Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. 
In our day, there is propaganda phrase that has become very popular among political rivals lobbing accusations: fake news. It means what it suggests, that a reported event has been made up or deliberately taken out of context. In the 1990’s it was called “spin.” In the days of my youth, during the Cold War, fake news was called “disinformation.” In the Garden of Eden, it was simply called “what the Serpent said” because Satan is the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). In this passage, we see him spreading fake news about the source of Jesus’ undeniable power.
In this study we call “The Invisible War,” we spent several weeks telling you that Satan and his fellow-fallen-angels exist, and they are very powerful. They seek to destroy the image of God in mankind and to oppose God’s plan of redemption in any way possible. Now, we’re taking a look at gospel passages that tell us who Jesus is and show us that he is infinitely more powerful than the transcendent forces of evil. The invisible war is not between equal opposing forces, but between the all-powerful God and his puny creatures. It’s a war already won in Christ’s incarnation, earthly ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension.
Last week, we saw that demons not only work by personally torturing people; they also look for opportunities to hurt as many of God’s image-bearers as they can. By entering a herd of 2,000 pigs and running them off a cliff the demons were destroying the area’s banking system. Pigs were wealth in a Gentile agrarian society. The demons bankrupted numerous families in one foul act. They don’t have to “possess” people in order to bring about misery. They can inhabit and influence entire systems. In Revelation, we saw entire political and economic systems given over to the control of the devil and his minions. By letting the demons destroy 2,000 pigs, Jesus is teaching that all the wealth in the entire world meant nothing to him compared to the cost of one lost human soul he came to seek and save.
Messiah Jesus’ power to save and re-create is infinitely greater than that of the non-elect and rebellious angels he created. Isn’t it interesting in Mark 4 as they were crossing the lake with Jesus, the disciples asked, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mk. 4:41) when Jesus calmed a storm. But the demonized Gentile and his demonic torturers proclaimed him “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” (Mk. 5:7). What the disciples didn’t yet understand, the demons knew perfectly well. And they trembled in terror of their coming judgment. They know their war is lost already.
You might look at our text this morning and think to yourself that the people in Jesus’ day had a very primitive view of how the world worked. You might think it’s primitive that people used to believe in demons because they didn’t understand modern medicine. People in Matthew’s day didn’t understand diseases and mental illness and epilepsy. They were simplistic and naïve. “Maybe that’s the case of many ancient people, but not so of the Bible. As a matter of fact, the biblical understanding of demons is part of the most complex, least simplistic, least naïve, most multidimensional, most nuanced view of reality [that] exists.”
Bible makes distinction between the demonized and those with mere physical diseases. Listen to Matthew 4:24:
“Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. ”
The word that the New King James Version translates “epileptics” literally means those “touched by the moon.” That’s where we get our English word “lunatic.” The word was used for mental illness as well as epilepsy in Greek. And the Bible distinguished those mental and physical conditions from those with only spiritual illnesses. It’s likely that those demonized could also have mental and physical illnesses as well. The weak are easy targets for the prowling fallen angels of the evil realm. Illnesses can be psychological, physical, moral, or demonic. And all those conditions can be present in the same victim.
In our text, Matthew diagnoses this blind, mute man as “demonized” or “demon-oppressed” (verse 22). The man could not talk in order to call out to Jesus to save him, nor could he see his way to come to Jesus. His friends brought this helpless sinner to the Savior, and Jesus healed him immediately. We aren’t told if those friends and family knew the man was demonized when they brought him to Jesus. All they knew was that he was in drastic need of healing. But it’s clear the Pharisees recognized this as demonic persecution. Matthew doesn’t tell us exactly how Jesus took care of the demon – just that he healed the man. I believe it’s written this way, rather “matter-of-factly,” to emphasize Christ’s unique power. There was a demon oppressing this poor man. Jesus healed him effortlessly and immediately. End of story. In Matt. 9:33, the writer simply says Jesus “cast out a demon”. In 17:18, he writes Jesus rebuked a demon.
In Matthew 9, Matthew recorded that the Pharisees had begun to circulate the fake news story that Jesus “casts out demons by the prince of demons.”  They had to say something because crowds marveled at Jesus’ effortless power over demons. In Matthew 9, the people said, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” Here in our text, the amazed people following Jesus have now begun to ask, “Can this be the Son of David?” This is the first time Messianic language has been used by a crowd in response to Jesus’ ministry. Matthew uses “Son of David” as a title in connection with Jesus’ healing ministry in particular. In Jewish legends, Solomon was said to have power over demons. Magic potions and amulets used by the Jews to cast out demons were said to have been devised by Solomon, son of David. So, the Pharisees become even more specific and emphatic with their fake news, “24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
This isn’t the first time the Pharisees have seen Jesus’ effortless power over the dark forces. By this point in Jesus’ ministry they have begun to follow him from town to town to discredit him, publishing their fake news to counteract his increasingly obvious Messianic miracles. “‘Beelzebul seems to be an alternative popular name for Satan (the term Jesus uses in responding to the charge, v. 26). The …commonest name for the chief demon is Satan, but we find also Belial, Beliar, Mastema and Azazel. The form Beelzeboul …suggests an original link with the Canaanite god Baal….” That is as offensive a charge as the Pharisees can muster. Remember, Israel, as the children of Abraham, were exiled from their promised land and sent back to the place of Abraham’s birth – Babylon (Ur of the Chaldees). The exile was God’s judgment for their worship of foreign demon-gods, Baal being one of the most popular. The Pharisees arose as a party of devout post-exile Jews determined to stamp out foreign idol worship in the Israel of Jesus’ day as one of the means to usher in their own version of the Messianic Age.
Their fake news is calculated to associate Jesus not only with Satan, but Satan as Baal – the very reason for Israel’s judgment and exile. This is one of the ways Matthew is picturing the Israel of Jesus’ day as exactly like the land of Egypt at the time of the Exodus. Israel, like ancient Egypt in Moses’ time, had become a land utterly hostile to God’s people. In Matthew, Herod is the new Pharaoh murdering Hebrew children. Teachers of the law are blind guides and children of Satan. The long-expected Messiah is rejected precisely because he IS God.
Jesus’ response to the Pharisees charge of his connection with Baal further down in 12:43-45 shows this upside-downess clearly. He tells this parable about Pharisaic Israel:
43 When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation. 
The Pharisees have swept Israel’s house swept clean of outward “Baal” idols and filled their house with Satan himself by worshipping their own self-righteousness. Their idol of salvation by works of the Mosaic law has invited in the demonic forces. They are bound to the devil in their hatred of Messiah. Alfred Edersheim wrote:
So this house, swept of the foulness of heathenism and adorned with all the self-righteousness of Pharisaism, but empty of God, would only become a more suitable and more secure habitation of Satan; because, from its cleanness and beauty, his presence and rule there as an evil spirit would not be suspected. So, to continue the illustrative language of Christ, he came back ‘with seven other spirits more wicked than himself’—pride, self-righteousness, unbelief, and the like, the number seven being general—and thus the last state—Israel without the foulness of gross idolatry and garnished with all the adornments of Pharisaic devotion to the study and practice of the Law—was really worse than had been the first with all its open repulsiveness.
Far from being truly devoted to God, the teachers of the law are part of a demonically influenced system. This is upside downess. Jesus considers the Pharisees’ self-righteous grace-plus-works scheme (faithful works or working faith) to be demonic, straight from the pit of hell. That is why Paul held so very firmly to the doctrine of salvation by trust into Christ alone totally apart from the works of the Law. “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” 
In 12:3-8, Jesus divides the universe into two kingdoms: The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. He counters their fake news beginning in verse 25: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.”
First, Jesus teaches that Satan has a kingdom. That is something foreign to Rabbinic teaching. The teachers of the law believed Satan and demons were fallen angels. They also believed in numerous other kinds of malevolent spirits. But they had no concept of these beings as being any kind of organized kingdom opposed to the work of God. Yet, Jesus’ teaching is certainly logical. Satan is jealous over his possessions. Why would he willingly free one of his captives? Why would he willingly stop torturing this blinded and mute man? Why would he give up any of his power?
Second, Jesus points out that the teachers of the law themselves had disciples who cast out demons (v. 27). Exorcisms by the Jews always used magic charms, and formulaic rituals. They called upon God and Solomon. Jesus argues their exorcisms were certainly not by anything other than God’s power. How could they claim that Jesus did his work by Satan’s power while maintaining that they performed their ritualistic-magical exorcisms by God’s power?
We might question whether the Pharisees’ disciples were actually able to perform exorcisms, but Josephus is one fairly reliable historian who says they did. In his Antiquities (VIII, ii, 5) and again in The Jewish War (VII, vi, 3), he provides several such accounts. In the first of these works he claims to have seen an exorcism himself: “I have seen a certain Eleazar, a countryman of mine, in the presence of Vespasian, his sons, tribunes and a number of other soldiers, free men possessed by demons.” He reports in some detail how this was done by the use of certain magic tree roots obtained through particular rituals and by incantations that always used specific names of God.
But Jesus never used rituals or magic charms and he never appealed to a higher power. He simply spoke and immediately the demons fled. That’s what frightened the Pharisees and enthralled the people in Matt. 9 and here in Matt. 12. They could not deny his power. “29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.” His effortless power over the forces of evil was his announcement that the Kingdom of God had come. It was breaking into Satan’s Kingdom to rob the devil of his captives. The teachers of the law taught that Messiah would display God’s power over the demonic realm. All the scribes and Pharisees could do was spread fake news about the source of his power, hoping if they repeated the lie often enough people might begin to believe it.
Finally, Jesus judges the purveyors of fake news, “30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” 
Jesus flatly preaches that no one can be neutral about him. Everyone must decide because he is ushering in his Kingdom. Neutrality is impossible. “The reason for this is that Jesus always demands a decision. He requires a deliberate submission to his rule. He calls us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him (Matt. 10:38). If we do not submit to Jesus’ rule, we are not ‘for’ Jesus. We are resisting him.” Some may fool themselves into believing they are neutral about Jesus’ claim to be the King of the Cosmos; but others, like the Pharisees, actively, willingly give themselves over to Satan’s kingdom. They willingly publish fake news about Messiah Jesus.
As one writer notes:
Their guilt lay in treating that as Satanic agency which was of the Holy Ghost; and this, because they were of their father the Devil, and knew not, nor understood, nor yet loved the Light, their deeds being evil. They were not children of the light, but of that darkness which comprehended Him not Who was the Light. And now we can also understand the growth of active opposition to Christ. Once arrived at the conclusion, that the miracles which Christ did were due to the power of Satan, and that He was the representative of the Evil One, their course was rationally and morally chosen.
Once they settled on their course, there was no reasoning with them. Jesus, from this point in his ministry, would only pronounce prophetic judgments upon them. Their perversion of all that is high and holy, denouncing the miraculous testimony of the Holy Spirit as if he were the evil one represented sin in its absolute completeness. The Pharisees saw their reasoning as rational and moral. But, according to Jesus, their mindset had only opened them up to the seven-fold spirit – the fullness – of evil (12:24). To call Satanic the Holy Spirit – who is the very agent of repentance and deliverance – leaves the Pharisees permanently bound to their father the devil.
This is the upside-downess Matthew loved to portray for us. The teachers of God’s holy law had hopelessly and blindly given themselves over to demonic influence from which they would never cry out for deliverance. Their entire system of doctrine was demonic. They were completely blind to and mute regarding the grace of God in Messiah Jesus.
Yet, here was one demonized man completely unable to see Jesus for himself. Unable to cry out for deliverance. So helpless was he that he had to be brought to Jesus. He was completely unable to come of his own free will. On him – a man so useless he is as good as dead, so lost he cannot find his way, so “least” that not one disciple of the Pharisees had ever undertaken to exercise him of his demons – on this last, lost, least, little, and dead man Jesus poured out his liberating grace.
You cannot commit the unpardonable sin of the Pharisees. It was a specific sin in a specific time of Jesus’ ministry and a specific judgment of Messiah on the false teachers of Israel. BUT you CAN go willingly to hell as easily and freely as those Pharisees. You can stay neutral about Jesus. You can reject him freely. Or, you can simply ignore him. Then, exactly like the Pharisees, you too will remain captive in the Kingdom of Satan while feasting upon his fake news. Give ear to the words of liberation this morning:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 12:22–32.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mk 4:41.
 Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
 The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mt 4:24.
 James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 212.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 9:34.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 9:33.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 12:23.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 12:24.
 R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 478.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 12:43–45.
 Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. 2 (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1896), 201.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 14:23.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 12:25–29.
 Boice, 213.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 12:29.
 Edersheim, 2.198.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 12:30–32.
 Boice, 214.
 Edersheim, 1.575.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 2:8–15.