The Temple was the holiest place on earth in the days of Jesus. It was the place dedicated to God and the place where God’s people would come to be in God’s presence.
When Jesus arrived at the Temple, you would hope that the people, starting with the religious leaders, would have gladly welcomed Him. Instead, they argued with Him, publicly slandered Him, and sought to kill Him.
Because they were religious and did not want a relationship with Jesus.
Things escalate to a public debate on a holiday (what is supposed to literally be a holy day) in John 8:37-42:
I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.”
From this debate, we learn four things about ungodly religion in various forms:
- Religion focuses on birth to an earthly father and ignores new birth to your heavenly Father. This is why they kept appealing to Abraham. In our day, this kind of thing is said by people who think they are fine with God because they were born into a religious family even though they were not born again in Jesus Christ.
- Religion trusts in what you have done and ignores what Jesus has done. Religion is our effort to make ourselves acceptable in God’s sight rather than trusting in what Jesus has done to forgive what we have done through His sinless life, substitutionary death, and resurrection in victory over sin and death. This is why Jesus talks badly about their “works”.
- Religion sees good people and bad people, not bad people & Jesus. The only truly good person who has ever lived is Jesus Christ. The rest of us are sinners who need a Savior. Since a line was drawn and Jesus was on the other side of that line, they wrongly assumed they were the good people and He was the bad person.
- Religion has a proud mind that will not learn and hard heart that will not change. Religion is always teaching, never learning. This is why Jesus said, “you cannot bear to hear my word.”
How about you? Is there any tendency toward religion in your life that needs to stop so that your relationship with Jesus can grow?