MATTHEW 12:24 (part two)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 12:24 (Holman) When the Pharisees heard this, they said, “The man
drives out demons only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.”
The people’s praise of Jesus was poison to the religious leaders. Enraged, they spit venom on Him, blasphemously accusing Jesus of being in partnership with the Devil. In later writings, including the Talmud, the religious leaders would charge Jesus with having been skilled in black magic, of having brought evil arts, enchantments, and witchcraft out of Egypt.
Unable to deny the reality of Jesus’ miracles, the religious leaders sought to discredit the source of His power. With a slander easy to spew and hard to refute, they said He was defeating minor demons by being united with a major demon.
They gave Jesus, who lived the most beautiful life ever, the name Beelzebul. Pagan Philistines had among their gods a deity called Beelzebul (2 Kings 1:2), meaning lord of the flies. They begged him to shoo tormenting flies. Beelzebul was a filthy dunghill deity, lord of excrement, the breeding ground of flies.
Over time, the Jews stole the despicable name of this disgusting Philistine god of dung and dumped it on the devil, the lord of demons. The Jews would use this term of ultimate contempt in place of the devil’s more dignified name, Satan.
This vilest of names was now thrown into the face of Jesus. The religious leaders were admitting His power was so strong that Jesus not only had superhuman strength, but was also more than merely a lowly lieutenant in evil.
Anyone with as much might as Christ possessed had to be the chief warlord of darkness, the main power broker, an incarnation of Satan himself.
Note the twisted irony. God in the flesh was accused of being Satan in the flesh. Messiah was given the foulest, most derisive name ever conveyed on Satan.
Lest we be too condescending toward these men, we need to remember they were the duly appointed leaders of God’s people. The elite of God’s chosen nation did not recognize God’s Son. They, like us, sought to be religious people. Analyzing their error may help us avoid a similar misstep. Where did they err?
First, they believed their role was to create truth rather than to find it. They believed what they decided to be truth was truth. Beware. Truth is in the Bible, not in our opinions. Scripture is set in concrete; our interpretations of Holy Writ are up for grabs.
Truth is not subjective; our opinions are. Truth is objective; our opinions are not. Our task is not to make up, or even to pick and choose, what we want to believe. God long ago determined what truth is. Our role is to accept it.
Second, their beliefs had become slaves of their emotions. Jesus’ miracles, and all other credible evidence, overwhelmingly cast Him in a favorable light.
Did the leaders really intellectually believe these terrible accusations they were spouting against Jesus? Yes, because their hearts wanted to believe the worst. The mind often acquiesces to what the heart wants to believe.
We are not nearly as logical a creatures as we might think. We often know intellectually what truth is, but fail to act on it due to heart reasons. We do not want to offend family, disappoint friends, take scorn from our teachers, humble ourselves, or lose face by admitting our enemies were right all along.
We often hear it said, evidence cannot change a closed mind. It is also true to say evidence cannot open a closed heart. A predisposed emotion can be as hard to change as a preconceived notion.
Love can blind the mind. Any obsession for a person, drug, lifestyle, habit, self-esteem, or behavior can color and distort our thoughts. A person who loves any aspect of spiritual darkness and craves to embrace it will have trouble letting go and turning to the light.
Third, they were prisoners to their own nostalgia. To them, the glory days and all greatness were in the past. Anything new was bad.
To change any custom or tradition was a terrible evil. They did not want to disturb the status quo, especially since they were kingpins in it.
They were too set in their ways to change, too content with their own self-righteousness, too proud to learn. None are as blind as those who refuse to see.
Totally satisfied, they saw no need to change, though Jesus was effectively preaching people needed to repent, to do an about face, to admit the error of their ways.
Self-satisfaction is ever the death knell of spirituality. In this lifetime, we never “arrive,” we are ever in transition.
Fourth, envy caused them to speak against One better than themselves. Bad guys win by convincing society they are good guys, and good guys are bad guys.
Persecutors of Christians in any culture don’t fare well if they don’t first cast aspersion on us. They must “first dress up those in bear-skins whom they thus bait” (Henry). Their accusations and tirades against our arguments would never hold credence if they did not first turn against us the tide of human opinion.
Decaying cultures think upside down, adopting the reverse of reality. The devilish is deemed divine, the divine devilish, good is bad, bad is good. Saving a baby’s life is bad, killing it is good. Sexual purity is prudish, immorality is stylish.
Open-minded is enlightened, conviction is intolerant. I remind us, the only thing that stays always open is a sewer, an apt picture of what our cultural mind-set is becoming.
Through all the abuse hurled at Him, Jesus showed remarkable patience. It’s hard to know which is more amazing, the cruelty of Christ’s tormentors, or Jesus’ patience toward them?
In our estimation, it’s amazing Earth didn’t open up and swallow the taunters. Fire should have fallen from Heaven, or a tsunami should have swept in from the Mediterranean Sea, to obliterate them.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is rarely true, but did seem to be the case with Jesus. He passed through blasphemies unmoved and unharmed, as through a fog.
Learn a vital lesson from our Master. As the culture turns more and more against us, stay calm. Stand for what’s right and defend truth with a pleasant sweet demeanor that can only be described as an exact reflection of Jesus Himself.
Despite the mudslinging, and insults hurled against Him, Jesus’ brief span on Earth is almost universally considered the most beautiful life ever lived.
In retrospect, His life continues to convey a winsomeness irrepressible. Even His worst enemies, despite their harsh rhetoric, sometimes find it irresistible.
Max Lucado conveys a story told years ago by Vice President George Bush. He represented the USA at the 1982 funeral of Soviet Ruler Leonid Brezhnev in Russia. The funeral was precise and stoic, as sterile as the atheistic communist regime itself. No tears were shed, no emotion shown, with one exception.
Mr. Bush said Brezhnev’s widow was the last person to view the body before the casket was closed. For several seconds she stood motionless by her husband. She then reached down and performed the sign of the cross on his chest.
My guess is, a groan was heard somewhere in the bowels of the Kremlin. Despite the multi-generational regime of atheism and its avalanche of words against Jesus, when her husband died, Mrs. Brezhnev turned not to Marx, not to Stalin, not to Khrushchev, but to the lovely Galilean Carpenter they had despised.
Call Jesus Beelzebul if you please. We who know Him choose to call Him Beautiful Savior.