As it’s just two verses, I’ll quote the full passage.
“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
The context here is all about the source of Jesus’ power. His family have already tried to restrain Jesus when people have expressed a concern that is out his mind. The Scribes take it a step further, saying that Jesus is possessed by the ‘Ruler of the Demons’. But what Mark wants us to know is that Jesus is ‘possessed’ by the power of God.
There has been a lot of ink spilled on the meaning of ‘Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit’, and I can remember conversations with Christians who were worried that they had, or might in the future, commit this sin. Certainly Jesus intends his hearers to take his words very seriously, as he starts with the words: “Truly I tell you.” (A formula that also appears elsewhere as “Truly, truly I say unto you”). Since this passage is all about the source of Jesus’ power and identity, the ‘blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” must be a rejection of Jesus and his kingdom.
I just have the following thoughts that intersect with this passage, that come after a week’s work on trauma healing.
Briefly – trauma is an event that threatens our physical, mental, spiritual or emotional well being. We don’t ‘just get over it’ because trauma has a huge impact on our body and our brain. Reactions often include: suppression of grief and fears; anger; spiritual questions (why?); a need for justice; a desire for revenge against a perpetrator.
One of the most common reactions is to divide the world up into ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Our anger against those who have hurt us may come out in acts of ‘justified aggression’ in the name of self defense. We saw that in the response to 9/11. The response of the American administration at the time resulted in a widespread fear of Islam and of Muslims in general.
Until a person/family/community/nation can break free from this cycle of violence, it is likely that every act of aggression will result in a violent response. But taking a decision to act in a different way to trauma can lead to a whole story. We have probably all heard stories of where a victim has taken a decision to live in a different way. It always involves risk taking, and it may involve engaging with the offender (in a non violent way). The victim may come to point of forgiving the offender, and in some cases there may even be reconciliation.
What is certain is that there can not be any forgiveness or reconciliation unless the victim is able to break free from the cycle of violent behaviour.
The problem remains as long as we see ‘the other’ as evil. Once we are able to move beyond this to see a perpetrator as a human being, there is the possibility of change and transformation.
In the passage in Mark’s Gospel, this is the problem. The scribes look at Jesus and see an enemy. They go so far as to say he is evil. Unless they are willing to choose a new way to see him, there will be no possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.