August 28, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news this morning is in Mark 3:22-30.
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
I am a lot like the scribes. I get something in my head especially some negative or judgmental attitude and then it’s the only way I can think. The scribes weren’t able to see the goodness in Jesus, his authentic relationship to God, and the power given to him to improve the human condition. So, they found themselves saying things that were patently ridiculous and when it was pointed out, had no response, no logical argument. Instead of admitting their own blindness and folly, they persisted in their prejudicial judgment of Jesus. I hate it when I’m like that and I hate it even more when it’s pointed out to me!
What about this statement from Jesus that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven? That is a stark and stunning warning. He said that whoever does so is guilty of everlasting sin, everlasting separation from God. Moloney in The Gospel of Mark explains it this way, “John the Baptist indicated that the mightier one would baptize with the Holy Spirit. At his baptism the Spirit descended upon Jesus, and took possession of him, driving him into the wilderness. From this point on, the reader is aware that the Holy Spirit of God is present in Jesus’ words and actions, driving out demons and healing the sick. To suggest that Jesus’ authority over demons comes from the prince of all evil spirits is to deny the presence of the Holy Spirit of God. This is the eternal sin. When the presence of the Spirit of God in Jesus is denied, how can God forgive? It is unforgivable to claim that the Holy Spirit of God is an unclean spirit because those making such a claim place themselves outside the domain of the all-forgiving God described in v. 28. They manifest ‘an attitude of mind…so fixed and obstinate that it forms a permanent obstacle between God and man.'”
God is willing to forgive anything. Barclay writes, “There is only one condition of forgiveness and that is penitence. So long as a man sees loveliness in Christ, so long as he hates his sin even if he cannot leave it, even if he is in the mud and the mire, he can still be forgiven. But if a man, by repeated refusals of God’s guidance, has lost the ability to recognize goodness when he sees it, if he has got his moral values inverted until evil to him is good and good to him is evil, then, even when he is confronted by Jesus, he is conscious of no sin; he cannot repent and therefore he can never be forgiven. That is the sin against the Holy Spirit.”
That’s why when I get in this place of only seeing a situation or person from a negative, judgmental attitude, I need someone to bring it to my attention or I need to listen to the Holy Spirit. I need to have my mind opened to see my sin, my error. Then, I have to be sorry that I have sinned, separated myself from God by not seeing the good in another person, by not seeing Jesus in him or her. If I persist in seeing only evil in someone who is not wholly evil, not completely severed from God, I am creating a permanent obstacle between God and me. I am sinning against the Holy Spirit of God, an everlasting, unforgivable sin. That’s how I understand this statement of Jesus. Mark keeps telling me to open my mind, to see God in a different way in order that I can be a disciple of His Son Jesus, acting in his stead.