“And he said to them: ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own tradition!’” ~Jesus
There’s not many places in the Bible when Jesus yells at people, but in Mark 7:9, this was one of them. Why was He so riled up? Because of religious hypocrites. Jesus snapped at the Pharisees more often than our modern-day, legalistic-minded Christians want to talk about. The reason for this is because they share many of the same characteristics.
Like so many of today’s confused Christians who chop up the grace of God, the Pharisees loved to look down on and correct “sinners.” They literally strutted around town showing off how much more “holy” they were, and how they were in so much “better standing” with God because of what they did and didn’t do (see Luke 11:43, 20:46, Mark 12:38). Jesus had enough of these vultures one day, so He put them in their place. And don’t forget, Jesus had a ministry for two groups of people:
- The lost/rebellious, or non-religiously educated (Gentiles).
- The self-righteous religious people who thought they knew God, but did not. All they really knew were rules, laws, and old customs (non-believing Jews).
Jesus came to shake things up for both groups! Not just for the people who were blatantly sinning, but for those who thought they weren’t! Why? Because He wanted people’s hearts to change toward Him, both the lost and the religious!
So one day He flew off the handle at these legalists who followed Him around, looking to criticize His every move (know anyone like that?). As He and the disciples sat down for a meal, they didn’t wash their hands before eating, therefore breaking a law of the Jews (see Exodus 30:17-21, Leviticus 15). The hyper-critical Pharisees were quick to point that out.
Jesus then barked at them, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men’” (Mark 7:6-7).
After He continued going off about how pretentious they were, He finished up with, “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that” (Mark 7:13).
My friend, Jesus is not focused on your style, but instead, your substance! He cares about the inside of you! Does His Spirit live there?! He’s not looking for you to change cosmetically or as aesthetically, but spiritually! He likes your style! He simply wants you to mash it together with Him!
Jesus is longing for you to come to know Him so deeply, that you would be willing to buck tradition—not truth, but tradition—in order to reach more people for Him and change even more lives! And how do we change lives? We change lives by helping others change their hearts; and we help others change their hearts by first allowing God to change our own hearts into a new one! (See Romans 6:6, Ezekiel 36:26, Hebrews 8:11, Romans 7:6, 8:9, Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 1:22, Hebrews 10:10).
After that one-time event happens, His Spirit in you teaches you how to plant good seeds of love in others. Plant, not force into the soil of their souls. We don’t have that ability, especially if we’re acting self-righteous, judgmental, or condemning. Try to also remember, once those seeds are planted you can’t make them grow, only God can! And even still, that person has to choose to allow this to happen. Sure, God will continue to nudge their hearts, but He’ll never go against a person’s free will. He loves us too much.
So today, my friends, do this: Be yourself. As a Christian, you are not self-righteous, you are not aggressive, and you are not legalistic. No! You are kind, truthful, and full of grace! Simply keep planting seeds, keep standing up to legalistic behavior peacefully, and keep reaching out to the lost–but more than anything, do all of this with love! Be confident because Jesus is never mad at you!
A prayer for you: Lord, I want to thank you for opening up my mind to your truth. Before I came to know you deeper, I didn’t understand that Jesus corrected the uber-religious people in the Bible for their non-belief and self-righteousness. Thank you for that revelation. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. I pray you open up their minds to who you really are, as well as to who THEY really are! Help them come to know your bottomless grace, through the Spirit of Christ! In His name, amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 1. Get your copy here!