A Center of Controversy
SHORTLY after he is entertained at the home of Simon, Jesus begins a second preaching tour of Galilee. On his previous tour of the territory, he was accompanied by his first disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John. But now the 12 apostles, as well as certain women, accompany him. These include Mary Magdalene, Susanna, and Joanna, whose husband is an officer of King Herod.
As the pace of Jesus’ ministry intensifies, so does the controversy regarding his activity. A demon-possessed man, who is also blind and unable to speak, is brought to Jesus. When Jesus cures him, so that he is free of demon control and can both speak and see, the crowds are simply carried away. They begin to say: “May this not perhaps be the Son of David?”
Crowds gather in such numbers around the house where Jesus is staying that he and his disciples cannot even eat a meal. In addition to those who think that he may be the promised “Son of David,” there are scribes and Pharisees who have come all the way from Jerusalem to discredit him. When Jesus’ relatives hear about the commotion revolving around Jesus, they come to lay hold of him. For what reason?
Well, even Jesus’ own brothers do not as yet believe that he is God’s Son. Also, the public uproar and strife that he has created is totally uncharacteristic of the Jesus that they knew while he was growing up in Nazareth. Therefore, they believe that something is seriously wrong with Jesus mentally. “He has gone out of his mind,” they conclude, and they want to seize him and take him away.
Yet the evidence is clear that Jesus healed the demonized man. The scribes and Pharisees know that they cannot deny the actuality of this. So to discredit Jesus they tell the people: “This fellow does not expel the demons except by means of Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”
Knowing their thinking, Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees to him and says: “Every kingdom divided against itself comes to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. In the same way, if Satan expels Satan, he has become divided against himself; how, then, will his kingdom stand?”
What devastating logic! Since the Pharisees claim that persons from their own ranks have cast out demons, Jesus also asks: “If I expel the demons by means of Beelzebub, by means of whom do your sons expel them?” In other words, their charge against Jesus should just as well be applied to them as to him. Jesus then warns: “But if it is by means of God’s spirit that I expel the demons, the kingdom of God has really overtaken you.”
To illustrate that his casting out of demons is evidence of his power over Satan, Jesus says: “How can anyone invade the house of a strong man and seize his movable goods, unless first he binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He that is not on my side is against me, and he that does not gather with me scatters.” The Pharisees clearly are against Jesus, demonstrating themselves to be Satan’s agents. They are scattering Israelites away from him.
Consequently, Jesus warns these satanic opposers that “the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven.” He explains: “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in this system of things nor in that to come.” Those scribes and Pharisees have committed that unforgivable sin by maliciously attributing to Satan what is plainly a miraculous operation of God’s holy spirit. Matthew 12:22-32; Mark 3:19-30; John 7:5.
▪ How does Jesus’ second tour of Galilee differ from the first?
▪ Why do Jesus’ relatives attempt to lay hold of him?
▪ How do the Pharisees attempt to discredit Jesus’ miracles, and how does Jesus refute them?
▪ Of what are those Pharisees guilty, and why?