Jesus healed the people who approached him for help (Mt 12:15). That prompted people to bring a demoniac who was blind and dumb to Jesus. When he healed the sick, the bystanders were amazed and discussed whether he would be the Messiah. Hearing this, the Pharisees who were critically observing Jesus accused him of healing the sick with the help of Beelzebul. Jesus refuted them logically. He affirmed he did the miracles by the Spirit of God and that signals the establishment of God’s kingdom. Jesus reminded them of the need to cooperate with him for their salvation. He also warned that God will forgive all sins except the blasphemy they committed against the Holy Spirit. Jesus conveyed the need for reconciliation with God and team with him for our own salvation and that of others.
BIBLE TEXT: MATTHEW 12:22-32
Jesus and Beelzebul
(Mt 12:22) Then some people brought to him a possessed man who was blind and dumb. Jesus healed the man, so that he was able to talk and see. (23) All in the crowd were amazed and wondered, “Could he be the Son of David?” (24) When the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is by Beelzebul, head of the demons, that this man drives out devils.”
(25) Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said to them, “Every kingdom that is divided against itself will fall apart, and every town or household that is divided against itself will not last. (26) So if Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? (27) And if it is by Beelzebul that I drive out devils, by whom do your own people drive them out? They themselves will tell you how wrong you are.
(28) But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out devils, then the kingdom of God has already come upon you. (29) How can anyone break into a strong man’s house and make off with his belongings, unless he first ties up the strong man? Only then can he plunder his house. (30) He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.
(31) And so I tell you, any sin or blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (32) Whoever says anything against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever says something against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Jesus reproached Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, the towns that did not repent despite the mighty deeds he had done in those regions. He told them, “it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you” (Mt 11:24). Jesus praised the Father for revealing the Kingdom of God to the childlike while the wise and learned could not comprehend them (Mt 11:25). He offered comfort to those who labor and are burdened (Mt 11:28-30). The Pharisees who had a negativity to Jesus found fault with him when his disciples picked and ate grains from a field on the Sabbath for which Jesus gave an appropriate justification (Mt 12:1-8). Jesus miraculously healed the withered hand of a man on the Sabbath (Mt 12:9-13). However, instead of appreciating the merciful act of Jesus, “the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him to put him to death” (Mt 12:14). Jesus continued healing those who approached him for help (Mt 12:15).
Jesus and Beelzebul
(Mt 12:22) Then some people brought to him a possessed man who was blind and dumb. Jesus healed the man, so that he was able to talk and see.
Then some people brought to him a possessed man
Since Jesus was generous in helping the less fortunate in the society with his divine power, the ordinary people also became generous to assist those in need. Not all the sick could reach out to Jesus for help by themselves. The demons would not allow the demoniacs to approach Jesus for recovery. Hence, the family, friends, or villagers, who had compassion for the disabled persons, brought such people to Jesus for healing.
a possessed man who was blind and dumb
The gospels present demon-possession as a common phenomenon. Before the development of scientific clarity on the cause of diseases, people attributed evil spirits as the source of sickness and disabilities. They attributed epilepsy (Mk 9:17-27), mental disorder (Mk 5:1-5) and physical disabilities like dumbness (Mt 9:32-33) and blindness (Mt 12:22) to the demons. When the sick persons were convinced that they were demon possessed, they would produce symptoms of demoniacs. For such people, the cure could happen only when they were convinced that the demon had left them.
The gospels use “Unclean spirit” and “Demon” interchangeably to refer to supernatural beings who could enter the lives of humans and take control of them (Mt 12:43-45, Mk 5:2-5). The ancient world, including Jews, believed in the influence of demons in the world. There were different beliefs about their origin. One belief is that they existed even from the time of creation. Another belief was that they were the souls of the wicked people who have died continuing their malicious deeds entering others’ bodies. The demon possessed persons spoke like the demons that controlled them. The demons caused physical and mental disorders in the possessed person. Society considered such a person unclean.
The Catholic teaching is that Satan (devil) and demons were angles when God created them. But they became evil by their wrongdoing (CCC 391). These created spirits had rejected God and his reign out of their free choice (CCC 392). The sins of angels were unforgivable, and they had no chance for repentance like there is no such chance for humans after death (CCC 393). However, the influence of Satan and demons will have an end with the second coming of Jesus Christ.
a possessed man who was blind and dumb
Because the blind and dumb person was also a demoniac, his disability was not from birth, but happened later. The people understood that his disability resulted from demon possession. So, when Jesus healed him, he got triple relief of restoring sight, speech, and freedom from the enslavement of demon. In a spiritual sense, Jesus liberated his disciples from Satan, gave them new insight into the Kingdom of God, and assigned them to preach the gospel.
Jesus healed the man, so that he was able to talk and see.
God has allowed the evil spirits to torment the humans only until the last judgement (Enoch 16:1, Jubilees 10:7–10). The demons knew that the appointed time had not arrived. So, they continued tormenting the humans. However, Jesus, who had power over the evil spirits, expelled the demons from the demoniacs and liberated them from their bondage.
Since the sickness resulted from demon possession, Jesus cast out the demon by his powerful word, and the person got the ability to talk and see. Jesus, the Word of God, did not need any medical procedures for healing. This was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see” (Isa 29:18).
(23) All in the crowd were amazed and wondered, “Could he be the Son of David?”
All in the crowd were amazed and wondered
The Pharisees who came from Jerusalem to scrutinize Jesus with a prejudiced mind could not appreciate the miraculous healing Jesus did. However, most people realized the divine power at work through Jesus. His miraculous healing differed from other exorcists, and they knew only the Messiah could do that. According to the Messianic prediction, when he comes, “the eyes of the blind shall see, and the ears of the deaf be opened” (Isa 35:5). When Jesus healed a demoniac with speech disabilities, “The crowds were amazed and said, ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel’” (Mt 9:33). No one could heal that person with multiple health and spiritual issues. People expressed their admiration and wonder. Jesus could reveal his identity and message to the public who were open-minded. However, the amazement of the people and their trust in Jesus agitated the Pharisees, who had determined to annihilate Jesus.
the Son of David
“Son of David” is one of the Messianic titles of Jesus. Matthew started his gospel stating, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt 1:1). Isaiah prophesied the birth of the Messiah: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, upon David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!” (Isa 9:5-6).
The Messianic title, “Son of David” originated from the covenant God made with King David around one thousand years before Christ. When David asked permission from God through Prophet Nathan to construct a house for the Lord, the Lord did not allow his wish. However, God promised David that He would fulfill it through his son (2 Sam 7:12–17) along with other promises. Who was this son through whom God fulfilled the promises to David? They were partially realized through Solomon, the biological son and successor of David. And the rest had to be fulfilled through the Messiah, the seed of Eve (Gen 3:14–15) and a greater son from the lineage of David.
Though Solomon built the Temple, the promise of God that “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam 7:13) did not happen in the life of Solomon. He ruled for only 40 years and committed sin, especially during his later age. So, God said, “If he does wrong, I will reprove him with a human rod and with human punishments” (2 Sam 7:14). This only applied to Solomon and not to the Messiah, who was God who took human flesh. God continued in verse 16: “Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever.” Thus, “forever” is repeated thrice (verses 13 and 16) emphasizing the everlasting nature of David’s greater son and his Kingdom.
Because of God’s promise to David that his son would establish his kingdom firmly forever, the Israelites hoped for an everlasting king from David’s line to sit on his throne and to rule the kingdom for eternity with no failure. God revealed this David’s son through Angel Gabriel to Mary, the mother of the Messiah. “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:32-33). The “son of David” is used seventeen times in the New Testament for Jesus, meaning that he was the promised and long-awaited Messiah. The people acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah by proclaiming, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Mt 21:9) during his triumphant entry into the temple of Jerusalem.
People who sought the mercy of Jesus addressed him “Son of David.” A Canaanite woman called Jesus, “Lord, Son of David” while asking him to cure her daughter, who was tormented by a demon (Mt 15:22). Two blind men requested healing from Jesus by addressing, “Lord, Son of David” (Mt 20:30). These people acknowledged Jesus as their savior using the Messianic title “Son of David.”
Jesus was a direct descendant of David through Mary and his adopted father Joseph as per the genealogy of Luke and Matthew. Luke gives the genealogy of Mary tracing back to King David, where he states that Jesus’ legal father, Joseph, was also from the lineage of David as a fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. The emphasis here is on the royalty or kingship of Jesus from David’s lineage.
“Could he be the Son of David?”
The question on the “Son of David” was a disputed topic among the people who witnessed and admired the miracle Jesus performed. As usual, they had different opinions about Jesus, such as John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or a prophet (Mt 16:14). The people knew the family and native place of Jesus. He did not show any sign of royalty in his lifestyle. He declined to accept the royal throne when people insisted him to become their king (Jn 6:15). However, no other prophet had done so much miracles as Jesus did. So, people had different opinions on his divine identity. Some people believed him to be the Son of David, which made them discuss that among themselves.
(24) When the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is by Beelzebul, head of the demons, that this man drives out devils.”
When the Pharisees heard this, they said,
The Pharisees came from Jerusalem as spies of the Sanhedrin to investigate the ‘faults’ of Jesus. When they observed the amazement of the people at the healing Jesus did and their discussion on the Messiahship of Jesus as the Son of David, the Pharisees tactfully tried to divert the appreciation of the people and to undervalue his divine power.
“It is by Beelzebul, head of the demons, that this man drives out devils.”
Beelzebul (Beelzebub or Ba’al-zəbûb) was the god of Ekron (2 Kgs 1:2-3), one of the capital cities of the Philistines. The literal meaning of Baalzebub is “lord of flies,” “lord of dung,” or “lord of filth” and Beelzebul in Aramaic means “lord of the house.” The Greek word Baalzebub is a combination of Baal and zebub. Baal means “lord” and zebub means “exalted dwelling.” Thus, Baalzebub was the prince of demons who dwell in high areas. Baal was a fertility god of the Canaanites in the Old Testament. The Israelites had the temptation to give up belief in their true God and worship the god of Philistines and Canaanites. “They had abandoned the LORD and served Baal and the Astartes” (Judg 2:13).
Since the Beelzebub worshippers believed their god could fly, they portrayed him as a fly. They believed he was a sun god that brings the flies. People in the low-lying cities of the seacoast of Philistia might have worshipped this god to avert the plagues of flies and insects that infected them. The Israelites considered this god as a major demon. The Jews associated Beelzebub also with the Canaanite god Baal. Since worship of such gods was against the true God of Israel, Beelzebub became another name for Satan, the devil, or the prince of demons.
According to demonology, Beelzebub is one of the prominent fallen angels and prince of hell along with other fallen angels like Lucifer (the fallen angel of Light), Leviathan, and Astaroth. Beelzebul is associated with pride, gluttony, and idolatry. By the time of Christ, people used “Beelzebul” to represent Satan.
“It is by Beelzebul, head of the demons, that this man drives out devils.”
By accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the Pharisees blamed Jesus as a person of devil worship or an associate of Satan. They addressed this statement to the crowd and not to Jesus. Their intention was to distract the appreciation of the public who considered Jesus as the Messiah. The Pharisees promoted the people to view Jesus with contempt as an evil person. They acknowledged that only a person of divinity or Satanic influence could cast out the demon in that situation. Though Jesus performed a variety of miracles, the expulsion of demons was the only case the opponents attributed his association with Beelzebul. Jesus, through his argument, told them why that was a ridiculous idea and revealed himself as the Son of God.
(25) Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said to them, “Every kingdom that is divided against itself will fall apart, and every town or household that is divided against itself will not last.
Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said to them,
When Jesus drove out a demon from the dumb man, the thoughts and reaction of the people present were diverse. The person whom Jesus healed, and those who brought him, might have felt grateful to Jesus. Most bystanders expressed their amazement thanking God for such a blessing came through Jesus. The Pharisees who could not acknowledge the divine power in Jesus blamed him as a coworker of Beelzebul, thus tried to divert the appreciation of the people who expressed amazement at the miracle.
The Pharisees did not confront Jesus directly. He noticed them whispering with the crowd against him. God who knows our thoughts (Ps 139:2) spoke through Jeremiah, “I, the LORD, explore the mind and test the heart” (Jer 17:10). With his divine knowledge, Jesus understood the bad intention of his opponents. So, he logically addressed the absurdity of their contention.
“Every kingdom that is divided against itself will fall apart”
Jesus used an example from political and family lives to clarify his logical argument against the opponents. When we analyze the history of the world, whenever there was disunity and fighting within a nation, that ended up in division and enormous loss of resources and lives. Both parties became weak, and they faced challenges from outside enemies as well. Israel was strong when they were faithful to God and united among themselves. They could invade the strong Canaanites and occupy their land under the leadership of Joshua. After the reign of Solomon, when division happened in Israel, they became weak. Both Northern and Southern Israel ended up in exile by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Unity and teamwork are essential for any nation to survive. So Beelzebul would never allow a person to expel demons from a demoniac because that would be against his own goal.
“Every town or household that is divided against itself will not last.”
As with a nation, there must be unity and team spirit in a town or family. According to the Bible, the first family disunity happened with the jealousy of Cain against his brother Abel, ending up in the martyrdom of Abel and deportation of Cain. “Cain then left the LORD’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Gen 4:16).
When Abram and Lot returned to Canaan from Egypt, “the land could not support them if they stayed together; their possessions were so great that they could not live together” (Gen 13:6). “There were quarrels between the herders of Abram’s livestock and the herders of Lot’s livestock” (Gen 13: 7). Abram avoided potential conflict between their families and found an amicable solution. “So Abram said to Lot: ‘Let there be no strife between you and me, or between your herders and my herders, for we are kindred. Is not the whole land available? Please separate from me. If you prefer the left, I will go to the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left’” (Gen 13:8-9). “Lot, therefore, chose for himself the whole Jordan Plain and set out eastward. Thus they separated from each other” (Gen 13:11).
God spoke of Egypt through Isaiah, “I will stir up Egypt against Egypt: brother will war against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom. The courage of the Egyptians shall ebb away within them, and I will bring their counsel to nought” (Isa 19:2-3).
According to Jesus, since all demons are united like a family under Beelzebul, they would not have conflicting action among themselves. So, Beelzebul would not collaborate with his opponent like Jesus to drive out demon from a demoniac. Such an action would destroy their kingdom. Jesus knew the unity of the evil spirits and their determination to keep themselves organized to win humans for them.
(26) So if Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?
Beelzebul would not cooperate with Jesus to cast out a demon from the demoniac because, by doing so, he would destroy his own power. If Satan aided Jesus against his interests, then the kingdom of hell would divide against itself. The reign of Satan and the Kingdom of God oppose each other. It would be like a nation trying to suppress its own people with the support of an enemy nation. That is unreasonable. So, Satan would not cooperate to work against his kingdom. Hence, the argument of the Pharisees that Jesus healed the demoniac with the support of Beelzebul was absurd. Thus, Jesus counter-argued that he was the Son of God and with that authority he drove out demon from the disabled demoniac. By saying so, Jesus admitted the united and organized kingdom of the demons against humans under the leadership of Beelzebul or Satan.
(27) And if it is by Beelzebul that I drive out devils, by whom do your own people drive them out? They themselves will tell you how wrong you are.
The Jews had exorcists during those days (Acts 19:13-20) who were known as “sons of the Prophets.” They were the disciples of Pharisees who did exorcism with prayers and formulae calling upon the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If they did it in the name of God, Jesus used his divine power and that of his Father. Hence, Jesus pointed out the absurdity of their argument by questioning the leaders on what authority their own disciples did the exorcism. If they argue Jesus did the miracle with the power of Beelzebul, they had to admit the same for their disciples who did the exorcism. So, their disciples would witness the irrationality of the argument the Pharisees raised.
(28) But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out devils, then the kingdom of God has already come upon you.
if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out devils
Jesus always had the Holy Spirit with him. During the annunciation, Angel Gabriel told Mary, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). After the baptism from John, “Filled with the holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert” (Lk 4:1). When Jesus was in the synagogue of Nazareth on a sabbath day, he read from Isaiah a passage that was fulfilled through his ministry. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19). “He said to them, ‘Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing’” (Lk 4:21). After presenting the miracles Jesus did, Matthew reported, “This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles’” (Mt 12:17-18; Isa 42:1).
Luke used a figurative expression when presenting the same event. He reported Jesus saying, “If it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons” (Lk 11:20) instead of “by the Spirit of God.” Jesus said to Thomas at the last supper, “The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves” (Jn 14:10-11). The Spirit of God, the finger of God, and the Father’s works represent the power of the God. Thus, the Spirit of the Lord and the authority of the Father were at work with Jesus when he did the miracles including the exorcism. Beelzebul had no entry in Jesus’ life because he came to destroy the domain of Satan from the lives of the faithful.
then the kingdom of God has already come upon you.
The kingdom of God refers primarily to the rule of the Almighty over the entire universe because everything belongs to God with no border. “The LORD has set his throne in heaven; his dominion extends over all” (Ps 103:19). In a specific sense, Israel was the kingdom of God because God’s kingdom is a spiritual rule over the lives and hearts of those who remain faithful to God. Jesus reconstituted it, forming the church with Jesus as its head. This kingdom is spiritual, and that is why Jesus said to Pilate: “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn 18:36).
The church is a foretaste of God’s kingdom that will happen later in its fullness when the redemption time is over and when the hour of judgement will arrive with the second coming of Christ. God governs this kingdom. It is eternal, peaceful, free from any struggle, and is open only for the faithful children of God. “In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever” (Dan 2:44).
The Kingdom of God has distinct stages: God initially established it in the world at large, then among the chosen people of Israel, Jesus restarted it later by establishing the church, and it will come to its perfection with the second coming of Christ.
then the kingdom of God has already come upon you.
The opponents of Jesus agreed that the driving out of demons by Jesus was superhuman. He could do it either with the power of Satan or with the Spirit (power) of God. Though they accused Jesus of doing it with the power of Beelzebul, Jesus refuted it and proved that the power of God was at work through him in his miracles, especially in casting our demons. Once the Messiah destroys the domain of Satan, then he will establish God’s kingdom on earth. So, the expulsion of Satan was a sign of the establishment of God’s kingdom. Its full consummation will happen only at his second coming.
The proof of Jesus’ Messiahship that he gave to John the Baptist’s disciples was, “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Lk 7:22). When Jesus sent his disciples ahead of him to the villages and towns, he said, “cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you’” (Lk 10:9). They were manifesting extraordinary work of God’s power through their healing. That must be the proof for their listeners to believe the truthfulness of their announcement of the Kingdom of God.
then the kingdom of God has already come upon you.
Since Jesus had expelled demons from the demoniacs, it was a sign for the people that he had started destroying the domain of Satan in the world. The Pharisees who misinterpreted the actions of Jesus must believe that the Redeemer was at work among them by establishing the Kingdom of God. Satan’s domain and God’s kingdom cannot go together.
(29) How can anyone break into a strong man’s house and make off with his belongings, unless he first ties up the strong man? Only then can he plunder his house.
Jesus illustrates how he would establish the Kingdom of God using a parable. The ‘strong man’ here is Satan. The house is the world at large and belongings are the individual souls created in the image and likeness of God. Paul wrote, “See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ” (Col 2:8). Satan captivated people who are God’s belongings by misguiding the first parents. God said to the serpent after the fall of the first parents. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Gen 3:15). Jesus is the liberator of the souls that Satan captivated and imprisoned. He came to the world to fulfill God’s promise to subdue Satan and free His detained children.
God spoke to Israel through Isaiah, “Can plunder be taken from a warrior, or captives rescued from a tyrant? Thus says the LORD: Yes, captives can be taken from a warrior, and plunder rescued from a tyrant; Those who oppose you I will oppose, and your sons I will save” (Isa 49:24-25). Jesus fulfilled this through his mission on earth.
Jesus Christ saves the people by binding Satan. No human can do it because of Satan’s strength. Since Satan spiritually subdued the people that are God’s belongings, Jesus exorcised individual demoniacs first, and restored all who believed in him through his passion, death, and resurrection. He will complete it on his second coming. John shared his vision: “Then I saw an angel come down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a heavy chain. He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, which is the Devil or Satan, and tied it up for a thousand years and threw it into the abyss, which he locked over it and sealed, so that it could no longer lead the nations astray until the thousand years are completed” (Rev 20:1-3). Thus, Jesus will fully regain the people of God from the custody of Satan.
Since Satan is in enmity with Jesus, both will not get along together, and the Satan will resist attempts of Jesus for exorcism and liberation of humanity. Thus, Jesus refuted the accusation of Pharisees that he was in partnership with Beelzebul for expelling demons.
(30) He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.
He who is not with me is against me.
Though Jesus the Savior defeated Satan and liberated humanity from Satan’s bondage, the people have to cooperate with Jesus by becoming part of his mystical body, the church. Those who refuse this privilege are still with Satan and against the mission of Jesus. He said, “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24).
We should “know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the evil one” (1 Jn 5:19). So, John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever” (1 Jn 2:15-17). Paul wrote to Romans, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:2). James wrote, “Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jm 4:4). Peter warns, “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour” (1 Pet 5:8). Jesus prayed to the Father for his disciples, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one” (Jn 17:15). Hence, Jesus told his apostles, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33).
He who does not gather with me scatters.
We have to be active partakers in the mission of Jesus. That is why Jesus trained his disciples to live according to his teachings and to work as good shepherds for others. We have no access to heaven independent of Jesus and the church he established. Comparing Jesus to a vine, he told his disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned” (Jn 15:5-6).
Jesus presented himself as a good shepherd who laid his life for the sheep. The Satan comes like a wolf and scatters the sheep. The hired person will leave the sheep, allowing them to be victims of the wolf and will run away because they are not his own (Jn 10:11-12). Those who remain with the good shepherd will be safe.
(31) And so I tell you, any sin or blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
And so I tell you
This usage is to give emphasis to the statement that follows. They are true and important to note.
any sin or blasphemy will be forgiven
Self-repentance and forgiveness to others are conditions for receiving God’s forgiveness. Jesus assured forgiveness for all sins except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Jesus came to rescue the lost sheep and to save all who will cooperate with him, expressing genuine repentance. Jesus did not deny forgiveness to any who approached him with a repentant heart. He even prayed on the cross for the forgiveness of those who persecuted him (Lk 23:34). In the Lord’s prayer, he asked to pray, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Mt 6:12). He continued, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Mt 6:14-15). Peter asked Jesus, “’Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times’” (Mt 18:21-22).
Blasphemy has a wider meaning. It can be someone claiming himself as a god. That was an accusation against Jesus by the Jewish leaders. Blasphemy can mean irreverence to God, insulting a God’s representative, desecrating a sacred place or object, idolatry, or arrogance by denying faith in God. God asked Moses, “Tell the Israelites: Anyone who blasphemes God shall bear the penalty; whoever utters the name of the LORD in a curse shall be put to death” (Lev 24:15-16).
but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
The Holy Spirit is God in communion with the other two persons of the Most Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit existed from eternity and the Bible mentions that from the time of creation. The Holy Spirit has been at work from the time of incarnation of Jesus, at his baptism in River Jordan, and at the beginning of the church on the day of Pentecost. Jesus started his public ministry quoting from Isaiah the prophet, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18, Isa 61:1). The Holy Spirit that came on the apostles continues guiding the church.
blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
Jesus noticed the Pharisees were wrongly and purposefully attributing the works of the Holy Spirit through Jesus to Beelzebul. According to Jesus, it was a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. They accused Jesus as demon possessed or working in association with Satan while Jesus was fighting against him. The exorcism that Jesus did was the work of the Holy Spirit within him. During Stephen’s trial, he accused the Sanhedrin: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51).
blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
Though God welcomes repentant sinners and forgives them, He cannot help those who resist the work of the Holy Spirit in them for reconciliation. Purposefully rejecting the faith and grace one received is detrimental in reaching heaven. If the Pharisees continue their denial of the Holy Spirit who was at work in Jesus and reject the Messiah sent by God, they cannot attain redemption. Despite the invitation for repentance from Jesus, if someone stays at Satan’s side, God will not forgive that person. Denial of the Holy Spirit will block repentance and that would make forgiveness impossible. Hence, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will lead to eternal destruction.
(32) Whoever says anything against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever says something against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Whoever says anything against the Son of Man will be forgiven
Jesus said, all sins, excluding sin against the Holy Spirit, will get God’s forgiveness. So, Jesus will forgive even blasphemy against him. The enemies falsely accused him as “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Mt 11:19). They accused him of violating Sabbath law by healing on that day, making himself equal to God (Jn 5:18) and claiming to be the king of Jews (Mt 27:11-12; Jn 18:33). The Jewish leaders told to Pilate, “We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Messiah, a king” (Lk 23:2). These were blasphemies against the Son of God. However, he would forgive them, provided they have repentance.
whoever says something against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven
The Pharisees committed a grave sin against the Holy Spirit by saying, “It is by Beelzebul, head of the demons, that this man drives out devils.” Thus, they attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to the head of demons. Since the Holy Spirit is in communion with the Father and the Son, denial of the Spirit is a rejection of God. Without the working of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus, who is the only way to the Father, no one can reach heaven. So, denial of the Holy Spirit will be a blockage for repentance that is necessary for forgiveness from God.
either in this age or in the age to come.
As long as we are alive, we have the opportunity for reconciliation in this life. Dismas, one among the crucified criminal with Jesus, received paradise through his reconciliation with Jesus at the end of his sinful life. By the usage of “in the age to come,” Jesus implies the possibility of forgiveness from God even after death.
The Roman Catholic Church believes in purgatory after death as an agonizing stage of purification of souls before entering the fullness of heaven. Not all are worthy of entering heaven immediately after death. God would not deny eternal salvation for the “imperfectly purified.” “After death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC-1030). From His generosity, God can forgive them for their purification and welcome them to heaven. The intercessory prayers and charity of the living can also help the souls in purgatory for their forgiveness of sins.
Even before Christ’s incarnation, the Jews prayed for forgiveness of the faithful departed. During the Maccabean revolt, Judas and his companions found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia under the tunic of the fallen soldiers. “They prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out” (2 Macc 12:42). “He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead” (2 Macc 12:43-44). “Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin” (2 Mcc12:46). So, even before Christ, there was the belief of purgatory and the possibility of intercession for them through prayer and charitable deeds.
While speaking of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Mt 12:32). “From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come” (CCC-1031).
When Jesus said, “whoever says something against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven either in this age or in the age to come,” he meant they will end up in eternal punishment. So, we need to keep faith in God and in the working of the Holy Spirit throughout our lives. By denying God and refuting the work of the Holy Spirit in us, we cannot inherit everlasting life. Death with sin against the Holy Spirit is detrimental. Reconciliation should be a present activity because we do not know whether we will be alive in the next hour.