SYNOPSIS – A line is crossed when what God’s Spirit is doing in Jesus is attributed to Satan – Mark 3:22-35.
The story of the “unpardonable sin” begins when a group of scribes arrived from Jerusalem. In the preceding paragraph, certain individuals identified as “friends” concluded Jesus was “beside himself.” Next, representatives of the Temple authorities accused him of being in league with “Beelzebul” – (Mark 3:20-23).
The “scribes” came to examine the conduct and teachings of Jesus. In Mark, they represent the growing opposition to Jesus from the Temple authorities. In the version in Matthew, the accusation of operating with the Devil’s power came after Jesus had exorcised a demon from a deaf and dumb man – (Matthew 12:22-37).
Mark identifies the accusers – The “scribes.” Matthew labels them “Pharisees.” This is not a contradiction – Many scribes were also Pharisees.
(Mark 3:22-30) – “And the Scribes who from Jerusalem had come down were saying—He hath Beelzebul; and—In the ruler of the demons casteth he out the demons. And calling them near, in parables began he to say unto them—How can Satan cast, Satan out? And if a kingdom against itself be divided that kingdom cannot be made to stand; And if a house against itself be divided the house shall be unable to stand; And if Satan hath risen up against himself and become divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. But no one is able into the house of the mighty one to enter and his spoils to carry off, unless first the mighty one he bind, and then his house will he plunder! Verily, I say unto you—All things shall be forgiven unto the sons of men—the sins and the profanities wherewithal they shall profane; But whosoever shall revile against the Holy Spirit hath no forgiveness unto times age-abiding—but is guilty of an age-abiding sin: because they were saying—An impure spirit, he hath!” – (The Emphasized Bible).
‘Beelzebul’ means, “lord of the house,” a corrupted form of the name ‘Beelzebub.’ The religious authorities could not deny that Jesus performed miracles. Rather than deny this, they attributed his miracles to the power of Satan.
Genuine faith is not an automatic reaction to miracles. The deeds of Jesus constituted clear evidence that God was working in him; however, that evidence also demanded a decision from anyone who witnessed it – Faith or rejection.
The Greek term rendered “parable” originally meant “a setting aside.” In the New Testament, it refers to illustrations or stories used as analogies. This is the first time the word is used in the gospel of Mark.
Jesus responded with logic and common sense. How can Satan advance his realm by undoing his own works? The Devil’s dominion was under assault by the Messiah but from without, not from within. The satanic realm was not experiencing civil war but, instead, an invasion by the kingdom of God.
In the parable, Jesus is the “mighty one” who is able to plunder Satan’s “goods” – Men and women enslaved under sin and disease. John the Baptist predicted one “mightier” than he would arrive to do this very thing – (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:7, Luke 3:16).
Earlier, Jesus won a victory over Satan during the wilderness temptation. He was the “Mightier One” who now entered “the Strong Man’s house” to plunder his goods – (Matthew 4:11, Luke 4:13).
The Greek verb translated “blaspheme” means “to defame, revile, slander.” According to Jesus, his opponents committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In this case, “blasphemy” was the attribution of the source of his deeds to Satan. Not only did his accusers refuse to acknowledge the obvious, but also attributed his deeds to the power of the Devil. This was blasphemy of the worst order.
At this point, Matthew adds – “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The exorcisms in his ministry constituted evidence that the kingdom was on the move in his deeds and words (Luke reads, “the finger of God”).
Previously, Jesus had been accused of blasphemy. Here, he demonstrated just who the real blasphemers were – The very men who attributed his works to Satan – (Mark 2:7).
This saying of Jesus is both a warning and a reassurance to later hearers of his words – A warning to all who might reject him and attribute his works to Satan. A reassurance to all who embrace him that God will forgive every other kind of sin.
The Greek preposition in the clause about “blasphemy of the Spirit” is eis or “into, unto, for, because of.” The sense is, “because of, on account of.” An accurate rendering is – One who “blasphemes because of the Holy Spirit,” not “against” it. In other words, this “blasphemy” is committed by someone who is offended by what the Spirit does.
The incident highlights the real offense of the scribes and Pharisees – What God’s Spirit did to meet the needs of His people offended their sensibilities. They objected to how God was working in the Messiah that He had sent to redeem Israel. The account in Matthew adds the following words:
“But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Note well the use of the present tense on the lips of Jesus – The kingdom has arrived in the ministry of Jesus. Likewise, the gospel of Luke points to his exorcisms as evidence of the arrival of the Kingdom. His exorcisms are attributed to the “finger of God”; whereas, in Matthew, they are performed by the “Spirit of God” – (Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:20).
(Mark 3:31-35) – “And there comes his mother and his brethren, and standing outside, they sent unto him, calling him. And there was sitting around him a multitude, and they say unto him—Lo! thy mother and thy brethren outside are seeking thee! And answering them he saith—Who are my mother and my brethren? And looking around on them who about him in a circle were sitting, he saith, See! my mother and my brethren! Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother and sister and mother.” (Parallels: Matthew 12:46-48; Luke 8:19-21).
Twice the gospel of Mark describes the family of Jesus as being “outside.” This emphasizes that his immediate family was outside of his inner circle. He had brothers, presumably fathered by Joseph. One of them, James, became a prominent leader in the early church at Jerusalem after the resurrection.
Jesus did not denigrate the family unit or release his disciples from family obligations. However, the call to follow him must take priority over the natural family. “The same is my brother and sister and mother.”
Note well – In the final clause there is no mention of a “father.” In God’s kingdom, there is only one “Father.” Note also – Jesus included “sisters” in his list. The gospel of the Kingdom of God is inclusive of men and of women. The version of this incident in Luke adds further that men and women who are “hearing and doing” the word of God are the true kinsfolk of Jesus.