Readings: Genesis 3:8-15 | 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 | Mark 3:20-35
“The Sin Against The Holy Spirit”
Guest Pastor Bruce Ley
Text: Mark 3:20-35
20Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21But when His own people heard , they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”
22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” 23So He called them to and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25“And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26“And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. 27“No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.
28“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29“but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”; 30because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
31Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. 32And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” 33But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35“For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”
Grace, Mercy and Peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
St. Mark tells us: ‘The multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard , they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.” ’ This thought of Jesus being “out of His mind” in the eyes of “His own people” surprises and saddens me. We don’t know specifically to whom “His own people” refers, but this very statement indicates it is someone who, by all rights, should have known better.
Now this idea of being “out of His mind” is just another way of saying that the people who have come “to lay hold of Him” are convinced of the need to protect Jesus from Himself. From my perspective this is one mighty fine example of how Jesus’ teaching on “The Sin Against the Holy Spirit” reveals the depths to which any person may fall under the right circumstances. Thus, it is good to heed St. Paul’s warning: “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Well, if the response of “His own people” surprises and saddens us, the response of “the scribes who came down from Jerusalem” shocks and stuns us! I mean, think for a minute about who it is that is saying of Jesus: “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” These are not ordinary people, these are scribes! These are the very scholars and authorities on the OT Scriptures. Many in fact were interpreters and powerful leaders in both parties of the Jews. Truly it is amazing, that the very ones who should know the OT best, say to the one who is the fulfillment of the OT: “[You have] Beelzebub,” and “By the ruler of the demons [You] casts out demons.” These doctors of the Law are literally slandering Jesus by accusing Him of devil-possession. What blasphemy!
What about your response to this God-Man, Jesus Christ? How do you view some of His tougher sayings? For instance, these words from St. Matthew: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; “and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his household.’ Jesus concludes these tough words with this: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:34-37). Maybe, before we’re too quick to judge the “scribes” in this world, or even “His own people,” we need to take a deep look into our own hearts!
Well, before we dig ourselves into a hole we would just as soon not be in, let’s return to our text and see how Jesus handles the “scribes” comment about Him having “Beelzebub” and “casting out demons by the ruler of the demons.”
Jesus, the master-teacher, shows us how best to handle someone’s illogical questions. Take up their line of reasoning and see where it leads. This Jesus does in a masterful way with these words: “How can Satan cast out Satan? “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. “And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. “And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.” Clearly, the illogical reasoning of the scribes is completely exposed as faulty and futile.
Now before going on to see Jesus completely destroy their logic, think about your household, your congregation, the NW district, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Can households, congregations, districts, or our synod hope to stand if it “is divided against itself?” Maybe you haven’t thought about, but the smaller the unit that “is divided against itself” the greater will be the division at the levels above it. And in a society with a 50% divorce rate — and it isn’t any better in the Church — it is not hard to imagine how difficult it is for congregations, districts and synod to walk together when families don’t walk together, but are in fact “divided against themselves.” Now what I am about to say may not be very popular today, but it is the man of the family whom God holds primarily accountable for harmony in both the family and the Church.
Moving on, we learn that Jesus is not yet done exposing the scribes deficient logic. He immediately adds these words: “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.”
What does Jesus mean by these additional words about “a strong man” having to be bound before anyone can “plunder his house?” The thought here is one of complete victory — and it must be established before any plundering takes place. Now, Jesus’ warnings here is meaningless if Satan is not the personal being he is represented to be throughout the Scriptures from Genesis 3 onward. So, in spite of the worlds jokes about Satan, you need to know that he and his minions are very real, very personal, and very powerful beings with whom we dare not toy — lest we get very seriously burned.
Now the really good news is that we don’t have to. Jesus, in this verse, is plainly saying that the expulsion of demons — which the scribes admit He is doing — is proof of the fact that Satan has already been conquered! How can that be, you ask, when Jesus had not yet died on the cross and rose again at this point? It is a good question since the time of the crucifixion is still several months away. If what Jesus says is true, when did He conquer Satan? Well, as far as God was concerned it already took place in the Garden of Eden when He spoke these words in our OT lesson today: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heal” (Genesis 3:15).
My friends, that is the way God’s promises always are — regardless of how hopeless and impossible it may look to us. What God promises is already accomplished in His eyes, and therefore the result of the promise can already be realized before the fact! That’s good news in light of what Jesus says next: “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter.” Now this is one beautiful promise! It matters not how serious your sin, whether it is a sin you commit by doing something or a sin you commit by not doing something. It matters not how grievous the slanderous things are that man says against God and what belongs to God — the promise of this verse is still there and it says two things to those who are repentant over their having committed those sins. First, the sins you commit are very grievous. Second, in spite of their grievous nature, those confessed sins — including “blasphemies” that have been uttered — are forgiven.
The question is, how does that stack up in the face of these words by Jesus? “He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation.”
Well first of all, remember to whom Jesus said these words. It was to the scribes who had charged Him with casting out demons by demons. That is why He adds these words in the next verse: ‘because they said, “He has an unclean spirit”.’ As a result of this, it must be concluded that “He who blasphemes — that is, speaks evil — against the Holy Spirit,” does so not against the person of the Holy Spirit, but against the work of the Holy Spirit. It means to reject the work that the Holy Spirit seeks to do in your life as God comes to you through His Word and in His Sacraments. Now because God’s promises of forgiveness, life, salvation, peace, hope, joy and the like are part and parcel with God’s Means of Grace it has to be that the cause of rejecting and not benefiting from those promises lies exclusively within each person. We are the problem!
Now Jesus in our text is not actually accusing the scribes of having already committed this unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit, … but He is sternly warning them. Great danger lies ahead for them if they continue down their present path — for in reality they had witnessed the work of the Holy Spirit casting out the demons and have said it was the devil who did it. Oh ever so close are these “scribes” to committing the unpardonable sin. Those who spurn and reject the work of the Holy Spirit are always in the gravest of danger — especially knowing how quickly life can end.
How about you, have you ever wondered if you have committed this unforgivable “Sin Against the Holy Spirit?” According to what Jesus says, there are only two possible results of any sins in our life. Sin is either forgiven — even though it is grievous — or it remains unforgiven because you refuse the work of the Holy Spirit who brings you God’s forgiveness. In the final analysis, the sin against the Holy Spirit amounts to the rejection of forgiveness itself — and that is why it is unforgivable. The truth is, he who has no faith by which the Spirit transfers Christ’s forgiveness to his account, stands unforgiven! Continuing to refuse the means by which God brings forgiveness, with all of its accompanying benefits, into your life means you are rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit. Should you reject that work up until the moment of death you will have committed that unforgivable “Sin Against the Holy Spirit.”
Now here is the point. Anyone who wonders whether they have committed this sin can rest assured they have not. For if you had you wouldn’t care, nor would you be concerned about whether you had or not. Those who are in danger of having done it, just don’t care. Even so, forgiveness is still possible right up to the deathbed so long as the man has not hardened his heart to the point that God would no longer permit him to believe — as happened to Egypt’s Pharaoh in Moses’ day. Bottom line: … receiving God’s Word and Sacraments in faith protects you from committing the unforgivable “Sin Against the Holy Spirit.” This is true because the “stronger one” — Jesus Christ — has conquered and bound Satan who now has no power over those who in faith regularly hear and feed on God’s Word.
Now there are some who may wonder why a Christian congregation would be concerned with “The Sin Against the Holy Spirit” if our very presence here is an indication that we haven’t committed it. The reason is simple — by studying it we get a glimpse of which path we are on at the moment. You see, even Jesus family was guilty of turning down a very dangerous path when Mark tells us “Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.”
Jesus response to this news tells us the danger they faced. Even though they were blood relatives of Jesus they were not at this point accepting His teaching. Rather than embrace Him and His good news that the Kingdom of God has come and He is it, they sought Him. They balked at His revelation — so much so that they desired to take Him out of this place.
Jesus however sets the record and us straight as He asks: “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” He then answers His own question: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, My sister and mother.” Now there are dozens of verses in Scripture that deal with the “will of God,” so how do we know which ones apply?
Well obviously they all apply, but most deal with things totally beyond our control or influence, for they are things that the Triune God alone accomplishes. Several however give us a clue as to what Jesus might mean. John writes: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life” (John 6:40 NKJV). Paul in Romans gives us another good clue: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2 NKJV). Paul also writes to the church at Thessolonica: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: (1 Th 4:3a NKJV). Again, he writes: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you“ (1 Th 5:16-18 NKJV). Finally Peter tells us: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God” (1 Pet 2:15-16 NKJV).
Dear friends we all know God wills us to do much more than these, but even these cause us to squirm in our seats when we realize how far short we fall. Still, the promise of Jesus in our text is irrevocable: “all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they many utter.” With a promise like that in our ears we can truly take to heart Paul’s words in our Epistle today: “we do not lose heart, even through our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). May the “renewal of that inward man” continue to be a reality in your life as you go from this place to your vocation, confident that not only have you not committed the unforgivable “Sin Against the Holy Spirit,” but you are Christ’s brother, Christ’s sister — yeah Christ’s mother as you live out your baptismal faith at the cross of Christ — the one Who crushed Satan’s head once and for all that neither sin, nor hell, nor death, nor Satan has any power over you.
And now may the Triune God keep each of you steadfast and true to that baptismal faith in which He forever marked and chose you to be His own into eternity.
In the name of of the Father, and of the † Son and of the Holy Ghost. [Amen].
“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ [unto life everlasting].”