The Response of the Nation

The Response of the Nation. The widespread knowledge placed a responsibility on the nation to weigh
the evidence and make a decision about Jesus and His offer of His kingdom. The invitation of the
Messiah, therefore, was extremely significant when He proclaimed,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon
you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

The rejection of the Forerunner John, his message, and his call to repentance (Matthew 11:2-19)
anticipated the nation’s response to Jesus. From the initial rejection of His presentation of Himself as the
promised Messiah while in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30), throughout the course of His life,
Israel stubbornly refused His offer of Himself as King in spite of all the evidence He presented (Matthew
13:54-59; John 7:12-13).

The decision of Israel’s leaders—the duly appointed representatives of the entire nation—came to a
climax in an incident recorded in Matthew 12:22-30. On this occasion Jesus delivered a man from
Satan’s bondage, removing the blindness and dumbness that had afflicted him. The miracle demonstrated
that He could lift the burden of Pharisaism from those in bondage if they would take His yoke upon them.
He could fulfill His promise to give rest to their souls.

The miracle caused the crowd to be filled with apprehension. “Could this be the Son of David?” they
said, actually expecting a negative answer. The question arose not because of insufficient evidence, but
rather because the leaders had already indicated their rejection of Christ. The people could not conceive
of accepting Christ apart from the approval of the leaders. They had been taught as sheep to follow their
shepherds.

Thus, the Pharisees quickly presented their explanation of the miracle that had so convinced the
multitude, saying, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons”
(Matthew 12:24). In an unthinkable mockery of God’s perfect kingdom program, the religious leaders
attributed the works of God’s promised King to the ruler of darkness, Satan. It was an explanation that
not only revealed the religious leaders’ unrepentant, darkened hearts, but one that also ultimately sealed
the fate of the Jews for generations to come.

Because the destiny of the nation hinged on its response to His Person, Christ offered three proofs to
show that the Pharisees’ explanation was false. First, if He received power from Satan and used that
power against Satan, then Satan’s kingdom ultimately must fall (Matthew 12:25-26). Second, since the
Pharisees recognized the ability to drive out demons as coming from God, they should not charge Him
with being demon-possessed when He drove out demons (12:27). He argued, “But if I drive out demons
by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (12:28). Third, He reminded them
that before a robber can enter a guarded citadel; the robber must have sufficient power to subdue the
guard (12:29). The inference was that if Christ could enter Satan’s stronghold and deliver people from
his control as He had just done, then it is evident that He is stronger than Satan. Satan could not give
Christ a power greater than what he himself possessed. With these three proofs, Christ showed that the
Pharisees’ explanation of His miracle was false.

Christ then called on the people for a decision (12:30). He warned them of the dire judgment that would
come on that generation of Israel if they accepted the explanation of the Pharisees and rejected Him. He
spoke here of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as sin for which there could be no forgiveness in
either this age or in the age to come (12:30-32).

The miracles were the Holy Spirit’s witness to Christ’s Person as well as to His words and works. If they
rejected the final witness of the Spirit, there was no further witness to bring them to Christ. Their sins
would stand unforgiven and result in eternal judgment (12:33-37) as well as temporal judgment, which
ultimately fell in A.D. 70.

Christ demanded of His hearers what John demanded when he said, “Produce fruit in keeping with
repentance” (Matthew 3:8; 12:33). But, they demanded a sign that would prove to them who He was that
He claimed to be (12:38-45). Christ explained the reason for their request. It did not arise from faith, but
from unbelief. They had refused to believe His words and His signs, and this indicated that they were
evil. They were “a wicked and adulterous generation” (12:39). Christ then declared that He had no
sign—other than that of Jonah—to give to the nation to prove that He was the One He claimed to be.

This incident marked the great turning point in Christ’s ministry and message. From this point to the
Cross, the nation would be viewed in the Gospels as having rejected Jesus as Messiah. The unofficial
rejection by the leaders would become official when finalized at the Cross. Satan’s dominion seized the
hour. Jesus declared to the crowd who came to arrest Him, “But this is your hour—when darkness
reigns” (Luke 22:53).

Jesus, in a highly symbolic act (Matthew 12:46-49), signified His rejection of the nation because of their
rejection of Him. While He was addressing the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to
speak to Him. He raised the question, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” The natural
response would be His blood relatives. But He pointed to His disciples, that is, those who by faith had
accepted Him and said, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and
mother.

The nation claimed an “automatic” relationship to the coming Messiah because of their blood relationship
to Abraham. But Christ rejected blood ties as constituting a true spiritual relationship. The Kingdom
must be entered by faith in His Person, not by physical birth. As He explained to Nicodemus, “Just as
Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes
in him may have eternal life.” This is the truth that brings one into the kingdom of light from the
darkness. On this truth one is born again by the Spirit of God (John 3:1-21).

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