Summary: What is the unforgivable sin? How do we avoid it?
The Unforgivable Sin: An Exposition of Mark 3:20-35
The fact that Jesus states that there is a sin one can commit which cannot be forgiven in either this life or the next is frightening. What is this sin? Can I commit this sin? The Christians who are terrified that they might have crossed that line live lives of fear and despair. There are others who feel that a Christian cannot commit this sin because they believe once saved, always saved. People who believe this might say that the LORD might punish them in this life, but in the end they will be saved. This could lead to a sense of false confidence. Because of this, it is imperative that we understand what this unforgivable sin is, and then answer the second question concerning whether a Christian can commit this sin. To do this we will examine the text in Mark 3:20-35, and interpret it in the light of other Scriptures which shine light upon it.
The first thing the text tells us is that a large crowd had assembles around Jesus. The fame of Jesus had spread abroad. Many were curious and went to see. Others came and believed. However, Mark points out a certain subgroup who had come. It identifies them as “His own people.” The broader context indicates that some of them were of Jesus’ own earthly family. This may have included the people of Nazareth who would have been Jesus’ cousins. They had failed to believe on Him in the synagogue. In fact, they attempted to hurl Him off the bluff and stone Him. Here it says that they thought Jesus was out of His mind. “He was beside himself,” they said. It is interesting that the Greek word here is the one we get the English “to exist” from. I guess we are all crazy if we exist. His own people, His mother, brothers, and sisters had come to take Him away because He was mentally ill or perhaps possessed of a devil. They came to take Him home and lock Him up. They were embarrassed by Jesus.
Then the Scribes came from Jerusalem and escalated the situation. They publicly declared that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. It would have been insulting enough to say that Jesus was demon possessed. But they said that Jesus was doing his great works by Beelzebub which was another name for Satan himself. We need to look further into the implications of this. By saying this, they implied that Satan was more concerned about the well-being of people than God was. There could be no greater blasphemy. It was a statement that Yahweh was not concerned with the welfare of His people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Also, nothing could be farther from the truth than that Satan cared for humanity so much that he healed them and cast out demons. They were attributing the works of God to Satan and to Satan the works of God. Yet, these Scribes claimed to be from God and doing His work.
Jesus brings their hypocrisy and blasphemy to light. If the demons came from Satan, why would He cast them out? He said that “a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” This kingdom would have to come to an end. Satan had no motive to do this. What is implies here is if Satan was not the one who cast out demons, then who did? Jesus came to bind Satan and plunder his kingdom.
Jesus then says that all matter of sins that men can be forgiven. Even the blasphemies they cat could be forgiven. But the one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven ever but will be subject to eternal condemnation. So the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the unforgivable sin. Jesus further elaborates that the cause of His reply was the the charge that Jesus had an unclean spirit. The gospels tell us that Jesus was filled with he Holy Spirit and did His works in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Scripture also tells us that Jesus performed the tasks the Father gave Him to do. So, their blasphemy went deeper than the blasphemy of Jesus’ person. We can see in the Old Testament that the works of the Holy Spirit were done by people who personally had moral failings such as Samson. Even Saul was accounted among the prophets. One can speak against their own failings. But the good works they did, they did in the power of the Spirit. They did not even accord this to Jesus. We know that their accusations against Jesus such that He was a glutton and a drunkard were false. These were blasphemies against Jesus. These were serious blasphemies in their own right as Jesus is God the Son. They are blasphemies against God also. But these blasphemies could be forgiven, for which we all are glad. It is only by God’s grace that we are enlightened to the true person of Jesus. Even Jesus own immediate family were ignorant about the person of Jesus despite the stories their mother, Mary told them about the miracle surrounding His birth. They may have even convinced Mary that her vision was delusional, although it is more likely they brought her with them to try to convince Jesus to come quietly. Perhaps Mary feared for the safety of her Son and wanted to protect Him. Mother Mary was flesh and blood just as we are. We don’t know of Mary’s motives, but she came along to beckon Jesus to come home with them. As bad as his brothers and sister’s behaved as they had not yet been converted, later James and Jude became leaders in the church. This is proof that blasphemies about Jesus can find forgiveness and should serve to encourage us.