Is there a point of sinning from which God can no longer forgive? Is there a line, that if crossed, there is no return? Is there a sin that God cannot forgive? If so, have we crossed the line? Are we beyond forgiveness?
At some point in our Christian lives, most of us have probably asked a variation of these questions. If David pleaded with God not to remove the Holy Spirit from him following his season of sin (Psalm 51:11), do I face the same danger when I demand my own way? What makes me think God will wink at my sin?
Mark 3:20-30 provides a “sandwich” or “bookend” approach. 3:20-21 and 3:31-35 provides the bookends of family while 3:22-30 deals with the unpardonable sin or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Opposition towards Jesus is the thread woven throughout this section. Opposition by family (3:20-21, 31-35) is just as serious as opposition by religious leaders (3:22-30).
The passage begins with Jesus entering a house in Capernaum (3:20). Once again, the crowds gather. Jesus and his disciples are so busy ministering to the people that they don’t have time to eat.
When word of this out of control lifestyle reaches Jesus’ family, they conclude that they need to save Jesus from himself. They want to seize Jesus and perform a family intervention. After all, they believe, he is “out of his mind.” He is nothing but a mentally unbalanced religious fanatic.
Families can be a source of joy and support. But they can also be possessive, vicious, and discouraging. How many prospective missionaries have never reached the field because “we don’t want our grandkids to grow up in a third world country.”
While Jesus’ family thought he was crazy, the religious establishment thought he was demon possessed (3:22-30). The religious leaders could not argue with the fact that Jesus performed miracles. After all, they had seen some of them with their own eyes. Rather than debate the validity, they focused on the question, “Where does Jesus get his power?” If his power comes from God, they need to submit to him and worship him. Since they are unwilling to take that step, they decide that he gets his power from Satan.
This event is one of the few times when Jesus defended himself. In two stories about a divided kingdom and a divided house, Jesus points out that Satan is the strong man. His house is the realm of sin, sickness, and death. His possessions are people who are enslaved. Demons are his agents to carry out his plans.
But Jesus is the Stronger Man. His mission is to confront and overpower Satan, not cooperate with him, and to deliver those enslaved to him.
In light of these charges, Jesus issued a stern warning. All sins and derogatory words against God can be forgiven except one, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It is expressed in an attitude of willful unbelief and defiant hostility towards Gods.
It is a sobering fact to realize that the unforgivable sin requires knowledge. The average person on the street is not in danger of committing this sin. The one in the greatest danger is the man or women in the church who knows the Scriptures, has heard the Word being preached, has seen something of the power of God in changed lives and answered prayer, and yet rejects it all, even identifying what he or she has seen with the power of Satan.
Rejecting Jesus out of ignorance is one thing, but attacking the power by which he works is something far more serious.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 11, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.