In my reading through the book of Mark, yesterday I began chapter 3 where Jesus is asking about what is lawful on the Sabbath. He notices a man with a withered hand and the religious leaders watched Jesus to see if He would heal on the Sabbath in order that they may accuse Him. However, Jesus is a step ahead of them. He asked the Pharisees (the religious leaders), “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?”. However, the Pharisees were silent and had no response to Jesus’ question. He proceeded to heal the man with a withered hand and was angered by their hardness of heart.
The commentary in my Bible best describes what happened in verses 1-6:
“Jesus is not intimidated by His opponents; he makes the Sabbath healing an intentionally public incident. The silence of the opponents displays their hardness of heart and Jesus’ anger shows that his question, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good…’ should have been answered; ‘to do good’. This would not violate the [Old Testament] law, but it would violate the opponent’s extrabiblical, mostly Pharisaic tradition. Their tradition misses the point of the Mosaic law: to love God and one’s neighbor.”
The part of that description from the commentary that drives home Jesus’ point is, “Their tradition misses the point of the Mosaic law: to love God and one’s neighbor”. In this passage, it is clear that the religious leaders would rather keep their own tradition, than to do good for someone on the Sabbath. However, they are perfectly fine with meeting and working together to figure out a way to destroy Jesus immediately after He preforms this miracle (vs. 6, pride will justify so many things). By trying to keep their own laws, they failed to be obedient to the point of God’s. They fail to exemplify their love for God, by not loving their neighbor.
When we try to do things our own way, we miss the point. When we are constantly watching for others to slip up in order to accuse them of ‘wrongdoing’, we are the only ones in the wrong. This is why religion is not the answer. Because even when trying and trying to do ‘good’ and being ‘good enough’ is the only motivation, there is no goodness of God in the heart.
Watchman Nee once said, “Evil is evil and good is evil, if it is not the goodness of God.” Likewise, he would also say that, “Good is not always God’s will, but God’s will is always good.” This is where the Pharisees, and so many others today, get confused. Religion misses the point. Tradition misses the point. Extrabiblical law misses the point. None of these are genuinely connected with the goodness of God at all.
Christians, we must love God and love others; while rejoicing and being thankful for those who do. May we refrain from the mindset of the Pharisees, seeking only to point the finger and accuse others of when they do not do what we want or what we think is ‘right’ and ‘good’. May we refrain from religion, but rejoice in relationship with Jesus.