Apologetic Lessons from Matthew 12:22-29
By Dr. Michael J. Vlach
Books on Christian apologetics rarely reference Matt 12:22-29 and Jesus’ encounter with the unbelieving Pharisees, but I believe this passage has some important implications for apologetics. With this study I am not attempting a full explanation of Matt 12:22-29 but I want to address where this passage intersects with apologetics and insights for a defense of the Christian faith. This section reads:
Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.” And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.
Jesus’ healing of a demon-possessed man is the catalyst for this encounter between Jesus and the unbelieving Pharisees. The crowds tried to make a connection between what Jesus did and who He was. Does this healing of a demon-possessed man indicate that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of David, or not? This is the question they pose to their religious leaders—the Pharisees. The Pharisees deny that the miracle shows that Jesus is the Messiah. Their claim is that it shows that Jesus is in league with Satan (Beelzebul).
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Jesus is dealing with a false claim by the Pharisees, a claim that does not correspond with reality. So how does Jesus respond? Several things should be noted.
First, Jesus engages and interacts with the false claim—“and knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them” (v. 25a). The Pharisees said something false and Jesus immediately challenges their false statement and thinking. He does not become passive or ‘just let it go.’ He does not say, “These guys are hopelessly lost so why waste My time?” No. Something false has been declared and it needed a response.
Second, Jesus responds with logic and reasoned arguments to show that the Pharisees were wrong. One could say that Jesus mows down their false claim with reason. He gives three air-tight arguments to show how wrong the claim of the Pharisees is…
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