These leaders had not only actively worked against Jesus by engaging him in public debate, but they had also actively worked against the Holy Spirit by silencing him in the internal debate happening in their hearts.
There is something about a great debate that intrigues all of us. News networks and social media thrive on “debate” (if you could call all the yelling and personal insults a debate). If we look at American history, we see the fascination with debate captured in the Nixon-Kennedy debates in 1960, the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, and the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858. The latter debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas centered around slavery. In arguably the most famous quote attributed to the man who would later become president, Lincoln’s major premise throughout his debates was the idea that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Interestingly, the quote that we often associate with one of America’s most famous presidents can be traced back to none other than Jesus.
When the religious leaders accuse Jesus of driving out demons through the power of Satan (Matthew 12:22-42 & Mark 3:20-30), Jesus immediately engages them in what may be the shortest, most one-sided debate ever (it’s what happens when someone debates God in the flesh). Jesus retorts that “if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand.” Jesus then goes further to leave his audience speechless:
“And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out?”
Jesus demonstrates the logical inconsistencies with the arguments of the religious leaders to everyone present.
This exchange wasn’t quite over though. In the final mic-drop moment, Jesus both instructs the crowds and condemns the attitudes of the religious leaders:
“…but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
We see here that the religious leaders attributed the work of the Holy Spirit (the healing performed by Jesus) to demonic forces. Because of the hardness of their hearts, they were not open to what Jesus was trying to communicate to them. They not only doubted the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those around them, but they actively suppressed his work in their own lives. Their response to Jesus and his work resulted in an inability to see, an inability to hear, and an inability to change their hearts. It was a constant and intentional rejection of God. These leaders had not only actively worked against Jesus by engaging him in public debate, but they had also actively worked against the Holy Spirit by silencing him in the internal debate happening in their hearts.
And now we fast forward to about 2000 years later, and the same debate that was raging in Israel is still raging in our hearts. What will we do with the person of Jesus? What will we do with the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Will we have the same reaction as the religious leaders: a complete rejection of the Holy Spirit and his work? Will we be overtaken by a crippling fear from the loss of power and control over our own circumstances that must take place when Jesus enters into our lives? Or will we open our eyes to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Will we allow our hearts to be changed and molded into the hearts of true disciples? What will we do with the person of Jesus?