The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
"At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were an hungered; and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto Him, Behold, Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day" (Matt. 12:1, 2). The scribes and the Pharisees, those bitter enemies of our Lord, false prophets in sheep's clothing who inwardly were wolves, those who had first attacked the Lord Jesus when He forgave the sins of the palsied man and healed him, were now so wrought up that they accused Him of breaking the Sabbath.
The seventh day, the Sabbath, was a Jewish day. Its keeping was embodied in the Ten Commandments, and its keeping to the present day is of the utmost importance to the Jews. The seventh day was the day on which God rested after He made the earth, which He made known to Israel at Sinai (Neh. 9:14). The Sabbath was a sign upon Israel, just as was circumcision. The one was a spiritual sign, the other a physical sign distinguishing them as God's peculiar people. The Jew prided himself not only on keeping the Sabbath according to the fourth commandment, but in observing injunctions, which had been added by the elders, and which were even more binding, and in a great many cases ridiculous. So it was considered a sin to pluck an ear of corn on the Sabbath day, and this was the Pharisees' accusation against Jehovah-Jesus the Creator.
In passing, one may ask: Does not the Christian keep the Sabbath? No; the Christian observes Sunday, the first day of the week, as a day of rejoicing and fellowship with the Lord, and of worship of Him. Sunday, the Lord's day is the day of resurrection. This has been kept since the beginning of the Church age in memory of Him Who was raised from the dead, and Who is seated on the Father's right hand in Heaven. It is wrong to call the Lord's day the Sabbath, just as wrong as it would be to call Christmas the Fourth of July; Sunday is the first day, the Sabbath is the seventh day.
There is no law for the Christian to keep Sunday as the Lord's day. But this is a liberty which Christians enjoy, who "have been called into liberty" (Gal. 5:13). We quote: "Israel was commanded to observe the Sabbath day; the Church is privileged to enjoy the first day of the week. The former was the test of Israel's moral condition; the latter is the significant proof of the Church's eternal acceptance. The Sabbath day manifested what Israel could do for God; the Lord's day perfectly declares what God has done for us." The Sabbath was a commemoration of a finished creation; Sunday, the Lord's day, commemorates a finished redemption.
Our Lord answered with Scripture as He answered every attack of the evil one (for the Pharisees were Satan's instruments). "Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them who were with him, but only for the priests?" The reference is to the time of David's persecution by Saul. A fugitive, hungry, rejected by Israel -- that these things were so was sin on Israel's part, and as a consequence the holy ceremonials given to Israel by God ceased to be holy and the consecrated shewbread became common in God's sight (1 Sam. 21) -- David's experience was typical of the present occasion. The King was rejected, and while He was rejected nothing in Israel was holy.
"Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?" The very act of carrying the sacrifices for the temple on the Sabbath was work, yet they were blameless.
"But I say unto you, That in this place is One greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is the Lord even of the Sabbath day." The stupendous claims of the Lord Jesus Christ! There are those who say He never claimed to be God. Ridiculous! Throughout His ministry this was His constant affirmation; He not only claimed it, He proved it. Israel knew He said He was God, and they took up stones to kill Him, because they said it was blasphemy. "I and My Father are One" (John 10:30); "Before Abraham was I am" (John 8:58); "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9); "Neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son" (Matt. 11:27); "That in this place, is One Greater than the temple ... (Ye would not have condemned the guiltless). For the Son of Man is the Lord even of the Sabbath" (Matt. 12:6-8). Yes, He is God. By His Word, the sword of the Spirit, every mouth is stopped. Like the Pharisees, men today follow Christ at a distance. They are constantly finding fault with the work that He came to do; they say, "God would not kill His Son to save the lost," and "We are all right; God is merciful and we are living as best we can." But that is not God's way. No man cometh unto the Father but by the Son. "There is none other Name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."
Lack of space forbids us to go into the other significant events of this important day. We must pass over the record of the healing on the Sabbath of the man with the withered hand (Vs. 10-13), saying only that the man is the type of withered Israel. Our Lord had come to restore, but Israel, unlike the man, did not have faith to "Stretch forth Thy hand." The miracle performed before them concerned them to such a degree that "the Pharisees went out, and held council against Him, how they might destroy Him" (Matt. 12:14).
One possessed with a demon, blind and dumb, again typical of Israel, was brought to our Lord, and He healed him. The Pharisees then charged that the Lord cast out the demon by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. In all wisdom the Lord Jesus replied: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand?" (vs. 25-26). Satan would not cast out Satan. It must be God Who casts out the demons. "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God is come unto you" (vs. 28). Another claim of Deity by our Lord! "I ... cast out demons by the Spirit of God ... therefore the Kingdom of God (the King) is come unto you." "I have power to bind the strong man, Satan." These are our Lord's claims; they are the claims of God alone!
We shall touch for a moment upon the unforgivable sin mentioned in verses thirty and thirty-one. The definition of the unforgivable sin is "to ascribe to Satan the works of the Holy Spirit," or "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit." Man may reject God the Father, and yet come to know Him through the Lord Jesus Christ; man may reject the Lord Jesus, and yet be convicted of sin by the work of the Holy Spirit and so come to know the Lord Jesus as his Saviour; but if man has rejected God the Father, and God the Son, and hardens his heart against the working of the Holy Spirit, speaking against and blaspheming His pleadings and ministrations, then there is no hope for him, and his sins shall not be forgiven him, in this age or in the ages to come. Rejecting the Father and the Son, and speaking maliciously of Him by Whom the Son was working meant eternal condemnation to these Pharisees who believed not when the Son of God made Himself manifest.
The Lord foretold of His death and resurrection: "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:40). The so-called higher critics say that the story of Jonah is a myth. The Lord Jesus believed it; He said it was true. When one denies the story of Jonah and the great fish, he is not showing his own wisdom, for he is calling the Lord Jesus Christ a deceiver.
Finally, our Lord established a new relationship which is eternal (vs. 46-50). His mother and His brothers came, desiring to speak with Him, for they too were alarmed at His actions. They too thought that He was beside Himself (Mark 3:21, 31). The Lord said, "Who is My mother? And who are My brethren? And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of My Father Who is in Heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother." The new relationship was established. He was rejected; no longer did He recognize His own, but those are His who do the will of His Father. "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to as many as believe on His Name, who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:11-13). Whosoever -- for the first time this word was used, and it means you. "Whosoever shall do the will of My Father ..., the same is My brother, and sister, and mother." "And this is the Father's will Who hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him Who sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:39, 40).
Do you stand with those who doubt the Lord Jesus Christ? Or are you standing with faith in Him that He is God, and in His promises that you are a son of God by believing on Him and that everlasting life is already yours? His Word is true. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Him.