A sermon preached at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Fort Smith, Arkansas on March 31, 2019.
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:22–37).
What comes out of our mouth often reveals the condition of our heart, and certainly what we say about God reveals our belief. This is not to say that the born-again heart speaks no evil. Don’t we wish! But Jesus says that there is a connection between our heart, mind, and tongue: “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Our words are telling of our heart.
Consider our passage today and listen closely to the words of the people and of the Pharisees. Miraculous healings confirmed the authority of Jesus’ teaching and revealed His identity, at least to those with spiritual eyes to see. Their vision clouded by their graceless rules and regulations; the Pharisees were spiritually blind. When Jesus healed a man with a deformed hand, they did not rejoice but conspired to murder the Nazarene for supposedly breaking the Sabbath.
It is poetically fitting then that Jesus would heal a demon-oppressed blind and mute man, incurring the peak of Pharisaical curses. Demon-oppression implies that the soul and body of this man are captive to Lucifer’s minions. Such oppression by the angels of hell had rendered the man unable to see and unable to speak. It was not a matter of choice; he could neither see nor speak because of demonic restraint, yet he is not destined to be blind and mute forever. By the mercy and grace of our Lord, He is healed of demonic oppression, and He who was blind and mute now has eyes to see and a tongue to speak.
Such a miraculous healing leaves the people amazed, leading them to ask, “Can this be the Son of David?” Don’t miss the significance of this question. You may recall in the ninth chapter of Matthew two blind men called out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us, Son of David” (Matt. 9:27). Why use the term “Son of David”? After Jesus healed the two blind men, a demon-oppressed mute man was brought to Him. Jesus cast out the demon and the man spoke, to which the people marveled saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel” (Matt. 9:33). But, rather than marvel in celebration with the people, the Pharisees considered the miracle demonic. Now, it is as if the two miracles are similarly worked but in one man. This time, however, the amazed crowd responds with a searching question: “Can this be the Son of David”? The miracle serves in this case as visible evidence of the true identity of Jesus.
In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, His identity is implied by His regal lineage through “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Matt. 1:16). So, this theme of Jesus as the Son of King David runs through this Gospel. Its significance is tied both to God’s covenant with David and the promise of an eternal throne. Its significance is also tied to Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, the Greek Christ.
Therefore, the people serve as witnesses of the visible evidence of Jesus as Christ the King. Specifically, they would have recalled Isaiah’s prophecy of the Christ: “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Isa. 35:5-6). I would love to watch the leaping and singing of a blind and mute healed, but the crowd’s question takes center stage: “Can this be the Son of David?” The visible evidence is undeniable and demands a verdict, but it is not by visible evidence alone that one sees the true identity of Jesus Christ.
I am reminded of Thomas’ doubting demand that he would not believe in Jesus’ resurrection: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my fingers into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25). Yet, in graciously giving the visible evidence of His resurrection to the doubter, our Lord also said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). While seeing may lead to believing, one can see like the Pharisees and still not believe. And one can believe without seeing. The connection then is spiritual not physical, and believing is just as miraculous as resurrection from the dead.
The Apostle Paul explains the connection between spiritual sight and speaking when he writes, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Rom. 10:9-10). Before the Pharisees stands a man who has been rescued from demonic oppression. He who was blind and mute can now see and speak. Yet, their hearts of stone leave them spiritually blind and incapable of speaking truth. Their wicked hearts revealed a veracious void.
Witnessing the visible evidence that Jesus is the Son of David, Christ the King, the Pharisees respond, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Translated: This cannot be the Son of David, because we believe that the power behind the miracle is the devil. If this sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is! Jesus confronts this irrational nonsense with logic. A kingdom or house divided against itself cannot stand. Satan has not come to concur Satan, or evil versus evil. Their accusation is as absurd as it is hypocritical. Jesus asks, “if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out?” Their wicked hearts are so bent on evil, they cannot see their apparent contradiction.
Into this moment, void of veracity, Jesus states the spiritual deduction obvious to all who have eyes to see: “if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Eternal Truth stands right in front of them. The words that He speaks are God-breathed. The works that He does are Holy Spirit-accomplished. The world in which He stands was made by Him, through Him, and for Him. And, the earthly Davidic throne He has inherited is eternally-ascended. As they longed for the Son of David to come and establish the everlasting kingdom, before them stands the Son of Man, the Son of David, the Son of God, kingdom come.
Unable to see Jesus as Christ the King, the Pharisees do not realize the kingdom implications of His coming. Withstanding the temptations of Satan in the wilderness by the Word of God, Jesus cast out the oppressive demonic forces. Like a conquering king, Jesus has come into the earthly home of the strong man to bind him and to redeem that which is rightfully the King’s. And as the rightful King, Jesus demands allegiance. There is no middle ground with Jesus. Therefore, the Pharisees’ accusation is all the more alarming. In attributing the work of the Spirit of God to the work of Satan the Pharisees are committing verbal blasphemy.
Considering the solemnity of Jesus’ description of the sin of blasphemy, it is imperative to understand the essence of it. The sin that Jesus describes is captured in the words of the Prophet Isaiah when he declared, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20). Witnessing the power of the Holy Spirit through the miracle-working ministry of Jesus, the Pharisees label it the work of the devil, calling what is good evil, pitting themselves against God Himself.
To stand in opposition to Jesus, the Son of Man, is one thing, but to oppose Him attributing His work to evil is another. To oppose God is not a light or temporal matter. Indeed, God is merciful and forgiving, and Jesus’ warning is given not for the repentant and brokenhearted but the arrogant and unrepentant. While we may cry, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24), the blasphemous do not believe, do not want to believe, and call the only good One evil. Ironically, the very Man the Pharisees opposed, the One they accused of doing the devil’s work, will sit upon His throne on Judgment Day judging them by their very words, for “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.”
Yet, as we consider the spiritual blindness and blasphemous words of the Pharisees, let those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, those who by God’s grace are justified as righteous through the profession of faith, remember this: “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:1-2). Lest we cast the first stone at the blasphemers, remember that you and I “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3), just like the Pharisees. And, just like that demon-opressed man, neither you nor I could see Jesus nor believe in Him nor profess faith in Him as Savior and Lord apart from His mercy and grace.
What is the hope of the spiritual prisoner? What is the hope of the spiritually blind and mute? Have our very words condemned us to eternal damnation? “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4–6). Why would God extend His grace to sinners like you and me? “So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).
If you have eyes to see and a tongue to speak, it is not because of your keen sight or eloquent speech. Rather, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:8-10). Indeed, “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” The unbeliever’s treasure is himself, and therefore his evil heart and the words it sends forth are for his own glory. But, for the Christian, our treasure is Christ, and out of Him and His Spirit’s indwelling presence flows words of praise to God and His glory. If by God’s grace, He has given you eyes to see and a tongue to speak, let us look to Christ our King and worship God alone in this age and the age to come.