We’re at the final passage of scripture from Matthew 12 and wrapping up the concept of “relationship over rules.” Starting in verse 38, the religious teachers and Pharisees of the day asked Jesus to prove himself with a miracle. He responded by calling them an evil, adulterous generation and comparing them to a rebellious prophet. In all of this, Jesus pointed out that knowing and following the law did not mean the leaders of the day knew God. He finishes with these scriptures, which are common. I hear them referenced a lot, but not in context. Without the preceding verses, the section loses depth.

When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation. Matthew 12:43-45

  1. Many dwell on the “evil spirit” part of this section. That’s not the important concept. It’s clear from the wording that Jesus is telling a parable. So, Jesus could be talking about actual spirits or personifying sin.
  2. Jesus says the home is “swept and in order.” I believe he’s describing the religious teachers and Pharisees of the day. They follow all the rules and do all the rituals commanded by God. From the outside, they appear to have everything spiritually together.
  3. BUT! The house is empty. No one lives there. In John 14:23, Jesus states, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Jesus emphasized in the earlier verses that the leaders have no relationship with God and, thus, do not recognize the Messiah in front of them. The whole passage has built up to this point-the house is empty. Jesus and the father should be living there, but they are not. And because they don’t dwell there, the individual is open to even greater sin than before.
  4. Jesus ends the passage repeating that the religious teachers and Pharisees are evil and warning them of the unhappy outcome of rejecting Jesus.

Simply stated: A relationship with Christ brings salvation, not merely following the rules.

Next Tuesday, I’ll apply these concepts our everyday lives.