(Un)pardon me

by The Doctor

As you read through the Gospels, you’ll often find Jesus clashing with the religious leaders of His day. For example, these religious leaders harassed Jesus for healing people on the day of rest. They ridiculed Him for hanging out with the so-called “lower-class.” They also hammered Jesus for His failure to follow their pre-meal hand washing custom among other things. Despite this, Jesus never let their disapproval hold Him back from doing the things that God had called Him to do.

Knowing this, it’s not surprising to read this little incident found in Mark 3:20-23…

“When (Jesus) returned to the house where He was staying, the crowds began to gather again, and soon it was so full of visitors that He couldn’t even find time to eat. When His friends heard what was happening, they came to try to take Him home with them. ‘He’s out of His mind,’ they said. But the Jewish teachers of religion who arrived from Jerusalem said, ‘His trouble is that He’s possessed by Satan, king of the demons. That’s why demons obey him.'”
Think about this for a moment. Jesus -who was God in the flesh- was just called a tool of the devil by these men. Can you imagine that? Hey, what if you were Jesus and someone said that to you? What would your response be? Would you be calm and relaxed if people came up to you and said that you were “possessed by Satan”? Looking at Jesus’ response to this insult tells us a lot about His character. Rather than getting angry or upset, Jesus calmly points out just how ridiculous their argument really was…

“Jesus summoned these men and asked them (using proverbs they all understood), “How can Satan cast out Satan? A kingdom divided against itself will collapse. A home filled with strife and division destroys itself. And if Satan is fighting against himself, how can he accomplish anything? He would never survive” (Mark 3:23-27).
But then He added this warning…

“I solemnly declare that any sin of man can be forgiven, even blasphemy against me; but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven. It is an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29).
As it turns out, “blasphemy” has a pretty simple definition. “Blasphemy” involves cursing God or showing contempt and/or disrespect for God. A good example of this occurs every time someone uses Jesus’ name as a swear word or when someone uses God’s name without respect, as in “ohmigod.” These things come under the category of blasphemy because they demonstrate someone’s lack of respect for God.

At one time blasphemy was taken a lot more seriously than most people do today. For example, in the days of the Old Testament anyone who was caught cursing God would be taken outside and held while large stones were thrown at them until they died (see Leviticus 24:15-16). The possibility of a big rock flying at your head certainly tended to make most people think twice about cursing God back then, but we’re getting off the subject…

Anyway, Jesus mentioned a certain type of blasphemy here- blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This is often referred to as the “unpardonable sin,” and people sometimes wonder if they themselves might have committed it. To answer this question, it helps to look at the people to whom Jesus was speaking. The Doctor believes that in large part, the key to “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” lies in who is doing the blaspheming.

Think about this for a moment- Jesus’ comments were addressed to the religious leaders of His day. These were the guys who were supposed to know the Old Testament inside out. They were the ones who adhered to the Law of Moses, copied the writings of the prophets, sang the psalms and studied the Proverbs. They were responsible to be the teachers of God’s truth to the people yet they intentionally referred to the Son of God as someone who was possessed by the devil.

Because of their detailed study and knowledge, these men should have recognized the works of God as performed by Jesus. They should have been very familiar with the work of the Holy Spirit through their study of the Scriptures but they deliberately chose to associate the work of the Holy Spirit -the work of God- to the anti-god, Satan. So in effect, Jesus says that there is no forgiveness for anyone who knowingly and willfully says that God’s work is of the devil. To do so is like a personal insult to God.

So to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit doesn’t involve things like using bad language or even to have said something bad about the Holy Spirit. It means demonstrating open, knowing and willful disrespect to the work of God. Ultimately, the “unpardonable sin” finds its final form in someone’s rejection of Jesus as Savior. Those who reject Jesus’ work on the cross as payment for their sins can never be saved because salvation is found in no one else (Acts 4:12).

That’s why those who are concerned that they may have committed the “unpardonable sin” almost certainly have not. Anyone who purposely and knowingly attributes the work of God’s Spirit to Satan is certainly not concerned about having committed the unpardonable sin. Just the fact that someone is concerned that they may have committed this sin is a pretty good indication they haven’t. So don’t worry.

The Doctor talks a little more about the “unpardonable sin” over here