Scripture: Matthew 12:22-32
Key verse: (30) “Whoever is not with me is against me; . . .”
Reflection: Like the crowds who followed Jesus, I continue to be amazed every time someone is healed. The Pharisees who witnessed this healing don’t seem particularly amazed. They only get excited when the crowd began to ask questions about whether Jesus was the long-awaited Son of David, the Messiah who would save Israel. This drew the Pharisees attention. Declaring yourself the Messiah was blasphemy against God. Jesus is accused of being Beelzebul — the king of demons. It doesn’t make sense. So much good is being done. But, they felt threatened by Jesus. Jesus could take the name calling and the constant scrutiny because he was providing compassionate healing and freedom to those who were suffering. An old mentor of mine used to say that “no good deed goes unpunished” (especially when it challenges the powers that be). Jesus challenged the religious leaders and “powers that be” of his day. He responded by saying that he healed by the power of the Spirit of God, so how could he be casting out demons by the power of the demon who was causing the suffering.
Jesus could handle the criticism, but he warns them about blaspheming the Holy Spirit – which the Pharisees were doing. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is called unforgivable – now and forever. Strong words. Apparently, we can revile God and Jesus, but not the work of the Holy Spirit.
There is a coarsening that occurs within us when we criticize kindness, charity, healing, compassion and all other works of the Spirit. This kind of coarsening can cut us off from our emotions and ourselves to such a point that nothing is sacred and the heart becomes hardened. Is this what Jesus is talking about when he talks about blaspheming the Holy Spirit? Is it a hardness of heart, practiced over many years, that separates people from God’s forgiveness? Each of us has the capacity to say and do the most horrible things to each other, yet Jesus forgives us. So, he isn’t talking about any ordinary kind of sin. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is in a special category. This is a warning. We become what we practice. God doesn’t do anything to harm us, we harm ourselves.
Are you for or against Jesus and God’s work in the world? Does your everyday life speak louder than words about who you really are and who you follow? Do you embrace all that is good and kind; honorable and pure? Are you willing to draw close to God and discover the depth and breadth of God’s power to forgive, transform and heal? What is holding you back?
Prayer: Merciful God, help us be for you and live out the grace you have placed in each of our lives. And, if we are unsure about your love and mercy, provide us with the time and space we need to sit in your presence, listen for your still small voice, and respond to your invitation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].