Double-minded and Backbiting

Week 52 | Section 61

Double-minded and BackbitingOur reading today is one of three passages in the Harmony of the Gospels that render ink to the harsh saying of Jesus.

In this instance, Jesus calls the pharisees “a brood of vipers” and challenges not only their logic but their motives and priorities.

This is a passage that many irenic Christians would rather skip over, however it provides disciples the opportunity to explore several important spiritual truths including: conflict, kingdom-mindedness, peace-keeping, discernment, admonishment, spiritual warfare, the day of judgement, and Christian virtue.

[one_half last=”no”]Scripture:
Matthew 12:22-37

22 Then one possessed by a demon, blind and mute, was brought to him1 and he healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw.2 23 All the multitudes were amazed, and said, “Can this be the son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees3  heard it, they said, “This man does not cast out demons, except by Beelzebul, the prince of the demons.”4¯5 25 Knowing their thoughts,6 Jesus said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?7 27 If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your children cast them out?8 Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then God’s Kingdom has come upon you.9  29 Or how can one enter into the house of the strong man, and plunder his goods, unless he first bind the strong man? Then he will plunder his house. 30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who doesn’t gather with me, scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against10 the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is to come. 33 “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good, or make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You offspring of vipers,11¯12¯13 how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. 35 The good man out of his good treasure brings out good things, and the evil14 man out of his evil treasure brings out evil things.15  36 I tell you that every idle word that men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.16 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”17¯18[/one_half][one_half last=”yes”]Scripture:

Mark 3:20-30

20 The multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 When his friends heard it, they went out to seize him: for they said, “He is insane.”

22 The scribes19  who came down20 from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul,” and, “By the prince of the demons he casts out the demons.” 23 He summoned them, and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?21 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.22 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 If Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he can’t stand, but has an end.

27 But no one can enter into the house of the strong man to plunder, unless he first binds the strong man; and then he will plunder his house. 28 Most certainly I tell you, all sins of the descendants of man23 will be forgiven, including their blasphemies with which they may blaspheme; 29 but whoever may blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation.”  30 —because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”[/one_half]

Group Dialog:

  1. How has fear caused you to react irrationally in the past?
  2. Talk about the difference between intuition and the spiritual gift of discernment.
  3. Have you ever felt the Lord admonish you? What lesson did you learn? How did your attitudes and actions change afterwards?
  4. Do we care more about church growth or our personal well-being or are we most concerned with advancing the Kingdom of God? What would it look like if we shifted our priorities in ministry to be the Kingdom of God?
  5. What is the fruit of your current ministry? If there is little, can you identify that you are in a season of ministry? Which one? What are you and the team doing then to pass through this season and prepare yourself for the fruit bearing season?
  6. How do you think we should deal with conflict, differences of opinion, or wrong teaching within your congregation, the Church, or your community?

Study Notes:


Matthew Follows Jesus

Week 33, Section 47 a,b

Summary: This week our study challenges us to consider not only what we might need to leave behind in order to follow Jesus, but also the grace of God to every person no matter how proficient or profane a sinner we might be.  It also indicates that each individual also brings a certain value to God’s eternal purpose – for Matthew was most likely more wealthy and educated than the other 11 apostles.  To those discipling others the power of Jesus’ words to the pharisees at the close of our story should cause us reason to pause, examine our own lives in humility given the purity of God’s righteousness.

Harmony Bible Radio

Matthew 9:9-13 Mark 2:13-17 Luke 5:27-32 John
9 As Jesus passed by from there, he saw a man called Matthewa sitting at the tax collection office. He said to him, “Follow me.”b He got up and followed him. 10 As he sat in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw it, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”c 12 When Jesus heard it, he said to them,“Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. 13  But you go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”d 13 He went out again by the seaside. All the multitude came to him, and he taught them. 14 As he passed by, he saw Levia, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax office, and he said to him,“Follow me.”b And he arose and followed him. 15 He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners sat down with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many, and they followed him. 16 The scribes and the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why is it that he eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?c 17 When Jesus heard it, he said to them,“Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”d 27 After these things he went out, and saw a tax collector named Levia sitting at the tax office, and said to him, “Follow me!”b 28 He left everything, and rose up and followed him. 29 Levi made a great feast for him in his house. There was a great crowd of tax collectors and others who were reclining with them. 30 Their scribes and the Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?”c 31 Jesus answered them, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. 32  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”d No Record Provided

** Our online text is from the World English Bible, rights to use this format are granted by Michael Johnson. If you would like to obtain a copy of Thomas & Gundry’s Harmony of the Gospels (NIV) in our exclusive letter-size, loose-leaf PDF, then please contact us via email or phone.    

Study Notes:

Matthew was a Galilean Jew, working for the Roman government as a tax collector, so Matthew wasn’t liked very well by his countrymen. Since during this time the Romans ruled Israel politically, most people considered it treachery for a Jew to work in such a position. Matthews Jewish name was Levi (Mk 2:14,15; Lk. 5:27-29) and he was probably given the Greek name Matthew which means after he became a disciple. After perhaps fifteen years he went out as a missionary. History makes it clear that he went into Persia, and perhaps to the Ethiopia in Africa as taught in Catholic tradition. It is said that Matthew was martyred in Egypt upon his return from Ethiopia but this is not certain. Another tradition asserts that Matthew was martyred in Parthia.
“Follow me” its a foreign concept and difficult discipline for those who want to be in control of their life. IT literally means to follow, and also means to become a disciple, learning from the master, and ascribe allegiance.  View the BLB lexicon to read several more places in scripture that use the same term <follow>.
c The pharisees strictly followed the Levitical law and expected other to do so too – especially Jesus who had recently called himself the “son of man” a title that indicated his being the Messiah.
d Hosea 6:6 (BLB)

Watch 2 minute clip


Song:  “Things we leave behind” by Michael Card 


Along the River Jordan

Week 14 | Sections 22, 23

Along the River JordanThis week we wrap up the first phase of Jesus’ life and ministry.  We want to stress to you the importance of our spiritual foundations and the faith experiences we are provided in life (as well as those we provide our children, friends and new church members).

These iconic experiences are like spiritual cairns or thresholds in the believers life which later serve as touch points that allow us to express our faith and relate with others. Of course, it redemption calls for surrender; and those who continually seek God shall find him and be blessed by his grace, mercy, and power.

Scripture Passages:

Section 22
[one_half last=”no”]Matthew 3:7-10
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees1 coming for his baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers,2 who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?3¯4  Therefore produce fruit5 worthy of repentance! Don’t think to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham6 for our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 “Even now the ax7 lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire.[/one_half]

[one_half last=”yes”]Luke 3:7-14
7 He said therefore to the multitudes8 who went out to be baptized by him, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore produce fruits worthy of repentance, and don’t begin to say among yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father;’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones! 9 Even now the ax also lies at the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire.” 10 The multitudes asked him, “What then must we do?” 11 He answered them, “He who has two coats, let him give to him who has none. He who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what must we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than that which is appointed to you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, saying, “What about us? What must we do?” He said to them, “Extort from no one by violence, neither accuse anyone wrongfully. Be content with your wages.”[/one_half]

Section 23

[one_third last=”no”]Matt 3:11-12
11 I indeed baptize you in water for repentance, but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.


12 His winnowing fork9 is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.”[/one_third]
[one_third last=”no”]Mark 1:7-8
7 He preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and loosen.10 8 I baptized you in water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”11[/one_third]
[one_third last=”yes”]Luke 3:15-18
15 As the people were in expectation, and all men reasoned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he was the Christ, 16 John answered them all, “I indeed baptize you with water, but he comes who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to loosen. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire, 17 whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor, and will gather the wheat into his barn; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”12 18 Then with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.[/one_third]

Group Dialog:

  1. What stirs up conflict within you and among your family, friends and neighbors? What do you do to mediate these conflicts?
  2. How has your life changed as the fruit of the Holy Spirit has become more prevalent throughout your life?
  3. Begin a conversation about eternal life (heaven and hell) and that of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
  4. What does it take to produce good fruit? How do you go about doing that?

Learning Objectives:

grace, repentance, transformation, conflict, law, baptism, salvation, humility, fruit of the spirit

Study Notes: