shows you the power that Satan has to deceive people. Again, most people think that they’re not that bad but if you are not actively serving God then by default you are serving Satan. The way to tell where you are at is by is to examine what kind of fruit are you producing. One of those fruits is our speech for what you say, for out of the overflow of your heart your mouth speaks. Do you say things that are good? Or do you say evil things? Do you glorify God or take his name in vain? This is a tough spot for me because often I say things that are not good, and my wife says that I’ve crossed the line. I play it off and joke about it not taking it too seriously. But this is a dangerous game to play because Jesus says “that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” I realized that I haven’t been glorifying God and how evil my heart is because the overflow is just the little bit that spills out. How much more is the heart is full of that stuff. A tree is to its fruit what a person’s heart is to his or her speech. A person is either good or evil, and the wicked will not escape condemnation (v. 36). God will judge even “empty” words. What may seem like merely trivial or casual remarks may at times better reflect the true attitudes of one’s heart than more carefully chosen words.

So how do the Pharisees and teachers of the law respond to Jesus’ warning, they say, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” (v38) The religious leaders are seeking a “sign on demand,” as it were. They were actually ahead of their time because today we want everything on demand. In other words, they’re saying, “If you are authentic, perform a miracle right now. And not just your common, ordinary, run-of-the-mill variety, either, but something spectacular, so we’ll know beyond the shadow of a doubt and then we’ll believe you.” This is the same temptation Jesus faced in the wilderness when Satan said, “turn these stones into bread” (Mt 4:5–7). Jesus would not then, nor would he now, become a carnival magician just to impress his critics. If they were convinced by the miracle, they would follow him, but for all the wrong reasons. Miracle-seekers seek don’t know how to see God in the everyday realities of life, they look only for the extraordinary. Jesus tells them the only sign they will get is the sign of Jonah alluding to his death and resurrection. This would be all the proof they should need. Then in verses 41-42 Jesus mentions the men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South. “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.” I believe that Jesus is comparing the Gentiles to the Jews. Gentiles who sincerely repented would rise to be saved. Then they would condemn the wicked generation of Israel who rejected the Messiah. Many people claim that if God gives them a sign they will believe. But God has already given the sign that Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is the greatest miracle. All we need to do is repent and believe in Jesus, instead of asking for a sign.

In verses 43-45 Jesus explains what would happen to the generation that rejected the Messiah. Jesus had performed many miracles among them: driving out evil spirits and healing the sick. For a time, they were liberated and could experience God’s deep grace. But they refused to accept Jesus as their King and didn’t commit themselves to him. As a result, they weren’t able to maintain God’s grace and in the end they would become worse. Jesus illustrated this by comparing them to a man who had been freed from an impure spirit. When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest but does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” It finds the house unoccupied. This means that the liberated person didn’t invite Jesus to come into their hearts as King. Such people are vulnerable. The impure spirit returned with seven other spirits more wicked than itself. The final condition of that person was worse than the first. Here we learn that there is no middle ground or neutrality in the spiritual realm. When Jesus does not rule our hearts as King, we are vulnerable to evil spirits. King Saul was reluctant to obey God’s command. Then the Holy Spirit left him, and an evil spirit came in and began to torment him (1 Sa 16:14). There is no neutral ground in the spiritual world. We will either be ruled by Jesus or an evil spirit.

So what’s the solution? When we find ourselves on the other side of Jesus what do we do? I believe that Jesus gives us the answer in verse 46-50. Take a look at verses 46-47. “As Jesus was talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.” They thought Jesus was out of his mind (Mk 3:21). Jesus responds in verses 48-50. “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Then Jesus pointed to his disciples and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus’ disciples were ordinary country people. When he referred to them as his brothers, they must have felt honored and encouraged, (I don’t know how they felt when he called them his mother) but he was trying to make a point. The way to be with Jesus is to do the will of God. What does it mean to do the will of God? First of all, we must recognize what God is doing. Chapter 12 reveals that God sent Jesus as his chosen servant, the Messiah. To do God’s will is to accept Jesus. In John’s gospel, Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (Jn 6:29). When we believe in Jesus, God gives us the right to become children of God (Jn 1:12). By the work of the Holy Spirit, we are born again as children of God (Jn 3:5; Gal 4:6). God rescues us from the dominion of darkness and brings us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, the kingdom of light (Col 1:12-13). We are completely delivered from Satan’s power and influence. We are welcomed into fellowship with God’s family members and can enjoy true freedom, joy and peace. We have real security and everlasting life. Even the Gentiles from verse 41 & 42 can now become God’s people. Jesus protects his family and won’t attack his mother or brothers.

What a blessed life it is to be a member of Jesus’ family. John exclaimed, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 Jn 3:1). The irony is that the Pharisees thought that Jesus had impure spirits when in truth they had the impure spirits. When we reflect upon this passage, we have to ask ourselves, whose side am I on, Jesus’ or not? And does the fruit we bear support that?

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Amos 7:1-9

Key Verse: 7:8b

And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

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