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Matthew  ◦   Chapter 12

1 One Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples were walking through a grain field. The disciples were hungry, so they picked some heads of grain and began to eat.2 When the church leaders saw it, they said to Jesus: "Look! Your disciples are breaking the Sabbath law — they are harvesting crops on the Sabbath."

3 Jesus smiled patiently and said: "Have you never read what David and his men did when they were hungry?4 They entered God's temple and ate the consecrated bread — which violates ceremonial law, as that bread is only for the priests.5 Or have you never read in the books of Moses that the priests in the temple work on the Sabbath, breaking the Sabbath rules, yet have done nothing wrong?6 I tell you plainly, what is happening now is much more important than the temple.7 If you understood the principles taught in Scripture, such as 'I desire sacrificial service to help others, and not ritual offerings,' you would care more about the welfare of people, and wouldn't condemn those who may have broken your rules but harmed no one.8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

9 Jesus and his disciples went to the local synagogue10 where they encountered a man with a deformed and withered hand. The theologians, trying to find a reason to accuse Jesus before the people as one who breaks the law, asked him: "Do you believe it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"

11 Jesus replied, "What do you do when, on the Sabbath, one of your sheep falls into a ditch? Don't you lift it out?12 How much more valuable is a human being, made in God's image, than a sheep! So of course it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath — to deliver people from suffering, to restore people toward God's design!"

13 He turned to the man with a withered hand and said, "Use your arm normally," and he did, and his arm was completely restored to normal.14 But the church leaders and theologians went out and plotted how they could kill Jesus.

15 Knowing what the religious leaders were plotting against him, Jesus left that place. Many of the people followed him, and he healed all their sick,16 instructing them not to make a big deal out of the fact that he was healing on the Sabbath.17 He healed them just as Isaiah foretold the Messiah would do:

18 "Here is my ambassador who I have chosen to represent me: he is the One I love, and he pleases me completely. I will fill him with my Spirit, and he will reveal to the world what justice in my kingdom is like.

19 "He will not argue to promote himself, nor cry out about life not being fair. No one will hear him complaining or accusing others of wrong.

20 "He will not discard anyone who is bruised like a reed, nor condemn anyone who is smoldering, like a wick, in sin. No! He will be victorious in doing what is right.

21 "In him the world will put their hope."

22 Then some people brought to Jesus a man who was afflicted by demons and was blind and unable to speak. Jesus healed the man, and he could immediately see and talk.23 The crowd was stunned with awe and murmured, "Could this be the Messiah, the Son of David?"

24 The Pharisees heard the crowd's growing confidence in Jesus and sought to undermine him: saying, "This is evil sorcery. It is by power from Beelzebub — lord of devils and flies — that he drives out demons."

25 Jesus knew their selfish motives and said to them: "Every kingdom that wars against itself destroys itself, and every town or home that fights against itself will collapse.26 If Satan drives out Satan, then he wars against himself. How can his kingdom survive?27 And if I free minds from the domination of demons by the power of Beelzebub, then by whose power do your people drive out demons? Your own practices reveal that you know better than to accuse me of using evil powers.28 No! We all know it is not by Satan's power that I drive off demons; it is by the power of God's Spirit — which is evidence that God's kingdom of love has arrived.

29 "Or think of it this way: How can a person enter the house of a strong man and carry away his possessions unless they first neutralize the strong man? Only then can they take what is his.

30 "Whoever is not united with me–working on my team to unite humanity together in love–is against me, causing division and disunity.31 So let me tell you plainly: Every sin–every deviation from God's design–can be healed, except the rejection of the Spirit, for the Spirit administers the Remedy which renews the heart in love.32 Anyone who speaks against the Son can still be healed, but speaking against the Holy Spirit cannot be healed, either now or in the future, for it is the Spirit that works in the heart to administer the Remedy, and the Spirit works only in a willing heart.33 Make a tree good and it will bring forth good fruit; make a tree bad and it will bring forth bad fruit — for a tree is recognized by its fruit.34 You slither and plot like a pit of vipers. Do you really think that you, who are evil in heart, can say anything good? For the true character of one's heart is revealed by what a person says and does.35 The good person speaks and does good out of the wellspring of good stored within them, and the evil person speaks and does evil out of the wellspring of evil stored within them. So, speaking against the Holy Spirit reveals that one's heart is closed to the working of the Spirit.36 I tell you plainly, every word spoken will be accounted for–an accurate symptom will be tied directly to the correct diagnosis of each person's heart.37 The words you speak reveal the true condition of your heart, either 'healed' or 'terminal.'"

38 Then some of the theologians, lawyers and pastors said to him, "Teacher, stop talking and prove yourself with a miracle."

39 He said to them: "It is a rebellious generation — one that has given their hearts to false gods — that asks for miraculous signs! But none will be given it except the sign of God's spokesman Jonah.40 Just as Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a large fish, so too the Son of Man will spend three days and nights in the heart of the earth.41 The people of Nineveh will hold you to blame for your terminal state on the day your true condition is made public, for they turned away from their destructive ways and accepted the Remedy at the preaching of Jonah–and One far greater than Jonah is here speaking to you.42 On the day your diagnosis is made public, the Queen of Sheba will stand up and hold you to blame for rejecting the Remedy and its healing, for she came from far away to listen to Solomon's wisdom–but One far greater than Solomon is here speaking to you.

43 "When the mind of a person is freed from an evil spirit, the spirit seeks another to harass. But if the spirit finds no other,44 it says, 'I will return to the one I left.' If, when it arrives, it finds the mind not filled with God's Spirit but instead empty and uncommitted,45 it gets seven other spirits more wicked than itself and infiltrates the mind with lies, temptations, and distorted thinking. And the condition of that person is worse than before, because truth no longer has any impact on them. That is how it will be with this wicked generation."

46 While Jesus was speaking to the people, his mother and brothers waited outside, wanting to speak with him.47 Someone told Jesus, "Your mother and brothers are outside and want to speak with you."

48 He replied, "Who is united with me as a mother or brother?"49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are those who are devoted to me like a mother and brothers.50 Anyone who lives in harmony with my Father in heaven, practicing his methods and following his will, is united with me like my brother and sister and mother."