The Pharisees Reject Jesus and the Kingdom of God
Today we continue our look at “Why Israel lost the Kingdom of God” as we see the Pharisees reject the signs of Jesus’s Messianic miracles And how the crowds wanted proof leading closer to their rejection in the Kingdom.
We see in Matthews account the reaction by the Pharisees after Jesus heals the mute man. Remember, the Pharisees were the religious leaders of that day determined to undermine Jesus’s credibility. They were desperate to diminish Jesus in the minds of the people and to explain away anything Jesus did that seemed to support His claims. So when Jesus performs a miracle unique to the Messiah, they are forced to explain it away somehow. This is not new for them, earlier in Matthew we see a similar experience.
Matthew 9:32-34 (NKJV) **
A Mute Man Speaks
32 As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. 33 And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel!”
34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.”
** All scripture is from the New King James Version unless note otherwise
Just as in chapter 12 of Matthew and chapter 11 of Luke, here Jesus proves Himself through this unique miracle. The crowd exclaims this is unprecedented.
- No one in Israel has ever cast out mute demons before.
But apparently, the Pharisees had taken to accusing Jesus of simply being demon-possessed Himself. Their argument was since no mere man could cast out a mute demon, that only left the conclusion that Jesus was God. Not being willing to admit that conclusion, the Pharisees concoct this unique explanation. Jesus is Satan and therefore Satan can command his own army to do his bidding. Thus, the Pharisees are saying, Jesus was able to cast out a demon because the demons obey their leader, Satan.
It is important to understand what is happening here. Scripture is teaching us a fundamental truth about our response to the deity of Christ. As the Pharisees come face to face with the recognition that Jesus was God Himself. They react by denying that revelation. And furthermore, they declare that the signs prove that Jesus is the enemy. They had already been maligning Jesus the man on many occasions. But now they had moved to a new level and were declaring that the signs Jesus was performing were the work of the enemy, Satan.
So when the Pharisees declare that the signs they’ve been given are not proof that Jesus is the Messiah. But rather it is the work of Satan. These religious leaders are not only maligning Jesus, they have begun to malign the Holy Spirit and by association, God’s revelation by the work of the Spirit.
Let’s look at the Pharisees for a moment…
- They saw clear evidence of who Jesus was and they rejected it.
- But it wasn’t enough to reject Him, they had to ensure that others saw things the same way.
- They were determined to oppose Jesus in every way possible.
- They were Jesus’s enemy and they had become an ally of the enemy, Satan.
So look at how Jesus begins His response to their claims. In Luke 11, verse 17, Jesus begins by stating that any kingdom divided against itself will fall. It expresses a simple idea..
A House Divided Cannot Stand
14 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”
16 Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven. 17 But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. 18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.
- When any single entity is made from smaller parts, those parts must work together toward a common goal.
- If one part of the whole, is set against another part, it will tear itself apart and will never function successfully.
- This is especially true when that entity is engaged in battle against a common enemy.
- You can never be successful against an enemy if you are too busy fighting among yourselves.
Jesus responds to the ridiculous comment from the Pharisees by reminding them if He were Satan, it would have been the height of foolishness to go around defeating the very demons who work for Satan. Jesus was clearly opposing the demons through His work, so it was nonsense to claim that His power to oppose demons came from the chief demon. Satan would never work against himself.
Jesus turns the attack back on the Pharisees. In verse 19, He says to the Pharisees that the sons of Israel are busy casting out demons too. With this comment, Jesus points out the Pharisee’s double standard. Jesus is saying that if the Pharisees are willing to claim that Satan grants men the power to chase away demonic forces. Then what power did their sons use to cast out demons? If Jesus’s power came from Satan, then perhaps their sons got power from Satan too.
Jesus then makes a point to the crowd in verse 20. Jesus states the obvious conclusion that if you see a man doing things that only the finger of God can do, then you have only one conclusion left to make. That this man is the Christ and His arrival means the kingdom of God has come to earth. The kingdom: meaning the promised kingdom that the Jews were looking and waiting for. And yet in the face of that clear, unmistakable conclusion, the crowd rejects Jesus and sides with the Pharisees.
Then Jesus say this:
21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. 22 But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils (plunder). 23 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
In this parable, Jesus illustrates how wrong the Pharisees are. In fact, the circumstances of the moment argue for exactly the opposite conclusion from the one the Pharisees proposed. Jesus tells the crowd that when a strong man guards his treasure, he does so with his full might. He is not going to easily relinquish the very things he values. Only when someone stronger comes along and removes his armor will he be forced to give up his treasure. And from that simple story Jesus expects His audience to draw the obvious conclusion.
- Satan is a strong man in this world.
- He has certain power and ability.
- His treasures are the souls of the lost.
- When one of his demons takes possession of a lost soul and indwells a body, he will not give it up easily.
- He will only be willing to give up his treasure if forced by One who is stronger.
Jesus forced the enemy to depart from a body, but that demon leaves reluctantly and only because Jesus as God has infinitely more power than the enemy. So Jesus’s parable goes beyond merely illustrating the absurdity of the Pharisees claims. It also teaches that there is a war underway, and everyone is on one side or the other – there is no neutral ground. Jesus says in verse 23 that you are either for Jesus or against Him. From God’s perspective, there are not different nations, there are not different religions, there are not different denominations.
There are only those who are with Jesus…
- Those who believe His claims.
- Those who have faith in His word.
- Those who trust in Him.
And there are those who are against Him…
- Those who call Him a liar.
- Those who deny His claims.
- Those who ignore His call to repentance.
- Those who are like their father, the devil.
- Those who are the enemy’s treasure.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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