Commentary on the Gospel of
whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.
Many scholars have pondered what it means to “slander the Holy Spirit”—a sin, according to Jesus, that “will never be forgiven.” Perhaps such a sin renders us impervious to remorse or conversion, and thus puts us beyond the scope of forgiveness. In this context, however, the meaning seems clear enough. It is Jesus’ response to the shocking accusation of his enemies that he is only able to drive out demons because he is in league with Beelzebul, the chief of the demons. Over and over, Jesus has offered signs of healing power. Where the sick are made whole, where the poor receive the good news, where the oppressed are set free—these are the signs of the Holy Spirit, the in-breaking of God’s kingdom. But because these signs do not come in some officially “church-sponsored” package, there are religious people who fail to recognize them, even dismissing them as being from the devil. This, according to Jesus, is slander against the Holy Spirit, worse even than an “insult to God.” God forbid that we should fail to perceive the presence of the Spirit in our midst. All the worse if we abuse and slander its witnesses, and thus carry the guilt of that sin forever.