Mark 3:26-30

“And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.”

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Mark 3:26-30

It bugged me all day yesterday. After sending out yesterday’s devotion, I kept thinking about that last line, vs. 27, “But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.” I just had a sense that I was missing something. Then it came to me.

I have always understood that line as part of Jesus’ defense against those who thought he was an agent of Satan. That Jesus was the “strong man” who needed to be tied up so that Satan could do his thing. But what if that isn’t what Jesus meant?

What if the “strong man” is instead the religious leaders who stand opposed to Jesus? What if they were the ones entrusted with the care of God’s house, God’s home, God’s family (the Greek word used is “οἰκίαν”)? And thus, for Satan to have his way, the religious leaders would be the ones who needed to be tied up so that the “οἰκίαν” could be plundered.

If that is the case, then the meaning of the following verses, including the notorious “unforgiveable sin” – is much clearer.

“Sin” is the radical brokenness in our relationships with God and one another. It runs much deeper than “the naughty stuff we do.” Those are symptoms. Sin is the disease, the incurable disease, that leads to death, which is the ultimate broken relationship. Forgiveness is the balm that heals the brokenness. Forgiveness opens the door to reconciliation, to restoration, to the beginning of a new relationship.

This understanding of sin is what led the Apostle Paul to write about baptism as “death.” In Romans 6:4 he writes, “Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” The “newness” of God’s gracious love for us comes to us as a gift as we die to ourselves so that we can live in a new, restored, relationship with God.

To reject Jesus, to refuse to see God at work in Jesus, to reject Jesus’ way of being in the world in relationship with others, is to cut ourselves off from the healing work that God’s love, that God’s forgiveness, would do in our lives. And that is precisely what is going on with Jesus’ opponents.

In denying Jesus, they are denying the work that God is doing through Jesus. (Remember, the Holy Spirit is a verb. The Holy Spirit is God in action.) And in their denial – caused by how fiercely they cling to their earthly power and position – they are cutting themselves off from the good that God would do in their lives. They are living in unforgiveness.

Let us pray: O God, help us be mindful of whatever it is that “ties us up” and leads us to reject you and the power of your love in our lives. May your Spirit, poured into our lives in our baptism, be our guide, our comforter, and our teacher. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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