We as fallen people tend to be good at blaming others. We see it throughout our lives. When we’re young, we blame a sibling for the broken lamp. When we’re older, we blame a co-worker for the missed deadline. We blame society for our situation in life.
This blaming has been going on since the very beginning. We see it with Adam and Eve in Genesis (Genesis 3:8-15). They both eat from the forbidden tree, and therefore now know evil. They have become rebellious against God, and they don’t want to accept responsibility for what they’ve done. As a result, they hide from God in the garden. They know they’ve sinned, but they don’t repent – instead they flee from the presence of the Lord.
Now, God gives them the opportunity to repent and come clean by asking them, “Where are you?” This is the chance for each of them to say, “It’s all my fault, I have sinned against you.”
But, instead, Adam says that he hid himself from God because he was naked. That’s partly true, but Adam is really hiding because he knows he’s done something wrong. Sin causes us to recoil from the holy Lord God. We see it in our own lives when some egregious sin causes us to not want to be around the Lord and His people, not realizing that when the Lord says, “Where are you?” – He already knows.
The Lord knows why Adam is really hiding, so He gives Adam another chance to come clean. He says to Adam, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Have you ever asked a child a question, knowing the answer in advance? That’s what God is doing here; He’s still giving Adam a chance to repent. And what’s the truthful, repentant answer to this question? The correct answer is “Yes, Lord, I have sinned against You and eaten from the tree from which you told me not to eat.”
Adam doesn’t say this, though. Instead, he tries to deflect responsibility for his own actions. He blames what he did on both Eve and the Lord Himself. Adam says, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
By blaming the woman, of course, Adam is also blaming God, because He made the woman. If only God hadn’t had created Eve, then poor Adam wouldn’t have sinned. Obviously, it’s all the Lord’s fault, and then secondarily that crafty woman’s fault.
God turns to Eve to see what she has to say for herself. Will she take some responsibility? No! She shifts blame as well. She says, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Now, this may well be true, but it’s still Eve’s fault for eating from the tree that God told her not to eat from. Just as it’s Adam’s fault for not only eating from the tree, after God expressly told him not to, but also for not preventing Eve from eating from it; Adam stood next to her the whole time and didn’t say anything and yet now he blames her. They both should have known better, because they had God’s Word. He told them not to eat from the tree, and they did it anyway, so it’s no one’s fault but their own.
And yet, look at what the Lord does. He turns to the serpent and says, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This serpent is Satan. He has been cast out of the Lord’s presence to live apart from Him. He is no longer delighting in the Lord’s presence. Instead, he is as a fallen, venomous snake, doomed to dwell in the dust of the earth. And what is more, the seed of the woman will come to defeat him and his days shall then be over.
Then, the Lord explains to Adam and Eve that life will be more difficult due to the sin they’ve introduced into the world. He also expels them out of the Garden, out from His presence, to await the coming of this seed of a woman who will defeat Satan and sin and death and clear the way back into the Lord’s presence. He does this so that they will not live forever apart from Him by eating from the Tree of Life; He’s going to undo the effects of the Fall first before they may live forever.
Now, in Mark’s Gospel we see this promised seed of a woman, born of a Virgin (Mark 3:20-35). Jesus is casting out demons and has begun his work of defeating Satan. Notice that what is in dispute in this particular text is not whether or not Jesus is casting out demons – everyone sees that he’s doing this. Instead, what is in dispute is how Jesus is doing this, or by what power.
Jesus’ own family at this time think that he’s out of his mind, and some of the Jewish authorities say that Jesus is possessed and is casting out demons through the power of Satan. Jesus tells them, though, that what he is doing is in fulfillment of God’s promise of the Christ who would come to defeat Satan and his power. After all, how can Satan cast out Satan? If Satan casts out demons, then he will not be able to stand. Jesus is casting out demons by the power of God; this incarnate Word of God is casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But, the authorities deny this. So, Jesus says that “… all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” He says this because the authorities charged that Jesus had an unclean spirit. Jesus is casting out demons as the Son of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the authorities are essentially calling the Holy Spirit unclean and demonic.
These verses are where we get the term the “unforgivable sin,” meaning blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. But, what does this mean? I thought God forgave all sins through Christ?
That’s true, God does forgive all sins through Christ, but this forgiveness is received through faith. And faith is worked in us through the Holy Spirit coming to us through God’s Word. The Holy Spirit causes us to no longer hide from the Lord in our sins, but rather to say, “Yes, Lord, I have sinned against you.” The Holy Spirit turns us so that we repent of our sins and receive the forgiveness that comes through Christ. Faith comes through the working of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word, which is spoken, written, and Sacramental. Without the Holy Spirit, we do not have faith, because we cannot make ourselves have faith in Christ.
We are born as fallen sinners, bound to sin, death, and the devil, who cannot free ourselves through our own powers. We are born into the world as houses occupied by a strong man who defends his turf. This strong man is Satan; because of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, Satan has captured us. He won’t let us call on the name of the Lord to be saved, because Satan doesn’t want us to be saved. He’s got us imprisoned. He tricked Adam and Eve, because he wanted them to die in worship him. Satan wants to destroy God’s creation, and he wants to keep people from calling on the name of the Lord to be saved (cf. Romans 10).
So, in order to plunder Satan and take his possessions, he must first be bound so that a person may be freed and brought from the dominion of Satan to the dominion of the Lord. On His cross, Jesus Christ defeated Satan, he crushed the head of that serpent, even as he was bruised himself. Now, the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son in order to remove the power of sin, death, and the devil over a person. If a person rejects the Holy Spirit and calls him unclean and useless, then that person remains in his sin and remains a captive to sin, death, and the devil.
That’s why Jesus calls blasphemy of the Holy Spirit the only unforgivable sin. It’s because in order to grasp hold of Christ and the forgiveness of sins that comes only through him, in order to call upon the name of the Lord, a person has to have faith. And in order to have faith, that person must have the Holy Spirit occupying him. But, when a person rejects the Holy Spirit, when he hardens his heart, then that person will not come to faith and be saved, because he remains in captivity.
So, this brings up another important issue to mention. Have you ever wondered about your faith? Have you ever worried that maybe your faith isn’t strong enough. Have you ever wondered if you really have faith?
I think all Christians have these thoughts and worries from time to time. And, that’s ok. Keep in mind that people without faith don’t worry about their faith; it’s not even a passing thought in their minds, and Satan has no need to bother them. But, for the faithful children of God, Satan is always whispering in your ear and causing other problems to try to harass you and create doubt. But, do not let him get the better of you. Tell him to go away, he’s a loser; God has fulfilled his promise of crushing his head and he has bound him. Satan is just a condemned snake, dwelling in the dust of the earth, while God will raise up His children to eternal life with Him.
You are God’s children, the family of God in Christ. You have been set free from your sins, set free from death, and set free from the power of Satan. The Lord baptized you into His name, feeds you with His body and blood, and sustains you through His Word. You are no longer bound, but set free to live as God’s children.
You see this in the Gospel text too. Jesus points to those who have faith in him and says that they are his family. You are God’s people.
And so whenever doubts enter your mind, remember that your salvation depends upon God and what He has done, and He is faithful, and He has done it all for you. You are justified by God’s grace freely, as a gift, for the sake of Christ. He gave you this promise when He baptized you; He gives you this promise each week in His Word and with Christ’s very body and blood in the Lord’s Supper; and He will do what He promises you. The Lord keeps His Word. And He will strengthen you continually with His Holy Spirit to keep you as His own. Amen.
(Image: СОТВОРЕНИЕ МИРА Первая четверть XVIII века – “Creation of the World,” early 18th century. By Anonymous – http://www.cirota.ru/forum/view.php?subj=41878&order=asc&pg=8, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11120064 )