WHOEVER IS NOT WITH ME IS AGAINST ME
Matthew 12:22-50, Key Verse: 12:30
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
In the last passage, Jesus declared that he is the Lord of Sabbath. He tried to teach the Pharisees that God desires mercy, not sacrifice, but they rejected Jesus and plotted to kill him. Then Jesus withdrew from that place but continued to heal people. Matthew, the author, saw this Jesus from God’s perspective, fulfilling the prophesy of the Messiah, who came to proclaim justice to the nations, restoring bruised reed- and smoldering wick-like people, and thus winning the victory for God. Thank you, Jesus, for you are the helper to the helpless and the hope to the hopeless as they come to you in humility. Amen!
In today’s passage, Jesus teaches why we should be with him and gather with him. There are three parts.
I. Make a Tree Good (22-37).
Look at verse 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.” In this verse, “they” refers to the people of Israel who saw Jesus healing all who were ill. They also brought a man who was blind and mute. Jesus healed the man by driving out demons from him. It seems that the demon made him blind and mute, cutting off his main communication ability. What a terrible life did he live, living without relationship with others the world? Probably, he was living like a crazy man, expressing himself in his own way by the power of the demon. Maybe the demon justified itself by making him think that the world would not understand him and/or he did not need to understand others either. He lived in his own world confined in the prison the demon created. No priests or psychologists or philosophers knew what to do with him, because they had no way to communicate with him, not even mentioning to heal him.
The people believed that only Jesus could heal such a person and brought him to Jesus. Jesus knew that it was not a disease but demon-possession and healed him by driving out the demons. Now the man could see and speak, free from the demon-possession. How happy the man was when he could see everything clearly and communicate with people with a right mind! How happy the people were, seeing the man living a new life through the power of Jesus Christ.
Have you heard about Helen Keller? When she was blind and mute, he acted like a crazy girl. Her parents did not know what to do with her but pray. Then Ms. Sullivan who was almost blind had compassion on her and tried to communicate with her through touch, especially writing the name of the things Helen was touching. Finally, there was a breakthrough when she touched water and Ms. Sullivan wrote the word “water” on her hand. She saw a beam of light from her dark and confined world. Then she began to run to the light of communication, asking her teacher to write name of everything she touched on her hands. The rest is the story of how Helen Keller became an inspiration to the world, doing so many things not only to the blind and mute people but also to all people who has lived in despair and/or their own confined world. We are in awe even though we know how Ms. Sullivan helped Helen Keller overcome her blindness and muteness. How much more the people of Israel were amazed by the power of Jesus, healing such a person!
Look at verse 23. “All the people were astonished and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?’” Though Jesus performed many miracles, this healing touched the hearts of all the Jewish people to believe that Jesus is the Son of David, another name of the Messiah. It is common for a regular people to believe that there is the work of the Messiah when there is such a healing as Jesus was doing, as was prophesied for the Messiah.
But there are also uncommon people. Look at verse 24. “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.’” The Pharisees accused Jesus of being the prince of demons instead of the Messiah. Their logic was illogical and distorted, claiming that the prince of demons was driving out other demons. Simply speaking, the prince is killing his own people. The prince should be demon-possessed, so he is doing crazy things by destroying his own people and kingdom, right? By saying this they were trying to undermine the work of the Spirit through Jesus. Now the prince of demons lost his mission statement, not destroying people but restoring them.
But Jesus responded how they were wrong in four ways. First, every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined. Look at verses 25-26. If the prince of demons kills his own demons, he is dividing himself. He is out of his mind, not doing bad but doing good. Maybe it seemed normal to the Pharisees since they were destroying each other for political positions in the Sanhedrin. This kind of people are everywhere in every generation especially among politicians, just like the President of North Korea, who killed his own family members in order to keep his position. But the Pharisees did not know that the prince of demons is much smarter than them. They did not know that Satan made them to fight against each other and divide themselves until they were ruined. So their claim is based on their stupidity due to their political mindset.
Secondly, they will be judged by their peers who drive out demons. Look at verse 27. “And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.” In fact, some of Pharisees were driving out demons as well. Then how could they be doing it? With the same logic, they were driving out demons by the power of the prince of demons. Again they were undermining their own Pharisees who were doing God’s work. Therefore, those who drove out demons would stand against them, testifying that they were doing it by the power of God. This reveals that their intention was evil to begin with, trying to discredit the work of God through Jesus or through their own Pharisees.
Thirdly, the kingdom of God has come upon them. 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.” Jesus said this with his broken shepherd heart for them. Jesus was driving out demons by the power of God’s spirit. If Jesus is doing it by the Spirit of God, the kingdom of God has come upon them. It means that the good news of great joy has come to them. It means that God is speaking the message of repentance to them, so this is the time for them to repent of their selfishness and jealousy. It is the time for them to accept the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus. It is the same message Jesus has given them before, saying, “The kingdom of God has come, repent and believe the good news.” They should repent of their self-glory seeking lives as politicians and begin to live as shepherds of God’s flock, just as God called them to live.
Fourthly, Jesus is stronger than Satan. Look at verse 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.” According to Revelation 12, Satan has 7 heads and 10 horns, when a human has one head and no horns. It is like 7 super computers against 1 computer and 10 arrows against no arrow. Jesus testified that he is stronger than Satan; otherwise, he could not free the man from the demons who possessed him. Basically, he entered his heart and tied up the demons and kicked them out of the man. Therefore, we can have assurance that Jesus has power to drive out Satan from anyone. Though the world belongs to the Satan, Jesus will drive Satan and all demons out of it to the eternal dungeon. Yet, while on earth, Jesus wants us to depend on him driving out demons through prayer. What a great assurance we have in Jesus!
Now Jesus is convicting their sins and calling them to be with him. Look at verse 30. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Jesus was calling them to gather with himself. When the Pharisees were not with Jesus, they were against Jesus. Why? When a person is not with Jesus, he or she lives according to their natural self. In their sinful nature, the Pharisees were jealous of Jesus’ power and popularity. They felt their political positions were threatened by Jesus. Even though Jesus’ miracles proved who he was, due to their spiritual blindness they could not see Jesus as the Messiah but only as their political opponent. Instead of gathering God’s lost sheep to Jesus, they tried to scatter them away from Jesus. In the same way, when we are not with Jesus, we are going to be against Jesus. When we do not gather with Jesus, we are going to hinder the work of Jesus.
Then, how can we be with Jesus and gather with Jesus? First, accept the work of the Holy Spirit. Look at verses 31-32, “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.” The Pharisees had seen the work of the Spirit through Jesus Christ, but they rejected it, blaspheming that it was the work of Satan. They could hate Jesus due to their political mindset, but should not blaspheme the work of the Spirit. It was too obvious to reject, and blasphemy. Their wanton rejection is unforgivable. They became the instrument of the devil who would hold them to the end tightly. Apostle Paul explained the reason why we should follow the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:5-6: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit life and peace.”
Secondly, make a tree good. Look at verse 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.” It is self-evident truth that a tree is recognized by its fruit. If a tree is good, it is going to produce good fruit, but if a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. We cannot harvest delicious grapes from thistles. What does it mean, making a tree good or bad? It means that the Pharisees should make their inner beings good. Look at verses 34-35, “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.” A good tree is a good man who stores good things in heart. A bad tree is an evil man who stores evil thoughts in heart. Just like a tree bears its fruit, whatever is inside of a man comes out sooner or later, whether good or bad. In order to make ourselves a good tree, therefore, we just need to store good things in us.
Then, what are the good things? Some people say to read a good book, which I would like to do. Some say to watch a good movie. A lot of people say to do both. Someone said that a human being knows what is good and bad. But in this relativistic world, it has become more and more obscure. Nowadays, wrong in God’s sight has become right in this world. Jesus said that no one is good except God alone. Therefore, when we fill our hearts with God and his word, we can make our hearts good. Jesus also said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” (John 15:7a) Then, how can we fill our hearts with God’s word? This is really a good question. This topic is worthy of another lecture or two, but I will summarize it in one sentence. It may start with listening, reading, memorizing and even meditating on the word of God, and end with the work of the Holy Spirit. The result is remarkable and obvious. When a person begins to fill his heart with the word of God, it does not stay as head knowledge but begins to change one’s way of thinking and lifestyle, and eventually enables him or her to bear fruit inside and outside. Again Jesus said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing… You did not choose but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (John 15:5b, 16) The fruit that will last is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. When a person bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit, he or she will bear fruit outwardly, for God will answer his prayer. Our fruitful life reveals the glory of God, which is the ultimate purpose of our lives.
Moreover, there are more serious consequences of our inner life. Look at verses 36-37. “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.” Our words and actions are proofs of what we have inside. At the end of God’s judgment, therefore, we will be rewarded or condemned according to what we have done, whether good or bad. Therefore, it is essential to make our hearts good through remaining in Jesus and his word. May God help us to make our hearts good so that we can bear much fruit inside and out for the glory of God and for the reward on the day of judgment.
II. Only the Sign of Jonah (38-45).
Look at verse 38. “Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.’” The Pharisees had seen many signs done by Jesus, including Jesus’ healing the demon possessed man, but they were asking for more. How did Jesus respond to them? He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!” Another miracle would not do anything for them to believe in Jesus. They would enjoy the miracle and continue to live life of sin because they would not live according to the word of God.
So Jesus gave them two messages. First, the gospel message of his death, burial and resurrection. Look at verses 39-41. The sign of Jonah is the sign of the gospel. Just as Jonah was in the belly of a huge fish, most likely a whale, for 3 days and came out to preach the message of God, Jesus would die and be buried in the heart of the earth for 3 days and rise again to preach the message of resurrection. Even Jonah came out and preached the message of repentance reluctantly, the men of Nineveh repented in sackcloth and ashes. Then, God forgave them and did not destroy the people in the city.
Now someone greater than Jonah is here; that is Jesus. Jesus not only preached the message of repentance with the power of the Holy Spirit but also healed the sick and drove out demons, proving that he is the Promised Messiah, but the Jews rejected Jesus and his message. Even though the people of Nineveh were gentile, they had the right to stand and condemn the people of Israel for their stubborn refusal.
Another example was the queen of the South. Look at verse 42. The Queen of Sheba sought God’s wisdom and came to Solomon to see and hear it. When she saw and heard, she believed and went back to her country with great joy. Jesus’ wisdom is much greater than Solomon’s, but the Jews would not listen to him and believe. They were not interested in getting wisdom but just miracles to make their present life better off.
In verses 43-45, Jesus explained the reason why he was not performing any signs. When a person experiences the power of Jesus but do not hold on to Jesus, occupying their hearts with it, they will be worse than before. It is because the demons will bring worse demons to occupy the emptied heart. In fact, a lazy heart is a devil’s playground.
III. Who is Jesus’ True Family (46-49).
Look at verses 46-47. Someone interrupted Jesus while he was speaking to tell him that his mother and brothers standing outside. He thought that Jesus would give his family first priority and stop everything and welcome them.
How did Jesus respond? Look at verses 48-50. “He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’” Jesus gave a different definition of family. It is not the physical family bonded by blood or legal paper, but bonded by the act of faith. He pointed to his disciples who followed God and were doing the will of God. It does not mean that Jesus rejected his mother, Mary, who obeyed the will of God in her lifetime, but Jesus taught the priority in Christ. When we face a choice between the will of God and family affairs, Jesus’ family should choose the will of God first and all other things the second.
In conclusion, Jesus not only defended himself, showing why his work was not the work of the prince of demons, but he also called the Pharisees to make themselves a good tree by gathering with him and making their hearts good, so that they can bear fruit inside and out and receive the reward at the time of God’s judgment. May God bless each one of us to remain in the word of God and bear much fruit in 2018.