What did Jesus think of religion?

Jesus had an uncanny ability to infuriate people!

No_20Religion_20for_20siteOn several occasions Jesus went toe-to-toe with the religious leaders and one of their “hot buttons” was what constituted work on the Sabbath. (Mk 2:23-28; 3:1-6)

Jesus used the Sabbath to heal and bless others which, while keeping with God’s original intent, angered the religious elite because it violated their rules. What we see in these encounters is Jesus putting on display two radically different spiritual paradigms. A paradigm is simply a particular way of viewing or approaching something.

One paradigm is religion, which is merely a person’s efforts to follow advice about how to secure God’s favor. It take’s many forms but all boils down to this: I receive from God what I work for or earn.

The other paradigm is the Gospel, which begins and ends with news. Something truly amazing has been done for us and we simply need to embrace it.

It’s sort of like this…

Suppose you had a loved one who needed a heart transplant to live and I possessed a heart that doctors could use to save them.

If I said: “If you do everything I tell you to do and do it well enough to earn my favor then I will allow you this heart to save your loved one.” That’s religion.

If I said: “Here is a heart for your loved one. I want you to have it as a gift. In fact, I’ve allowed my own son to die so that your loved one could live.”  That’s the Gospel.

The Gospel is so much better than religion but the Pharisees couldn’t handle it. After one such encounter “the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” (Mk 3:6) This is staggering because the Pharisees and Herodians were arch enemies!

The Pharisees fought to preserve the integrity and purity of God’s word while the Herodians were Jews who compromised in order to get along with King Herod – the Roman ruler. Their approaches to life and God were polar opposites! Tim Keller in Jesus the King sums it up well.

The “traditional values” approach to life is moral conformity—the approach taken by the Pharisees. It is that you must lead a very, very good life. The progressive approach, embodied in the Herodians, is self-discovery—you have to decide what is right or wrong for you. And according to the Bible, both of these are ways of being your own savior and lord. Both are hostile to the message of Jesus. And not only that, both lead to self-righteousness. The moralist says, “The good people are in and the bad people are out—and of course we’re the good ones.” The self-discovery person says, “Oh, no, the progressive, open-minded people are in and the judgmental bigots are out—and of course we’re the open-minded ones.”

Do these two approaches to life and God sound familiar? They should! They are how most people do life today. But Keller goes on to describe how the Gospel is different.

The gospel does not say, “the good are in and the bad are out,” nor “the open-minded are in and the judgmental are out.” The gospel says the humble are in and the proud are out. The gospel says the people who know they’re not better, not more open-minded, not more moral than anyone else, are in, and the people who think they’re on the right side of the divide are most in danger.

Which of the following are you putting your trust in?

  • The keeping of certain moral standards… (Pharisees)
  • The right to determine your own moral standards… (Herodians), or
  • The Gospel… that we are all sinners (truth) in need of God’s forgiveness (grace) made available through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection!


© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.


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Filed under Christianity, God, Grace, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Truth

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