15 But Jesus knew what they were planning. So he left that area, and many people followed him. He healed all the sick among them, 16 but he warned them not to reveal who he was.
17 This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning him: 18 “Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. 19 He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. 20 He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious. 21 And his name will be the hope of all the world.”
22 Then a demon-possessed man, who was blind and couldn’t speak, was brought to Jesus. He healed the man so that he could both speak and see.23 The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.”
25 Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 26 And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided and fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive. 27 And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. 28 But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. 29 For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.
30 Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me. 31 So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.
33 A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. 34 You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. 35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. 36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. 37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”
The Isaiah quote in today’s reading is very important. It stands as a mid-Gospel summary of everything Matthew has covered so far. Notice the secrecy theme that was so important in Mark reappears here, both in the Isaiah quote and in Jesus warning to his followers. This looks nearly opposite from our present culture’s obsession with self-promotion. Many churches give a lot of attention to branding, packaging, hyping, and creating a cult of personality around the senior pastor. Some churches (especially successful multi-sites) are very good at this and offer training, advice, and materials to help other churches follow suit. But that is not the approach Jesus took. It might be that the way we approach things like this don’t matter, as long as we’re focused on a good result. Or it might be that the way we go about things determines the result we will get, our good intentions notwithstanding.
That last part of today’s passage speaks to this question of approach and results. The results tell you the validity of the approach taken. This might seem to confirm the legitimacy of churches and ministries that attract lots of people, but crowds alone do not tell the tale. The fruit Jesus refers to here is not Sunday morning attendance. The fruit here is the very same fruit Jesus displayed: casting out demons, healing people, promoting justice and holiness. These are the marks of the kingdom of God. They don’t always package well or lend themselves to quick turnarounds for another church service, but they are the fruit of revival and revival beats successful marketing any day.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.