And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? (Matt 12:26)
After identifying Himself as “Lord of the Sabbath,” and then demonstrating His authority by healing a man with a withered hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath, we find Jesus continuing to heal many others; meanwhile the Pharisees conspired about His demise (Matt 12:10-15). Among those who Jesus healed was a blind, mute demoniac from whom Jesus exorcised demons. While Jesus’ power astonished many people, the Pharisees needed to manufacture an explanation that would justify themselves while explaining away the clear miracle. Interestingly they do not deny the genuineness of Jesus’ miracle but instead attribute His power to the devil. They do this so that He would be branded a sorcerer worthy of death.
Jesus’ defended His activity using an analogy from civil warfare and the fact that He was not the only exorcist in the area. First He argues that if the power in which He cast out Satan originated from Satan, it would be like a kingdom divided against itself. Secondly, if Satan was the one who empowered exorcisms, the other Jewish exorcists must also be demonically inspired. Instead Jesus explains that He is empowered by God’s Holy Spirit and that this was a demonstration that the kingdom of God had come (v. 28). Contrary to the Pharisees accusation of demonic inspiration, in verse 29 Jesus offers a brief parable to illustrate that before He could cast out a demon, He must actually first bind Satan.
In the end it is not Jesus who is blaspheming by doing Satan’s work, but it is the Pharisees who blaspheme God’s work. Their abject rejection and condemnation of Jesus’ clearly demonstrated power (which is a work of the Holy Spirit) is a sin which Jesus describes as “unforgiveable.” This “unforgiveable sin” is a matter of much conjecture among Christians and we will discuss its meaning next week.
After some additional discourse, Matthew returns to consider the incident that started the section, the exorcism of verse 22. In verses 43-45 Jesus concludes the discourse wanting the man who was liberated and everyone else present to know that to be delivered from demons was not enough if the devil’s ownership is not replaced with Christ’s ownership. Moral reformation apart from Christ will always be inadequate. Unless repentance is genuinely unto life, the freedom that one experiences from a bondage is temporary and inadequate. In the end Christ is either Lord of all, or Lord of nothing and only His blood is mighty to save.