Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 18 2013 - Matthew 12:22-45 – A divided kingdom

The Pharisees could not deny the power of Jesus. The things he was doing spoke for themselves. Instead they suggested, "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons" (Matthew 12:24). Jesus knows what they are thinking and whispering to each other. He responds by saying, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?" (12:25-26). Satan would not wittingly seek to destroy his own kingdom.

As I read these words of the Lord Jesus I could not help but apply what he said to the life of the church: "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined." All too often, Christians and Christian churches expend their energy in fighting among themselves. It is inevitable that differences will arise in the life of the church; inevitable even, given our imperfection, that divisions may come – as Paul and Barnabas divided company over Mark (see Acts 15:30-41). But surely we fall out too easily and sap the strength of the Kingdom with our internecine conflicts. We need to join battle against the common enemy so that the illegitimate kingdom of Satan may be destroyed.

In particular, we need to remember that we are a people whom Christ has purchased through his own shed blood. When asked by the Jewish leaders for a sign that would give proof of his authority, Jesus replied that the only sign he would give them would be the sign of the prophet Jonah. “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (12:40). It is by his death and resurrection that he demonstrates that he is the one whom the Father has sent to be Saviour of the world. It is by his death that he has redeemed us and made us his own; it is through his resurrection that he has raised us from death to life.

If Jesus did this for us, should we not willingly give ourselves to one another? We should be ready to suffer hurt at the hands of others without turning our back on them and rejecting them. Rather than passing harsh criticism on others we should seek to understand their own brokenness and need and to deal graciously with them. We should seek to become more like our lovely Saviour of whom it was prophesied;

He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
    nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smouldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
    and in his name the Gentiles will hope. (12:19-21 cf. Isaiah 42:1-4)

A quarrelling and divided church undermines its witness to the word; it ceases to be the hope of the world.

Father in heav'n,
you saved us by your Son,
now by your Spirit
make your children one
that all may see
your kingdom here begun.
   
Jesus our Lord,
forgive our foolish pride,
heal our divisions
no device can hide;
come, heal the wounds
which spoil your chosen bride:

See how your body
is broken and torn,
mocked by the crowds and
the object still of scorn.

Come mighty Spirit
of truth and of love,
visibly fill us
with life from above.

Father in heav'n,
you saved us by your Son,
now by your Spirit
make your children one
that all may see
your kingdom here begun.

Peter Misselbrook