Matthew 12


Matthew 12:31

“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.

(a) Any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven. Prior to the cross, Jesus preached conditional forgiveness to people living under the old covenant. “If you forgive, God will forgive” (Matt. 6:14, Mark 11:25). However, as the messenger of the new covenant, he also demonstrated and proclaimed unconditional forgiveness (Matt. 9:2, 18:27, Luke 7:42, 47, 23:34). This is one occasion where Jesus prophesied the forgiveness of all and every sin (see also Matt.26:28). See entry for Sin.

(b) Shall be forgiven implies forgiveness was a future event. Since forgiveness means the remission or dismissal of sins, Jesus was pointing ahead to the cross. On the night he rose from the dead, Jesus told the disciples to preach the remission of sins as a done deal (see entry for Luke 24:47).

(c) Forgiven; see entry for Forgiveness.

(d) Blasphemy against the Spirit. To blaspheme is to slander or speak against someone (see next verse). When people accused Paul of preaching grace as a license to sin, he said their reports were blasphemous or slanderous (Rom. 3:8). In other words, the reports were false and injurious to his reputation and message.

Jesus’ warning about not slandering the Holy Spirit is reported in three gospels (Matt. 12:32, Mark 3:29, Luke 12:10). In two of those accounts the warning comes after Jesus had been driving out demons by the Spirit of God (Matt. 12:28). However, the Pharisees and law teachers thought Jesus’ power came from Satan. “By the prince of demons he is driving out demons” (Mark 3:22). In other words, they were giving the devil credit for work done by the Holy Spirit.

The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is to resist his testimony of Jesus. It is persisting in unbelief. It is impossible for a believer to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

Further reading: “What is the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

(e) Shall not be forgiven. To reject the Savior is to reject salvation. To refuse to receive his forgiveness, is the only thing that cannot be forgiven. Such a person “never has forgiveness” (Mark 3:29) because they refuse to receive it by faith.


Matthew 12:32

“Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

(a) Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man. Many people slandered Jesus and all of them were forgiven. A notable example was James, the step-brother of Jesus. At one time Jesus’ family said he was out of his mind or insane (Mark 3:21, 31). That was a slanderous claim, but Jesus didn’t hold a grudge. He appeared to James after his resurrection (1 Cor. 15:7) and James later became the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

(b) It shall be forgiven him; see entry for Matthew 12:31.

(c) Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit. To speak against the Holy Spirit is to resist the witness of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is referring to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (see previous verse).


Matthew 12:33

“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.

Make the tree good. When God created the world, all the trees were good and fruitful. Then sin and disease came along and some trees became bad and fruitless.

In context, Jesus is talking about people who blaspheme the Holy Spirit. The hatred in their hearts (their tree) was revealed in what they said (their fruit). It is God who makes people good and it is sin that makes them bad. We make our children good by leading them to a good God who clothes them with his righteousness. And we make our children bad by casting them adrift into a fallen world where they are fed lies that corrupt them. A child’s heart is like soil. Into this soil we can sow the good seed of God’s word or we can let the devil plant weeds.


Matthew 12:34

“You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.

You brood of vipers. John the Baptist referred to the Pharisees and Sadducees as a brood of vipers and Jesus adopted the phrase. See entry for Matt. 3:7.


Matthew 12:37

“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

(a) Justified. To be justified, is to be made right with God. Since our justification comes to us as a gift of grace (Rom. 3:24, Tit. 3:7), the words that justify us are the words of faith (Rom. 3:28, 5:1, Gal. 3:24). It’s calling on the name of the Lord and being saved (Rom. 10:13).

(b) By your words. We are not condemned by God but by our own stubborn refusal to receive the gift of life (John 5:40).


Matthew 12:39

But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;

(a) The sign of Jonah was Jesus rising from the dead after three days.

There are numerous parallels between the stories of Jonah and Jesus: Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a fish (Jonah 1:17); Jesus spent three days and nights in the belly of the earth (see next verse). After he rose, Jonah preached for 40 days (Jonah 3:4); after he rose, Jesus preached for 40 days (Acts 1:3). Jonah, understood something of the grace (hesed) of God (Jonah 2:8, 4:2); Jesus came from the Father full of grace (John 1:14). Jonah was sent to a city known for its wickedness (Jonah 1:2); Jesus was sent to a city that killed the prophets (Matt. 23:37). When the people of Nineveh heard the message, they were cut to the heart and repented (Jonah 3:5); when the people of Jerusalem heard the message, they were cut to the heart and repented (Acts 2:37). As a result of Jonah’s preaching, there was an outbreak of divine compassion or grace (Jonah 4:11); as a result of Jesus’ preaching, there was an outbreak of the Holy Spirit, a.k.a. the Spirit of Grace (Acts 2:2)

Further reading: “The sign of Jonah


Matthew 12:40

for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Three days and three nights. This prophecy leads some to conclude that Jesus would be dead for 72 hours. But if Jesus rose on a Sunday, he could not have died on a Friday. The numbers don’t add up, so we need an extra day. Either Jesus died earlier, rose later, or that were two Sabbaths.

None of these chronological gymnastics are needed because to a Jewish mind there is no contradiction to be resolved. The Jewish day begins at sunset, so the first day of the crucifixion weekend begins at Thursday sundown. The second begins at Friday sundown, and the third begins at Saturday sundown. Jesus was crucified on the first day (Friday afternoon) and rose on the third (Sunday), and each of these three days began with a night.

On several occasions Jesus predicted he would be raised on the third day (Matt 20:19, Luke 9:22, 18:33, 24:46). To a Jewish mind, that means he was raised sometime after Saturday sundown which fits with the women finding an empty tomb the next morning (Matt 28:1).


Matthew 12:41

“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

Repented. To repent means to change your mind. In context, it means changing your mind about Christ and the goodness of God (Rom. 2:4). “Change your unbelieving mind and believe the glad tidings of God’s grace and forgiveness” (see Mark 1:15). Jesus is talking about people who heard the gospel and believed it.


Matthew 12:46

While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him.

(a) His mother; see entry for Matt. 1:18.

(b) His brothers or half-brothers were James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (Matt. 13:55). At first, these men did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God (Mark 3:21). But they and their mother Mary were among those praying in the Upper Room after the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:14). James became the influential leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13). It’s possible the other brothers became ministers of the gospel and apostles, but we have no direct evidence for this (1 Cor. 9:5).


Matthew 12:47

Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.”

See previous verse.


Matthew 12:48

But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”

My mother. Mary was an extraordinary woman, highly favored by God, and rightly honoured by the Church. Yet nowhere in scripture does Jesus refer to her as mother. Instead, he calls her woman (John 2:4, 19:26). If you asked Jesus who his mother was, he would reply, “My mother and brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). Jesus was not being disrespectful to Mary, but like Melchizedek, he was “without father and mother” in the usual sense (Heb. 7:3).

See entry for Virgin Birth.


Matthew 12:50

“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

(a) My Father; see entry for Matthew 5:16.

(b) My brother and sister and mother. In the New Testament, believers are often referred to as the family or household of God (Mark 3:35, John 11:52, 2 Cor. 6:18, Eph. 2:19, Gal. 3:26, 6:10, 1 Pet. 4:17).


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