Summary: A look at the unforgiveable sin. I think the distinction that I share about why criticism of Jesus is acceptable but of the Holy Spirit is not will be helpful in getting to the heart of what Jesus is trying to convey.
WHAT IS THE "UNFORGIVEABLE SIN" EXACTLY? It seems to be seeing consistently clear evidence of the Spirit’s movement and attributing it to Satan.
- Luke 12:10.
- One key truth present in both of those passages is the “house divided” discussion. Let’s look at Matthew’s version (12:22-29).
- There is an obviously good thing: a miracle of healing (v. 22). Yet the Pharisees ascribe the miracle to Satan (v. 24).
- Jesus tells that a demon exorcised by the power of Satan makes no sense. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. (vv. 26-27).
- Jesus’ comment in v. 27 of “by whom do your people drive them out” seems to be saying , “If you say I’m doing this big miracle that’s causing everyone to praise God greatly by Satan’s power, then by what power are your people doing the little miracles that cause people to praise God somewhat?”
- They are seeing a definitive move of the Spirit and inexplicably ascribing it to Satan.
- So one main point that needs to be made is that they were ascribing Godly miracles to Satan.
- A second key truth is in Mark’s version.
- This has to do with why the Luke version says that a word spoken against the Son of Man will be forgiven but blaspheming the Spirit will not be (Luke 12:10).
- The first thing that you need to understand about this passage is that it’s one of what are called “Markan sandwiches.” That is, there are several places in Mark’s gospel where the text makes a “sandwich.” A story starts, is interrupted by another story, then the original story is concluded. In each of these cases the stories are closely tied and need to be interpreted in conjunction with each other.
- In this case the “bread” part of the sandwich is found in vv. 20-21 and vv. 31-35. Both of these are about Jesus’ earthly family coming to get Him because “He is out of His mind.” In response to the call of His earthly family, Jesus declares that “whoever does God’s will” is His real family.
- In between those two parts of the sandwich is the story of the kingdom divided against itself and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
- The story opens with what I’ll call “sympathetic disbelief” – Jesus’ family loves Him but thinks that He’s lost it and so gets ready to come bring Him home. The middle part is “antagonistic disbelief” – the teachers of the law accuse Jesus of doing miracles via Satan’s power. Then the “sympathetic disbelief” story concludes with Jesus’ family actually showing up to get Him, only to have Jesus respond that His real family are those who “do. . . God’s will.”
- Another link between the two parts is the statement at the end of the first section “He is out of His mind” and the statement at the end of the second section “He has an evil spirit.” In each, there is disbelief in Jesus being who He says He is.
- So, the “sandwich” theme is disbelief in Jesus being who He says He is. This is important in understanding the “unforgiveable sin” statement. This is also key in understanding why Jesus says in Luke that speaking against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but not blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.
- There are two truths that are important to unpack that statement in Luke 12:10.
1. Jesus had no power in Himself – He was dependent on His Father.
2. Jesus’ Father administered the power through the Spirit.
- This set of passages indicates that both with Jesus and in other situations, when the Father wanted power to be displayed, He did it through the Spirit.
- This is essential to understanding the distinction Jesus makes in the Luke 12:10 “unpardonable sin” statement. Remember that Jesus was veiled in His humanity (Philippians 2:5-11). Because Jesus had voluntarily taken on those limitations, He was dependent on the Father and, through Him, the Spirit for power.
- Here’s the point: there is some sympathy for someone who looked at Jesus and didn’t understand that He was God Incarnate. He was veiled in humanity, after all. In Mark, we see that not only do His enemies not understand Him, but even His own family does not as well. That error and failure to understand could be forgiven – there was no overt, overwhelming, undeniable reason to believe Jesus was who He said He was in what He was doing by Himself. (There were many good reasons to believe, but none that were undeniable.)