Matthew 12:9
Moving on from there, Jesus entered their synagogue,
The SabbathMarcus Dods Matthew 12:1-13
The Efficacy of Righteous WrathP.C. Barker Matthew 12:9-14
The Mission of ChristJ.A. Macdonald Matthew 12:9-21

In the last paragraph we learn how Jesus showed that works of necessity are lawful on the sabbath day. In the paragraph before us we see that works of mercy also are lawful. If under the Law the spirit of the sabbath was binding rather than the letter, how much more so under the gospel! The subject teaches us that Christ came amongst men -


1. Malignity was embodied in the Pharisees.

(1) They sought to accuse the Son of God of profanity. This was to convert the highest virtue into the deepest vice, and to confound all moral order. Note: Matthew says, "And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? that they might accuse him." According to Luke (Luke 6:8), Jesus read the question in their thoughts. Learn that in the Lord's sight speech and thought are one.

(2) They sought to murder the Saviour of the world. This was, as far as in them lay, to destroy God and man at a stroke. This was the expression of their vexation, because the doctrine of Christ mortified their pride, exposed their hypocrisy, and crossed their worldly interests, and their honour was eclipsed by his life and miracles.

(3) Their malignity was deliberate. It was not the sudden ebullition of unthinking passion. They evidently agreed, in the first instance, to tempt him. Then, certainly, they "took counsel against him, how they might destroy him."

(4) This was all done under the mask of religion. The pretext was zeal for the sanctity of the sabbath. The wicked have no objection to the holiness of things; it is the holiness of persons that offends them. If they could convict Jesus of blasphemy in his saying that he was greater than the temple, or of profanity in breaking the sabbath, death would be the penalty (see Exodus 35:2). Note: There is a religion of Satan as well as a religion of God. The religion of Satan is a parody upon the religion of God. As love is the essence of the religion of God, malignity is the spirit of the religion of Satan.

2. Malignity is vanquished by exposure.

(1) The case of the sheep was a home-thrust. The ritualists allowed the exception, not out of mercy to the animal, but from selfishness. "Take tender care of the goods of an Israelite" was with the Jews a cherished canon. Self-interest is a casuist first consulted, decisive in the removal of scruples, and readily obeyed.

(2) Ritualism had no mercy for the withered hand in which the Pharisee had no property. Our Lord invaded a heartless superstition when he established the principle that it is lawful to do good on the sabbath day.

(3) But the question returns, "How much is a man of more value than a sheep?" Yet are there many called Christians who do more for the beast of burden or pleasure than they will for a man. They spend that upon hunters, coursers, spaniels, and hounds of which many followers of Christ are destitute.

(4) The spiritual nature of man - his faculties for knowing, loving, and serving God - invest him with his vast superiority. How much better, then, is the philanthropy which blesses the soul even than that which terminates in the body!

3. Malignity is left to its own punishment.

(1) "The Pharisees went out," viz. from the presence of Christ. Evil shuns the goodness that rebukes it. Falsehood shuns the truth that exposes it.

(2) They went out, not like Peter to weep bitter tears of repentance, but to take evil counsel.

(3) Jesus "withdrew" when they "went out." He "perceived" their purpose by his Divine faculty of reading hearts. He left them in the desperation of their obstinacy. They were abandoned to themselves - murderers to murderers, human and infernal.

(4) The withdrawal of Jesus is the presage of vengeance. So it was when he left the temple and the city of Jerusalem. At his second coming be will send forth judgment unto victory.


1. He vindicates the spirit of the Law.

(1) The spirit of the Law is love. The Law was given in love to man. Its end is to foster in him grateful and obedient love to God. The spirit of the Law is another name for the gospel.

(2) Through excessive zeal for the letter, the Jewish ritualists lost sight of this. The Law was in consequence converted into an intolerable burden.

(3) Jesus came not to destroy but to fulfil the Law, which he did by bringing out its spirit. In order to this he assailed the traditions which the ritualists had confounded with the Law.

2. He sets a high value upon man.

(1) "How much is a man better than a sheep?" Under the Law sheep were offered in sacrifice for the sin of man; but they could not take it away. Hence they appeared again and again upon the altar. The utmost they could do was to call sin to remembrance, and point to a more worthy sacrifice.

(2) Jesus himself became that more worthy Sacrifice. "He hath put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." So completely did he effect this "once for all," that there is now "no more remembrance of sin." The price he paid was the precious blood of the Son of God.

(3) He freely dispenses healing power. He "restored whole as the other" the withered hand with a word. He did not even give the pretext of the touch to those who would accuse him of breaking the sabbath law. So did he heal "all" that followed him when he withdrew from the Pharisees.

(4) But he required the faith of the suppliant. "Stretch forth thine hand." The poor man had often tried to do this in his own strength, and failed. The effort to believe is often that faith by which the soul is healed.

3. He shows compassion to the Gentiles.

(1) His question is not, "How much is the Jew better than a sheep?" He took hold of the "seed of Abraham," but in doing so he was "made in the likeness of men," without limitation.

(2) His action in withdrawing from the unbelieving Pharisees was parabolic as well as prudential; for it is noteworthy that in his following now we find many of the Gentiles (see Mark 3:6-8). The portent was that when the nation of the Jews should reject the gospel, then the gospel would leave them and offer its blessings to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 28:28).

(3) The justness of this remark appears in the citation from Isaiah in which Messiah is predicted as coming to declare judgment to the Gentiles, and to give them "hope" in his Name (vers. 18, 22). For this prediction is here mentioned as now fulfilled. "He charged" those he healed "that they should not make him known," viz. as their Healer, to the unbelievers, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah.

(4) Considering the Gentiles is in other prophecies likewise made a mark of Messiah (see Genesis 49:10; Psalm 2:8; Zechariah 9:10; Isaiah 2:3).

4. He is gentle with the frail.

(1) Gentleness is natural to him. His voice is not heard in clamour. The Jews looked for a Messiah wielding the sword. Matthew shows how Jesus fulfils the prophecies in his non-resistance to evil and injury.

(2) The timid may hope in his mercy. A bruised reed" is a remarkable emblem of extreme frailty and weakness (see Ezekiel 29:6, 7). One bruised by the weight of sin "he will not break." He will not terrify the penitent by a frown. "A smoking flax shall he not quench." Rather will he cherish the feeblest fire of holy desire.

(3) "Till he send forth judgment unto victory." For "mercy rejoices upon judgment." - J.A.M.

I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.
When St. Spyridion was about eighty years old, it happened that a traveller came to visit him at one of those periods of the year when it was his custom to fast on alternate days. Seeing that the stranger was very tired, Spyridion told his daughter to wash his feet, and set meat before him. She replied, that as it was fast-time, there was neither bread nor meat ready. On which Spyridion, having prayed and asked forgiveness, desired her to cook some salt pork there chanced to be in the house. When it was prepared, he sat down at table with the stranger, partook of the meat, and told him to follow his example. But the stranger declined, saying he was a Christian, and ought not to eat meat during the great fast. Spyridion answered, "It is for that very reason you ought not to refuse to partake of the food; unto the pure all things are pure."

Rabbi Tanchum was once asked if it were lawful to extinguish a candle on the Sabbath, when it inconvenienced a sick man. Said he, "A candle is an earthly light, man's soul a heavenly light." Is it not better to extinguish an earthly than a heavenly light?


They pick and choose out the easiest part in religion, and lay out all their zeal there, but let other things go: in some duties that are of easy digestion, and nourish their disease rather than cure their soul, none so zealous as they, none so partial as they. Now, a partial zeal for small things, with a plain neglect of the rest, is direct pharisaism; all for sacrifice, nothing for mercy. Therefore every one of us should take heed of halving and dividing with God: if we make conscience of piety, let us also make conscience of justice; if of justice, let us also make conscience of mercy. It is harder to renounce one sin wherein we delight, than a greater which we do not equally affect. A man is wedded to some special lusts, and is loth to hear of a divorce from them. We have our tender and sore places in the conscience, which we are loth should be touched. But if we be sincere with God we will keep ourselves from all, even from our own iniquity (Psalm 18:23).

(T. Manton.)Morals before rituals.

(T. Manton. .)

Beelzebub, David, Isaiah, Jesus, Jonah, Jonas, Ninevites, Solomon
Galilee, Nineveh
Departed, Departing, Entered, Synagogue, Thence
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 12:1-14

     5381   law, letter and spirit

Matthew 12:8-12

     5379   law, Christ's attitude

Matthew 12:9-14

     7430   Sabbath, in NT
     7552   Pharisees, attitudes to Christ
     8442   good works

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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