Jesus and the Ruler
(Mark 3.20-30; Luke 11.14-23; 12.10)
22Some people brought to Jesus a man who was blind and could not talk because he had a demon in him. Jesus healed the man, and then he was able to talk and see. 23The crowds were so amazed they asked, “Could Jesus be the Son of David?”
24 When the Pharisees heard this, they said, “He forces out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons!”
25Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said to them:
Any kingdom where people fight each other will end up ruined. And a town or family that fights will soon destroy itself. 26So if Satan fights against himself, how can his kingdom last? 27If I use the power of Beelzebul to force out demons, whose power do your own followers use to force them out? Your followers are the ones who will judge you. 28But when I force out demons by the power of God's Spirit, it proves that God's kingdom has already come to you. 29 How can anyone break into a strong man's house and steal his things, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can take everything.
30 If you are not on my side, you are against me. If you don't gather in the harvest with me, you scatter it. 31-32 I tell you any sinful thing you do or say can be forgiven. Even if you speak against the Son of Man, you can be forgiven. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven, either in this life or in the life to come.
A Tree and Its Fruit
33 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. You can tell what a tree is like by the fruit it produces. 34 You are a bunch of evil snakes, so how can you say anything good? Your words show what is in your hearts. 35Good people bring good things out of their hearts, but evil people bring evil things out of their hearts. 36I promise you on the day of judgment, everyone will have to account for every careless word they have spoken. 37On that day they will be told they are either innocent or guilty because of the things they have said.
The coming of the kingdom means an engaging with the powers. Jesus has come to redeem a fallen world and that involves doing battle – plundering the house of the enemy. Jesus’ healing of a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute strikes hope in the hearts of some and judgment in the hearts of others. Is he Son of David or only a servant of Beelzebul prince of demons? Jesus makes clear that the latter claim makes no sense for it means a divided house destined to failure. If the Pharisees were to accept what Jesus had done as authentic work of the Spirit it would be an admission that the kingdom of God is come and the work of binding the “strong man” is now underway.
The question of what is meant by “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” cannot be resolved here but a comment is in order. The Pharisee is quick to judge the source of the healing work that Jesus did—he claims it’s the work of Satan. In the response of Jesus we see that this judgment is false and a failure to discern the presence of the Holy Spirit. This failure to recognize the work of the Spirit makes forgiveness impossible. Forgiveness can come only when our eyes are open to see what the Spirit is doing and when we have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying. Perhaps blaspheming the Spirit is precisely this failure to discern the activity of the Spirit in the world – making it impossible to receive the gift of forgiveness.
Finally, be careful what you say – your words are vehicles of good or evil. Get the heart right and the words should follow.
God of truth and mercy, falsehood is all around and I acknowledge that it is your Spirit that guides us into truth. As one who is so often blind, have mercy on me and on all your people that we may discern aright your work in the world.