Matthew 12:38
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You."
Religious Sign-SeekersC. Lankester, B. A.Matthew 12:38
Sinful Sign-SeekersR. Tuck Matthew 12:38
The Doctrines of Religion Reasonable to be BelievedS. Clarke, D. D.Matthew 12:38
Last State Worse than FirstMarcus Dods Matthew 12:38-45
One Inevitable Law of JudgmentP.C. Barker Matthew 12:38-45
The Sign-SeekersJ.A. Macdonald Matthew 12:38-45

All that was implied in our Lord's mode of working is here explicitly enounced. The miracles were only subordinately evidences of his Divine commission; primarily they were deeds of mercy. But to heal every one would have been to violate the constitution of man's nature, and upset the equilibrium required for the harmonious co-operation of God and man. Those only who had faith were healed, and this secured that their character was purified and aided, not debauched. The Pharisees had the shallowest idea of miracles. They would have approved the devil's suggestion that the convincing proof of Messiahship was to cast himself unhurt from a pinnacle of the temple, though why the possession of a mountain-sheep's capacity for jumping should prove any one the greatest spiritual blessing to mankind they probably did not inquire. They had lost the capacity of knowing excellence - could only measure him by their silly external tests, and scorned him for the very things that proved his greatness. A miracle wrought merely for the sake of convincing men, could not convince them, could only prove the possession of a certain unexplained power. But miracles wrought out of compassion for the wretched justly convinced men that God was nigh. We join the ranks of the Pharisees when we refuse to acknowledge Christ until he presents some more striking evidence. To us, as to them, it must be said - Ye can discern the face of the sky, but ye cannot read the signs of the times. You know the sequences of nature, but you have no eye for spiritual sequences; you do not see that a clever feat which makes men stare has no natural connection with salvation from sin, but that the entrance into the world of such love and holiness, and the identification of their possessor with all human interests, portends more good to humanity than any physical marvel could portend. Could you rightly read the signs of the times, you would understand that a Greater than Jonas, a Greater than all men, the Greatest and Holiest and most Sacrificing, could not be in the world without changing its course for ever. And each of us may read our own indi vidual future as here directed by our Lord, for it is impossible he should join himself to any one of us individually without bringing into our life an otherwise unattainable hope. Certain natural signs never deceive, because there is a rigid natural connection between the cause and the consequence. As rigid is the connection in the moral world; you cannot belong to Christ without receiving the utmost of human blessing. It means untold good to you; it is the spring of your life that promises endless harvest. All that is unworthy, weak, and wicked will be displaced, and you will be changed into his like ness. It is as certain as the shower that you see coming down the wind to the spot you stand on. But while our Lord refused any sign as a mere wonder proving his power, he assured them a sign should be given of the most astonishing kind. As if he said, "I will do no miracle of the kind you require; it would not convince you; you are not seeking conviction, but a plausible pretext against me. You think I am endangering the ship, and you will treat me as Jonah was treated; but as Jonah's mission was expedited by what seemed to terminate it, so shall my mission, by your final action against me, receive its most convincing authentication." This sign of the resurrection of Christ is that which seals the truth of all he asserted regarding himself, but especially does it give us assurance that our Lord is now alive. Only when we believe in this do we attain to faith in our own immortality. In the little parable with which this passage closes, our Lord points out that, though they had cast out the devil of idolatry, the heart not being filled with love of God and holiness, the empty apartment of their soul was straightway filled with self-conceit, contempt for gross sinners, hatred of any light that made them suspicious of their state. Probably he pointed specially to the deterioration of "this generation." There had been a revival of religion under John, but John himself warned them that he could not baptize with the Holy Spirit. He saw that merely to cast out one or two devils of misconduct, and to leave the heart empty, was to place men in a perilous position. To the individual this little parable is full of significance. There are diseases in which there are periods of relief from pain, followed by severe relapse. So in the case here spoken of, the downward career is not steadily progressive, but is checked for a while, only to be resumed with sevenfold violence. The principle pointed at is that wherever an evil thing is not expelled by the invasion of good that enters and dispossesses it, the expulsion is ineffectual. Nature dictates and observes this law. If you wish to clear a room of bad air, you do not get an air-pump and exhaust it, but by opening the window you let the rush of pure air drive out the impure; were you to exhaust the air, you might produce a suction which would burst your gas-pipes and draw up foul air from your sewers. So in the moral world evil is to be ejected by soul-possessing love of good. Christ is set before us that we may learn to love him, and so have no room for any unworthy affection. To use religion only as a repressive and expulsive influence is fatal. There are persons whose hearts are emptied rather than filled by religion. There is a death of their old bad life, but there is no strong impelling power, no new and abundant life. Is there anything in you that would make it a pleasure to you to take your place by the side of Christ in his humble ministering to the poor and wretched? How can you relish the prospect of eternal life, if you have in you no hearty love for the style of life that will then prevail? The result of using religion merely as an instrument for repression is that the soul becomes possessed of greater iniquities than ever. The new sins may be sins, as our Lord expresses it, that find their suitable dwelling in a house that is swept and garnished, yet they are worse than the original iniquity. These sins are vanity; contempt of men; hatred of persons differing from them in doctrine and outward forms of religion, though having more love to Christ than they; hypocrisy and coldness of feeling. These new tenants are prim, decorous, church-going devils, that adapt themselves to the ways of respectable society. But none the less will they one day overwhelm the house in disaster. The history of the man whose religious experience is here given is this - he has rid himself of some form of iniquity out of regard for self rather than for Christ; he plumes himself on the improvement instead of humbly thanking Christ, cultivates self rather than fellowship with Christ. Is your heart so filled and satisfied with the love of Christ that all that offends him is banished from it? - D.

Master, we would see a sign from Thee.
I. THAT THE DEMAND FOR ADDITIONAL ADVANTAGES GENERALLY COMES FROM THOSE ALREADYPOSSESSED OF VERY MANY. It was the scribes and Pharisees that made this request, not the publicans.


(1)because it was merely an excuse for their rejection of Him;

(2)because it was a reflection on Him;

(3)because it bore no proof of earnestness;

(4)because God's past dealings afforded all the proof requisite.

III. FAILURE TO USE ALL THE ADVANTAGES WE POSSESS CAN ONLY ISSUE IN CONDEMNATION. The Ninevites would condemn the Jews. The ministry of Jonah was brief, wrathful, that of a sinful man. Christ's ministry was longer, and that of the Holy Son of God. The Queen of Sheba would condemn them.

1. She came to see and hear out of curiosity.

2. She came from afar.

3. She came uninvited.

4. She came on a mere report.

(C. Lankester, B. A.)

I. That the doctrine of religion is IN ITSELF REASONABLE to be believed, and sufficiently evidenced by the standing and universal signs or marks of truth. The sign of the prophet Jonas was sufficient to render that generation of the Jews inexcusable in their unbelief. Religion is in its nature a trial of men's hearts, and, therefore, inconsistent with all compulsive motives. All religion consists in the love of truth, and in the free choice and practice of right, and in being influenced by rational and moral motives.

II. Here is a DESCRIPTION GIVEN OF WICKED MEN, in one part of their character that they are apt continually to require more and more signs, and to tempt God without reason and without end. Wicked men do not like to fight against God openly; and therefore take pains to impose upon themselves some slight objection against Him.

III. There are just and Good REASONS WHY GOD SHOULD NOT GRATIFY THE UNREASONABLE EXPECTATIONS of prejudiced and corrupt minds — "There shall no sign be given," etc. Men must obey in order to know.

(S. Clarke, D. D.)

Beelzebub, David, Isaiah, Jesus, Jonah, Jonas, Ninevites, Solomon
Galilee, Nineveh
Accosted, Desire, Hearing, Law, Master, Miraculous, Pharisees, Saying, Scribes, Sign, Teacher, Teachers, Wish
1. Jesus reproves the blindness of the Pharisees concerning the Sabbath,
3. by scripture,
9. by reason,
13. and by a miracle.
22. He heals a man possessed that was blind and mute;
24. and confronting the absurd charge of casting out demons by Beelzebub,
32. he shows that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven.
36. Account shall be made of idle words.
38. He rebukes the unfaithful, who seek after a sign,
46. and shows who is his brother, sister, and mother.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Matthew 12:38

     2575   Christ, temptation

Matthew 12:28-38

     3045   Holy Spirit, sovereignty

Matthew 12:38-39

     1449   signs, purposes
     2351   Christ, miracles
     6243   adultery, spiritual
     6252   temptation, and Christ
     7464   teachers of the law
     8836   unbelief, response

Matthew 12:38-40

     9170   signs of times

Matthew 12:38-41

     2422   gospel, confirmation

Matthew 12:38-42

     7552   Pharisees, attitudes to Christ
     8712   denial of Christ

An Attempt to Account for Jesus
'But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This man doth not cast out demons, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons.'--MATT. xii. 24. Mark's Gospel tells us that this astonishing explanation of Christ and His work was due to the ingenious malice of an ecclesiastical deputation, sent down from Jerusalem to prevent the simple folk in Galilee from being led away by this new Teacher. They must have been very hard put to it to explain undeniable but unwelcome facts, when they hazarded such a preposterous
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

'Make the Tree Good'
'... Make the tree good, and his fruit good....' --MATT. xii. 33. In this Gospel we find that our Lord twice uses this image of a tree and its fruit. In the Sermon on the Mount He applies it as a test to false teachers, who hide, beneath the wool of the sheep's clothing, the fangs and paws of ravening wolves. He says, 'By their deeds ye shall know them; for as is the tree so is its fruit.' That is a rough and ready test, which applies rather to the teacher than to his doctrine, but it applies, to
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

'A Greater than Jonas'
'A greater than Jonas is here.'--MATT. xii. 41. There never was any man in his right mind, still more of influence on his fellows, who made such claims as to himself in such unmistakable language as Jesus Christ does. To say such things of oneself as come from His lips is a sign of a weak, foolish nature. It is fatal to all influence, to all beauty of character. It is not only that He claims official attributes as a fanatical or dishonest pretender to inspiration may do. He does that, but He does
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

'A Greater than Solomon'
'A greater than Solomon is here.'--MATT. xii. 42. It is condescension in Him to compare Himself with any; yet if any might have been selected, it is that great name. To the Jews Solomon is an ideal figure, who appealed so strongly to popular imagination as to become the centre of endless legends; whose dominion was the very apex of national glory, in recounting whose splendours the historical books seem to be scarce able to restrain their triumph and pride. I. The Man. The story gives us a richly
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Pharisees' Sabbath and Christ's
'At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. 2. 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. 3. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4. How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

On the Words of the Gospel, Matt. xii. 32, "Whosoever Shall Speak a Word against the Holy Spirit, it Shall not be Forgiven Him, Neither In
1. There has been a great question raised touching the late lesson of the Gospel, to the solution of which I am unequal by any power of mine own; but "our sufficiency is of God," [2335] to whatever degree we are capable of receiving His aid. First then consider the magnitude of the question; that when ye see the weight of it laid upon my shoulders, ye may pray in aid of my labours, and in the assistance which is vouchsafed to me, may find edification for your own souls. When "one possessed with a
Saint Augustine—sermons on selected lessons of the new testament

On the Words of the Gospel, Matt. xii. 33, "Either Make the Tree Good, and Its Fruit Good," Etc.
1. The Lord Jesus hath admonished us, that we be good trees, and that so we may be able to bear good fruits. For He saith, "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt, for the tree is known by his fruit." [2484] When He says, "Make the tree good, and his fruit good;" this of course is not an admonition, but a wholesome precept, to which obedience is necessary. But when He saith, "Make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt;" this is not a
Saint Augustine—sermons on selected lessons of the new testament

Sweet Comfort for Feeble Saints
I. First, we have before us a view of MORTAL FRAILTY And first, the encouragement offered in our text applies to weak ones. What in the world is weaker than the bruised reed, or the smoking flax? A reed that groweth in the fen or marsh, let but the wild duck light upon it, and it snaps; let but the foot of man brush against it and it is bruised and broken; every wind that comes howling across the river makes it shake to and fro, and well nigh tears it up by the roots. You can conceive of nothing
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 1: 1855

How to Read the Bible
I. That is the subject of our present discourse, or, at least the first point of it, that IN ORDER TO THE TRUE READING OF THE SCRIPTURES THERE MUST BE AN UNDERSTANDING OF THEM. I scarcely need to preface these remarks by saying that we must read the Scriptures. You know how necessary it is that we should be fed upon the truth of Holy Scripture. Need I suggest the question as to whether you do read your Bibles or not? I am afraid that this is a magazine reading age a newspaper reading age a periodical
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 25: 1879

Strength in the Weak.
"He is Faithful that Promised." "A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench."--MATT. xii. 20. Strength in the Weak. Will Jesus accept such a heart as mine?--this erring, treacherous, traitor heart? The past! how many forgotten vows--broken covenants--prayerless days! How often have I made new resolutions, and as often has the reed succumbed to the first blast of temptation, and the burning flax been well-nigh quenched by guilty omissions and guiltier commissions! Oh!
John Ross Macduff—The Faithful Promiser

Identity of Christ's Character.
THE argument expressed by this title I apply principally to the comparison of the first three Gospels with that of Saint John. It is known to every reader of Scripture that the passages of Christ's history preserved by Saint John are, except his passion and resurrection, for the most part different from those which are delivered by the other evangelists. And I think the ancient account of this difference to be the true one, viz., that Saint John wrote after the rest, and to supply what he thought
William Paley—Evidences of Christianity

What are Evidences of Backsliding in Heart.
1. Manifest formality in religious exercises. A stereotyped, formal way of saying and doing things, that is clearly the result of habit, rather than the outgushing of the religious life. This formality will be emotionless and cold as an iceberg, and will evince a total want of earnestness in the performance of religious duty. In prayer and in religious exercises the backslider in heart will pray or praise, or confess, or give thanks with his lips, so that all can hear him, perhaps, but in such a
Charles G. Finney—The Backslider in Heart

Lesser and Fuller Forms.
Moreover, we have endeavoured to use the fullest form, including the words of those Gospels which have the lesser forms of sentences, except where the sentence ends in a period, in which case have given the least form, so that the larger form of the other Gospels might be made apparent; as, for instance, this sentence, taken from Matt. xii. 47; Mark iii. 32; Luke viii. 20: ^c 20 And it was told him, ^a Behold, thy mother and thy brethren bseek for thee. ^c stand without desiring to see thee. ^a seeking
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Jesus Defends Disciples who Pluck Grain on the Sabbath.
(Probably While on the Way from Jerusalem to Galilee.) ^A Matt. XII. 1-8; ^B Mark II. 23-28; ^C Luke VI. 1-5. ^b 23 And ^c 1 Now it came to pass ^a 1 At that season ^b that he ^a Jesus went { ^b was going} on the { ^c a} ^b sabbath day through the grainfields; ^a and his disciples were hungry and began ^b as they went, to pluck the ears. ^a and to eat, ^c and his disciples plucked the ears, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. [This lesson fits in chronological order with the last, if the Bethesda
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Jesus Heals Multitudes Beside the Sea of Galilee.
^A Matt. XII. 15-21; ^B Mark III. 7-12. ^a 15 And Jesus perceiving it withdrew ^b with his disciples ^a from thence: ^b to the sea [This was the first withdrawal of Jesus for the avowed purpose of self-preservation. After this we find Jesus constantly retiring to avoid the plots of his enemies. The Sea of Galilee, with its boats and its shores touching different jurisdictions, formed a convenient and fairly safe retreat]: ^a and many followed him; ^b and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Blasphemous Accusations of the Jews.
(Galilee.) ^A Matt. XII. 22-37; ^B Mark III. 19-30; ^C Luke XI. 14-23. ^b 19 And he cometh into a house. [Whose house is not stated.] 20 And the multitude cometh together again [as on a previous occasion--Mark ii. 1], so that they could not so much as eat bread. [They could not sit down to a regular meal. A wonderful picture of the intense importunity of people and the corresponding eagerness of Jesus, who was as willing to do as they were to have done.] 21 And when his friends heard it, they went
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Sign Seekers, and the Enthusiast Reproved.
(Galilee on the Same Day as the Last Section.) ^A Matt. XII. 38-45; ^C Luke XI. 24-36. ^c 29 And when the multitudes were gathering together unto him, ^a 38 Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee. [Having been severely rebuked by Jesus, it is likely that the scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign that they might appear to the multitude more fair-minded and open to conviction than Jesus had represented them to be. Jesus had just wrought
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Christ's Teaching as to his Mother and Brethren.
(Galilee, Same Day as the Last Lesson.) ^A Matt. XII. 46-50; ^B Mark III. 31-35; ^C Luke VIII. 19-21. ^a 46 While he yet speaking to the multitudes, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without seeking to speak to him. [Jesus was in a house, probably at Capernaum--Mark iii. 19; Matt. xiii. 1.] ^c 19 and there came { ^b come} ^c to him his mother and ^b his brethren; ^c and they could not come at him for the crowd. ^a and, standing without, they sent unto him, calling him. 32 And the multitude
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Jesus Defends Healing a Withered Hand on the Sabbath.
(Probably Galilee.) ^A Matt. XII. 9-14; ^B Mark III. 1-6; ^C Luke VI. 6-11. ^a 9 And he departed thence. [The word here points to a journey as in Matt. xi. 1 and xv. 29, which are the only places where Matthew uses this expression. Greswell may be right in thinking that it indicates the return back to Galilee from the Passover, since a cognate expression used by John expresses such a journey from Galilee to Judæa. See John vii. 3 ], ^c 6 And it came to pass on another sabbath [another sabbath
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The Acceptance of the Christian Conception of Life Will Emancipate Men from the Miseries of Our Pagan Life.
The External Life of Christian Peoples Remains Pagan Though they are Penetrated by Christian Consciousness--The Way Out of this Contradiction is by the Acceptance of the Christian Theory of Life--Only Through Christianity is Every Man Free, and Emancipated of All Human Authority--This Emancipation can be Effected by no Change in External Conditions of Life, but Only by a Change in the Conception of Life--The Christian Ideal of Life Requires Renunciation of all Violence, and in Emancipating the Man
Leo Tolstoy—The Kingdom of God is within you

The Two Sabbath-Controversies - the Plucking of the Ears of Corn by the Disciples, and the Healing of the Man with the Withered Hand
IN grouping together the three miracles of healing described in the last chapter, we do not wish to convey that it is certain they had taken place in precisely that order. Nor do we feel sure, that they preceded what is about to be related. In the absence of exact data, the succession of events and their location must be matter of combination. From their position in the Evangelic narratives, and the manner in which all concerned speak and act, we inferred, that they took place at that particular
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

The First Peræan Discourses - to the Pharisees Concerning the Two Kingdoms - their Contest - what Qualifies a Disciple for the Kingdom of God, And
It was well that Jesus should, for the present, have parted from Jerusalem with words like these. They would cling about His hearers like the odour of incense that had ascended. Even the schism' that had come among them [4194] concerning His Person made it possible not only to continue His Teaching, but to return to the City once more ere His final entrance. For, His Peræan Ministry, which extended from after the Feast of Tabernacles to the week preceding the last Passover, was, so to speak,
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

Opposition to Jesus.
During the first period of his career, it does not appear that Jesus met with any serious opposition. His preaching, thanks to the extreme liberty which was enjoyed in Galilee, and to the number of teachers who arose on all hands, made no noise beyond a restricted circle. But when Jesus entered upon a path brilliant with wonders and public successes, the storm began to gather. More than once he was obliged to conceal himself and fly.[1] Antipas, however, did not interfere with him, although Jesus
Ernest Renan—The Life of Jesus

The Cardinal was Seated, -- He Rose as Moretti Appeared. ...
The Cardinal was seated,--he rose as Moretti appeared. "I beg your Eminence to spare yourself!" said Moretti suavely, with a deep salutation, "And to pardon me for thus coming unannounced into the presence of one so highly esteemed by the Holy Father as Cardinal Bonpre!" The Cardinal gave a gesture of courteous deprecation; and Monsignor Moretti, lifting his, till then, partially lowered eyelids, flashed an angry regard upon the Abbe Vergniaud, who resting his back against the book-case behind him,
Marie Corelli—The Master-Christian

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