The Danger of Blasphemy and the Comfort of Faith - Mark 3:22-30
This is a portion of Scripture that has troubled many people. It has been debated and discussed by scholars and it has even led some to despair over whether or not they can ever be saved.
While the climax of the passage is a warning from Jesus about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (often called the unforgivable or unpardonable sin) there is more to the story than the warning. During this interaction with the scribes Jesus also provides some great comforts for Christians as He emphasizes His strength and also the forgiveness of God.
Structure – A Story within a Story
This is the first of several times in the Gospel when Mark inserts a story within a story (See 3:20-35). This literary device combines two stories that share similar themes in order to draw more attention to what’s being communicated. See notes on 3:20-21, 31-35 for more.
The Accusation of the Scribes (3:22)
- The scene – Just as Jesus’s family had done (3:20-21), the scribes traveled to where Jesus was in an attempt to silence Him. While His family had declared Jesus out of His mind, the Scribes deem that He is possessed by Satan (Beelzebul is used here as a reference to Satan).
- The seriousness of the charge – The scribes have seen the power of Jesus and have witnessed His authority. But instead of attributing His work to God, they attribute it to Satan. Not only do they refuse to believe, but they go further adrift in ascribing the work of God to Satan.
The Strength of Jesus – Jesus is stronger than all enemies and His victory is certain (3:23-27)
- The charge of the scribes is serious and Jesus is going to respond with a significant warning, but first he points out the fallacy of their logic by way of two parables. In the process He also highlights His strength over Satan and the certainty of His victory over every enemy.
- Parable One – Satan would not oppose himself (vv. 23-26) – Jesus has come bringing the kingdom of God and waging war against the forces of evil (evidenced most clearly in the casting out of demons). Jesus makes the point that if He was empowered by Satan, the devil is defeating Himself. It’s an illogical assertion on the part of the scribes.
- Parable Two – Jesus will defeat the strong man (vs. 27) – For a time Satan has a measure of influence in the world (the strong man), but Jesus has come to take back what is His. Of course, before He can ‘plunder the house,’ Jesus must bind the strong man.
- A certain victory – In these parables Jesus makes it clear that He has come, not in the power of Satan, but with power over Satan. Satan’s doom is sure (Gen. 3:15; 1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14-15; Col. 1:13-14).
A Warning from Jesus – The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (3:28-30)
- A specific sin – The context of the passage helps us consider that while the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a serious sin with serious consequences, it is also a very specific sin. The scribes were not simply saying something irreverent about God (still a sin). After witnessing the power of Christ first hand, they were ascribing the power of the Holy Spirit to Satan in a willing and flagrant way.
- A persistent Sin – While Jesus makes it clear that this sin will not be forgiven, the Scriptures are also clear that anyone who repents of sin will be forgiven (Romans 10:13; 1 John 1:9). How can these be reconciled? It seems the nature of this sin is such that it leads someone into a settled and determined state of unbelief and unwillingness to repent. So, the sin will never be forgiven because the person who has committed this sin will never come to a place of repentance.
- An assurance – The nature of this sin and its consequences seem to be such that anyone who is concerned about having committed it, probably has not. To recognize this sin and desire to repent is evidence of a heart that sees and believes in Jesus rightly. All who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus will be forgiven. If you have the desire and ability to repent, do not delay; then rest in the joy of God’s forgiveness.
- A reason for caution – While assurance is appropriate, it is also necessary to emphasize the warning of Jesus.This is a warning against a serious sin and also a caution against the deceitfulness of sin. We must take sin seriously and Jesus warns of the possibility of being completely hardened to the work of Christ (Hebrews 6:4-8) and thus being completely cut off from the forgiveness of God.
Forgiveness through Jesus – All who repent will be forgiven (3:28)
- The warning of Jesus should not be overlooked or minimized, but neither should the mercy and forgiveness of God. Jesus offers a reminder in verse 28 of God’s offer of forgiveness. All sin is seriousness and any sin is enough to condemn us to Hell, but in Christ we can be assured that our sins are forgiven. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).