Scarier words from Jesus you will not find:
Mark 3:28–29 (ESV) “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”
You may have wondered if you have “blasphemed the Holy Spirit” and committed the unforgivable sin. Let me first suggest that if you are seriously fearful of doing it there’s a 100% chance you haven not done it. For the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is not something you would fear doing if you were doing it.
As always, context matters in understanding these words from Mark 3. Jesus has being doing incredible miracles, people are flocking to Him for help and healing. His family doesn’t understand what is going on with Him and the religious establishment is alarmed by Him. Jesus never leaves any one indifferent.
After He performs mighty miracles which include casting out demons, the religious leaders make this declaration: “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” Mark 3:22 (ESV) It is to those words Jesus responds with an alarming warning: “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness.”
What you must understand is that Jesus did miracles not because He was God the Son, although He always is and was God the Son. Jesus did miracles as a man empowered by the Holy Spirit. Peter will say: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Acts 10:38 (ESV) In his human nature Jesus did extraordinary miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would tell people to believe on Him because of the miracles. In John 14:11 He says, “at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”
So we come to some important conclusions: Jesus was empowered to do miracles by the Holy Spirit to bear witness that He was God the Son sent to save all who were oppressed and held captive by the devil. We see the Trinity working together to present the hope of our Gospel. Our response is to believe and receive it by faith and repentance.
But the religious leaders had a problem. They did not want to receive or believe Jesus. He threatened their position, status and national peace. In John 11:48, they reason: “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” They did NOT want to believe Jesus no matter the evidence the Holy Spirit clearly presented for Jesus. So they decided to define what was so clearly a work of God as the work of satan himself. And in so doing, they blasphemed the Holy Spirit and their consciences were seared.
What do we learn?
It is possible for people to be clearly enlightened by the Holy Spirit as to who Jesus is and what He has done and still refuse to believe. Scripture refers to it as “stiffening one’s neck” leading to denial of the Christ that has been clearly presented. To do so brings a searing of the conscience that exhibits itself in zero remorse over one’s sinful state and ending in an unrepentant heart before God.
YET do not miss that though the religious leaders were in danger of such sin in Mark 3, Jesus was not yet pronouncing them guilty in this text but rather calling them away from an inalterable state.
The religious leaders were met with a serious conundrum. To believe in Christ would bear upon their lives very real behavioral and lifestyle changes. They would have to give up the life they were trying to maintain in order to gain the life Jesus offered – forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. Sadly, they are not the only ones who struggle to do so. So many people come very close to the Lord Jesus only to be scared off by the demands He makes on their lives: the families they may have to disappoint, the friends they may lose, the lifestyle choices they will have to forego. Yet for all who deny themselves and follow Him, eternal unending reward of life and peace with God is theirs forever.
The martyred missionary from the 1950’s Jim Elliot famously quipped, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”