There’s a bumper sticker that sarcastically cries, “Lord, save us from your followers.” Think about this. Jesus could have had the same sticker. “YHWH, save me from your followers.” Of course, no one saved him. They killed him.
They didn’t like Jesus for many reasons, but, for sure, one was that he was always mad at them. Jesus’ anger was always directed at the religious people of his day. Well, usually the leaders of the religious people. If I put that into perspective, that would be the category I’m in today, so that caused me to take a serious look at what made Jesus mad. He was mad at the people who supposedly speak for God. He was angry because they were blocking the little people: children, non-Jews, women, tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners. Access denied.
It’s very easy for the current church of Jesus to fall into the same bad behavior that the Pharisees, Sadducees, and religious teachers exhibited back in his day. The problem is that we have less excuse for blocking access to the love of the Father because we are supposed to be learning from the example of Jesus! Those guys were just following their understanding of the law. So, if Jesus was angry with the church he encountered in biblical days, would ours fare much better?
What is it that made Jesus cringe? Religious phonies, arrogant judgers, the unjust, legalists, and hypocrites. They make me mad also! Right up until the time I examine myself and realize my own natural gravitational pull is in the same direction. The real tragedy about this propensity we all have to drift from God’s heart is what it does to those who may have been led to believe that Jesus doesn’t want them around. It sometimes leads them to blame Christians’ legalism, judgement, and hypocrisy on Jesus when nothing could be further from the truth. All he ever wanted was for them, for me, for all of us, to come home.
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules” (Matthew 15:7-9 NIV).
I think Homer Simpson summed it up best when he was asked what religion he belonged to and he said “Christianity, you know the one with all the well-meaning rules that don’t work in real life.”
Honestly, Jesus had the same problem. I believe the church leaders of his day had good intentions but by the time Jesus arrived, they had added so many extra “well-meaning rules” that the average person never had a chance. The Mishnah was a series of extra definitions of the rules that already existed. Take the Sabbath for example. They said it was okay to spit on a rock on the Sabbath, but if you spit in the dirt, you were making mud and that was a no-no.
Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts… (Mark 3:4-5 NIV).
And then he healed the guy.
There were seven Sabbath healing miracles in the Gospels; it’s almost as if Jesus was trying to make a point, right? Jesus did this often. They needed to learn a lesson about their well-meaning rules that don’t work in real life, so he broke one of them.
Jesus wasn’t against the rules. He just wanted us to understand the purpose was for us; “Sabbath was made for the man.” And he hated when legalism got in the way of mission.
In the movie Gladiator, Maximus says “Caesar once had a vision of what was supposed to be Rome, and this is not it.” I believe Jesus had a vision of what the Kingdom was supposed to be, and many times, this is not it.