Jesus had spent His days travelling around Galilee, teaching the deepest, richest truths that humanity had ever heard, and healing the broken. He started out teaching in the synagogues, giving the religious leaders a chance to recognize their Savior. But they didn’t. Instead, they persecuted Him, and so He took His teaching to the countryside. Thousands upon thousands of people from Israel and the surrounding Gentile nations flocked to Jesus as His ministry of teaching and healing continued.
The crowds were beginning to wonder if he was the Son of David. Was he their coming King? Where did his power come from? It had to be the power of the Most High God! And if Christ was truly empowered by the Spirit of God, that meant he was the Anointed One. He was the one who the prophets said would bring the Kingdom of God!
The religious leaders that held power at the Temple in Jerusalem were not happy about the rumors surrounding the radical young preacher. They sent their men to deal with Him.
Somehow, they had to prove that Jesus was not from God. They declared that His miracles were empowered by Satan. Jesus was quick to prove how foolish that argument was. Then he went on to explain His real relationship to the Evil One:
“‘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 rob his house.’”
Did you get that? Jesus was claiming that He had bound up Satan! He wasn’t the partner of Beelzebub, He was his greatest enemy. When Christ left His throne in Heaven and took on the form of a human, it was an act of invasion. He had somehow entered Satan’s territory, captured the mighty fallen angel, and tied Him up. Then He started an epic rescue mission, saving people who were trapped and tormented in Satan’s lair. Jesus was grasping broken people from the Kingdom of Darkness and bringing them to the Kingdom of Light! Jesus wasn’t cooperating with Satan, He was taking victory over him.
Imagine how huge this claim was. Jesus stood before them and declared that He was strong enough to bind the Devil. Either He was right, or He was totally insane.
The Lord wasn’t done. He had destroyed the accusations of the Pharisees. Now He came at them with a rebuke, and what a stern warning it was:
“‘He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”
It was as if Jesus drew a line in the sand and boldly demanded that the religious leaders choose a side. They had to choose Jesus, or they had to choose to be against Him. There was no where else to go. They thought they were in charge, that they could manipulate this situation to their advantage. But they had failed to grasp that Jesus was the ruler of the universe. They had failed to fear God. They couldn’t play games with Him or His purpose. Jesus was graciously giving them an opportunity to have clarity about their options. The Lord went on:
“And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 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 the next.’”
Wow. Those are strong words. By rejecting Christ’s message, they were rejecting the message of the Spirit of the Living God! By claiming He worked in the power of Satan, they were slandering the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus declared that this sin against the perfect and pure Spirit of God was an eternal sin. If they committed themselves to it, the judgment of God would be upon them forever.
The warnings of Christ were also a kindness, for there would be no forgiveness for those who refused to respond to the work of the Holy Spirit. As Christ preached the Good News, the Spirit was moving to work in the hearts of those who listened. The Spirit enabled the heart to step into faith, and the door was open for them to walk through. Would they count themselves worthy of the salvation?
These men had choices. Instead of insulting the power that worked through Christ, they could have asked honest questions. They could have believed of the glorious Good News and taken back to their leaders. They could have believed that Jesus was the Anointed One that Isaiah had prophesied about. All the evidence they needed was there! Jesus was the Messiah!
To reject the work of the Spirit and to testify against Him was to side with Satan. If the religious leaders continued to work so viciously for the kingdom of darkness, if they refused to repent, then their rejection of the Spirit’s call would condemn them forever.
Finally, the Lord Jesus told them:
“‘Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad; for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brook of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.’”
Gulp. Whoa. The Jewish religious leaders were using their words and their power to destroy. Their hearts were overflowing with rebellion and arrogance! They were like serpents, children of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, doing the work of Satan himself. Their hardness of heart against Jesus showed their hardness of heart against the Most High God. And the result of what they did was very bad fruit. They poisoned the people of their time with confusion and deception just as the bright, clear Herald of salvation had come!