Daily Devotions


Day 193

An Attempt at Civilty

Text: Matthew 12 : 38 - 50

Matthew recorded a number of occasions when a group either of scribes or of Pharisees criticized Jesus. Let’s take a quick look at some of those incidents.

1. Scribes

a) Accused Jesus of blasphemy

The scribes when they heard Jesus declaring that the sins of the paralytic were forgiven jumped at those words! They concluded that Jesus was a blasphemer (Matthew 9:3)

b) One scribe asked to be a disciple

Matthew noted an interesting development. One of the scribes actually asked to follow Jesus. However, he was turned down (Matthew 8:19-20).

2. Pharisees

a) Criticized Jesus for mixing with tax collectors and sinners

The Pharisees were critical of Jesus’ fellowship with the tax collectors and sinners. They were even more surprised when He called Matthew to be a disciple (Cf. Matthew 9:9-11).

b) Criticized Jesus of being in league with Beelzebub

Matthew noted twice this disparaging remark made against Jesus (Matthew 9:34; 12:24). These remarks were aimed at casting aspersions on the character and reputation of Jesus.

c) Criticized the disciples of Jesus for breaking the Sabbath

In criticizing Jesus, the Pharisees were indirectly finding fault with Jesus! If He had been a good teacher, then His disciples would not be Sabbath-breakers (Matthew 12:2).

3. Scribes and Pharisees mentioned in the same breath

Jesus mentioned both groups in the same breath on one occasion. Let us recall what He said.

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness
Exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees,
You will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

a) The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was just veneer

The scribes and Pharisees were very careful about the external formalities of their religion! There never was a genuine relationship with God based on faith and love!

b) Jesus was never impressed with their so-called righteousness

Their “righteousness” would never get them into heaven. Thus anyone who wishes to enter into God’s kingdom had better be able to speak of having true righteousness.

The scribes and Pharisees shared enough common theological ground to work together against Jesus. They now attempted at being civil when they spoke to Jesus.

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying,
‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.'”

Perhaps they figured that if they were to combine forces, they would be better off! On their own, they had been unable to make any headway in their assaults.


Matthew had already noted that the Pharisees had begun plotting to kill Jesus (Matthew 12:14). How genuine could the words of these people be, when they were secretly planning to kill Jesus? Did they call Him “Teacher”? He was certainly not taken in by the words they used when they spoke to Him this time round. They appeared to have made a legitimate request. If Jesus wanted them to believe in Him, should He not show them a special sign (or two) to prove that He was the Messiah?

Jesus rounded on them and exposed them for what they were. Solemnly He pronounced these scathing words to the scribes and Pharisees.

“But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and
adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no
sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet
Jonah. For 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.’ ”
MATTHEW 12:39-40

Similar words, perhaps a little less harsh, were spoken by Jesus when He rebuked the cities of Bethsaida, Capernaum and Chorazin in particular.

“But to what shall I liken this generation?
It is like children sitting in the marketplaces
and calling to their companions and saying,
‘We played the flute for you,
And you did not dance,
We mourned to you,
And you did not lament…’
Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most
of His mighty works had been done,
because they did not repent.”
MATTHEW 11:16-17, 20