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Jesus, Lord over the Sabbath

12 One Saturday, on the day of rest,[a] Jesus and his disciples were walking through a field of wheat. The disciples were hungry, so they plucked off some heads of grain and rubbed them in their hands[b] to eat. But when some of the Pharisees saw what was happening, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples shouldn’t be harvesting grain[c] on the Sabbath!”

Jesus responded, “Haven’t you ever read what King David and his men did when they were hungry? They entered the house of God[d] and ate the sacred bread of God’s presence,[e] violating the law by eating bread that only the priests were allowed to eat.

“And haven’t you read in the Torah that the priests violated the rules of the Sabbath by carrying out their duties in the temple on a Saturday, and yet they are without blame? But I say to you, there is one here who is even greater than the temple.[f] If only you could learn the meaning of the words ‘I want compassion more than a sacrifice,’[g] you wouldn’t be condemning my innocent disciples. For the Son of Man exercises his lordship over the Sabbath.”[h]

Then Jesus left them and went into the synagogue where 10 he encountered a man who had an atrophied, paralyzed hand.[i] The fault-finding Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it permissible to perform a work of healing on the Sabbath?” They only asked him this question because they hoped to accuse him of breaking the Jewish laws.[j]

11 He answered them, “If any of you had a lamb that fell into a ditch on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you reach out your hand and lift it out? 12 Isn’t a man much more valuable than a lamb? So of course, it’s always proper to do miracles,[k] even on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he turned to the man and said, “Hold out your hand!” And as he stretched it out, it was restored, exactly like the other.[l]

14 Immediately the Pharisees went out and started to scheme about how they would destroy him. 15 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he left by another way. Massive crowds followed him from there, and he healed all who were sick. 16 However, he sternly warned them not to tell others or disclose his real identity, 17 in order to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah:[m]

18 Take a careful look at my servant,[n] my chosen one.
    I love him dearly
    and I find all my delight in him.[o]
    I will breathe my Spirit upon him
    and he will decree justice[p] to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or raise his voice in public.
20 He won’t brush aside the bruised and broken.
    He will be gentle with the weak and feeble,[q]
    until his victory releases justice.
21 And the fame of his name
    will birth hope among the people.[r]

Jesus Frees a Demonized Man

22 Then a man was brought before Jesus who had a demon spirit that made him both blind and mute. Jesus healed him instantly, and he could see and talk again! 23 The crowds went wild with amazement as they witnessed this miracle. And they kept saying to one another, “Could this man be the Messiah?”[s]

24 But when the Pharisees overheard what the people were saying, they said, “He casts out demons by the power of Satan,[t] the prince of demons!”

25 Jesus supernaturally perceived their thoughts and motives, so he told them this parable:

“Any kingdom that fights against itself is reduced to ruins. And any family or community splintered by strife will fall apart. 26 So if Satan casts out Satan, he is making war on himself. How then could his kingdom stand? 27 So if Satan empowers me to cast out demons, who empowers your exorcists[u] to cast them out? Go ask them, let them be your judges.[v] 28 But, if I drive out demons by the power of the Spirit of God, then the end of Satan’s kingdom has come![w] 29 Who would dare enter the house of a mighty man and steal his property? First he must be overpowered and tied up by one who is stronger than he. Then his entire house can be plundered.

30 So join with me,[x] for if you’re not on my side you are against me. And if you refuse to help me gather the spoils, you are making things worse.[y] 31 This is why I warn you. God will forgive people for every sin and blasphemy except one. There is no forgiveness for the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. 32 If anyone speaks evil of me, the Son of Man, he can be forgiven; but if anyone speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will never be forgiven, now or ever!”

Only Good Trees Bear Good Fruit

33 “You must determine if a tree is good or rotten. You can recognize good trees by their delicious fruit. But if you find rotten fruit, you can be certain that the tree is rotten. The fruit defines the tree. 34 But you who are known as the Pharisees are rotten to the core like venomous snakes.[z] How can your words be good if you are rotten within? For what has been stored up in your hearts will be heard in the overflow of your words![aa]

35 “When virtue is stored within, the hearts of good, upright people will produce good fruit. But when evil is hidden within, those who are evil will produce evil fruit. 36 You can be sure of this: when the day of judgment comes, everyone will be held accountable for every careless word[ab] he has spoken.[ac] 37 Your very words will be used as evidence, and your words will declare you either innocent or guilty.”

The Sign of Jonah

38 Then a few Jewish scholars and Pharisees spoke up and said, “Teacher, why don’t you perform a miraculous sign for us.”

39 Jesus replied, “Only evil people who are unfaithful to God would demand a sign.[ad] There will be no sign given to you except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge sea creature for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 The people of Nineveh will also rise up on the day of judgment to condemn this generation.[ae] For they all repented when they heard the preaching of Jonah. And there is one greater than Jonah here preaching to you today! 42 Even the Queen of Sheba[af] will rise up on the day of judgment to condemn this generation for its unbelief! She journeyed from a far and distant land just to hear the wisdom of King Solomon. Yet now there is one greater than Solomon speaking to you today.”


43 “When a demon is cast out of a person, it roams around a dry region, looking for a place to rest, but never finds it. 44 Then it says, ‘I’ll return to the house I moved out of,’ and so it goes back, only to find that the house is vacant, warm, and ready for it to move back in.[ag] 45 So it goes looking for seven other demons more evil than itself, and they all enter together to live there. Then the person’s condition becomes much worse than it was in the beginning. This describes what will also happen to the people of this evil generation.”

Jesus’ True Family

46 While Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and brothers came and stood outside, asking for him to come out and speak with them. 47 Then someone said, “Look, your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to have a word with you.” 48 But Jesus just looked at him and said, “Let me introduce you to my true mother and brothers.” 49 Then gesturing to the disciples gathered around him, he said, “Look closely, for this is my true family. 50 When you obey my heavenly Father, that makes you a part of my true family.”[ah]


  1. 12:1 The Hebrew word for Sabbath comes from shavat, which is the verb “to rest.” What was designed to be a day of rest and intimacy with God and family was now complicated by a host of rules and traditions.
  2. 12:1 As found in Hebrew Matthew.
  3. 12:2 Or “doing what is unlawful.”
  4. 12:4 That is, the tabernacle. See 1 Sam. 21:1–6. Ancient Jewish tradition states that David did this on a Sabbath day. See also Lev. 24:5–9.
  5. 12:4 Or “loaves of presentation.” See Ezek. 44:15–16.
  6. 12:6 We must always remember that Jesus is greater than the Sabbath and greater than the Temple. We have him in our hearts, and the Sabbath can never take his place. Since the Holy of Holies is now living within us, there is no need for another temple.
  7. 12:7 See Hos. 6:6. Mercy is greater than ritual.
  8. 12:8 Jesus made three startling statements that stunned those who heard him. First he said that he was greater than the temple (v. 6), then that God didn’t want sacrifices but mercy (v. 7), and finally that he, the Messiah, was the Lord of the Sabbath. Don’t be surprised when Jesus shocks you with truth that is outside your understanding.
  9. 12:10 There is a reading given by Jerome which inserts here these words, possibly from an older manuscript of Hebrew Matthew: “I was a stonemason working with my hands. Jesus, I beg you to heal me so that I don’t have to shamefully beg for food.” See Jerome, Commentary in Matthew xii:13 (de Santos 23).
  10. 12:10 The Aramaic is “They were like pests who wanted to devour him.”
  11. 12:12 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “to do (morally) good.”
  12. 12:13 This is the first of seven miracles Jesus performed on the Sabbath. See Mark 1:21–6, 29–31; Luke 13:10–13; 14:1–4; John 5:1–9; 9:13–16.
  13. 12:17 See Isa. 42:1–4.
  14. 12:18 Or “Here is my son.”
  15. 12:18 The Aramaic is literally “He has sun-shined my being.”
  16. 12:18 Or “judgment.”
  17. 12:20 Or “A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not extinguish.” The Hebrew Matthew adds a phrase here that corresponds to Isa. 42: “He will not fail or be discouraged.”
  18. 12:21 Hebrew Matthew is “The islands will wait for his teachings.”
  19. 12:23 Or “Could he be the Son of David,” a title used for the Messiah.
  20. 12:24 Or “Beelzebub” (Baal-zebub), a title used for Satan. See footnote on Matt. 10:25.
  21. 12:27 Or “your sons,” and by implication, “your followers” (who are exorcists).
  22. 12:27 In other words, to condemn Jesus as working by Satan’s power would be to condemn their own exorcists.
  23. 12:28 As translated from Hebrew Matthew and implied in the Greek. The Greek text, somewhat ambiguously, reads, “then the kingdom of God has approached.” The Hebrew Matthew cohesively fits Jesus’ parable in making the conclusion that the end of Satan’s kingdom has arrived for he has bound the mighty one (Satan) and ransacked his house (kingdom). Regardless, one indeed implies the other.
  24. 12:30 Jesus is saying, “This is a war with no neutrality. Join my side or you will miss the spoils of victory and be forever scattered.”
  25. 12:30 The Hebrew Matthew is “He who does not join me denies me.”
  26. 12:34 Or “You are the sons of snakes”; that is, their inner identity was like a striking, venomous viper.
  27. 12:34 The Hebrew Matthew reads, “Truly the heart awakens and the mouth speaks.”
  28. 12:36 Or “worthless word.” The Aramaic is “every untrue word.”
  29. 12:36 The agrapha includes a sentence here, also quoted by Justin Martyr: “In the words I find you saying, in those I will judge you.” See Justin Martyr, Dialogue 47:5.
  30. 12:39 After experiencing the many miracles of Jesus’ love and power, and hearing his words of grace, for them to demand a further sign is what distinguished that generation as “evil.”
  31. 12:41 The Aramaic is “tribe.” The Ninevites (modern-day Mosul, Iraq) were pagans, yet through the preaching of one prophet they converted. The people of Israel had many prophets throughout their history, and the greatest Prophet of all was now preaching to them, yet they refused to listen.
  32. 12:42 Literally “the queen of the south.” See 1 Kings 10:1–13. Sheba is modern-day Yemen.
  33. 12:44 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “swept clean and put in order.”
  34. 12:50 Our true identity is dependent upon our obedience to our Father in heaven.

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