Doing Good or Following Ritual?
Matthew 12 starts off with Jesus’ disciples picking grain for a meal. Some quick context on this: Deuteronomy 23:25 outlines a law stating that impoverished people may pick grain left in fields after harvest to eat. Remember in Matthew 10:9-11, when Jesus commanded his disciples not to take any money or extra clothes with them, but to stay with “some worthy person” (10:11)? Matthew 12:1 shows us that the disciples did exactly what Jesus told them to, but no one was sharing their food with them, so they had to resort to picking their own.
This wouldn’t have been a problem, except it was the Sabbath day. The Pharisees were very angry with the disciples, because they considered it unlawful to do any form of work on the Sabbath. Jesus immediately tells them they’re wrong, and later explains why.
[Jesus] said to them, ‘If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’
By saying this, Jesus is asserting that he is responsible for saying what is and it is not lawful, not any other person. He is saying that helping others and doing good is far more important than observing man-made rituals.
What is Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
After Jesus healed another demon-possessed man, the Pharisees claimed Jesus was doing so “only [through the power of] Beelzebul, the prince of demons” (12:24). Jesus replied that “Every kingdom dividing against itself will be ruined. . .If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?” (12:25-26).
After being accused of performing miracles through Beelzebul, Jesus is upset with being compared to a demon. He says the following:
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”
Jesus referring to those who literally speak against him; he’s also referring to those who have attitudes or beliefs against him. So not believing in Jesus, not asking for forgiveness for sins or believing you aren’t sinning at all, is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. You can’t be forgiven if you don’t ask for forgiveness or you don’t even admit you’re sinning.
But remember in Matthew 11:3, when John doubts Jesus’ miracles? Jesus doesn’t get mad at him or condemn him. So if you admit that you have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, you will be forgiven. It is only unforgivable if you continue to blaspheme and never repent.