Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Jesus Rebukes the Pharisees
IF IT is by Satan’s power that he expels demons, Jesus argues, then Satan is divided against himself. “Either you people make the tree fine and its fruit fine,” he continues, “or make the tree rotten and its fruit rotten; for by its fruit the tree is known.”
It is foolish to charge that the good fruit of casting out demons is due to Jesus’ serving Satan. If the fruit is fine, the tree cannot be rotten. On the other hand, the Pharisees’ rotten fruitage of absurd accusations and groundless opposition to Jesus is proof that they themselves are rotten. “Offspring of vipers,” Jesus exclaims, “how can you speak good things, when you are wicked? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Since our words reflect the condition of our hearts, what we say provides a basis for judgment. “I tell you,” Jesus says, “that every unprofitable saying that men speak, they will render an account concerning it on Judgment Day; for by your words you will be declared righteous, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Despite all Jesus’ powerful works, the scribes and Pharisees request: “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” Although these particular men from Jerusalem may not personally have seen his miracles, irrefutable eyewitness evidence regarding them exists. So Jesus tells the Jewish leaders: “A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.”
Explaining what he means, Jesus continues: “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” After being swallowed by the fish, Jonah came out as if resurrected, so Jesus foretells that he will die and on the third day be raised alive. Yet the Jewish leaders, even when Jesus later is resurrected, reject “the sign of Jonah.”
Thus Jesus says that the men of Nineveh who repented at the preaching of Jonah will rise up in the judgment to condemn the Jews who reject Jesus. Similarly, he draws a parallel with the queen of Sheba, who came from the ends of the earth to hear Solomon’s wisdom and marveled at what she saw and heard. “But, look!” Jesus notes, “something more than Solomon is here.”
Jesus then gives the illustration of a man from whom an unclean spirit comes out. The man, however, does not fill the void with good things and so becomes possessed by seven more wicked spirits. “That is how it will be also with this wicked generation,” Jesus says. The Israelite nation had been cleansed and had experienced reformations—like the temporary departure of an unclean spirit. But the nation’s rejection of God’s prophets, culminating in its opposition to Christ himself, reveals its wicked condition to be much worse than at its beginning.
While Jesus is speaking, his mother and his brothers arrive and take a position at the edge of the crowd. So someone says: “Look! Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak to you.”
“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Jesus asks. Extending his hand toward his disciples, he says: “Look! My mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” In this way Jesus shows that regardless of how dear the ties are that bind him to his relatives, dearer still is his relationship with his disciples. Matthew 12:33-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21.
◆ How did the Pharisees fail to make both the tree and the fruit fine?
◆ What was “the sign of Jonah,” and how was it rejected?
◆ How was the Israelite nation like the man from whom an unclean spirit came out?
◆ How did Jesus emphasize his close relationship with his disciples?