A line is crossed when what God’s Spirit is doing in Jesus is attributed to Satan – Mark 3:22-35.
The discourse on the “unpardonable sin” begins when certain scribes arrived from Jerusalem to examine the conduct and teachings of Jesus. In the preceding paragraph, his “friends” concluded that he was “beside himself.” In the present story, the representatives from the Temple accuse him of being in league with “Beelzebul,” the Devil.
In Mark’s account, the “scribes” represent the growing opposition from the priestly authorities. In Matthew, the charge that Jesus operated in league with the Devil came after he had exorcised a demon from a deaf and dumb man, and Matthew includes Pharisees among Christ’s accusers – (Matthew 12:22-37).
- (Mark 3:22-30) – “And the Scribes who had arrived from Jerusalem were saying: He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons. And calling them near, in parables, he began to say to 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 has risen up against himself and become divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. But no one can enter into the house of the mighty one and plunder his spoils unless first he binds that mighty one, and then his house will he plunder! Verily, I say unto you, all things will be forgiven unto the sons of men, the sins and the profanities wherewithal they shall profane, but whoever will revile against the Holy Spirit has no forgiveness unto times everlasting but is guilty of an everlasting sin, because they were saying: He has an unclean spirit!”
‘Beelzebul’ means “lord of the house,” a corrupted form of the name ‘Beelzebub.’ The religious authorities could not deny that Jesus was performing miracles. Rather than deny this, they attributed them 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, but 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 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. Instead, it was being invaded by the kingdom of God.
In the parable, Jesus is the “mighty one” who is able and authorized to plunder Satan’s “goods,” men and women who were enslaved under sin and disease. John the Baptist predicted that one “mightier” than he would arrive and do this very thing. Having defeated Satan in the wilderness, Jesus was the “Mightier One” who had entered “the Strong Man’s house” and began to plunder his goods – (Matthew 3:11, 4:11, Mark 1:7, Luke 3:16, 4:13).
The Greek verb translated “blaspheme” means “to defame, revile, slander.” According to Jesus, his opponents “blasphemed” the Holy Spirit by attributing the source of his power to Satan. Not only did they refuse to acknowledge the obvious they committed 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.
This saying was both a warning and a reassurance to later hearers of his words, warning all who might reject him and attribute his works to Satan of the danger of doing so, and reassurance to all who embrace him that God will forgive every other kind of sin.
In the clause “blasphemy of the Spirit,” the Greek preposition is eis or “into, unto, for, because of.” The sense is “because of, on account of.” It described one who “blasphemes because of the Holy Spirit,” not “against” it. In other words, this sin is committed by someone who is offended by what the Spirit does.
The incident highlights the real offense of the “scribes and Pharisees,” the meeting of the needs of God’s people by Jesus offended their sensibilities. They objected to how God was working in the Messiah that He had sent to redeem Israel. Moreover, his exorcisms proved that the kingdom of God had arrived in his ministry.
- (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: Behold, your mother and brethren are outside seeking you! And answering them, he said: Who are my mother and my brethren? And looking around on them who about him in a circle were sitting, he said: Behold, 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 Mark describes the family of Jesus as being “outside,” which stresses that his immediate family was outside of his inner circle, at least at that time. He had brothers, presumably fathered by Joseph. One of them, James, later became a prominent leader in the early church at Jerusalem, but only after his 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.”
In the final clause, there is no mention of “father” among those who comprise his true “family.” In his kingdom, there is only one “Father.” And Jesus included “sisters” in his list, for the kingdom of God includes both men and women. And Luke adds that men and women who “hear and do” the word of God are the true kinsfolk of Jesus.