Matthew 12:15-37 The Power Behind The Power

15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

18 “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 has brought justice through to victory.
21     In his name the nations will put their hope.”[b]

22 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?”

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said 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? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

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 plunder his house.

30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

33 “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. 36 But I tell you 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.”

The Power Behind The Power

When I was growing up I was in a cessationist environment.  In other words, the general opinion was that when the books of the Bible were brought together the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and words of knowledge ceased (hence the name).  Where the teaching went further was in discussing where there were healings, tongues, and words of knowledge present.  In such cases the word ‘counterfeit’ was just a mask for the belief that Satan was behind such things.  It was like the candy offered by the evil stranger at the local park.  It was like the first fix from a drug dealer.  Satan was handing out copies of God’s gifts to lead people astray.  It is debatable whether some of the manifestations today of the gifts of the Spirit are genuine, but to leap to the conclusion that Satan is behind some of the self-deception and naivete is a little like the passage above.

The logic ran something like this.  We do not believe that the gifts of the Spirit were in operation after the canon of Scripture was established.  We see people using these gifts after we believe they have gone away.  It can not be genuine.  It must be counterfeit.  Satan is the Father of Lies.  Satan is the source of the power behind any ‘sign’ gifts since the canon was established.  The logic of the Pharisees was similar.  They could not deny the power of Jesus’ miracles.  Such miracles did not fit with their narrow interpretation of scripture.  There must be a source for the power, the source must be Satan who has authority over the demons Jesus is manipulating.

Jesus response uses similar logic.  There must be a source for your unwillingness to believe.  If you looked out of the hearts from which your comments flow, you would find that Satan is the source of such deception.  We should be very careful about condemning work that leads people to him in supernatural ways.  What can Satan benefit from those who are led to God because of supposed Satanic signs?  In many cases there is a showboating in more charismatic churches that is generated by the individual, but in being guarded against that falsehood we shouldn’t stand in bold opposition to God ever using supernatural means to draw people to himself.

Questions

  1. What does Isaiah tell about the power behind Jesus’ ministry?
  2. Recount the line of argument the Pharisees use against Jesus.
  3. How does Jesus turn his response into an accusation?
  4. Do you think people attribute the Holy Spirit’s work to Satan these days?
  5. How do you think Satan generates skepticism of the supernatural in western society (in Africa for example there is not as much skepticism)?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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