NO EYE HAS SEEN, NO EAR HAS HEARD (MATTHEW 12:22-37)
My best friend in Hong Kong is a coworker whose surgery on his eyes made him impaired to a certain degree. Whenever he looks for me in a restaurant, he could only find me without fuss if I raise my hands.
One time, he asked me in the morning as he entered the office, “Did your department coworker walk by me and call my name at the MTR stop below?” I said, “I don’t know. I’ll have to ask.” Unfortunately, I told my friend, “Yes, it was him, alright.”
Last week (August 18, 2020) my friend told me he was at a taping for the virus weekend ministries when a lady passed by and greeted him, “Rev. Cheng, good morning.” It was hard for him to ask for a name in that instance with more than a few people in the busy room, and so he let it slide, Before too long, the same person came up to him again and said, “Good morning.’ That bothered him, so he made it a point to look for the person, to find out to his embarrassment that the lady was the senior pastor’s wife, who was seldom around for such events!
Matthew’s gospel has a very interesting introduction to Jesus’ miracles that is not available in other gospels: “they/I brought” or “was brought to him” (Matt 8:16, 9:2, 32, 12:22, 14:35), in this case a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute/dumb was brought to Jesus. The words “demon possession,” the “blind,” the “dumb” and “heal” appear more times in Matthew’s gospel than other gospels.
What would you do if people misconstrue and misrepresent your help? How can you be involved in the lives of those who are less fortunate in the world today? Why is one’s conduct inseparable from one’s character?
Help Rather Than Hinder
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.”
Westerners are very natural when it comes to saying “Thank you!” I came across a Google image that is titled “So Many Ways to Say THANK YOU!” with its content, no matter how awkward at times:
- I owe you one
- You are great
- I’m in your debt
- Thanks a million
- We were touched
- You were a life saver
- That’s so kind of you
- I thank you most warmly
- I do not know how to thank you
- I’m grateful for your assistance
- Please accept my deepest thanks
- Words can’t describe how thankful I am
It might surprise you to know that Matthew recorded the verb “heal” (v 15, “therapeuo” in Greek) more than the good doctor Luke himself, who recorded more times the verb “made whole (heal)” (Luke 9:2, “iaomai” in Greek). This incident was special because this is the only case whereby the person Jesus healed could both speak and see; usually the healed person Jesus helped could just speak (Matt 9:33) or see (Luke 7:21, John 9:15)
God scorns and mocks the devil, in setting under his very nose a poor, weak, human creature, mere dust and ashes, yet endowed with the firstfruits of the Spirit, against whom the devil can do nothing. Martin Luther.
The people present were astonished or amazed (v 23), not alarmed or aghast. The verb “astonished” (ex-istemi) is translated elsewhere as (the people were...) “besides themselves” (Mark 3:21, 2 Cor 5:13), lost their senses (NASB, Mark 3:21) and out of their mind (ESV, Mark 3:21). They were excited, extended and exhilarated. Literally it is “out of one’s stand” (out + stand) in Greek. They were bowled over, blown away and beyond belief. No one could remain silent and still, remain calm and composed, or remain unchanged or untouched.
The Pharisees, however, attributed Jesus’ healing and the man’s recovery to Satanic activity. All the Pharisees talked about was the identity of Jesus, never the improvement of the man or the impartiality of the witnesses. The religious leaders did not inspect, investigate or even inquire. There was no commendation, celebration or consideration from the Pharisees, but only controversy, condemnation and confusion. The title “Son of David” is a major talking point in Matthew’s gospel, as early as in Matthew 1:1 and a big motif in Matthew (Matt 1:1, 1:20, 9:27, 15:22, 20:30, 21:9, 15), but not a big deal to other gospel writers, except in the unanimous case of the blind men (Luke 18:38, Mark 10:47). The Son of David refers to Christ’s royalty, His reign and redemption. It was an unbelievable and an unimaginable turnaround, transformation and triumph that raised and revived the people’s Messianic expectations and excitement.
The Pharisees, true to their habit, questioned Jesus’ nature, actions and motivation. No wonder, Jesus reacted the way he did around the Pharisees in other passages:
“He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” (Mark 3:5)
“He sighed deeply in his spirit” (Mark 8:12)
Not only is Jesus the only person recorded in the Bible to feel this “anger” (Mark 3:5), but the other two - “deeply distressed” (Mark 3:5) and “sighed deeply” (Mark 8:12) - occur just this one-time in the Bible. Jesus could only feel irked, indignant and incensed by their attitude and actions.
Honor Rather Than Humiliate
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.
Since his childhood great reformer Martin Luther was pestered by devils, evil spirits, and demons. Four years after he published his "Ninety-five Theses,” demanding a reform within the Catholic Church, the Diet of Worms declared him an outlaw - meaning that all legal protection was withdrawn from him, making it possible for anyone to murder Luther without fear of prosecution. To protect Luther from assassination, murder and death, Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, organized a staged kidnapping of Martin Luther, whom most people thought was dead. Instead in 1521/22, the “dead” Luther spent a fruitful year at Wartburg Castle.
It was there the lonely and secluded Luther reported fears of being attacked by “evil spirits” and ascribed his depressions and mood swings to them. Martin Luther was famous for his writings on the devil. One which I like the most is this: “When the devil comes at night to worry me, this is what I say to him: Devil, I have to sleep now. That is God's commandment, for us to work by day and sleep at night. If he keeps on nagging me and trots out my sins, then I answer: Sweet devil, I know the whole list. But I have done even more sin which is not on your list. Write there also that I have s in my breeches. Hang it around your neck and wipe your mouth on it. Then, if he won't cease to accuse me of sins, I say in contempt: Holy Satan, pray for me.
Two Sets of Contrasts
28 Spirit of God
the kingdom of God
30 with me
he that gathereth not with me
30 against me
32 forgiven him… in this world
32 not be forgiven him…in the world to come.
Jesus implied that it did not make sense for the devil to be the victim of a home invasion, daylight robbery and forced entry – right before his eyes, under his nose and to his face! Verse 25’s “ruin” means desolate or come to nought (Rev 18:17, 19). It has the idea of deserted, plundered and looted. The last thing the devil expected was to be ceremoniously ransacked and removed, evicted and eviscerated, sacked and shamed. The devil is never one willing to be a laughing stock, sore loser or the butt of jokes. “Not stand” (v 25), means set (Matt 4:5), establish (Matt 18:16), still (Matt 20:32), abode (John 8:44), appoint Acts 1:23) and lay (Acts 7:60). The devil did not make a police report, file an official complaint or call for reinforcement because there was only one authority, adversary and assailant he feared – the person, presence and power of Jesus.
Divided (v 25) means distributed (1 Cor 7:17), give (Heb 7:2). The devil did not give an inch away, but Jesus freed the devil’s prisoners by force, not for free or from freewill. It was a foreseeable and fatal defeat, backed by a frantic and fleeing director with a flawed and faint defense.
“They are your judges” (v 27), means the Pharisees were biased. The best witness were the children (v 27), those whose lives were ransomed, released and repaired. Come (28) is “attain” (Phil 3:16). It heralds the dawn of a new day, the beginning of a new chapter and the birth of a new person. God’s kingdom is arrived and actualized, not absent or awaiting. In His kingdom, people are forgiven and not forsaken, healed and not hurt, and received and not rejected.
Tie up (v 29) is bind (Matt 12:29), with chains (Acts 12:6, 21:33). In Revelation the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, will be the last to be bound, for a thousand years (Rev 20:2). Plunder (dia-harpazo) is thoroughly (dia-) choke-hold, grasped. The devil ‘s defeat, demise and destruction will be physical, public and permanent besides painful. Devils shudder
Heed Rather Than Hate
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.”
Here are the five “Top Producing Vegetables and Fruits” listed on a website:
1. Tomatoes: 10 to 15 pounds of fruit per plant from these cultivars of tomatoes each season. On especially good seasons, you could see as much as 20 pounds of fruit per tomato plant.
2. Cucumbers: Just three or four vines should produce 10 pounds of cucumbers per season.
3. Beans: Like bush beans, pole beans can also yield 10 pounds or more from a 10 foot row.
4. Potatoes: Position plants in 10-foot rows, placing seeds or seedlings 12 to 18 inches apart. Each row will net you about 30 pounds of potatoes per season
5. Zucchini: A certain variety of zucchini has been known to feed entire neighborhoods during its peak growing season. Plant zucchini three or four times during the season so that a fresh crop will be ready to step up production when the old crop starts to decline.
The repetition of imperative “make” in verse 33 (“make a tree good”) shows the demand, directive and determination of the teaching. Jesus was not encouraging corrupt tree but for us to know Satan won’t change his ways or errors, no matter how cute TV, movies and media makes him. The devil won’t allow people to change their loyalty, cut their ties or curb his influence. Our loyalty to Christ must not be half-hearted because the devil loves nothing more than wishy-washy, worldly-wise and wafer-thin commitment.
Jesus used an illustration of vipers. “brood of vipers” is “generation of vipers” and occurs three times in Matthew’s caricature of the Pharisees. In both other verses the certainty is they won’t escape from hell or the wrath to come (Matt 12:3, 23:33). How is a serpent different from a viper? The serpent is crafty but the viper is poisonous. 4
Verse 34 “full of” (perisseuo) is abundance and not average, but to be extraordinary and not merely ordinary, preeminent and not just eminent. It is to excel, encircle, enclose in Greek.
Jesus said the test of the devil’s is the fruit – the character of people, their conduct in life and their consistency in production. Fruit is determined by size and shape, texture and taste, nutrition and nurture.
34 generation of vipers
35 good man vs evil man
34 for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh
37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned
34 “being evil”
36 they shall give account
36 in the day of judgment
3 “out” (ek)
34 out of the abundance of the heart
35 out of the good treasure of the heart
35 out of the evil treasure
The heart (v 34) is underneath and undisclosed, innermost and indwelling. Jesus quite often berated these Pharisees for the problem of their “heart” and in their heart:
“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matt 15:8)
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts (Mark 3:5)
You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.
Give account means to answer, but the fearfulness, fallen-ness and fruitlessness on that day.
Conclusion: Benjamin Franklin said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” Eminent devotional writer J. Oswald Sanders said, “Eyes that look are common; eyes that see are rare.” Do you have compassion and care for the needy? Are you involved in works of mercy, kindness and charity? Do you frown on others who help, while you fail to make a difference? Is your behavior compatible to your belief? In Christ we are overcomers and He has overwhelmed, overpowered and overthrown the devil. Now we are owned by Christi, obedient to Him and ordered by Him.