I must confess that most of the time when I read a passage in which Pharisees are involved, I see politicians in my mind’s eye and this passage is no exception. Have you ever noticed how some politicians will keep reading the day’s talking points no matter how idiotic they sound?
Here they go again!
Jesus is presented with another person who is possessed by a demon; He drives out the demon, and the Pharisees start reading off their talking points:
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (12:24)
As we know, Jesus has already made them look like fools for saying this, and here we go yet again. This time, He has even more to say, even borrowing heavily from one of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speeches (or was it the other way around?):
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (12:24-28)
Jesus’ words were so memorable; I would have simply said, “What are you, stupid?”
First, Jesus points out the sheer stupidity of their charge, and then He turns it around on them: Maybe they drive out demons by the power of demons, but Jesus doesn’t, and if they drive out demons by the Spirit of God and the Son is before them driving out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God is standing right in front of them.
I don’t think I want to debate against Jesus, how about you?
He uses another example in verse 29 of a strong man’s house to make the same point again. Then, beginning in verse 30 it gets more serious:
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (12:30-32)
I am guessing that if we could have seen the faces of those Pharisees at this point, we would have seen a very special shade of bright red as they seethed in their fury against their long awaited Messiah. They have just been informed of having attributed to work of the Holy Spirit of God to the Devil, a sin for which there is no forgiveness, and they have done so sounding like complete fools in the process.
The passage, and the chapter ends with these words, and I don’t think that I need to say anything more, for they are more than self-explanatory:
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (12:33-37)
It is interesting for us to note that in almost all cases, Jesus speaks in a manner that is respectful, reasonable and calm; you just don’t see Him go off on anybody… except from time-to-time, when He goes off on the Pharisees. I think I have an idea why that is: for one thing, they are supposed to know better, and of all Gospel characters, they are the ones who should recognize the Messiah. For another thing, they are never really reasonable; it’s their way or the highway. Lastly, as mediocre politicians will always do, they just keep on reading their talking points, no matter what else might happen, for, again like any mediocre politician, they believe that if they just tell their stupid lie enough times, people will believe them. The sad part is that those politicians usually turn out to be right, and people believe them in the end.