In this chapter, we have, I. Christ's healing a man that had a withered hand, on the sabbath day, and the combination of his enemies against him for it, ver. 1-6. II. The universal resort of people to him from all parts, to be healed, and the relief they all found with him, ver. 7-12. III. His ordaining his twelve apostles to be attendants on him, and the preachers of his gospel, ver. 13-21. IV. His answer to the blasphemous cavils of the scribes, who imputed his power to cast out devils to a confederacy with the prince of the devils, ver. 22-30. V. His owning his disciples for his nearest and dearest relations, ver. 31-35.
The Blasphemy of the Scribes.
22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. 23 And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. 27 No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. 28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: 30 Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.
I. Here is, The impudent impious brand which the scribes fastened upon Christ's casting out devils, that they might evade and invalidate the conviction of it, and have a poor excuse for not yielding to it.
These scribes came down from Jerusalem, v. 22. It should seem they came this long journey on purpose to hinder the progress of the doctrine of Christ; such pains did they take to do mischief; and, coming from Jerusalem, where were the most polite and learned scribes, and where they had opportunity of consulting together against the Lord and his Anointed, they were in the greater capacity to do mischief; the reputation of scribes from Jerusalem would have an influence not only upon the country people, but upon the country scribes; they had never thought of this base suggestion concerning Christ's miracles till the scribes from Jerusalem put it into their heads. They could not deny but that he cast out devils, which plainly bespoke him sent of God; but they insinuated that he had Beelzebub on his side, was in league with him, and by the prince of the devils cast out devils. There is a trick in the case; Satan is not cast out, he only goes out by consent. There was nothing in the manner of Christ's casting out devils, that gave any cause to suspect this; he did it as one having authority; but so they will have it, who resolve not to believe him.
II. The rational answer which Christ gave to this objection, demonstrating the absurdity of it.
1. Satan is so subtle, that he will never voluntarily quit his possession; If Satan cast out Satan, his kingdom is divided against itself, and it cannot stand, v. 23-26. He called them to him, as one desirous they should be convinced; he treated them with all the freedom, friendliness, and familiarity that could be; he vouchsafed to reason the case with them, that every mouth may be stopped. It was plain that the doctrine of Christ made war upon the devil's kingdom, and had a direct tendency to break his power, and crush his interest in the souls of men; and it was as plain that the casting of him out of the bodies of people confirmed that doctrine, and gave it the setting on; and therefore it cannot be imagined that he should come into such a design; every one knows that Satan is no fool, nor will act so directly against his own interest.
2. Christ is so wise, that, being engaged in war with him, he will attack his forces wherever he meets them, whether in the bodies or souls of people, v. 27. It is plain, Christ's design is to enter into the strong man's house, to take possession of the interest he has in the world, and to spoil his goods, and convert them to his own service; and therefore it is natural to suppose that he will thus bind the strong man, will forbid him to speak when he would, and to stay where he would, and thus show that he has gained a victory over him.
III. The awful warning Christ gave them to take heed how they spoke such dangerous words as these; however they might make light of them, as only conjectures, and the language of free-thinking, if they persisted in it, it would be of fatal consequence to them; it would be found a sin against the last remedy, and consequently unpardonable; for what could be imagined possible to bring them to repentance for their sin in blaspheming Christ, who would set aside such a strong conviction with such a weak evasion? It is true, the gospel promiseth, because Christ hath purchased, forgiveness for the greatest sins and sinners, v. 28. Many of those who reviled Christ on the cross (which was a blaspheming of the Son of man, aggravated to the highest degree), found mercy, and Christ himself prayed, Father, forgive them; but this was blaspheming the Holy Ghost, for it was by the Holy Spirit that he cast out devils, and they said, It was by the unclean spirit, v. 30. By this method they would outface the conviction of all the gifts of the Holy Ghost after Christ's ascension, and defeat them all, after which there remained no more proof, and therefore they should never have forgiveness, but were liable to eternal damnation. They were in imminent danger of that everlasting punishment, from which there was no redemption, and in which there was no intermission, no remission.
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