What Is The Unpardonable Sin?

June 4, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Mark 3:20-30

He's Gone Nuts!

1. Jesus returned back to the house. That was the house which became the base for his Galilean mission. It is believed to be the home of Peter and Andrew who appeared in chapter one. When it had become known that Jesus had returned back to [that] house, the crowds of people gathered again like always. Then, the scripture says, "his relatives heard of Jesus and came to stop him," (verse twenty-one). It is believed that these relatives [of his] were most likely "Jesus' mother and brothers" as the scripture says in verse thirty-one.

2. The reason they came to stop him is explained as "because it was being said [of him that] 'he has gone mad.'" We could either translate this text as his relatives were saying [it about him], or we could translate it in general as "the people" were saying [it about him]. Either way, Jesus was being looked at as weird. Why was [that]?

3. If it were just that a lot of folks were gathering, it wouldn't have said "he has gone mad." If it were just that Jesus did acts of healing, I don't think he would have been considered weird. The reason they said "he has gone mad" is the very contents of the preaching activities of Jesus had obviously been very very bizarre. In other words, the people who had gathered [had] an issue with the contents of [Jesus'] preaching activity.

4. Let's think about the crowds that had gathered around Jesus first. There were multitudes of sick persons around Jesus, so that they might have him lay hands on them and pray for them. But, it wasn't just the sick who were brought to Peter and Andrew's house. The scripture says in chapter one and verse thirty-two that "Towards evening when the sun was sinking, the people had brought to Jesus all the people sick or possessed by evil spirits." In other words, it means that there were among the people who had been brought persons who were being controlled by some kind of power, always speaking forth messages of curses, having weird behaviors.

5. And that's not all. When you pursue the details of [his] mission activities later, sinners and tax collectors were also gathering around Jesus. Levi, one of the disciples, was a former tax collector. That time when he had taken a meal at [Levi's] house the scripture says this, "Many tax collectors and sinners were seated with Jesus and his disciples. A great crowd was truly there, they had followed Jesus," (verse fifteen).

6. This was the crowd who had gathered before Jesus. These folks were crowding into the one house. It must have truly been a weird sight as seen from the common sense perspective of the Jews. There was Jesus right in the middle of them. Any way you look at it, what this fellow Jesus of Nazareth was doing was not the normal Judaistic activity of a rabbi. For that reason the rumor was started that "he's gone mad."

7. But, it was believed that the strangest of all things to top it all off was even the very contents of Jesus' preaching activity, even while the crowd was gone. To begin with, why did not just the sick, but tax collectors and sinners even, gather before Jesus? If he were a rabbi from Judaism teaching the law I think it would have been absolutely impossible for them to gather around [him]. And the same could be said in regard to the demon possessed people. Perhaps there had been some who had uttered countless words of blasphemy so far. But, the people had been bringing them to Jesus.

8. Why did these things happen? They came to be with Jesus. They brought them for them to be with Jesus. [It happened] because they thought that way. In other words, through the deeds and words of Jesus God's grace was being revealed. [That's] because the people who were thinking that they had no connections with God whatsoever, or worse even, the people who were thinking that they had been abandoned by God long long ago had been touched by God's grace. They were touched by a God who loved them, had compassion for them, set them free from sin, saved them, and was willing to grant them true life, and not by a dreadful God who accused them, condemned them, and was wanting to destroy them. Along with his healing the people, Jesus announced forgiveness of sin. He claimed that he had the authority to forgive sin (2:10). Furthermore, he also said, "It is not those who are okay but the sick who need a physician. I came not in order to invite the righteous but in order to invite the sinner," (2:17).

9. However, if viewed from the perspective of good devout Jews, this would look as truly odd behavior departing from the normal course of things. If viewed from the perspective of a person who takes pride in his or her living in faithful observance of the law of God, he or she would be disturbed at having been preached at on forgiveness by a wicked group. Even worse, it would be terrible if tax collectors and sinners thinking they were forgiven by God were going in and out of synagogues. Speaking on this still more, declaring forgiveness of sins is tantamount to making oneself equal to God. Therefore, the people said, "He's gone mad."

10. Even Jesus' own family members were saying that. That's why they came to stop him. They said, "Don't cause us any more problems. Be a good Jew and keep the traditions of Judea." Or maybe they were alarmed over his causing troubles with the Jewish leaders unless he changed. Any way, they were wanting to bring him back home.

The Looting of Satan's House

11. On the other hand, the ones who had openly criticized the work of Jesus were the scribes who had come down from Jerusalem. They accused him and said, "He is possessed by Beelzebub," and they said, "He is driving out evil spirits through the power of the head of the evil spirits," (verse twenty-two). Beelzebub means "Lord of the House" but, it is pointing to "the head of the evil spirits" as it is written here in this text. In brief, [it] meant that they had come to the conclusion that the preaching activity of Jesus was the work of the head of the demons, by Beelzebub, that is, by Satan.

12. In saying "He was possessed by Beelzebub" they had said something very horrible. But, what do you suppose we might have said were we in their shoes? Try to imagine it. On the one hand, there is a meeting where [they] are keeping the law and respecting order. At that place there are people there trying to study the law of God, put it into practice, live as righteous persons and form a righteous Jewish society. On the other hand, there is a meeting house crowded out with tax collectors who have hitherto been greedy for unjust profits, sinners who have lived with disregard for the law, prostitutes, and other persons such as those possessed by demons who have been making a terrible plague of themselves upon the people in the area. -- Which of the two meeting places looks like God's? If generally viewed from the perspective of common sense, I'd say it is clearly the former. Thus then, that would mean that it wasn't the Spirit of God who was at work within Jesus. Since it wasn't the Spirit of God, the only thing left to say was that he was driving out demons by the boss of the demons. That's the claim the scribes of the law made. If it were us, how would we have criticized him? Could we have seen their meetings as the work of the Spirit of God? Or, would we have thought that "Because a wicked group is meeting together, it is the work of evil spirits?"

13. Jesus addressed, in the following manner, the scribes of the law who had taken what Jesus was doing as coming from the head of the evil spirits. "Jesus called them to himself and spoke using a parable," says the scripture. Jesus addressed these very [men] directly. He wanted them to understand for themselves. The Lord said, "How does Satan make Satan drive out himself? If a country fights itself internally, that country will not stand firm. If a house fights itself on the inside, that house will not stand firm. Likewise, if Satan fights himself on the inside, he won't stand and will end up destroyed," (verses twenty-three through twenty-six). This is the first parable. To get to the point, it means that Satan does not ever fight against his own side. Were Satan to fight his own side and cut his own throat, there isn't anything [we] could be as thankful for as this. However, that totally seems to be impossible.

14. Also, [the scriptures] explain about what Jesus was doing by using another parable. "Furthermore, unless one first ties up the strong man, no one can rob [his] household belongings by forcing oneself into [his] house. After first binding [him], one plunders [the strong man's] house," (verse twenty-seven). Here Jesus is likening himself in a parable to a burglar. Jesus says that what he is doing is a sort of looting.

15. Whose house is he forcing himself into? It is Satan's house. I mentioned a bit earlier that Beelzebub means "the master of the house." As master or lord, Satan is holding fast to [his] household. This household of his stands for human beings. Satan's power separates [people] from God. Human beings are held captive by that power. Everyone, whether sinner, tax collector, or anyone possessed by a demon, are held captive by that power and have been living estranged from God. Jesus says that he went into burglary in order to put these people back into God's hands once more. And now these folks are back in God's hands to stay. Jesus was explaining that this was the very event that had been taking place right then and there.

What Is The Sin Of Blaspheming The Holy Spirit?

16. Then he went on to add, "I clearly say to you. The children of men will be pardoned for all the sins and for any statements of blasphemy they commit. But, anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven through out eternity, he or she will eternally bear the blame of his or her sin," (verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine). I've taken today's sermon topic from this [part]. "What Is The Unpardonable Sin?" -- According to Jesus' words, it is the sin in which one blasphemes the Holy Spirit. I would like for us to consider what that means while we recall the flow [of the text] so far.

17. But, we must listen carefully to the words before that, which are spoken regarding "the sins [the children of men] will be pardoned for." I will read it to you again. "I clearly say to you. The children of men will be pardoned for all sins they commit and for any statements of blasphemy." When you think about it, you could say that the statement about "every sin will be pardoned" is actually more surprising than the fact that there is "a sin that will never be forgiven through out eternity." Yet, this very [message] was expressed through the words and the deeds of Christ. That's what it means by saying that human beings would be put back into the hands of God. In that [statement] forgiveness of sin is understood as a basic principle of it. Forgiven, people can return to the hands of God peacefully. And in fact people have returned peacefully unto God, people who were either tax collectors or sinners or people who have spoken all manner of abusive language to God up to the point of [their return] or have even uttered blasphemous statements at God, or even people like those who have been possessed by evil spirits. They could and did return. -- Because the Lord says the children of men will be forgiven for [their] sins or for even any statements of blasphemy they commit.

18. However, Jesus said, "Anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven through out eternity, he or she will eternally bear the blame of his or her sin." The reason the Lord spoke like that is recorded as follows. "Jesus said that because people were saying, 'He was possessed by a defiled [or unclean] spirit.'," (verse thirty). This is the substantial meaning of the blasphemy the Holy Spirit (to defile the Holy Spirit).

19. It is clear what the problem is. To say that "He is possessed by a defiled spirit" is nothing other than viewing the preaching activities of Jesus as coming from a defiled spirit. That is, it means [they] accepted neither the words nor the deeds of Jesus as being from God. In that way then, it means [they] ended up throwing it all away, [whatever] Jesus showed [such as] God's love, mercy, forgiveness of sin, and invitation to the sinful. Every sin is forgiven. No matter how sinful one is, God loves [him or her] and wills that he or she turn to Him. But, whenever a person throws God's mercy and forgiveness away, nobody can take the place of God and forgive. Therefore, as a result, [such a person] has come to the point of "never being forgiven and will bear the blame of sin through out eternity."

20. [Listen up] everybody, God doesn't shut out anyone from his love. By rejecting God's love a person shuts himself or herself out from God's love. Even these scribes of the law were truly called into the love of God who calls sinners. But, they did not rejoice at the message of God's forgiveness. Why was [that]? Because they thought "we're different from that defiled group of people." In that way then, the scribes of the law were about to shut themselves out from God's love, by taking themselves as righteous but taking even the Holy Spirit as defiled, who had been at work in Jesus. For that very reason, indeed, Jesus called them to himself and addressed them with "Anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven through out eternity, he or she will eternally bear the blame of his or her sin." This is not a statement of guilt nor a threat. It was truly a sincere call from Jesus out to them, that they must not be that way.

21. Today is The Celebration Of The Descent Of The Holy Spirit, [Pentecost Sunday]. We celebrate and remember the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and the evangelistic work of the church had been inaugurated. The Holy Spirit who was at work within Jesus has been working since that time all the way to this moment within the church which is the body of Christ and through the church as the body of Christ. In addition, through the evangelistic work of the church for generations, the mercy of God has been shown to us as well, the message of the forgiveness of sins has been given [to us as well], and we've been called to God. We must not shut ourselves off from God's love. We must not defile the Holy Spirit.