Signs and Reaction: Matthew 11:2-12:50
Matthew’s narrative focuses on the signs Jesus performed and reactions to his signs and extends from Matthew 11:2–12:50. These signs demonstrated that the King and his kingdom were present, and corrected false expectations of what the kingdom would look like. As a result, the criticism that had already taken root began to grow and spread.
This series of episodes divides into five segments: In 11:2-19, Jesus assured John the Baptist that his signs proved that he was the Messiah who fulfilled Old Testament prophecies, and Jesus called for the crowds to respond to his signs with repentance. In 11:20-30 Jesus addressed the cities where he had performed miracles, and he warned the unrepentant and offered rest to those who would come to him. As he put it in Matthew 11:30:
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
In 12:1-21, Matthew begins several episodes that focused explicitly on the reactions of the Pharisees to Jesus’ signs. First, he reported how Jesus disputed with the Pharisees about God’s purposes for the Sabbath and demonstrated his authority by healing a man on the Sabbath. Jesus taught that the Sabbath is for healing and saving lives.
In 12:22-37, the Pharisees accused Jesus of using the power of Beelzebub, even as the crowds were astonished by his miracles. Rather than receiving him as the Messiah, the teachers of the law believed he was possessed by the devil.
In 12:38-50, the Pharisees hypocritically demanded another sign, but Jesus warned that they would only receive the sign of Jonah. And what was this sign? Much like Jonah’s exit from the huge fish after three days led to the repentance of Gentiles in Nineveh, Jesus’ future resurrection after three days in the earth would lead to the repentance of many more Gentiles.
To demonstrate how God would receive anyone from any nationality who repented, Jesus even went so far as to say that his natural Jewish mother and brothers were not his family. Rather, as he put it in Matthew 12:49-50:
Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.