Thursday in the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 12:22-32; Mark 3:22-30

What Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

Today we take up a passage that has caused much dispute over the years.  The topic is called “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.”  But before we can talk about its meaning, we must first rehearse the setting in which it was declared.  Jesus has just healed a demon-possessed man so that he is now able to both see and speak.  As a result, people wonder if Jesus could be the “Son of David,” a Messianic title as the Messiah was prophesied to come from King David’s line.  The Pharisees immediately take offense and reason that it is by “Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” that Jesus is able to cast out demons.  The exact meaning and derivation of “Beelzebul” is uncertain but “prince of demons” is not.  The important matter is that the Pharisees attribute Christ’s work of healing as being of satanic origin.  Jesus first shows the illogic of their thought: Why would Satan cast out Satan?  A House divided against itself cannot stand!  (You see that sinful thinking is always irrational thinking.)  Then Jesus proclaims, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

And here is the offense of the Pharisees against the Holy Spirit: Attributing an obvious work of the Holy Spirit through Jesus’ act of healing as a work of the devil.  (There is a subtle Trinitarian matter here in which every work that Jesus performed on earth, he did by and through the Holy Spirit [John 3:34; Luke 4:14-19]; but we will leave that for now.)  So why does this constitute blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?  Well, what the Pharisees said indicates that they are so far from God that they cannot tell a true work of the Holy Spirit from a work of Satan.  And if someone cannot tell such a thing that should be as easy as that, then how can such a person understand anything God has done for them in matters of salvation?  How shall they understand the love of Christ pouring himself out for their sins on the cross?  They didn’t; they mocked him (Mark 15:29-32).  How shall they believe his resurrection?  They didn’t; they spread a false report (Matthew 28:11-15).  What is illustrated here is what Paul teaches in Romans 1:18-32 in which sinful man willingly suppresses the truth of God within, and in creation without, that he might enjoy his sin.  And the harrowing truth that Paul reports is that God might (and justly has) give such people up to their darkened minds and lustful hearts (Romans 1:24, 26, 28).  So “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” is not some incantation that one says, but a condition of one’s heart in which one becomes so hardened that he can’t discern the truth right before his eyes so that he may respond in saving faith.  So we must pray earnestly for sinners that the Holy Spirit would break their hearts and bring them to salvation.

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