Looking back over my life, I can remember many times when I experienced the conviction of the Holy Spirit. There were moments when He just had to whisper, to nudge, and I responded. There are other times when He allowed me to feel the full crushing weight of my sin in light of His holiness, His grace, and His mercy. Those times “stick with me,” and remind me often that because I have been shown truth, and have proclaimed faith in Jesus, everything I do and say is a reflection of who God is to anyone who observes my life.
Today’s read, Matthew 12, is a sobering reminder of the responsibility we have as people to whom God has revealed truth. Jesus has several encounters with the Pharisees – encounters that reveal they knew exactly who Jesus was, but deliberately chose to reject Him and attribute His actions and words to a madman, someone possessed by the devil.
They confronted Jesus when His disciples gathered some grain to eat as they walked through a field on the Sabbath. They were hungry and reached out to satisfy their hunger. According to Jewish law, this was “work” – forbidden. Jesus asserted that He, the Son of Man, is Lord of the Sabbath, and that “something greater” than the Temple (the Law) was in front of them. The truth was obvious.
To make His point further, Jesus intentionally heals a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath, and later, a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. The work of the Spirit of God was obvious in Jesus, but the Pharisees declared Jesus was working with Satan’s power, an assertion that was clearly foolish and untrue, as Jesus explained. It was not only foolish; it was on the verge of blaspheming the clear and unmistakable work of the Spirit, something which He warned was unforgivable.
Matthew 12:30-32 – He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come.
The word blasphemy is blasphēmia and means impious and reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty. What is the Spirit’s work? It is to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11). To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to clearly be convicted, to know what is righteous, and understand that God is the Righteous Judge, but still, in the face of what is revealed to you, to reject the truth and turn away, refusing to repent of your sin. Dying without faith in Christ for the forgiveness of your sin is the unpardonable sin. There is no second chance.
In the final verses of this chapter, the Pharisees ask for a sign. Jesus knew they were like many people today – despite clear evidence right in front of them, they claim to need more. They say they want more proof that the Bible is true, that man is depraved, that Jesus is real and alive, that He is who He says He is and did what He said He would. But they don’t really want more proof; they just want another reason to explain Him away and deny the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the God-given conscience inside them. Jesus told the Pharisees, Ninevah repented at the preaching of Jonah, but “something greater” than Jonah was in front of them. He also reminded them the Queen of Sheba came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but “something greater” than Solomon was in front of them.
The Pharisees didn’t need more Law – Jesus was here!
The Pharisees didn’t need more preaching – Jesus was here!
The Pharisees didn’t need more wisdom – Jesus was here!
They had no more excuses. They had a choice to make – repent or reject. Accept the work of the Holy Spirit that was stirring conviction and showing them the truth or cover their deaf ears and blind eyes and allow sin to continue to harden their hearts to the point of no return.
We, too, have a choice. If the Holy Spirit has shown you the condition of your heart without Christ, you are accountable to God. Don’t be so arrogant as to think you’ll repent just before you die; you have no idea how your life will end, and you cannot underestimate how hard your heart will be. If God’s Spirit is calling out to you, answer the call! Something greater is here.