Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Joys (and dangers) of Legalism Part III

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He *said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" And He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. Mark 3:1-4
For the past two days we have been talking about legalism.  We learned about the man with the withered hand in the synagouge that Jesus healed on the sabbath.  The pharasiees were so set in their ways that even the Son of God could not gain a hearing. They were determined, resolute, and confident that they had all the answers. Legalism is unmoved by Scripture.

Legalism has its eyes on man and has forgotten about God. Mark 3:2 says, "And they were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath…"   I’ve always thought that when you come into a house of worship, you come to look for God. We come to praise the Lord, to lift His name up, to worship Him, and to engage in a relationship with Him.   

The Pharisees, who were the experts of religion in their day, came not to look at God but man.  In their eyes, Jesus was a mere man and they came to watch what He would do. Their purpose in the house of worship had nothing to do with God, but to condemn the One that wasn’t like them.

That is what legalism does. Legalism sets up a complex, outward system of laws that is used to judge others. You end up evaluating all others around you instead of looking to God.

Legalism is eager to calculate and condemn.  Mark 3:2b says, "…in order that they might accuse Him."  The Greek word "accuse" is where we get our English word "categorize." They were categorizing Jesus, stereotyping Him in a negative way.

They were saying, "We have our set of rules about religion, and Jesus doesn’t fit the mold. He’s not keeping the Law in the way we want Him to."  We often do that kind of thing with people, even when we don’t mean to. We categorize them because they don’t look like us, or because they don’t do everything exactly like us. 

There’s no freedom in legalism. Legalism is calculating and condemning, putting down even God’s Son!

Legalism has no answers for serious questions.  In verse 4, Jesus reasons with them: "‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?’ But they kept silent."  Make note of this! It’s the first time on record that the Pharisees kept silent. The verb here expresses the thought that they "kept on being silent."  They couldn’t come up with an answer. These men, who added 39 laws to the keeping of the Sabbath and considered themselves the keepers of the Sabbath, couldn’t even answer a question about whether to do good, or to do evil, on the Sabbath.

That’s a picture of legalism. Legalism doesn’t think through what’s behind the law. Legalism just simply takes the letter of the law and does not discern the spirit of the law! The Pharisees were so busy defending their system that they would not even reason with someone concerning the purpose behind that very law.  Verse 6 says, "And the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him." The very guardians of the Sabbath law were breaking the Sabbath worse than anyone else could possibly have done! They were so worried about all their precious interpretations of Sabbath laws – yet, on the Sabbath, they were plotting to murder the Son of God. That’s how deceptive legalism is. It’s a great paradox, but it’s easier to keep law than it is to maintain a relationship.

Scripture to Claim:
After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He *said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. Mark 3:5-6

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