While Jesus was at the Pharisee’s house, the crowd had continued to grow. That might have been in response to his casting out a demon and having a confrontation with the Pharisees. Luke wrote that there were many thousands and they were actually trampling each other.
When Jesus returned, he addressed his disciples. (1) The crowd may have been able to hear him, but he directed his words to his disciples. His warning contained the same theme as his accusation against the Pharisees at dinner: their hypocrisy.
Jesus warned them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. He used an example from bread baking, something that was familiar to the people.
Leaven is like yeast or baking soda. It might even be like a sourdough starter. When added to dough, it will spread through, permeate, the dough. It changes the character of the dough. Unleavened bread is flat and brittle. Leavened bread rises and is soft.
The leaven Jesus referred to was hypocrisy. It can corrupt a person. It can spread through an entire congregation and corrupt it, as people do things only for show and there is no real affection for the Lord.
Jesus also warned them that they would not get away with hypocrisy. He said everything that is hidden will be revealed. What is said in the dark will be heard in the light. What is said in private will proclaimed on roof tops. (2-3)
God reveals sin. He does it in different ways. Sometimes he will address it will directly with you. Cain tried to hide the murder of Abel, but God confronted him and imposed a punishment on him. (Genesis 4) David committed adultery and murder, trying to keep it a secret. But God sent Nathan the prophet to confront him. (2 Samuel 11-12)
Sometimes he reveals it through another person who was part of the sin. Judah did not keep his promise to his daughter-in-law, to give her another of his sons to marry after his son, Er, died. Later, he slept with her, thinking she was a prostitute (she fooled him with her dress). She got pregnant. When Judah started to punish her, she produced his signet ring and staff. He had to admit he had not been righteous. (Genesis 38)
At some point, all will be revealed. All that we try to hide will be uncovered and proclaimed. It may happen soon, it may happen later. But it will happen. As my mother used to say, your sins will find you out.
Of course, God knows who and what you are. There is no hiding from him. Remember that God told Samuel “the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart”. (1 Samuel 16:7)
One reason God does this is for your sanctification. He prefers to rid you of sin and make you holy more than to allow you to get away with sin. Another reason is that God hates sin. He cannot tolerate it in his people. It dishonors him and it dishonors the church.
J. C. Ryle wrote:
Let me counsel every true servant of Christ to examine his own heart frequently and carefully before God. This is a practice, which is useful at all times; it is especially desirable at this present day. When the great plague of London was at its height, people took note of the smallest symptoms that appeared on their bodies in a way that they never noticed them before. A spot here, a spot there, which in time of health, men thought nothing of, received close attention when the plague was decimating families and striking down one after another! We ought to watch our hearts with double watchfulness. We ought to give more time to meditation, self-examination and reflection. It is a hurting, bustling age; if we would keep from falling, we must take time for being frequently alone with God.
David came to do this in his own life. Psalm 139:23-24 says: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and led me in the way everlasting.” That is a good place to start. Pray this prayer and let God lead you to greater sanctification and holiness.
Whom To Fear?
Jesus also went on to tell his disciples not to fear those who kill the body. He knew that persecution would come. Some of it would come from the Pharisees and other Jews. Some would come from the Romans.
Some Jews from a certain synagogue stoned Stephen to death. (Acts 6-7) That execution was supervised and approved by a Pharisee named Saul. Herod the king “laid violent hands” on some church members and killed James. (Acts 21-2)
The thought of persecution, especially physical torture or death, is scary. But Jesus said not to be afraid of the persecutors, because they could kill the body but nothing else. (4)They cannot touch your spirit which goes to heaven when you die.
Instead, Jesus said to fear the one who has authority to cast into hell. (5) For the lost person, this is a thing that should be feared. The New Testament speaks of the wrath of God that will come upon unsaved sinners.
For the man or woman who is in Christ, that fear turns to loving reverence. It also turns to trust. That is why Jesus told them that God knew every sparrow and every hair on our heads. (7) We are more valuable than sparrows to God. He knows us. He knows our sufferings. He is with us in it all and we can trust him to get us through it.
Jesus encouraged his disciples to be faithful. He said those who acknowledge him before men will receive acknowledgment by Christ before the angels of God. (8) He spoke here of the judgment. When we are in Christ and faithful to him, he claims us as his own in heaven. This is the picture we say in Revelation 20, when men and women are judged before the throne. Two books were opened. One was the book of life and the other was a book of deeds. Judgment ensued. Those whose names were written in the book of life were received into heaven acknowledged by Christ. Those who were not were judged and found guilty by their deeds, and were cast into the lake of fire. Jesus said those who deny him before men would be denied by him in heaven at the judgment.
Jesus added a warning to those who did not acknowledge him. He said that one who spoke a word against him could be forgiven, but one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (10) This is sometimes referred to as the unpardonable sin. The meaning of this is often debated.
So, what is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Why is this sin unforgivable?
The context here goes back to verse 14. Jesus cast a demon out of a man who was mute. The man spoke. Therefore, there was no question that Jesus had performed this miracle.
But some in the crowd cast aspersion on the source of Jesus’ power. They said he cast out demons by the power of the devil. (15) But he did not. Jesus cast out the demon by, or in, the power of the Holy Spirit. These critics were, therefore, attributing the power of the Holy Spirit to the power of Satan.
Jesus called this blasphemy. The English word “blasphemy” is a transliteration of the Greek word “blasphemeo”, which means to revile, defame, speak evil of, or to hurt another’s reputation.
First of all, Jesus shows us that the Holy Spirit is God. Otherwise, you could not blaspheme him.
Second, we know the role of the Holy Spirit is to reveal spiritual truth to us. He convicts us of our sin and God’s judgment. He shows us that Christ is the way to salvation. We see this in Jesus’ description in John 15 and 16.
It appears, then, that the unforgivable sin occurs when one so reviles the Holy Spirit that he withdraws from that person and never again leads him to repent. Not being able to repent, that person cannot be forgiven.
Jesus did not specifically say that the Jews had committed the unpardonable sin, but they were at least close in claiming his work was the work of the devil. At the very least, Jesus issued a stern warning to them.
Having issued this warning, which was part of his encouragement for the disciples to be faithful, Jesus returned to his theme of not fearing those who persecute. He said when, not if, they bring you before authorities to defend yourself, do not be anxious about what you should say. The reason we need not be anxious is that the Holy Spirit will teach us what to say. (12)
We saw this very thing happen in the book of Acts. In Acts 4, Peter and John were brought before the Jewish council and questioned about healing a man. Peter responded with a speech that Jesus, whom they crucified, was the Christ. The council was surprised at Peter’s words, knowing he was uneducated and common. They had no words to respond to Peter. So, they threatened them and let them go.
In Acts 5, Peter was arrested again and again he testified that Jesus was killed, but resurrected and exalted to God’s right hand. Stephen preached a long sermon before his execution, basically summarizing the Old Testament. Paul witnessed to Felix, the governor, at his trial and made such an impression that Felix summoned him to come speak to him some more privately. He shared his conversion story with King Agrippa while on trial.
In all these cases, and others, the Holy Spirit did just what Jesus said: he gave believers the words to say when on trial for their faith.
Be true. Be faithful. Be courageous, not anxious. God cares for you and will be with you.