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A Pardon in His Pocket

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 12:22–50; Mark 3:20–35; Luke 8:19–21

If we find ourselves misunderstood and the truth we speak rejected, even when it is clear and obvious, we can take comfort in knowing this was our Lord’s experience as well. And like Jesus, we should use such occasions to warn and to teach those who resist the gospel.


One of the most colorful historical characters in Western history is Winston Churchill. It seemed that people either hated him or loved him. It has often been reported that one day a woman who was constantly after Churchill—a political archenemy—said to him at a public reception, “Mr. Churchill, if I were your wife, I would put poison in your tea.” Churchill responded, “Madam, if you were my wife, I would gladly drink it.”

There is little, if anything, that Churchill had in common with the Lord, except for the fact that Jesus also was either loved or hated during His public ministry.

Over our next several studies in our Wisdom Journey, as we go through the Gospels chronologically, we are going to cover the events of just one day in the Lord’s ministry. The Gospels give us the details of only fifty-two days in the ministry of Christ. Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us a lot of details about this one day, Jesus’ busiest day.

And let me tell you ahead of time, this particular day will mark the beginning of a shift from a public ministry to more of a private ministry among His closest disciples. That shift begins rather dramatically, as Jesus and His disciples return home to Capernaum. The crowds immediately gather and are in awe of His messianic claims. The problem is, the Lord's own family has a different perspective, as we are told here in Mark 3:20-21:

Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

The half brothers and half sisters of Jesus think that He has lost His mind. They come here to seize Him, to forcibly take Him away—and maybe get Him some professional counseling. Mark says they think Jesus is “out of his mind.”

At this rather chaotic moment, Matthew’s Gospel records this:

A demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” (Matthew 12:22-23)

“Son of David” here is a reference to the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.

When we combine Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts of this moment,[1] we find that the Pharisees and the scribes are pretty upset about the fact that Jesus could deliver this demonized individual. They know this was one of the messianic signs. Mark 3:22 records their reaction: “[They] were saying, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.’”

Beelzebul, the name of an ancient Phoenician god, is used here for Satan, the “prince of demons.” The scribes and Pharisees cannot deny the miracle, but they are so opposed to Jesus, they say to the crowd, “This is Satan, working in and through Jesus!”

Jesus responds, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand” (verses 23-24). In other words, “Use some common sense! If I am empowered by Satan, why would I cast out a demon? Put on your thinking cap, for goodness’ sake!”

He illustrates in verse 27 by pointing out that a burglar cannot enter the house of a strong man and rob it until he first ties up the strong man. So, Jesus is saying, “I am invading the territory of Satan, which proves I am stronger than Satan.”

Now this should have been obvious. But the minds of these religious leaders are closed to the obvious; they are rejecting the truth and claiming that Jesus is empowered by Satan, rather than God’s Spirit.

And that, beloved, is pretty serious blasphemy. Jesus says in verse 29, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” Many people call this the unpardonable sin.

But do not misunderstand. Jesus can forgive every sin. This particular sin is beyond forgiveness only because they are rejecting Jesus, who alone can forgive sin.

There is more here, within the context of Jesus offering the kingdom to Israel. This rejection of Him and claim that He is empowered by Satan becomes a part of their official national blasphemy of unbelief against their King.

Over in Matthew 12:34, Jesus goes on to say that His accusers’ blasphemy reveals their rebellious hearts. Still, these leaders ask Jesus for another sign. This would be almost comical if it were not so tragic. Remember, Jesus has just cast out a demon!

Jesus responds in verse 39, saying the only sign they are going to get at this point is “the sign of the prophet Jonah.” That sign will be Jesus’ resurrection after three days in the tomb.

To drive home the point, Jesus tells them in verses 43-45 of an “unclean spirit” that goes out of a man, only to return later to find the man still empty. The demon then moves back in, along with seven other demons, making the man’s “last state . . . worse than the first.”

This is another reference to the nation of Israel. The nation had enthusiastically responded to John the Baptist’s call to repentance—they had cleaned out their room, so to speak. But they have refused to fill the room of their hearts with the Messiah, and they are now in worse shape spiritually than they were before John’s ministry.

Mark 3 informs us of what happens next. Jesus is in a house, surrounded by a huge crowd. He has cast out a demon, and the religious leaders are blaspheming Him. Then someone arrives to tell the Lord His family is outside. They are here to take Him away for that first appointment with a psychiatrist. Remember, they think He has lost His mind.

Jesus responds in verses 33-35:

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Listen, this is true to this very day. If you believe the gospel of Christ, Jesus gives you the right to become children of God—to join His family, to belong to the family of God. Why? Because instead of rejecting Him, you have received Him.

Some time ago I read about a murderer who was on death row. His brother was a powerful politician, and in the last hour he persuaded the governor to offer a pardon to his brother.

He stuck the pardon in his pocket and headed for the prison. On the way there, he began having doubts. He thought, Maybe my brother hasn’t changed. Perhaps he will murder again.

So, instead of going to the warden, he went directly to his brother’s prison cell and asked him, “If you could somehow get out of here today, what would you do?” He immediately said, “I would kill every witness who testified against me, and I would make sure that prosecutor is dead within the next twenty-four hours.”

With a broken heart, this man left his brother’s prison cell with that pardon still in his pocket. His brother was soon executed for murder.

I want you to consider the fact that Jesus Christ has come with a pardon in His pocket, so to speak. In fact, He is the pardon because He took on Himself the payment for your crimes—your sins as well as mine. All He wants from you is a heart of humility and faith that says, “I am willing to admit my sin, ask for forgiveness, and give my life to Jesus Christ, my Redeemer and King.”

If you have not done that already, pray right now, and ask the Lord to save you—and He will.

[1] Matthew 12:24, Mark 3:22

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