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The Gospel According to Matthew: Chapter 12

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1At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” 3He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. 5Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? 6I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

9He left that place and entered their synagogue; 10a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him. 11He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.” 13Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

15When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds a Or in followed him, and he cured all of them, 16and he ordered them not to make him known. 17This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah:18

“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. 20 He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. 21 And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

22Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see. 23All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.” 25He knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists b Or my beloved Son cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. 29Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. 30Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

33“Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. 36I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; 37for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

38Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. 41The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! 42The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!

43“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. 44Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation.”

46While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 47Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” a Gk he 48But to the one who had told him this, Jesus b Or is at hand replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”


c Or in

a Or my beloved Son

b Gk he

a Or is at hand

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

13.1–52 : Teaching in parables.

In this third discourse, Matthew has grouped several parables about the kingdom's presence in a single chapter.

1 :

The sea, of Galilee.

3 :

Parables, (Heb “mashal”) can refer to stories or fables (Ezek 24.2–5 ), proverbial sayings (1 Sam 24.13 ) or riddles (Ezek 17.2 ). Narrative parables involve analogy or comparison between the situation and the subject being discussed (2 Sam 12.1–7; Isa 5.1–7 ).

3–9 :

The parable of the sower (Mk 4.3–9; Lk 8.5–8 ). Seeds, a metaphor for God's law (2 Esd 9.31 ) and individuals who receive it (2 Esd 8.41–44 ). Some a hundredfold, indicates an extraor dinarily bountiful harvest (Gen 26.12; Jub. 24.15 ), which makes up for the lost seed.

14–15 :

Isa 6.9–10 .

18–23 :

Mk 4.13–20; Lk 8.11–15 . The explanation for the disciples.

24–33 :

Three parables of the hidden kingdom.

24–30 :

The weeds and the wheat, a parable unique to Matthew, reminds the Matthean community that it is impossible to separate good and evil individuals ( 7.1–5,15–20 ).

30 :

Bundles to be burned, the farmer outwits his enemies by using the weeds as fuel. See vv. 36–43 .

31–32 :

The parable of the mustard seed (Mk 4.30–32; Lk 13.18–19 ). Birds of the air ‐.‐. branches, alludes to the image of God's rule over the kingdoms of the earth (Ezek 17.23–24 ).

33 :

Mixed in with, Gk “hid in” (note a), an unusual twist in the baking metaphor emphasizes the kingdom in the world. Three measures, about 23 liters (2–3 bu); cf. Gen 18.16 .

34–35 :

Ps 78.2 . The prophet, Asaph, given as the author of Ps 78 , is called “the seer” in 2 Chr 29.30 .

36–43 :

Jesus provides an apocalyptic interpretation to the parable of the weeds and wheat (cf. 2 Bar 70.2 ).

37 :

Son of Man, see 8.20n.

39 :

End of the age, the decisive break between one era and the next, or the end of the world in judgment.

43 :

Dan 12.3 .

44–50 :

Three more brief parables of the kingdom. The first two—the treasure and the pearl—depict the inestimable value of the kingdom. The third is another apocalyptic parable.

51–53 :

Scribe ‐.‐. trained for the kingdom, may reflect the Evangelist's background. (For Christian scribes see 23.34 .) New, Jesus' teaching; old, the Torah.

12.1–42 : Jesus and the Pharisees.

This section narrates the developing conflict with the local leaders represented by the Pharisees, known for their meticulous interpretation of the law (Josephus, War 2.162 ; Life 191).

12.1–8 : Sabbath laws

(Mk 2.23–28; Lk 6.1–5 ). This story demonstrates Jesus’ authority and legal interpretation.

2 :

Ex 20.8–11 .

3–4 :

1 Sam 21.1–6 . Bread of the Presence, twelve loaves placed in the Temple every sabbath as a thank offering (Lev 24.5–9 ).

5–6 :

Matthew adds this denunciation of the priests in the Jerusalem Temple, possibly referring to Num 28.9–10 .

7 :

The second quotation of Hos 6.6 (see 9.13n. ). When Jesus offers a legal interpretation, or is embroiled in a dispute with other religious leaders, he usually cites scripture to support his argument.

12.9–14 : A sabbath healing

(Mk 3.1–6; Lk 6.6–11 ). The synagogue, a common Greek term for an informal public gathering place or structure where civic and political issues were discussed, not yet a formal religious institution. Jesus argues using the rhetorical technique “from the small to the great,” popular in both classical rhetoric and early rabbinic legal debate. Will you not ‐.‐. lift it out, the ordinary practice in Jesus' day (but Essenes opposed this view, CD 11.13–14 ). This story concludes with the first mention of a plan to destroy Jesus.

12.15–21 :

Justice and healing for many.

17–21 :

Isa 42.1–4,9 . The citation aims to answer the question of later followers: Why was Jesus not more widely known and why did he not attract more followers during his ministry? The response is that this was not part of God's plan. In addition, Jesus' ministry is for all people. Gentiles, possibly a reference to the nations rather than to non‐Jews.

12.22–37 : The relationship between words and deeds

(Mk 3.23–30; Lk 11.17–23 ). This story of an exorcism provides the occasion for the Pharisees to attempt to discredit Jesus ( 9.34 ).

24 :

Beelzebul, see 10.25n.

30 :

Found also in Luke ( 11.23 ), but not Mark, and perhaps originally an independent saying.

31–32 :

Speaking against the Holy Spirit is attributing authority to something other than God's spirit.

33–37 :

Speech as evidence of character renders persons liable to judgment (cf. 5.21–22 ).

12.38–45 : Seeking a sign

(Lk 11.29–32; 11.24–26 ).

39 :

Adulterous, the Hebrew Bible's metaphor for unfaithfulness (Jer 3.8; Ezek 23.37; Hos 2.2–10 ).

40 :

Jon 1.17 .

41 :

Jon 3.5 .

42 :

Queen of the South, the queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10.1–10 ).

43 :

Waterless regions, or deserts, believed to be the home of demons (Lev 16.10; Isa 13.21–22; 34.14 ).

44 :

House, the formerly possessed person. Empty, i.e., no good spirit has replaced the evil one.

12.46–50 : Jesus' true family

(Mk 3.31–35; Lk 8.19–25 ). Jesus' implicit rejection of his family in favor of his disciples is a radical challenge to traditional values.

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