Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 32: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Matthew 12:22-24; Mark 3:20-22;
22. Then was brought to him one who was tormented by a devil, blind and dumb; and he cured him, so that the blind and dumb person both spoke and saw. 23. And all the multitudes were astonished, and said, Is not this the son of David? 24. But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This man doth not cast out devils but by Beelzebub prince of the devils.
20. And they come into the house, and immediately a multitude assembled, so that they could not even eat bread. 98 21. And when those who were related to him heard it, they went out to lay hands on him; 99 for they said, He is gone mad. 100 22. And the Scribes, who had come down from Jerusalem, said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils he casteth out devils.
14. And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. 101 And when he had cast out the devil, the dumb person spoke, and the multitudes wondered. 102 15. And some of them said, By Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, he casteth out devils. 103
Mark 3:20. And they come into the house. Mark undoubtedly takes in a somewhat extended period of time, when he passes from the miracles to that wicked conspiracy which the relatives of Christ formed with each other, to bind him as if he had been a madman. Matthew and Luke mention not more than a single miracle, as having given to the Pharisees an opportunity of slander; but as all the three agree in this last clause which is contained in Mark’s narrative, I have thought it proper to insert it here.
It is wonderful that such wickedness should have been found among the relatives of Christ, who ought to have been the first to aid him in advancing the kingdom of God. When they see that he has already obtained some reputation, their ambition leads them to desire that he should be admired in Jerusalem; for they exhort him to go up to that city,
that he may show himself more openly, (John 7:3, 4.)
But now that they perceive him to be hated on one side by the rulers, exposed on another to numerous slanders, and even despised by the great body of the people--to prevent any injury, or envy, or dishonor, from arising to the whole family, they form the design of laying hands on him, and binding him at home, as if he had been a person who labored under mental derangement; and, as appears from the words of the Evangelist, such was their actual belief.
Hence we learn, first, how great is the blindness of the human mind, in forming such perverse judgments about the glory of God when openly displayed. Certainly, in all that Christ said and did, the power of the Holy Spirit shone magnificently; and if others had not clearly perceived it, how could it be unknown to his relatives, who were intimately acquainted with him? But because Christ’s manner of acting does not please the world, and is so far from gaining its good graces that it exposes him to the resentments of many, they give out that he is deranged. Let us learn, in the second place, that the light of faith does not proceed from flesh and blood, but from heavenly grace, that no man may glory in any thing else than in the regeneration of the Spirit; as Paul tells us,
If any man wishes to be considered to be in Christ,
let him be a new creature, (2Co 5:17.)
Matthew 12:22. Then was brought to him. Luke explains from the effect, that the devil by which the man was possessed was dumb; but Matthew says, that a twofold plague had been inflicted on the man. Many persons, no doubt, are blind and deaf on account of natural defects; but it is evident, that this man had become blind, and had been deprived of the use of speech, though there was no defect in his optical nerves, 104 or in the proportion of his tongue. We need not wonder that so much liberty should be allowed to Satan in injuring the bodily senses, when God justly permits him to corrupt or pervert all the faculties of the soul.
23. And all the people were astonished. Hence we infer, that there was a visible display of the power of God, which drew upon him the admiration of the great body of the people, who were not at all actuated by any wicked disposition. For how came it that all admired, but because the fact compelled them to do so? And certainly there is not one of us, who does not see in this narrative, as in a mirror, an unwonted power of God: and hence it follows, that a diabolical venom must have seized the minds of the scribes, who were not ashamed to slander so remarkable a work of God. But we must attend to the result of the miracle. Moved with admiration, those who saw it ask each other, Is not Jesus the Christ? Acknowledging the power of God, they are led, as it were by the hand, to faith. Not that they suddenly profited as much as they ought to have done, (for they speak doubtfully;) but yet it is no small proficiency to be aroused to consider more attentively the glory of Christ. Some look upon this as a full affirmation, but the words convey no such meaning; and the fact itself shows, that an unexpected occurrence had struck them forcibly, and that they did not form a decided opinion, but only that it occurred to them that he might be the Christ.
24. But when the Pharisees heard it. The scribes cannot withhold the acknowledgment of a fact so open and manifest, and yet they maliciously carp 105 at what Christ did by Divine power. Not only do they obscure the praise of the miracle, but endeavor to turn it into a reproach, as if it were performed by magical enchantment; and that work, which could not be ascribed to a man, is alleged by them to have the devil for its author. Of the word Beelzebub I have spoken under the Tenth Chapter, 106 and of the prince of the devils I have said a little under the Ninth Chapter. 107 The opinion expressed by the scribes, that there is a prince among wicked spirits, did not arise from a mistake of the common people, or from supposition, but from a conviction entertained among the godly, that the reprobate have a head, in the same manner as Christ is the Head of the Church.
“Ils ne pouvoyent pas mesme prendre leur repas;” — “they could not even take their meal.”
“Ils sortirent pour le saisir;” — “they went out to seize him.”
“Car ils disoyent qu’il estoit hors du sens;” — “for they said that he was out of his senses.”
“Un diable qui estoit muet;” — “a devil which was dumb.”
“Dont les troupes s’emerveillerent;” — “at which the multitudes wondered.”
“C’est par Beel-zebub, prince des diables, qu’il iette hors les diables;” — “it is by Beelzebub, prince of the devils, that he casteth out devils.”
“Aux nerfs appelez Optiques, qui sont les conduits de la veue;”— “in what are called the Optical nerves, which are the conductors of vision.”
“Ils ne laissent pas toutesfois de ronger, comme par despit et d’un vouloir malicieux;” — “and yet they do not fail to carp as with spite, and with a wicked disposition.”
Harmony, volume 1. p. 459.
Harmony, volume 1: p. 419. The reader must have observed that, when our Author has explained a phrase or illustrated a fact, he seldom repeats what he had said, but refers to the earlier portions of his work, in which the information may be found. It is not improbable that this may have been his leading motive for adopting the plan of a Harmony, instead of writing a separate Commentary on each Gospel. He had made some observations on Mt 9:34, But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils by the prince of the devils; and takes for granted, that the terms which occur in that passage require no farther elucidation. But it would appear to have escaped his recollection that, on the occasion alluded to, he satisfied himself with general remarks on the “wicked slander” of the Pharisees, and took no notice of the phrase, prince of the devils. The deficiency is partly supplied by an explanation which he now makes. -- Ed.