I find this passage of Matthew very hard to rightly unpack. As I read it, I realize I am distracted, not by what Jesus is teaching but by the way it is reported. I hear the scribe behind the scenes. I imagine him trying to record everything Jesus is saying and realizing not but a second into it that he might be in over his head. This is big stuff – demons, Holy Spirit, Jesus, forgiveness. And try as he might to get it all down just as Jesus taught, when I read the passage today I feel the scribe’s presence. And this distraction makes it easier for me to not have to deal – unpack – what Jesus is teaching here. It’s a sort of excuse.
I wonder how often that happens to readers. I wonder how often we just glide over some really big ideas and not spend time to understand the Word’s personal application? I wonder how many people don’t read Scripture at all because it is just too dense and complicated and seemingly contradictory?
Today’s gospel was unpacked for me by an anonymous contributor to Forward Day by Day some time last year. I saved the reflection and was grateful to come upon it in my journal this morning, as I turned there to note how difficult I find this passage.
I’m thankful the contributor didn’t encounter the same distraction as I with the gospel story.
The Holy Spirit was present with that scribe who first recorded the teaching, and with the contributor who centuries later unpacked the teaching, and here with me now as I begin another day applying the teaching I glean from His Word.
From Forward Day by Day, October 11, 2011
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.
Why won’t we be forgiven for speaking against the Holy Spirit when we will be forgiven if we speak against Jesus? That question has always troubled me. After all, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are part of the Trinity. Why the difference? Why this warning?
I think Jesus is reminding us that the Holy Spirit lives in us and because of that, we should know better. Through the inner movement of the Spirit we have been enlightened to know right from wrong, to know what is of Jesus and what is not. When we choose to do what we know in our hearts and minds is not of Jesus, we are speaking against the Holy Spirit that is within us.
If we persist in this, we will not be forgiven. We may think we would never go so far in our rebellion. But all sins begin small. We steal dimes before we steal dollars before we steal thousands. It is a slippery road and we have been warned!