We’ve noted often that the adoption of Hellenized reason perverted the humble mysticism that once characterized Hebrew religion. Reason is inherently arrogant, convinced it can handle all truth that matters, that it is fully competent and indisputable. With this deep perversion, the Talmudists convinced themselves that they knew the ultimate truth of all things and could cite good reasons for it. Thus, they defined God in such a way as to make Him an extension of their philosophical conclusions. For them, Jehovah simply must be thus and so.
And anyone who promoted a different image clearly could not know God. Their logic excluded the possibility they might be mistaken. Therefore, it didn’t matter what Jesus accomplished in terms of miracles; He could not have come from Jehovah, nor be exercising genuine divine power. So whatever power He had must have come from the Devil. Authority over demons? Must be a higher demonic authority. It’s the only answer that their logic could accept.
So Jesus answered them according to their own style of logic. How can the Devil gain anything by attacking his own troops? It should be obvious Satan would do no such thing. It’s best to imagine Satan as ruling a feudal domain; he’s not stupid. He gained his position by being smarter than people in the first place. The only way to make the Devil let go of someone was to exercise an authority higher than his.
Then Jesus says something most people miss. The Pharisees and their trainees claimed to cast out demons. Exorcism was a lucrative trade in those days, because so very many people were demonized, particularly around Judea and Galilee. Most of the sales pitch was aimed at friends and relatives of the victims to pay on their behalf. However, it was a noteworthy failure, in that a great many victims never got delivered. Jesus was mocking them. It was painfully obvious He got the job done without fail. Just how much authority were the Pharisees able to exercise, regardless of source, in the same task? Was God behind their failures?
You cannot plunder the Devil’s domain unless you have the power to bind him. Whatever the Pharisees were exercising, it wasn’t the power of Jehovah. If the Pharisees were interested only in opposing Jesus any way they could, then whatever their business, it wasn’t the same business as Jesus. How many healings and exorcisms were the Pharisees doing? None, because they wasted too much time envying the ministry of Jesus. They were definitely not on the same side as He.
Then He delivers a strong prophetic warning. God has made clear His mercy and forgiveness. Anyone who repents and humbly confesses their sin before the Lord can be restored to His favor. Jesus mentions blasphemy, the sin of degrading God’s glory by insisting that He’s no better than anyone else, or that others are on His level. It’s far more than jokingly pointing at something broken and saying, “Even God can’t fix that.” It’s suggesting that God is a liar, claiming glory that isn’t rightfully His.
To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit of God is more specific: It is confusing the work of the Holy Spirit with the work of the Devil. This is precisely what the Pharisees on the scene were doing. It wasn’t so much the words they said, but it was what was in their hearts at that moment. They were deeply confused about God and His work, to the point they were incapable of giving Him His due glory for delivering their fellow Israelites. How far would you have to go, how dark would your heart have to be, to confuse God’s deliverance with a deception of the Devil?
The heart discerns divine moral truth. So this business of declaring a tree once and for all good or bad does not require digging into the root system. It’s enough to see the fruit. Your heart is discerned by what comes out of your life. The only associates of the Devil around there were the Pharisees — “children of vipers” discerned by what they valued and how they talked.
And it was far more than mere words here; this was an established Hebrew figure of speech. It covered the whole conduct of someone. Their lives spoke loudly of their darkened hearts, hearts that didn’t connect with divine truth, but lurked around the pits of Hell.