The Pharisees studied God’s Law and Scripture throughout their entire lives. They memorized verses, repeated chants, performed religious ceremonies, followed rituals down to a tee, and prayed really long prayers for all to hear. Do you know anyone like this? Their religious resumes were meticulous, and they were certain their good works would usher them straight into heaven.
But Jesus took one look at these Pharisees and shook His head. Nope, their righteousness was like filthy rags compared to the holy God of Israel, and no matter how carefully they followed the law, there was something called sin that would keep them far from the Kingdom of God.
Unfortunately, these leaders paint a perfect picture of religion for us today. Religion tells us to achieve more, do more, earn your way, be good enough. If we attend church, serve, and give, we’ve built up some favor in the eyes of the Lord.
But Jesus says the very opposite. There’s nothing we can do; we just have to receive. There’s no point in cleaning up first; apart from Him, our works are futile. All He wants is our hearts. It’s only when we accept His forgiveness and grace, and then live out of this relationship that everything else follows—obedience, service, and sacrifice.
The ironic thing is these Pharisees knew the Bible like the back of their hand. But the very person, the long-awaited Messiah, they studied? He was in the flesh, standing right before their very eyes, and they didn’t even see Him.
If we practice religion and elevate works above a relationship, we run this same risk of missing Jesus altogether. But if we approach His throne with love and offer our hearts to Christ today, we will surely find Him.
- What does this passage teach you about Jesus?
- May this be our prayer: “Thank you, Jesus, for giving us eternal life. Time and time again in your Word, you clearly talk about sparing us from condemnation of our sins—simply by faith in you and your sacrifice. When my faith begins to look like religion or morphs into a checklist of good behavior, remind me of the Pharisees, so my heart can turn back to you.”
16 So the Jewish leaders began harassing[a] Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules.17 But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” 18 So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.
19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. 22 In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge,23 so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.
24 “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
25 “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live.26 The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. 27 And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man.[b] 28 Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, 29 and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. 30 I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.