Matthew 12

1 Jesus and His disciples were generally did not keep much money on hand (e.g., Mat 10:9-10). According to the Law, they could pick grain and eat it (Lev 23:22, Deu 23:25).
2 Lev 23:30-32 and Exo 35:2 are examples of how serious God was about people not doing work on the Sabbath. The Pharisees chose to equate this act of picking grain with harvesting, which was not allowed on the Sabbath (Exo 34:21).
3 Although Jesus might have pointed out that it was ludicrous to equate the picking of grain for a single meal to harvesting fields, he chooses a different approach. Instead He gives them an example where someone else, someone they respected from the Scriptures, broke a command and were not counted guilty. It was not that simply that a command was broken, but the command was broken to show mercy on someone. Thus, even if it could be considered illegal to pluck even a single grain on the Sabbath, mercy allows it to feed a hungry person.
5 Jesus gives them a present day example. The Pharisees had probably never considered that what the priests did on the Sabbath could objectively be considered work. Yet, they are not counted as guilty because they are doing tasks assigned to them by God. One might claim that this is contradictory, but we should understand that the "work" that can be done on the Sabbath is meant to meet physical necessities, perform tasks assigned by God, and showing mercy to people and animals. Work that is not allowed includes those things that benefit us materially beyond the daily necessities.
6 Even beyond these examples, the Pharisees did not understand that Jesus was God, and therefore had authority to determine what activities He approved of on the Sabbath. Jesus would not have allowed His disciples to pick grain if it would displease Him.
7 Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6, which is one of the places where God specifically states that He desires more from a person than ritualistic observance of the Law. Acts of godly love supercede the letter of the Law. The Pharisees were often hypocritical in hiding behind the law when mercy would call them to give more of themselves than they were willing to do. In this instance, they also used the letter of the Law to convict people where were not guilty of breaking the spirit of the law.
8 Claiming to be the Lord of the Sabbath was obviously to equate Himself with God. He undoubtedly angered the Jews who would have considered the assumption of such authority to be blasphemous.
10 The man with the withered hand probably attended that synagogue regularly. On this occasion, he unwittingly served as an opportunity for Jesus to heal him. The Pharisees knew that Jesus was compassionate and would heal everyone He met, so they watched the situation to see if they could accuse Jesus of working a miracle on the Sabbath. If they could prove the Jesus' miracles were illegal works done on the Sabbath, they could have Him executed according to the Mosaic Law.
11 Jesus does not shy away from this dangerous situation, but instead uses it as an opportunity to teach the Pharisees a lesson about God's compassionate work. He uses an example from everyday life. Most of the people there had likely been involved in a situation where one of their animals endangered itself on a Sabbath day. Rather than wrestle with the question of whether it was legal to help the animal out of its predicament, they naturally did so.
12 Since the people would have no qualms about helping an animal, why should they question whether it was legal to help a person on the Sabbath? To forbid people from helping each other but allowing them to help animals is hypocritical and displeasing to God. People are more valuable to God than animals because He designed us to have a personal relationship with Him. We must not confuse God's priorities. Since Christians are to be imitators of Jesus, we must place helping people at the top of our priority list as well.
13 In an act of faith and obedience, the man stretched out his hand. He certainly realized how this would displease the religious leaders, but his hope in being healed was more important to him than the wrath of his superiors. His faith in Jesus was rewarded.
14 Jesus tried to teach the Pharisees about compassion, but they went away plotting His demise. Neither the lesson nor the miracle touched their hearts. They undoubtedly understood the point of Jesus' illustration, but they felt threatened because Jesus was undercutting their authority and cherished customs. They preferred having their own authority to submitting to God's authority.
22 We are not given the circumstances of this encounter, but it was a public miracle that amazed everyone. It demonstrated that Jesus had spiritual and physical powers to heal.
23 The miracles prompted many to consider that Jesus was indeed the Messiah -- the promised eternal heir to King David's throne.
24 The Pharisees did not want to believe that Jesus was God. Instead, they rationalized that besides God, only the ruler of the demons would have the authority to order them to do his bidding.

Beelzebub refers to the Philistine god of Ekron (2 Ki 1:2). Verse 26 makes it clear that everyone understood that Beelzebub was equivalent to Satan. The god of Ekron was probably called "Baal-Zebul," which means, "Baal the prince." However, the Israelites mockingly referred to it as "Baal-Zebub," which means, "lord of the flies."

25 The Pharisees did not say this to Jesus' face, but were instead attempting to spread a rumor among the people. Jesus knew both the rumor and the thought processes behind it. He uses the opportunity to teach them about the spiritual forces in the world. The earthly examples illustrate how a civil war can destroy a nation or city and how infighting can destroy families.
26 If Satan were casting out demons, it would be a symptom of infighting, which would lead to the internal destruction of his kingdom. The unspoken conclusion is that this is not the case. Satan's kingdom still stands because Satan and all his followers are eternally united against God. Their common goal is to usurp God's throne and authority. They will use whatever destructive or distractive measures are necessary to lure people away from God and grieve Him (perhaps also mistakenly believing that they will grow stronger while God becomes weaker).
27 Jesus also points out that their argument can be considered hypocritical since some of their own members in good standing could cast out demons as well. Certainly, they should have understood that only people empowered by God could do such a thing. They presumed to judge Jesus' motives, but it would be some of their own followers who would judge them in this matter since it was obvious that only God would cast out demons this way.
28 By casting out demons, Jesus was demonstrating that God was among them. He was beginning to establish His spiritual and eternal kingdom by driving out the spiritual forces opposed to Him.
29 Satan is the "strong man" and has (had) a firm grip on the spiritual destruction of people because of prevalent sin in the world (i.e., opposition to God). If God is to "plunder" this kingdom and free people from destruction, He must first restrict Satan's activity. Thus, the Pharisees should not be surprised to see God begin to "bind" Satan and his followers, to cast them out of people's lives, and free people from bondage of evil spiritual forces.
30 The Bible makes it very clear: if a person is not on God's side, then he is, by definition, against God. There is no middle ground. If someone is not working within God's will, then he is working against it.
31 This verse addresses the "unpardonable sin," which has caused much consternation among believers and non-believers alike. Some people are afraid that they may have blasphemed the Holy Spirit in their past and can not be forgiven. Others argue that this pronouncement only applied to those who disputed Jesus' authority during His earthly ministry. However, the circumstances make it clear that Jesus is referring to people who would claim that the works of God are really being performed by Satan (and perhaps also applies when people claim the works of Satan are the works of God -- Isa 5:20).

What this verse really points out is that there is no hope for those who are so influenced by Satan that they consider him their god and his works as "good." Since God and the Holy Spirit oppose Satan and his work, Satan's followers naturally see God's work as "evil" in their own eyes. Christians may misunderstand Jesus or "blaspheme" Him by occasionally sinning, but He will still save us because of the faith that we have in Him. Those who never come to know Him will have blasphemed the Holy Spirit by rejecting God's work despite all the evidence and will never be eligible for forgiveness because of their lack of faith.

32 Those who have opposed Jesus before should not be afraid to come to Him later if they change their minds. A great example of such a turnaround is found in the life of the apostle Paul recorded in the book of Acts.
33 Jesus may be referring to the type of tree. Some trees produce good fruit while others produce impalpable fruit. However, a tree can not change what kind of fruit it is producing. Thus, it is more likely that Jesus is referring to the condition of the tree. A healthy tree will bear the kind of fruit it is supposed to produce. A dry, malnourished, and diseased tree will not produce fruit worth harvesting. Spiritually, people are like fruit trees. A person nourished by God will produce "fruit" like love, joy, and kindness (Gal 5:22-23). Those separated from God may produce fruit, but it will be either meager or bad.
34 Jesus makes it very clear that the people confronting him were evil. Their words against Him (and the Spirit) were evidence that they are opposed to God, even though they claimed to be defenders of God's Law.
35 When a person has the Holy Spirit in his heart (i.e., the "good treasure"), his words and actions will also be good. When the Holy Spirit is not there, evil will fill the void, and such a person's words and actions will have evil origins.
36 We are accountable to God for everything we do, even those things we do not intend for anyone else to know about or hear. Even casual remarks are placed under scrutiny on Judgement Day because off-hand, spontaneous words often tell who we are more accurately than our planned conversations.
37 What we say in this lifetime will be the primary evidence used to determine if we spend eternity with God or separated from Him. Our testimony about our relationship with God is important (Mat 10:32-33). However, our words pertaining to our communication (relationship) with Jesus are even more important (Mat 7:21-23).
38 Despite all the miracles that Jesus had already performed, the skeptical Pharisees demanded something even more miraculous.
39 However, Jesus knew that these doubters would never believe no matter what kind of miraculous sign He gave them. In fact, continually demanding more proof is an indication that the person is indeed wicked, and not a genuine seeker. God does not have to cater to our doubts, and it only makes Him more angry when people demand more evidence than has already been given to them. Despite this, God would give them a miraculous sign. Some would indeed believe, but most of these skeptics would refuse to believe even after the sign was given.
40 The Pharisees believe the story of Jonah, and would have agreed that it was a miracle he survived in the big fish's stomach for three days. However, Jesus would be dead for three days and then come to life again, which is a greater miracle. He, in His resurrected body, would then ascend to heaven where He would wait for the appointed time to judge all people. Yet, despite the evidence and the testimonies they would hear, most of the skeptics would still refuse to believe.
41 The Ninevites were pagans that turned to God when Jonah warned them that their destruction was imminent. Jonah, though, was merely a man and had many weaknesses. Jesus is both God and man, and has never sinned. Jesus' words and actions bring hope to those who desire to know God. Jesus is, by far, greater than Jonah was. The doubters of Jesus' day will be ashamed when they find that pagans, like the Ninevites, will enter heaven because of their faith while the doubters will be forever excluded from God, whom they claimed they followed.
42 When the Queen of Sheba heard about Solomon's wisdom, she investigated the matter herself and became a believer in God (1 Ki 10:1-13, 2 Chr 9:1-12). Solomon, though a wealthy and wise king, was imperfect. Jesus, by comparison, is greater in wealth, wisdom, and perfection. The doubters will be ashamed when a pagan woman is appalled that they would not believe when there was such profound evidence.
43 Jesus then uses the example of exorcism to explain why the doubters would continue to be doubtful. When an evil spirit is cast out of someone, it desires to find another home. If it does not find one, it will see if its original home is available. If no one else has "moved in," it will take up residence again. In fact, it will bring in "room mates," hoping that several demons can resist further attempted exorcisms better than one could alone. The point is that it is not enough just to "give up" evil. One must replace it with God. When one has the Holy Spirit in his heart, no demon will ever again be able to enter.
45 Jesus relates this to perpetual skeptics. They try in vain to dispose of evil among themselves. Since they will not accept the Holy Spirit (blaspheming Him as the Pharisees did earlier in this account), they will be defenseless against Satan and his demonic minions. The continual and growing presence of evil further hardens them against God.