If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Jesus Lied About (22, 30).
Jesus is accused of being possessed by a demon and empowered by a demon (22, 30)
It was a regular occurrence that Jesus was accused of being demon-possessed (Mt. 10:25; 11:18-19; Jn 7:20; 8:48, 52; 10:20)
His power to drive out demons was regularly explained away by the Jewish leaders as the power of Satan working in Jesus (Mt. 9:34; 12:24).
The irony is amazing: they accused Jesus of is what they were guilty of. They were the ones in league with Satan, not Jesus (Jn 8:41-47). Light for darkness and darkness for light (Isa. 5:20). The Jewish leaders were the children of Satan while they tried to charge Jesus with being in league with Satan. Evil always tries to portray itself as good and good as evil. Evil falsely accuses good of evil, all the while pretending to be good.
Jesus responds to them in two ways: logically and legally.
Jesus Responds Logically (23-27)
Jesus begins by showing that their accusation just plain didn’t make sense. It was illogical, absurd, and broke down under scrutiny. “The first to present his case seems right,” Proverbs 18:17 says, “till another comes forward and questions him.” The Pharisees advanced a narrative that said Jesus got his power from demons and that is how He could drive out other demons. Jesus refutes this wonderfully logically in two ways.
First He asserts that Satan’s kingdom is firmly united (23-25). It’s ludicrous to think that Satan doesn’t understand that unity within his own kingdom is absolutely necessary in order for him to succeed. If Satan does not have order and unity within his own house he knows that he will easily be defeated and come to an end. Thus Satan, Jesus is essentially saying, is not fighting against himself. THere is no poloarization between demonic teams, no infighting and power grabs. His demons do not drive out other demons from their human habitations. Satan is in it to win, and to win his whole army needs to be unified towards the goal of defeating God’s purposes. Make no mistake, Satan mercilessly maintains order in his ranks.
Secondly, however, Jesus refutes the stupidity of the notion that He has demonic power to drive out demons by turning the tables on the leaders. He says “Well, if I drive out demons by Satan’s power then when you and your people drive out demons what power do are you using?” Gotcha. Obviously they weren’t going to say that they drove demons out by demonic powers. They couldn’t say they did it by themselves, their just human. So they had to say that they drove out demons by God’s power. And, if they did it by God’s power, then, why couldn’t Jesus be doing it by God’s power too? After all, Jesus drove out way more demons then they did. Jesus always masterfully makes his enemies fall into the pit that they dug for Him.
But more importantly, the power Jesus displayed was intended to show the Jews that the kingdom of God was right there in front of them. Matthew records additional things Jesus said in this confrontation, in Matthew 12:28, “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Remember the preaching theme of Jesus according to Mark 1:15 was “The time has come, the kingdom of God is near”. To prove that the kingdom of God was near, in the person of Jesus Christ, Jesus did miracles like driving out demons. He proved He spoke for God by doing miracles with the power of God. “We know you are a teacher who has come from God,” Nicodemus said in John 3:2, “for no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him”. The kingdom of God came in power with Jesus.
Jesus Responds Legally (28-30)
The stubborn refusal to accept that Jesus was from God in the face of all kinds of evidence resulted in them saying illogical and absurd things. But what they said was even more serious than just senseless. They spoke blasphemy. And for this, they were in serious trouble legally. By legally I mean that they are in serious trouble with the court of heaven. Jesus says that blasphemy against the Spirit is an unforgivable sin, an eternal sin – meaning for all eternity that person will be held guilty and never receive forgiveness. (Just as a sidenote we see here how seriously the Father and the Son take any blasphemous speech against the Holy Spirit.)
First of all, what’s blasphemy? Blasphemy means to speak evil of God. It means to regard God as evil, to say He is evil, to either lower God down from His holy status as God or to elevate yourself up to be equal with Him as God (Jn 10:33; Mt. 26:65). A person can blaspheme the Triune God specifically by blaspheming the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit. Now in this situation Jesus says if you blaspheme the Father and the Son you can be forgiven, but, not if you blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
The fact is Jesus drove demons out by the Holy Spirit. He, the Spirit of God, was the power at work when demons were ejected from people. This is the KEY to understanding this whole passage, and, the unforgivable sin. The leaders were committing blasphemy in a very specific way: they were saying that Satan was behind what the Spirit was doing. They characterized what the Spirit was doing as the work of Satan. The “Holy” Spirit was being called Satanic. The “holy” power of the Spirit was being characterized as demonic and satanic. The Person and work of the 3rd Person of the Trinity was being maligned by the Pharisees when they said Jesus had power from Satan. What they said was specific to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. While Jesus operated on earth and His miracle-filled ministry on earth was going on, they witnessed it first hand and despite all the overwhelming evidence that God was with Jesus they deliberately rejected Jesus as being from God, and, so, to explain everything Jesus was doing the only other explanation was that Jesus came from Satan and was empowered by Satan.
Application: When you reject the truth you will embrace anything, no matter how irrational, how ludicrous, how insane. Becuase you reject facts and truth you will increasingly become more irrational in your thinking and be removed further from logic and reasoning. Romans 1:18-21 “…their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…they became fools.”
Now, how come Jesus didn’t accuse the Jewish crowds of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit when they called Him demon-possessed? The reason is because they made such accusations based on what Jesus said, not what He did. We can say that in some sense, Jesus taught by Himself but when He expelled demons it was by the Spirit’s power (Mt. 12:28). I’m not splitting hairs here, but rather I’m carefully noting the difference. The crowds reacted to what Jesus said and explained His words as the sayings of a demon-possessed man. “All blasphemy against the Son of Man will be forgiven” Jesus said (Mk. 3:28; Mt. 12:32). But not against the Spirit. It was He, the Spirit, who was behind every ejected demon that Jesus spoke to. To say it was Satan, and not the Spirit, was an unforgivable blasphemy. It was to say that the Most Evil One was the one at work when in fact it was the Most Holy One.
Can we commit this sin today? My understanding is that no, we can’t.
This sin could only have occurred while Jesus was on earth. He had to be on earth doing miracles in the power of the Spirit in front of people so that they could see Him doing those miracles and then attribute those miracles to Satan. Those people back then who did that were confirmed in their unbelief and would never be forgiven. They would never repent. Every individual teacher of the law and Pharisee and Sadducee and high priest who determined Jesus was of Satan was blaspheming the Spirit who was the One truly with Jesus, and, they each, individually became guilty, and unforgivable.