Dave and Dave

The Unforgiveable Sin!

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29)

Hi Fighter,

This Biblical text has been a source of torment for a lot of people over the last 2,000 years. Michael Pederson Kierkegaard – father of my favourite philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard – was one such unfortunate. He was once so miserable that he climbed a mountain and cursed God. From that point forward he was convinced that he had committed the unforgiveable sin and that his family was cursed.

Most of Michael Pederson Kierkegaard’s children died in their youth. Even his famous son, Soren, only lived to age 42. Like his father, he too was constantly depressed. Could Kierkegaard Sr. have been right? Were they cursed? Thankfully, the statement from Jesus about the unforgiveable sin wasn’t given in a vacuum, and the surrounding story Mark makes clear who Jesus pointing the finger at and why.

We are only in the third chapter of Mark’s Gospel, yet Jesus is already stirring up controversy everywhere, and some were already making plans to kill Him.  Then in verse 22 we are told: “the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”

Jerusalem was more than 60 km away from where Jesus was operating. If these religious officials had been sent there on foot, specifically to deal with Jesus, He must have been upsetting people in high places. The scribes would have been respected by the people Jesus was engaging with. Their pronouncement though – that Jesus was casting out demons because he was empowered by the prince of demons – was not something He was going to let them get away with.

Jesus responds firstly by saying that the scribes aren’t making any sense – “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” (Mark 3:23-24). He then accuses them of committing an unforgiveable sin – “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29), to which the Gospel writer then adds, “He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” (Mark 3:30)

It is clear in the text who commits the unforgiveable sin. It’s not the crowd, nor any of Jesus’ disciples. It was the religious authorities who came down from Jerusalem to deal with Jesus. It’s equally clear what it was that Jesus considered unforgiveable. They accused Jesus of working for Satan and having an ‘impure spirit’.

Jesus designates these people as lost souls. He has been spreading love, joy, hope and peace across the region yet these experts interpret His actions as demonic. That’s like saying that something white is black. If you can’t recognise the presence of the Spirit of God when it is this obvious, there’s no hope for you!

We must not close our eyes to what God is doing in our midst. When we see people being healed and evil being beaten back, we must recognise in this the movement of the Spirit of God. As Saint Paul says, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17) and, conversely, where we see liberty (and joy and hope and peace) we need to recognise the presence of the Spirit of God.

My life has been punctuated with multiple surprise discoveries of the Spirit of God at work. I’ll never forget my first meeting with the Grand Mufti of Syria, Dr Hassoun, in Damascus in 2013. There I was, expecting another boring meeting with a religious official but instead I met a man full of love and grace who was working miracles (in a very real sense) for his country. I think it would have been blasphemous for me not to recognise the Spirit of God at work in him though, interestingly, members of Al Qaeda and ISIS saw Dr Hassoun as an agent of the devil. God help them!

This passage reminds us of the importance of recognising the presence of the Spirit of God. Where there is love, joy, hope and peace, God is there. Conversely, we should be equally clear in recognising the devil at work. I recently heard a preacher (who will remain nameless) interpreting the current genocide in Gaza as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and suggesting, consequently, that it is something we should celebrate! Saying that something black is white is as bad as saying that white is black. In both cases, I suspect, there’s little hope for people who are that far gone.

Our Sunday Eucharist

We had another great Sunday Eucharist last weekend. We missed Tom’s presence as he is off on another overseas adventure. Even so, Rob Gilland very capably filled his shoes and joined David Baldwin and me for a wonderful session with the team. As ever, I’ve isolated some ‘shorts’ (clips of one-minute or less in length), below, including one from our guest, Dr Stephen Sizer. You’ll find three more at the end.

This Sunday Rob Gilland will be back with me, along with our Shri Lankan brother, Rev. John Jegasothy, and Father Mark, who is off on overseas travel, but has given us a pre-recorded reflection on 2 Corinthians 4. Join us at TheSundayEucharist.com or on Facebook, YouTubeTwitterLinkedIn or Streamyard from noon.

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

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