Day Seventeen: Tuesday, June 30th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 12: 22-50
Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:
“Come in to stay”
The opposition is growing. All the people were astonished at the miracle of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man so completely that the man could both talk and see. They were so astonished they asked, “Could this be the Son of David?” But the Pharisees said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” As you will see in our readings from Matthew 12, Jesus does not shy away from this conflict.
At one point, Jesus says words that played a significant role in my formation as a person of faith. When I was in high school, sixteen or seventeen years old, something drew me to the bible. At the time I was not very interested in church or attending worship services. I did not actively participate in our church youth group. No one who knew me would have considered me a spiritual person. But I was interested in Jesus. I had been given a cool translation of the New Testament titled, “Reach Out.” It was a copy of the New Testament written in contemporary language. It was not a literal translation. It was more of a paraphrase, written so a young person could understand it. At the end of the day, at the end of every day, I would open that paraphrase of the New Testament and read a chapter or two. I did not read the whole New Testament. I got lost in Paul’s letters and I was not even remotely ready for Revelation. But I was fascinated with Jesus. I wanted to learn more about Jesus. So I read the gospels over and over again.
It was during this time that I read the verse from today’s passage where Jesus says, “He who is not with me is against me…” (Matthew 12:30) This particular verse is one of those that appears in exactly the same form in the gospel of Luke, chapter 11 and verse 23. I must have been reading from Luke at the time, because when I read the words, “He who is not with me is against me,” those words made me stop and take notice. Something troubled me about what Jesus said. You see, just two chapters earlier in Luke 9, when the disciples encountered someone who was not with them, Jesus had told them, “Whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:30) That was a watershed moment for me. Looking back, I see I was starting to try to understand the words of Jesus, to make sense of them, to wrestle with them, to try to incorporate them into my life. I felt like I had come upon a contradiction. I turned back and forth between Luke 9 and 11 many times asking what Jesus might have meant in two passages that were so different. Now reading those words of Jesus again, the words where he says, “He who is not with me is against me,” I give thanks to God that he has given us a book we can wrestle with, examine and explore, compare and contrast, all in an effort to know Jesus better and understand him more fully.
Jesus tells about an evil spirit who comes out of a house only to return later and find the house unoccupied. The house had been emptied out of the evil spirit, but nothing had come in to fill that empty place. Around the time I was first learning to wrestle with God’s word, I realized there was a deep emptiness in my heart. I was searching for someone to fill that emptiness. I am so grateful God did not leave my heart empty. Jesus Christ himself came in and filled my heart, filled my life, giving me a sense of meaning and purpose, a sense of joy and peace that has sustained me now for more than forty years.
A children’s song says, “Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart Lord Jesus. Come in today, come in to stay, come into my heart Lord Jesus.” When my heart was empty, Jesus came in to stay. He will do the same for you.
“The idea of an unforgivable sin, axiomatic to first-century Jews and Christians, is problematic to modern Christians, because it seems to set limits on God’s ability to deal with even the worst sinners. It is probably that Jesus and others who espoused the idea of an unforgivable sin did not by any means intend thereby to restrict God but wanted instead to emphasize as strongly as possible that human resistance to God is ultimately futile. God’s patience with those who insist on calling good evil and evil good will come to an end. Innumerable Christians have tormented themselves unnecessarily by the thought that they are guilty of the unforgivable sin. As wise interpreters have frequently reminded us, those who worry about the unforgivable sin cannot be guilty of it!” (Douglas Hare, Matthew, 140, 141)