Read Mark 3:20-30
I Love You to the Moon and Back is a popular book for little children. My guess is that it was written by someone inspired during a reading of Do You Know How Much I Love You? given that the latter ends with this very phrase. It is a fitting sentiment of parental love and has inspired a cottage industry of wall art like the image above and posters and wedding invitations and coffee mugs and who knows what else.
The moon is officially 238900 miles away from the Earth. Imagine how large the moon must be to be so visible in the night sky? Interesting fact, at apogee, the moon is over 250000 miles away from the earth. So when someone says they love you to the moon and back they are saying a lot. In fact you would circle the earth’s equator 7.5 times to equal the distance to the moon and a total of 15 times to go there and back. So, I guess when a person says that they love you to the moon and back they are saying that they would chase a you around the world 15 times to woo or save you. Most parents have felt like they have chased their children that far at one time or another. No one ever says I love you to the Sun and back (186 million miles) probably because the Sun is not out when you are trying to get a child to go to bed; except in Texas where the sun is seemingly always out!
This image is from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech. The larger dot is the Earth and the smaller dot is the moon seen from 900 million miles away! In case you are wondering that is a picture taken from a spacecraft near Saturn. Brief conspiracy note: I have no way of proving that this is a picture from 900 million miles away. It could be zoomed out capture of a light bright with a pinprick in the paper for all I know. Still if Saturn which I have seen through a telescope is 900 million miles away then why don’t we start saying “I love you to Saturn and back”?
Since we are going for hyperbole of the highest order here, the furthest known visible distant “object” from earth is a galaxy, MACS0647-JD, that is 13.3 billion light years away. If you are curious how many miles that is it is 13.3 billion multiplied by 5.87 trillion or 7.81 e+22 miles.
“I love you to MACS0647-JD and back” just doesn’t have the same appeal as the Moon or Saturn; nor does it lend itself easily to wall art you can find at Hobby Lobby. Truth be told 7.81 e+22 miles only makes sense to like 2% of the population.
Thus far in Mark’s gospel, Jesus has been healing folks, casting out demons, preaching and sharing the truth about the arrival of the hour of the Kingdom of God. Demons have recognized him. People have begun following him. The powers that be in Jerusalem have taken notice and especially since he has healed people on the Sabbath. Now, in these verses, we learn the smear campaign that has begun.
Jesus is possessed of some sort of unholy spirit or is using the power of Beelzebub to perform magic and seduce the people. In fact, the presence of the Scribes may very well be a sign that the Sanhedrin are conducting an official investigation into whether or not Capernaum has been seduced by evil. This was a very real thing in first century Palestine. We also know from documents in the second century that the idea of Jesus as sorcerer and seducer of minds was still a charge leveled against him by Jewish authorities and pagans in their arguments with Christians.
Jesus answers the charge here with a simple parable: a house divided against itself can not stand. If I am empowered by Satan then how can Satan succeed if the things you see me do are actively working against the demonic powers in the world? This is the question that Jesus asks. It is sound logic. After all, an army never turns its guns on itself and shoots half the troops before engaging in battle. There are lots of places we can look for examples of this wisdom. If a husband and wife are struggling we sometimes see the symptoms in the children. If the offense unit and defense unit of a football team do not respect each other or the coaching staff the team is seldom successful. Abraham Lincoln famously applied this saying to the competing sides of the War Between the States. Even today, we see it in the struggles of the Democratic and Republican parties not to mention the Congress as a whole. Indeed, when a house struggles against itself it cannot stand. Thus, it was ridiculous to consider that Jesus might be invoking the power of Satan to attack the demonic forces in the world.
Jesus goes on to talk about the inability to plunder the strong man’s house without first binding the strong man. For years I could not follow this notion because I did not know who the strong man was. I always supposed that the strong man was God and that no one would be able to enter into his kingdom and bind him up and pillage. Sometimes I even wondered how to apply it to the life of a believer. How can we be the strong man and avoid the binding and the robbing? Now I am older and hopefully a little wiser and I have come to realize that the strong man is Satan. Jesus is not describing what Satan is trying to do to God or us, as I always thought; rather, Jesus is describing what he is doing while on Earth. He is the one who is entering into the realm of the strong man where he will bind him up and loot the house.
Recall way back in chapter 1, specifically verses 7 and 8 where John the Baptizer says that one is coming who is greater than he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is this greater than. Not only is the bringer of the Holy Spirit greater than John the Baptizer, he is greater than the strong man, Beelzebub. The mission of Jesus includes His entering into the house of the devil, binding him up, and spoiling his house.
What are the spoils of Jesus work of binding Satan? Read his next statement, the beautiful sublime truth about what Christ does in his spoiling of the Devil’s domain.
“Truly, ALL sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter…” I realize that this is half the verse but it is so crucial that we linger here for bit. Three little letters (only 5 in Greek) but so complete and full. ALL. Think of the ways that word is used in our own language: All expenses paid. All-inclusive. Open all the windows. Deal all the cards. The team won all of their games. It means every. It means completely. It means in-totality. ALL means ALL and it never means less than every last thing that it references.
ALL SINS shall be forgiven (sons of men is a colloquialism for people) and whatever blasphemies they utter. What does Jesus plunder from the strong man’s house? Our guiltiness. Satan is the accuser. He is the district attorney who brings the charges against people before God. Jesus enters into the house and takes from him the power of sin over us by providing for the forgiveness of ALL our sins. As the great hymn puts it “my sin not in part but in whole.” ALL.
Whatever you are doing right now, stop. Stop and let that truth sink in and devastate your heart. Give the Holy Spirit the silence to work and reveal and wash.
Every single sin you can think of from your past or present is forgiven.
The sins you are yet to commit, for the believer they too are forgiven.
This is what Christ has done. Here in this moment he is foreshadowing, but when he utters “it is finished” on the cross, the work is done. His death the atoning sacrifice for your sins. The only sacrifice that you will ever need. The only work that will ever suffice for your sin. Done!
Praise God for his love for you. Confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that He has completed this mighty work for you and for all who put their faith and trust in Him. This is the gospel. This and nothing else.
“but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin!”
This is why I asked you to stop and ponder the beauty of all your sins being forgiven, because if you read too quickly you will become afraid of this half of the verse. There is but one unpardonable sin and that is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Unpardonable means that it cannot be forgiven. The inability to forgive it is what makes it an eternal sin.
The gospel of John tells us that the work of the Holy Spirit is straightforward. The Holy Spirit is tasked with convicting the hearts of people about sin and with the truth about who Christ is. To make it simpler, it is to reveal your guilt before a just and Almighty God and then reveal the pardon that is available to ALL who believe that Christ has died and risen to secure that pardon.
This is why blaspheming the Holy Spirit is unpardonable because it literally means denying the truth of who Christ is and what he has done. When a person rejects this truth, that person has placed themselves at complete antagonism to God’s will. So, if you are a believer in Christ, be encouraged for you have already avoided the one eternal sin.
The scribes with their claims that Jesus was an operative of Satan were treading very dangerous ground. They were at risk of the ultimate blasphemy. For rejecting Jesus is to reject God himself.
If you are reading this then you are most likely a believer in Jesus Christ; therefore, fear not blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Embrace the profound love of Christ that would forgive you ALL of your sins.
- What are you holding onto that is sinful?
- What guilt from past action or inaction do you still feel?
- What sins of other believers are you still holding against them?
- If God has forgive you much shouldn’t you forgive others?
The universe is suspected to be 46 billion light years across or around 2.6 sextillion miles, with the visible expanse of space a mere 13.3 billion light years. I sometimes like to ponder the expansion of the universe from the Big Bang as the creation of the universe rocketing way from its source, God. My head cannot completely picture that and I have absolutely no reference for the exceptional distance the universe is from one side to the other. What I know (and I use know in the sense of deepest truth not just in my mind) is that the Divine Author of all that is exists outside of the limitations of time and space. What I know is that before all was created Jesus was meant to happen. I mean, Jesus knew when the creation began that there would be a cross and a death. God chose to create all that is from love. Jesus chose to love by agreeing to create and therefore to die. The Holy Spirit chose to love by binding the hearts of people and the glories of creation to the Creator. So, Jesus traveled those sextillion miles that all of your sins might be forgiven.
Or in other words, “God loves you to MACS0647-JD and back!”
And then some.
Feel free to use this Bible study for your own groups or discussion. It is freely given. If you do I merely ask that you acknowledge where you got it and if you find it useful that you encourage others to seek it out. It is written with fear, foreboding, and prayer by a fellow hypocrite who is simply trying to figure out the road ahead.