Daily Family Worship

Matthew 12: Jesus’ Nearest Relations

by | Jan 12, 2024

matthew 12

The one great theme which stands out prominently in the first 13 verses of this chapter is the Sabbath Day. It is a subject on which strange opinions prevailed among the Jews in our Lord’s time. The Pharisees had added to the teachings of Scripture about it, and overlaid the true character of the Day with the traditions of men. But our Lord Jesus does not abolish the observance of a weekly Sabbath Day. He only freed it from incorrect interpretations and purified it from man-made additions. He did not tear the fourth commandment out of the Decalogue. He only stripped away the miserable traditions with which the Pharisees had encrusted the Day, and by which they had made it not a blessing, but a burden. He does allow all works of real necessity and mercy to be done on the Sabbath, for we find Him justifying His disciples for plucking the ears of corn so that they had food to eat on the Sabbath. Above all, Christ lays down the great principle that no ordinance of God is to be pressed so far as to make us neglect the plain duties of love! “I will have mercy,” He says, “and not sacrifice.” The first table of the law is not to be interpreted in such a way as to make us break the second.

In verses 14-21, we see the desperate wickedness of the human heart. Being silenced and defeated by our Lord’s arguments about the Sabbath, the Pharisees plunged deeper into sin. They “went out and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.” No charge could be brought against His life; for He was holy, harmless, and undefiled. No charge could be brought against His teachings, either; for He had proved them to be in harmony with Scripture and reason. But it mattered little how perfectly He lived or taught; He was still hated by those who pretended to have a reverence for the things of God, but whose hearts were given over to wickedness. And this hatred still continues to show itself today whenever it has a favorable opportunity. This is precisely why so many of the Lord’s prophets and martyrs were killed. This is why John Hus, Jerome of Prague, Ridley, and Latimer were burned at the stake. Unconverted human nature hates Godly persons because it hates God. It must never surprise true Christians if they meet with the same treatment that Jesus met with.

This passage also presents us with an encouraging description of Christ’s character, which Matthew draws from the prophet Isaiah: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.” What are we to understand by the “bruised reed” and “smoking flax”? The simplest explanation seems to be that the Holy Spirit is here describing persons whose grace is weak, whose repentance is feeble, and whose faith is small. Toward such persons, the Lord Jesus will be very tender and compassionate! As weak as the broken reed is, it shall not be broken. As small as the spark of fire may be within the smoking flax, it shall not be quenched. It is a standing truth in the Kingdom of grace, that weak grace, weak faith, and weak repentance are all precious in our Lord’s sight. There are thousands to whom this passage should preach peace and hope!

There is nothing too blasphemous for hardened and prejudiced persons to say against religion. Our Lord casts out a devil; and the Pharisees immediately declare that He does it “by the prince of the devils.” This was an absurd charge! Christ shows them that it was unreasonable to suppose that the devil would help to pull down his own kingdom. But there is nothing too absurd and unreasonable for people to say when they are thoroughly set against Christianity.

These verses also teach us something of the impossibility of neutrality in religion. He who does not stand on Christ’s side is against Him, and he that does not help Him gather is essentially doing the work of scattering. There are many persons in every age of the Church who are not boldly on Christ’s side, and yet they are not openly against Him. Our Lord warns all such that they are in a dangerous position! There are only two parties in religious matters. There are only two camps – only two sides. Are we with Christ, and actively working in His cause? If not, then we are against Him.

Behold the amazing power of unbelief, as the scribes and Pharisees call upon our Lord to show them more miracles! But as we read these last 13 verses of this chapter (38-50), we are reading one of those places which strikingly illustrate the truth of Old Testament history. Jesus speaks of the Queen of the South as a real person who lived and died. And He refers to the narrative of Jonah and his miraculous preservation in the whale’s belly as undeniable matters of fact. Let us remember this when we hear people professing to believe the writers of the New Testament, and yet sneering at the things recorded in the Old Testament as if they were fables! Such men forget that in so doing, they pour contempt upon Christ Himself. The authority of the Old and New Testament stands or falls together.

The last practical lesson which meets us in these verses is the tender affection with which the Lord Jesus regards His true disciples – that is, every person who does the will of our heavenly Father. He says, “The same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” What gracious words these are! Who can fathom the depths of our dear Lord’s love toward His earthly relations? It was a pure, mighty, and unselfish love. Yet here we see that all His believing people are counted as His relations! He loves them, feels for them, and cares for them as much as He did the members of His immediate family.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your loving compassion; for You are so gentle and tender toward us, even though we are like bruised reeds and smoking flax! Amen.

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