Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Matthew
Book: Matthew
Chapter: 12

Jesus defends his disciples for plucking Corn On the Sabbath
Day. (1-8) Jesus heals a Man with a withered Hand On the
Sabbath. (9-13) The malice of the Pharisees. (14-21) Jesus heals
a demoniac. (22-30) Blasphemy of the Pharisees. (31,32) Evil
words proceed from an evil Heart. (33-37) The Scribes and
Pharisees reproved for seeking a sign. (38-45) The disciples of
Christ are his nearest relations. (46-50)

1-8 Being in the Corn-fields, the disciples began to pluck the
ears of Corn: the Law of God allowed it, De 23:25. This was
slender provision for Christ and his disciples; but they were
content with it. The Pharisees did not quarrel with them for
taking another Man's Corn, but for doing it On the Sabbath Day.
Christ came to free his followers, not only from the corruptions
of the Pharisees, but from their unscriptural rules, and
justified what they did. The greatest shall not have their lusts
indulged, but the meanest shall have their wants considered.
Those labours are lawful On the Sabbath Day which are necessary,
and Sabbath Rest is to forward, not to hinder Sabbath Worship.
Needful provision for health and Food is to be made; but when
servants are kept at home, and families become a scene of hurry
and confusion On the Lord's Day, to furnish a Feast for
visitors, or for indulgence, the case is very different. Such
things as these, and many others common among professors, are to
be blamed. The resting On the Sabbath was ordained for Man's
good, De 5:14. No Law must be understood So as to contradict
its own End. And as Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath, it is fit
the Day and the work of it should be dedicated to him.

9-13 Christ shows that Works of Mercy are lawful and proper to
be done On the Lord's Day. There are more ways of doing Well
upon Sabbath days, than By the duties of Worship: attending the
sick, relieving the Poor, helping those who need speedy relief,
teaching the young to care for their souls; these are doing
good: and these must be done from Love and Charity, with
Humility and self-denial, and shall be accepted, Ge 4:7. This,
like other cures which Christ wrought, had a spiritual meaning.
By nature our hands are withered, and we are unable of ourselves
to do any thing that is good. Christ only, By the power of his
Grace, cures us; he heals the withered Hand By putting Life into
the dead soul, Works in us both to will and to do: for, with the
command, there is a promise of Grace given By the Word.

14-21 The Pharisees took counsel to find some accusation, that
Jesus might be condemned to Death. Aware of their design, as his
time was not come, he retired from that place. Face does not
more exactly answer to Face in water, than the character of
Christ drawn By the Prophet, to his temper and conduct as
described By the evangelists. Let us with cheerful confidence
commit our souls to So kind and Faithful a Friend. Far from
breaking, he will strengthen the bruised Reed; far from
quenching the smoking Flax, or wick nearly out, he will rather
blow it up into a flame. Let us lay aside contentious and angry
debates; let us receive one another as Christ receives us. And
while encouraged By the gracious kindness of our Lord, we should
pray that his Spirit may Rest upon us, and make us able to copy
his Example.

22-30 A soul under Satan's power, and led Captive By him, is
Blind in the things of God, and Dumb at the Throne of Grace;
sees nothing, and says nothing to the purpose. Satan blinds the
eyes By unbelief, and seals up the lips from Prayer. The more
people magnified Christ, the more desirous the Pharisees were to
vilify him. It was evident that if Satan aided Jesus in casting
out devils, the kingdom of Hell was divided against itself; how
then could it stand! And if they said that Jesus cast out devils
By the Prince of the devils, they could not prove that their
children cast them out By any other power. There are two great
interests in the world; and when unclean spirits are cast out By
the Holy Spirit, in the Conversion of sinners to a Life of Faith
and obedience, the Kingdom of God is come unto us. All who do
not aid or rejoice in such a change are against Christ.

31,32 Here is a gracious Assurance of the Pardon of all Sin
upon Gospel terms. Christ herein has set an Example to the sons
of men, to be ready to forgive words spoken against them. But
humble and conscientious believers, at times are tempted to
think they have committed the unpardonable Sin, while those who
have come the nearest to it, seldom have any fear about it. We
may be sure that those who indeed repent and believe the Gospel,
have not committed this Sin, or any other of the same kind; for
Repentance and Faith are the special Gifts of God, which he
would not bestow On any Man, if he were determined never to
Pardon him; and those who fear they have committed this Sin,
give a good sign that they have not. The trembling, contrite
sinner, has the Witness in himself that this is not his case.

33-37 Men's language discovers what country they are of,
likewise what manner of Spirit they are of. The Heart is the
Fountain, words are the streams. A troubled Fountain, and a
corrupt Spring, must send forth muddy and unpleasant streams.
Nothing but the Salt of Grace, cast into the Spring, will heal
the waters, season the speech, and purify the corrupt
communication. An evil Man has an evil treasure in his Heart,
and out of it brings forth evil things. Lusts and corruptions,
dwelling and reigning in the Heart, are an evil treasure, out of
which the sinner brings forth bad words and actions, to
dishonour God, and hurt others. Let us keep constant watch over
ourselves, that we may speak words agreeable to the Christian

38-45 Though Christ is always ready to hear and answer holy
desires and prayers, yet those who ask amiss, ask and have not.
Signs were granted to those who desired them to confirm their
Faith, as Abraham and Gideon; but denied to those who demanded
them to excuse their unbelief. The Resurrection of Christ from
the dead By his own power, called here the sign of the Prophet
Jonah, was the great proof of Christ's being the Messiah. As
Jonah was three days and three nights in the Whale, and then
came out again alive, thus Christ would be So long in the Grave,
and then rise again. The Ninevites would shame the Jews for not
repenting; the Queen of Sheba, for not believing in Christ. And
we have No such cares to hinder us, we come not to Christ upon
such uncertainties. This Parable represents the case of the
Jewish Church and nation. It is also applicable to all those who
hear the Word of God, and are in part reformed, but not truly
converted. The unclean Spirit leaves for a time, but when he
returns, he finds Christ is not there to shut him out; the Heart
is swept By outward reformation, but garnished By preparation to
comply with evil suggestions, and the Man becomes a more decided
enemy of the Truth. Every Heart is the residence of unclean
spirits, except those which are temples of the Holy Ghost, By
Faith in Christ.

46-50 Christ's preaching was Plain, easy, and familiar, and
suited to his hearers. His mother and brethren stood without,
desiring to speak with him, when they should have been standing
within, desiring to hear him. Frequently, those who are nearest
to the means of knowledge and Grace are most negligent. We are
apt to neglect that which we think we may have any Day,
forgetting that to-morrow is not ours. We often meet with
hindrances in our work from friends about us, and are taken off
By care for the things of this Life, from the concerns of our
souls. Christ was So intent On his work, that No natural or
other duty took him from it. Not that, under pretence of
religion, we may be disrespectful to parents, or unkind to
relations; but the lesser duty must stand By, while the greater
is done. Let us cease from men, and cleave to Christ; let us
look upon every Christian, in whatever condition of Life, as the
Brother, sister, or mother of the Lord of Glory; let us Love,
respect, and be kind to them, for his sake, and after his