20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
The crush of people around Jesus has not subsided. In fact it is worse; so much so that He can barely even eat! The price of fame is high. His “family” would be His brothers and mother. Most certainly they are concerned for Him as His odd behaviors reach new heights. Not only does Jesus face push-back from His own family members, the Pharisees are turning up the heat on their opposition as well. Now we stand these two groups, Jesus’ family members and the Pharisees, up next to one another and compare their reactions. While they appear rather similar, they are most certainly not similar in their results.
So that we might understand the whole idea of blaspheme a little better, I want to share some comments from Dr. James Voelz, professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. His commentary on the subject is most enlightening. First, we read his translation of Jesus’ response to those who accuse Him of blaspheme.
“How is Satan able to cast himself out? Don’t you know basic principles? A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Furthermore, a house divided will not stand. Given that and turning to the case in question—my supposed alliance with Satan—if in this particular case Satan has arisen in my ministry against himself and has divided himself and his forces, then he is of no effect and is finished. But that assessment is not true, since Satan is still active and is still a powerful force, a force that I am dealing with.”
Voelz, J. W. (2013). Concordia Commentary: Mark 1:1–8:26. (p. 258). St. Louis, MO: CPH.
We are all painfully aware of Satan’s work in our lives. He seeks first to derail our faith and second to harass us and make life difficult. He is successful at the second objective quite frequently, even while we hopefully remain steadfast in our faith. The Pharisees charge is of course baseless, and Jesus points this out with great verbal skill.
Now we place the “out of His mind” comments of His own family against the charges of blaspheme made by the Pharisees. Again, Dr. Voelz’ comments are most helpful.
3:28b–30 Why the distinction between those who blaspheme (i.e., who say outrageous things about someone, usually God) generally—or utter such things against Jesus himself—and those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Again, as with a parable, context is the key; these are not abstract statements of generalized truths. The first statement (3:28b) speaks to the situation of 3:21, the judgment of his relatives that Jesus has gone out of his mind. That judgment is blasphemy, an outrageous and demeaning thing to say about him who is the Son of God. But it can and will be forgiven, because it is a false judgment that simply fails to recognize who Jesus truly is. The evidence up to this point in the story is ambiguous on that count (especially in Mark’s Gospel), and a wrong conclusion has been drawn. Note also the attitude of Jesus’ brothers to him in John 7:3–4 and the contrasting statement in John 7:5, as well as the assertion in 1 Corinthians 9:5 indicating that Jesus’ brothers were among those who finally believed. The second statement (3:29), by contrast, speaks to the accusation in 3:22 by the scribes, contending that Jesus is in league with Satan. These opponents reject our Lord, but more, they assert that the work of God’s Spirit in him is the work of Satan, work that must be opposed and, ultimately, destroyed (see 3:6). If the evidence of the identity and character of Jesus carries with it a continuing ambiguity, there is no such evidential ambiguity in the work of the Holy Spirit in this same Jesus, as he heals, frees people of their bondage to unclean/evil spirits, and brings the Good News of the gracious reign and rule of God. Those who see such work as evil, as do the scribes, ally themselves with the evil one and with him stand condemned.
Voelz, J. W. (2013). Concordia Commentary: Mark 1:1–8:26. (p. 263). St. Louis, MO: CPH.
When considering blaspheme, one must be doubly careful, as we do not have the ability to read another’s thoughts, as Jesus did. It is a huge charge to make against another person and I would hesitate to throw that claim at another. I do not know what lies in the heart of another person. But we can assess what’s going on in our own hearts. I have known many who fear this particular sin, as it is labeled as “unforgivable”. But who among us have claimed that Jesus is in league with Satan. Hopefully, none. This sin means that you reject Jesus as the Son of God and ally yourself with Satan. This is a huge choice to make and I’m certain there are those who have indeed made that choice. May God have mercy on their souls. For those of us who daily read God's Word and trust Him for our salvation, that sin is not a part of our lives and give Him the glory for that grace!