These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Matthew 12:22-50 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Verse by Verse Commentary

Matthew 12:22-50

I. Blasphemy against the Spirit (22-32)
II. A tree is known by its fruit (33-37)
III. The sign of Jonah (38-42)
IV. Return of an unclean spirit (43-45)
V. Jesus’ mother and brothers (46-52)

I. Blasphemy against the Spirit (22-32)

Discussion Questions

How did the people respond to Jesus’ miracle?
What does the title “Son of David” mean?
How did the leaders respond to Jesus’ miracle?
Who is Beelzebul?
Paraphrase Jesus’ answer from verses 25-27 in your own words.
Who is the strong man in verse 29?
Who is the one entering the strong man’s house in Jesus’ example?
What is Jesus saying in verse 30?
How does that apply to agnostics?
Is there an unforgivable sin? If so, what?
Why does Jesus mention this specific unforgivable sin right now? How does the context shed light on what it might be?
What warning should we take from this verse?

Cross-References

John 8:44 – Satan is a murderer and a liar.

John 10:10 – Satan comes to steal and destroy.

Luke 10:18 – Jesus witnessed Satan falling from heaven.

Hebrews 2:14 – Jesus destroyed the one who has the power of death, Satan.

Mark 3:28-29 – Parallel passage which mentions “eternal sin” and other blasphemies will be forgiven.

Article from John Piper on the unforgivable sin – https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/beyond-forgiveness-blasphemy-against-the-spirit

Verse by Verse Commentary

  1. This man cannot be the Son of David, can He? – The Son of David is a title used  for the Messiah, since the Jews knew that the Messiah would be descended from David.
  2. Beelzebul – Originally this was a name derived from a Philistine God worshipped in Ekron. It means something like “lord of the flies.” The Jews used it to describe a major demon or sometimes for Satan himself. Here they are accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan and not by the power of God. Jesus also recognized what they were accusing Him of as seen in verse 26 where He says, ‘if Satan casts out Satan…” Their accusation shows the depth of the hardness of their hearts.
  3. Verses 25-27 – Jesus shoots holes into their logic that the miracles He was doing was by the power of Satan. What possible motivation would Satan have to cast out demons which he himself had sent to possess a person in the first place? Jesus said it best, “a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” Satan is certainly evil, but he is not dumb. Jesus goes further and turns the question back to them. If He cast out demons by the power of Satan, what power did their own sons rely on to cast out demons? In accusing Jesus they were accusing themselves by implication. If they believed their own people were relying on the power of God, then they could not rightly blame Jesus as relying on a different power. Unfortunately the religious leaders did not care about logic or reason, only unbridled hate and bias.
  4. Verses 28- 29 – In these verses Jesus warns them that the kingdom of God has come as evidenced by His miracles. By rejecting Him they were rejecting God and all the good things He offered to them. In the parable the “strong man” refers to Satan. Jesus is telling the people that He is in direct opposition to Satan. He can only do these miracles against Satan and his demons because He has already conquered Satan and won’t let him interfere. Satan and his demons are powerless to stop Jesus or the kingdom of God, because Jesus is strong enough to bind their liar in chief, Satan. Jesus is stronger than the strong man, Satan.
    1. Application: Jesus is stronger than anything we will face. He is completely opposed to sin in every form and to the worldly system around us. We can be overwhelming conquerors in all that we face if we align ourselves with Him.
  5. Verse 30 – Jesus showed that there is no such thing as neutrality. He didn’t want anyone to sit on the fence. At times some of the people refused to publicly support or oppose Jesus for various reasons. They did the same when they told Jesus that they did not know whether John the Baptist’s preaching was from God or man. Today there are many agnostics in the world. These are people who say they don’t care whether or not God exists. It is not important to them or their lives. They say that they are neutral. Jesus eliminates neutrality as a possibility. You are either with Him or against Him. There is no middle. So make up your minds. If you cast your lot with Jesus, go all the way and sell out to follow Him with everything you have.
  6. Verses 31-32 – Jesus mentions here the unforgivable sin. In Mark He refers to it as the eternal sin. In the context, the sin is ascribing works of the Holy Spirit to Satan. The reverse could also be true and this blasphemy could include ascribing the works of Satan to the Holy Spirit. Note that Jesus does not say the religious leaders have all absolutely done this already. But if they haven’t, they are very very close to that point. Perhaps they are already over the cliff. And if not they are teetering on the precipice. Note in verse 30 Jesus says that any sin or blasphemy will be forgiven, but then goes on to say that it will not be forgiven if it is against the Holy Spirit. How can we understand this? Sins are only forgiven if a person repents. Piper says in the article listed above that “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit puts you beyond repentance, and therefore beyond forgiveness.” Thus blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not an exception. Rather blasphemy against the Spirit is a sin that the person who commits it will never repent of. He will never repent of it because if a person makes these statements against the Spirit then he has shut himself off from the Holy Spirit’s work. And true repentance and regeneration is impossible without the Holy Spirit’s special work in the heart. Here is a definition of the unforgivable sin, “The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that he withdraws forever with his convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.”
    1. Application: Run from sin. Do not play with it. Do not toy with it. The more you do it the harder your hearts will get. You don’t know when you will cross over into irreversible hardness of heart. Few people feel terror at this thought of being forsaken by God because of persistent sin. God is very patient, but even His patience has a limit. The offer: all sins will be forgiven the sons of men. Repent today, because tomorrow it may be too late.

II. A tree is known by its fruit (33-37)

Discussion Questions

What does Jesus mean in verse 33 “make the tree good… or make the tree bad…?”
Were the religious leaders good or bad trees? How do we know?
What does this passage tell us about the relationship between deeds and heart?
How then can we change our hearts from the inside out?
What evil treasure had they brought forth out of their evil hearts?
What careless words had they spoken?
What careless words do we speak? Words spoken in anger?
What application should you make from the principle in verse 37?

Cross-References

Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart be acceptable to you.

Proverbs 16:24 – Gracious words are like a honeycomb.

Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth.

Proverbs 29:20 – There is more hope for a fool than for a person hasty in his words.

Psalm 51:10 – Create in me a clean heart.

Ezekiel 36:26 – I will give you a new heart.

Verse by Verse Commentary

  1. Verse 33 –  A person may be able to fake his spirituality for a while. But sooner or later his true heart and spiritual condition will be revealed by his actions. The fruit will show whether or not the tree is a good tree. In the context Jesus is saying that the religious leaders are bad trees. Their words are ugly lies, spoken out of stubborn pride and hate. Rather than welcome the Messiah, they oppose God’s own Son at every turn. Their true colors have been clearly revealed for all to see. And they are not neutral, but rather actively oppose Jesus.
  2. Verses 34-35 – Jesus calls them a brood of vipers. It is the same thing that John the Baptist once called them. Jesus boldly denounces them and their hateful opposition to God’s work. He calls their words evil. He calls their hearts evil. He proclaims that they are wholly and completely evil inside and out. It is a strong statement. And in the end it made little impact on them. I think Jesus may have said it not primarily for their own benefit since they may have been beyond repentance anyway, but instead for the benefit of the crowds who followed them. Jesus didn’t want the crowds to blindly follow their blind guides anymore.
  3. Verses 36-37 – We will have to give an answer for ever careless word. Words are important. Once spoken they cannot be taken back. We will have to give an account for each one. There is a record with all of your words inside. How would you feel if Jesus opened that book in front of all of us and started reading out all of the words that you said? What kind of words will be in that book? Prideful words? Hurtful words? Angry words? Gossip? Deceitful? Flattering? Lies? Disrespectful and rude? Curses? Or perhaps there is not many of the above category. But perhaps the words recorded in your book are largely empty. Perhaps your “book of words” is filled with meaningless words. Talk of politics and sports and movies and TV shows, etc. I hope rather that your “book of words” is filled with meaningful words. What kind of words do you think are more meaningful? Words of encouragement. Praise. Worship. Complimenting others. Testimonies. Sharing what we have learned from the Word. Let’s be intentional to guide conversations in a more meaningful direction.

III. The sign of Jonah (38-42)

Discussion Questions

What do you think motivated the religious leaders to ask Jesus for a sign?
Why did Jesus respond with such strong words rather than just honoring their request?
What sign did He promise them?
How can we understand the statement “three days and three nights” if Jesus died on Good Friday?
Why does Jesus make a comparison with Nineveh and the queen of the South? What do these Gentiles have to do with Jesus’ message?

Cross-References

Matthew 27:62-64 – The religious leaders wanted a guard until the third day.

Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, Luke 24:7, 21, 46 – Jesus would raise on the third day.

Verse by Verse Commentary

  1. They ask for a sign – Jesus refuses to give a sign on demand. He is not a parlor magician. He doesn’t do miracles just to appease their appetites or draw attention to Himself. But He does tell them He will give them one sign. It is the greatest sign of all. It is His death and resurrection. He uses the analogy of Jonah who is in the belly of the fish and then appeared live on land as a comparison to His own death and resurrection. God doesn’t ask us to believe in Him blindly. He has always been in the business of giving reasons to believe in Him. And this is no exception. The greatest reason to be a follower of Jesus is His resurrection. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, without it our entire faith crumbles and loses all meaning and merit. In Matthew 27:62-64 we see that the religious leaders remembered what He said. So they did understand this prophecy and could have seen and believed this sign if they would have been willing to humble themselves.
  2. Three days and three nights – This phrase is the center much debate. The traditional interpretation of the biblical account is that Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Resurrection Sunday. That allows for 1 complete day and two nights. It is reasonable to consider Friday and Sunday also count as a day since they are part of the day. But that would be three days and two nights, which falls one night short of Jesus’ statement here. For an explanation you can visit: https://bible.org/question/were-three-days-and-three-nights-jesus-was-grave-full-72-hours. Those who hold to a Friday crucifixion remind us that we have to understand the Bible through a Jewish cultural lense. And in their culture the statement “three days and three nights” simply means across three days. It is hard for us to understand how it could mean that, but we see a similar case of this meaning in Esther 4:16 and 5:1. We also see that the religious leaders thought it was enough to have the guard present at the tomb until the third day (Matthew 27:62-67). The Greek does not say through the third day. So in the minds of Jesus’ listeners He was saying that He would rise again on the third day, which is in fact what many other verses in the Bible say. We know that the next day was going to be a Sabbath day, which is another reason for the traditional interpretation. The Jews did have other high days or Sabbath days beyond the normal weekly ones related to the Passover festival. So some scholars rightly point that Jesus could have been crucified on Thursday. This is not a reason to get angry or divide over believers who view this issue differently. The most important thing is that Jesus was crucified and did rise again, not that his crucifixion was Thursday or Friday. For the people that become adamant about one view or another I would ask you a question, what practical difference will it make in your life whether Jesus was crucified on Thursday or Friday?

IV. Return of an unclean spirit (43-45)

Discussion Questions

What lesson is Jesus teaching the people with this parable?
What does Jesus mean “so it will also be wi