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Matthew 12:22-32:

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” 25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Bible reflection:

In this passage from the Gospel of Matthew, the Pharisees quickly resume their attack on Jesus’ ministry. Jesus cures a demoniac who was blind and mute. The crowds are astounded at this miracle and wonder if Jesus is the Son of David, a title associated with the expected messiah. Even the Pharisees cannot deny that Christ has extraordinary power over the demons. However, they are convinced that Jesus is not from God. Thus, their only other explanation for his ability to cast out demons is that it comes from Satan.  

Jesus addresses the issue directly with the Pharisees. He shows the absurdity of their charge: A secular kingdom cannot stand if it is divided against itself, and neither can Satan’s kingdom. Then he provides the real explanation of his exorcisms. Satan is being overwhelmed by someone much stronger than he.

Jesus compares Satan to a homeowner who has been tied up by a powerful robber. The homeowner can do nothing as he watches the robber plunder his house. This is an image of Jesus removing men and women from the “house”, that is, the realm or control of the devil.  

 

Jesus does not stop at correcting the Pharisees, but he warns them of the severe consequences they will face if they persist in their accusation against the Messiah. If Jesus expels demons not by Satan’s power but by the Spirit of God, then the Pharisees are identifying God’s Spirit with the devil. For this they will face a severe judgment. The kingdom of God has come upon you: God’s kingdom is invading Satan’s realm through Jesus’ exorcisms, and the Pharisees are on the wrong side of the battle, standing in opposition to Christ. In this context, those who are not with Jesus and whoever does not gather with Jesus are the Pharisees who oppose Jesus. 

 

Finally, Jesus speaks of the Pharisees committing the sin of blasphemy against the Spirit. Their accusation is blasphemous because they identify the Spirit working through him with the devil. In other words, the Pharisees mistake the divine Spirit who heals the sick, calms storms, gives sight to the blind, expels demons, and even forgives sins through Jesus’ ministry for a satanic power. Such a charge against God’s Spirit will not be forgiven. This does not mean that God does not want to forgive them. Nor does it mean that this sin is too great for Jesus to pardon. Rather, those who persist in their opposition to the Spirit in Christ close themselves off from the very instrument of salvation that Christ wants to offer them. They do not want to have anything to do with that Spirit who brings forgiveness because they think it is satanic. Thus, Jesus concludes, whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

Prayer:

God, we ask you to help us always make a distinction between what is from you and what is not from you. Help us to continually acknowledge our sins and seek your forgiveness. We pray for all who have hardened their hearts and have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit to turn back to you the all merciful God who is willing to forgive all sins no matter how great they might be. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ .Amen!

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