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Because they were saying, “He has a foul spirit.”


He said this because they were saying, “He has a demon inside him.”


Short answer: the unpardonable sin was what the pharisees were doing.

The context of this passage is the same as the passage in Matthew 12; the religious leaders accused Jesus of casting out demons with the power of the “chief of the demons,” code language for Satan. After Jesus’ remarks, Mark, serving as the narrator of this Gospel, interjects that Jesus said these things precisely because they were saying “he has a foul spirit.”

This is more than just a reminder of the context of Jesus’ comments; this is telling us “Here is what it looks like to commit this ‘unpardonable sin.’” Even though the word “blaspheme” is not used in describing their actions, and even though they did not mention the “Holy Spirit” or “the Spirit of God,” Jesus was calling them out for becoming something extremely dangerous. They committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit even though it did not sound like what we consider blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

We assume the unpardonable sin has to do with certain words; Jesus had in mind a certain attitude. When most modern Christians describe the unpardonable sin, they describe something that looks different than what the Pharisees were doing, yet Jesus was responding to their actions and words; His statements were motivated by their actions.

What did they do? They attributed the obvious work of the Holy Spirit of God to another power source. The motivation for doing so can vary because the emphasis is not on the motivation but on the attitudes and the actions they promote. In the case of the Pharisees, they had become people who had acquired control over others, and they were going to keep their power at all costs, even if it meant attributing the obvious work of the Spirit of God to foreign gods that they knew did not exist. They had built a small empire (a realm of power) and they were willing to do anything to keep their empire intact.

Many of us today also build small empires. A business is a small empire (or sometimes a rather large empire). When the owner of a business has invested millions or billions of dollars in building his empire, he will do almost anything to keep it. He may hire an army of lawyers and CPAs to determine how to pay the least amount of taxes; he may mistreat his employees in order to get ahead of his competition; he may give money to political candidates on both sides of the political aisle, he may play the Lets-be-politically-correct game in order to stay on the right side of those with political power. For owners of big businesses, keeping their empire strong has often become their top priority and many have abandoned their earlier-held principles in order to protect their empire. On a much smaller scale the same holds true for an entrepreneur who has started a small business, works from their home, and does not yet have any employees under them. They are building an empire and investing a great deal of themselves into making it a reality. Although their business is not as big as the big-name companies, this person does not want to lose what they

have built either. All of us that are involved in such enterprises need to be careful to not compromise our integrity in order to keep what we have built.

Churches and ministries are other examples of small empires. They are institutions organized by men, not by God, and they require much investment of time and money. Churches and ministries are trying to do God’s work, so they are often an uncomfortable balance between a human empire and God’s kingdom. Some are OK with saying their ministry is a kingdom within a Kingdom. However, when a conflict of interest occurs (and it will), which kingdom will they choose to protect, the kingdom with a small k or the Kingdom with a capital K?

The Pharisees were in a cringe-worthy spiritual condition because they had built reputations, systems and power structures which worked together to protect what they had built. But it was all about them. They talked about God, but they did not seek His glory, only their own. If we put ourselves in a similar position, then we will likewise be in a bad place where we will be unlikely to change the way we live and God’s punishment will be unavoidable (unless we change course).

I’m sure there are other reasons to completely reject the obvious working of God. One can be angry with God and thus push God as far away from them as possible. As long as one is pushing God away, forgiveness is not available.

One can also push God away due to woundedness and confusion. God understands that. I am convinced that the message of the entire Bible is that the moment someone changes from pushing God away to seeking God, He will be there for them, will reveal Himself to them and offer them His forgiveness.

I have a much fuller description of the issues involved here in connection the Lesson called Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit Explained