Matthew 12b

Matthew 12B: Understanding

Jesus has made two statements concerning who he is already in his encounters with the Pharisees in verse 6 and 8 where he states- ‘I tell you one greater than the temple is here’;  and  also – ‘ for the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.  Now with this miracle of healing of a demon possessed man who was blind and mute in verse 22, even the common people are beginning to inquire : “ Could this be the Son of David?”

But the real blind people here are the Pharisees who continue to confront Jesus at every opportunity. Throughout history, many have scoffed at the idea of a God, any god, becoming flesh. The whole notion of the Bible being inspired by God and containing  absolute truth are mocked by them as ridiculous and nothing more than myths and superstitions.

Let’s look at the physical manifestations of this demon possession and relate it also to the spiritual conditions- this man is blind and dumb- could not see and could not speak. Paul often spoke and prayed for the ‘ eyes of our heart to be enlightened that we might see the hope to which we are called’.  In fact when Paul, aka Saul of Tarsus was struck down on the road to Damascus by the Lord Jesus listen to the instructions he was given: “I am sending you to them( the Gentiles) to open their eyes and turn from their darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of their sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” ( Acts 26)   We were all spiritually blind until we were born again, converted, and we walked in darkness and we were under the rule of the evil one, whether we want to admit it or not.  It is interesting to note what Jesus did to Paul on the road to Damascus in order to open the eyes of his heart, the Lord Jesus temporarily blinded the physical eyes of Paul.  Paul would learn this principle- what can be seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Put your eyes upon the eternal, not the temporary.

Before Christ entered our lives, we could not see spiritual truths, we could not open our mouths in prayer or praise to the One who created us. We were spiritually blind and mute.   Notice in this chapter we will see  what is in the heart affects what comes out of the mouth.  When we were spiritually blind, and eyes of faith, the eyes of our heart were blinded and bound, we could not understand and therefore we could not speak to the One who loved us and gave His life for us.

Let us consider the process of salvation and see this connection between being blind and mute physically and blind and mute spiritually in these familiar verses from Paul in Romans 10.

“ That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart  that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth you confess and are saved.” ( Romans 10: 9,10)

Now do you understand what the enemy has done- he has held us in captivity and blinded us to spiritual truths, so that we cannot see with the eyes of our heart, (our understanding) and therefore since we do not believe it in our hearts we cannot confess it with our mouths. We are spiritually blind and mute. The enemy has  blinded one’s mind and placed a veil over one’s heart  when they read the Bible. This veil is taken away and the eyes of our heart are opened when we turn to the Lord Jesus in faith. (2 Cor. 3)

We are not  all Gods’ children, only those who have been redeemed, who have been accepted Christ as Savior are adopted into the family of God as His children. We are all, however, God’s creation and God loves the whole world. ( John 3:16)  For this reason He sent His Son to redeem us to pay the ransom to the one who held us hostage.  Can you now see what your former condition was?  You were held hostage by the evil one. As his hostage, you were blindfolded, bound and gagged and held prisoner.

In John Bunyan’s allegorical novel, “ The Holy War”, the enemy is trying to take over the city of Mansoul and in order to do that he tells his soldiers they must capture the Mayor of Mansoul and place him in dungeon. ‘What is his name’, ask the soldiers. His name is Mayor Understanding.’

The Lord Jesus performed a miracle when He saved each one of us- He opened the eyes of our understanding that was previously blinded. And He opened our mouths that we might confess what we now knew and believed in our hearts.

Now we must realize as believers we are to never stop turning to the Lord who took away the veil over our hearts, who opened our blind eyes and gave us a new heart and out of this new heart – our mouths are opened to praise God, pray to God and proclaim God to others. Paul tells us: “ But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord , are being changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18)   As we get into the Word and the Word gets into us, the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like His Son.

The Pharisees immediately attack Jesus and say he is doing these miracles by the power of Beelzebub. Now in a verse made famous by Abraham Lincoln, Jesus tells the Pharisees and all listening  how ridiculous this accusation is:  “ Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household  divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How can his kingdom stand?  And if  I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by who do your people( the Pharisees) drive them out?  But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Now do you understand why Jesus wept over Jerusalem and spoke about how often he would have gathered her under his wings like a mother hen did her chicks but they would not.  Here in this one chapter, he has three times said who he was with plentiful signs they could see and read as fulfillment of prophecy, but they were spiritually blind.  Light had come into the world, but they preferred darkness because their deeds were evil. ( John 3)

Now we have a clearer picture of who and what we were – we were hostages held for ransom. Blinded so we could not see our captor and gagged so we could not cry out for help and bound so we could not escape on our own.  Who could rescue us from our plight? Who could overpower this strong man and enter his house?

This world was in Satan’s possession and under his power. So was and is every unregenerate soul. Man’s soul has been held captive because our understanding was darkened. Where the enemy rules , he resides. John tells us –‘ the whole world today lies under the control of the evil one. ‘ (I John 5:19)  John also tells us the spirit of the Anti- Christ is in the world. John then tells us ‘ greater is He who is in you than the one who is in the world. They( unbelievers) are from the  world therefore they speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them”. ( I John 4) Those are the two viewpoints we have today- the world’s viewpoint which is based on the lies of the enemy and our viewpoint which is based on the Word of God, the absolute truth.

By casting out demons, the Lord Jesus was showing us how easily and effectively he could cast the devil out of people’s lives. Like the winds or the seas- he had only to speak a word, like speaking to sulking dog, ‘ GET!”.  Go and they were gone.   The demons believe there is one God and they shudder. ( James 3)  No wonder people were encouraged and had hope in Jesus when they saw what he could do even with the worst of conditions, the worst of sinners.

Have you not seen? Have you not heard? I had the opportunity once on a visit to a prison with Jay Benthal and some others in the Prison Ministry to share the platform with John Bramlett. When anyone hears his story of his conversion and what he was converted from- they realize the Lord can save even the most vile sinners.

I remember when I went to my 10 year high school reunion. I was in some of the darkest days of my life and drinking.  Dulling the pain of my life and failures with alcohol, I played the class clown.  By my 15 year reunion, I was saved, sober, sane and my life was completely different. I was a new creature. One of my friends came up to me and Gina, for now many had heard of my conversion, and said I want to meet the woman who changed this wild man. Gina said : ‘ It wasn’t me- it was all the Lord’s doing”. Somehow if I could write a sequel to the Prodigal Son, it would be that he became a Sunday School teacher and served the Lord the rest of his days. Isn’t that why we love the story of Scrooge in the Christmas Carol ? This most miserable miser of a man became so changed – his own nephew did not recognize him. And we are told Scrooge kept Christmas every day of the year. John Bramlett, Tim Fortner and many others are trophies of Gods’ Grace.  So our song is this:  “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives! To God be the glory, great things He has done!”

The Holy War, John Bunyan wrote of is still waging in man’s souls everywhere. The Mayor of Mansoul , Mayor Understanding is still in darkness and that is why the world lies under the spell of the evil one.Yes the Holy War is still being waged and there many held hostage, blindfolded with a veil, gagged with mouths closed by impure deceitful hearts.

It is in this Holy War we are engaged. We are in a battle and we have a role to play. We are to be salt and light. We cannot sit on the sideline. We must take up our shields put on the whole armor of God and get in battle. There is no neutrality.

The Lord is setting captives free-one by one. He enters the strong man’s home and we see clearly the strong man is the devil and his home is this world. He binds the strong man.  Satan, previously known as Lucifer attempted to overthrow God’s reign in heaven.  We read about this account in Revelation 12: “ And there was a war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon ( the devil,aka Lucifer) and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he( the devil) was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down, the ancient serpent called, the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth and his angels with him.”

The battle would now change battle fields and by Genesis 3, the enemy deceived Adam and Eve and took control of this world. And from Genesis 3 until Calvary, the enemy pursued the woman who was to give birth to the male child .

The enemy was defeated at Calvary.  As we quote Max Lucado last week, from his book, “ Six Hours One Friday”;  our  Lord not only defeated the enemy as Max so bluntly phrases it: “ Jesus beat the hell out of death.”   Hear Paul cheering Him in his victory:  “ Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” I can almost see Paul doing a victory dance in the end zone, can’t you?  ( I Cor. 15)

You see the ‘ sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God ! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” ( I Cor 15)

So here are our orders from our Leader-  ‘ He who is not with me is against me and he who does not gather with me scatters.” In other words you cannot sit on the sidelines. You cannot be neutral , you must get in the battle. We each have a role to play.

Jesus then warns of an unpardonable sin. We interpret this as the only sin we cannot be forgiven of – is the sin of unbelief. To not believe the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin and righteousness. If one dies without believing the Spirit of Truth and does not accept the Lord Jesus as Savior , they will have remained bound, gagged and blindfolded. A hostage who would not allow the One who died for Him pay for his or her sins.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, the rich man who has ended up in the place of torment where unbelievers go upon death, asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers that they may not end up in this place of torment. Abraham replied, “ they have Moses and the Prophets, let them listen to them. No father Abraham, he said, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will, repent. He said to him, ‘ if they will not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” ( Luke 16)

We are to be gathering, not scattering. Are your actions as a Christian viewed as gathering or do your actions scatter?  Christ needs workers, for the fields are white with harvest, but the gatherers are few.

Now in the matter of good trees and bad trees, we recognize a tree is recognized by the fruit it bears.

What is the root of the tree? The root is the heart.  And it is out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Or as one has said- ‘ what’s down in the well, comes up in the bucket.’

This is why we received a new heart. For my old heart was deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. If one has an evil heart- how can anything good come from it? It cannot.

The heart is referred to as the mind, will and emotions of man.  The heart is where the Word of God is stored. “ thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” ( Psalm 119:11)  It is there we engraft the Word through, hearing ,reading studying, memorizing and meditating upon.  And as we are told –we are to be doers not hearers only. ( James 1) Do you realize what treasures lie for each of us to claim as our own in this treasure map known as the Holy Bible?

Watch how this comes together:  “ Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.” ( Romans 12: 1,2)  Do you see how this works?  As you get into the Word and obey it, the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to transform you from the inside out.

God gives us the desire to do His will and the power to do it. He works it in and we work it out with obedience.

“ Then the good man brings out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil things stored up in him.”

Jesus goes on then to tell us: “ Each man will give an account on the day of judgment of every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. “

The statement- ‘ sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is about as false a statement as can be made.  We know words have power- they have the power of life and death.

Today we have people who listen to the words of the rich, famous and powerful. The world hangs on their every word and thinks how smart they are. This is the world viewpoint. Yet if they do not know the truth- what good is their wisdom?   The fool has said in his heart – there is no God.

In Luke 12- we have a parable known as the rich fool.  He has done so well, he needs to tear down his current barns and build bigger ones. We do not read this man is immoral, we know he is certainly not lazy and with his knowledge and hard work he has amassed a fortune. Today this man would write a best selling book- How to Build Bigger Barns, and it would go to the top of the list of best sellers.  People would book him to speak at their company meetings, journalists would have him on their list of –go-to people for his views of what is happening in the world.

But Jesus called him a fool in this parable. Why?  It was not because of his wealth, hard work and abilities. It was because he never asked God what did God want him to do with it?  He only asks himself.

You see this man was held hostage by the ruler of this world. He therefore loved the  things of this world and thus felt he had no needs that he himself could not provide. Yet he would soon find out- he had climbed the ladder of success but it was leaned against the wrong wall. Held hostage, blind , and mute- his understanding  darkened to the truth.  He leaned on his own understanding.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.” ( Proverbs 3)

When you do- you will see great things God has done- he had set the bound, blindfolded, gagged hostages free. He has opened the eyes of our understanding.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14