Matthew 12:22-37 The Message
Next a poor demon-afflicted wretch, both blind and deaf, was set down before him. Jesus healed him, gave him his sight and hearing. The people who saw it were impressed— “This has to be the Son of David!”
But the Pharisees, when they heard the report, were cynical. “Black magic,” they said. “Some devil trick he’s pulled from his sleeve.”
Jesus confronted their slander. “A judge who gives opposite verdicts on the same person cancels himself out; a family that’s in a constant squabble disintegrates; if Satan banishes Satan, is there any Satan left? If you’re slinging devil mud at me, calling me a devil kicking out devils, doesn’t the same mud stick to your own exorcists?
“But if it’s by God’s power that I am sending the evil spirits packing, then God’s kingdom is here for sure. How in the world do you think it’s possible in broad daylight to enter the house of an awake, able-bodied man and walk off with his possessions unless you tie him up first? Tie him up, though, and you can clean him out.
“This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse.
“There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you deliberately persist in your slanders against God’s Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives. If you reject the Son of Man out of some misunderstanding, the Holy Spirit can forgive you, but when you reject the Holy Spirit, you’re sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.
“If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree.
“You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.”
It is not easy to hear such words; they cut deep, deeper than we often allow. Our every word is dangerous—damnably dangerous—and we so easily barge through life forgetful of each moment’s eternal import. What fruit do we bear? What words do we speak? Do we slander God’s Spirit? More seriously—do Jesus’ words make us fearful, or are we numbed to them? There are times when we need to tremble, contemplating the eternal implications. But then we take our trembling to the Cross. He is gracious enough to accept us, even in our fear.
Prayer of Confession
Lord, what have I to offer?
And a heart breaking loss.
Are these the cross Thou givest me?
Then dear I will account this cross.
If this is all I have, accept even this
Poor priceless offering.
A quaking heart with all that therein is,
O Thou my thorn-crowned King.
Accept the whole, my God, accept my heart
And its own love within:
Wilt Thou accept us and not sift apart?
—Only sift out my sin.
—Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)