Updated: Feb 26, 2019
Last week we talked about how Jesus can make us whole. We looked at a man who had some sort of affliction for 38 years. In a moment Jesus made him whole.
Today, we're going to look at how you maintain a healthy faith. How do you live out the new life that Jesus Christ wants to give you?
As we saw last week, a man who had been sick for 38 years gathered, like so many other sick people, at a pool alleged to have healing powers. Jesus healed him. Now, here's where opposition to Jesus began to gather strength. The Pharisees said to the man, "It's the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed." Instead of rejoicing with him, they remind him he's breaking one of their laws. Not God's law. But one of their laws. The Pharisees loved telling people there were doing something wrong.
Do you know anybody like that? Do you know people who love to tell you when, according to them, you're doing something wrong? That's legalism. Legalists are "gotcha" Christians. It's such a childish game. It's like when my youngest granddaughter was in pre-school. Evidently, one little kid was turning them all into language police. One day, I told Liesl she was being a little stinker. To which she replied, "Oh, you said a bad word." She went through a phase where she said that a lot. Cute on a four-year-old. Not so much on a person who should know better. Some people try to get closer to God by pointing fingers at other people. That's a method of trying to feel closer to God. It never works. But they sure do try.
That's what's going on when all the Pharisees care about is whether or not the healed man broke one of their laws.
Here are two truths about legalism.
Legalism blinds us to the miraculous work of God.
People get so fixated keeping this rule and that rule and checking things off their spiritual to-do list, they can't see what the Holy Spirit is doing. We need to be more like Outback Steakhouse…"No Rules, Just Right."
Legalism binds us to the meticulous rules created by people.
We're talking about the difference between "religion" and being a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. "Religion" is about following meticulous rules. Christianity was never meant to be about following meticulous rules set and enforced by the people who considered themselves in charge.
Legalism is the archenemy of the faith and grace God wants to work into our lives. The scary thing is, this archenemy can slip unnoticed into churches. You can only have certain kinds of instruments in worship.
Women have to keep their hair long. The KJV is the only Bible God approves of. You can only read Christian literature. When that happens, Jesus' joyous party grows silent. Legalism turns wine back into
water. It takes all the joy out of the Christian life. Legalism is the Debbie Downer of the Christian faith. If we want the joy-filled change God brings to our lives, we have to recognize and reject legalism.
Here's something to remember. As opposition to Jesus solidified, the Pharisees accused him of breaking the Sabbath. Jesus wasn't breaking the Sabbath. He was breaking their Sabbath. They made the rules. They interpreted the Bible to fit into their way of thinking. Jesus was breaking the rules they cobbled together to add to God's commands.
Make no mistake. Legalism holds on to traditions above the purposes of God. Have you ever heard, "We've never done it that way before?" Yikes. You can dock my pay if I ever say that. And you owe me a fine if you ever say it. Fair is fair, right?
Here's an example of how legalism works at cross-purposes with God. In the Old Testament, God said to Moses, "I want you to strike the rock and the water will come out." And Moses did. The next time, God said, "Moses, I want you to speak to the rock and the water will come out." And Moses said, "God, we've never done it that way before. I don't think that's the way we want to do it. I struck it last time." In anger, Moses struck it again. That was such a big sin, it kept Moses out of the Promised Land. How tightly do we hold on to traditions in our lives?
Legalism is all about lists and records and rules. One of the tools in the legalist toolkit is guilt. "Do you really think that's okay to do?" "Why don't you have a checklist for prayer?" "You watched Saving Private Ryan? It was rated 'R.' What kind of a Christian are you?" You get this finger pointing thing going. Then there's what I like to call "Jesus Judo." When the weather's bad you say, "What a crappy day." The other person says, "Well, my Bible says, 'This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.'" You just been Jesus Judo Chopped.
You hang around enough legalists, and before you know it, you start questioning yourself. Maybe I should have a list. I suppose I'd feel better if I did.
Don't let legalism creep into your life. Don't let someone else's love for legalism smother your walk with Jesus Christ.
Here's something else happening in these last verses of chapter 5. At one level, Jesus rejected legalism and showed us a better way. On another level, this was a crucial juncture of Jesus' ministry where we see a growing, direct opposition to his message of grace and mercy. Legalists will always fight back against grace and mercy. They love their rule books and approved processes and procedures. Legalists love to say things like, "It's not that the healing was a bad thing, it's just that you didn't follow proper processes and procedures." "You didn't follow the rules we set up."
The heat against Jesus gets turned up in verses 17-21:
But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even
calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
They condemned Jesus because he made himself equal with God. When they did that, Jesus didn't reject their observation. He didn't deny what they were saying. He didn't explain away what they were saying. When they accused him of claiming to be equal with God, Jesus proved he was equal with God. Jesus was saying, "What you're saying about me is more true than you ever realized." Jesus knew who he was, and he repeated it in spite of the angry opposition.
There's truth in this ongoing tension. In other words, the healing leads to tension and the tension leads to growing opposition and the growing opposition leads to persecution and death and persecution and death lead to resurrection and resurrection means Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior who is with us now.
We're seeing how God uses opposition for His glory. No amount of opposition can stand in God's way. Don't ever let any kind of legalism stand in the way of the healing power of Jesus' grace and mercy working in your life.
Here's something you might want to write down:
God doesn't give us His power to make a name for ourselves. God gives us His power to make a name for Himself.
That's what God's power is all about. He gets the glory. God is glorified when we are saved.
Finally, we see a power on display in which the Father and Son are equal in character and equal in works. Let's look at verses 22-27:
For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will
live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
Notice what Jesus says in verse 24: "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." When does eternal life happen? Read it again. Does it happen when we die? No. It happens the moment you believe in Jesus Christ. If you're a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, judgment has already happened. You've already crossed from death to life. Your life has already been judged, and in Christ, God has saved you. That's the Good News.
It's like watching a football game you've recorded, and you already know your favorite team won the game. So you watch it with that kind of joy and anticipation and excitement. We already know who wins. The cross wins.
Jesus wins, because his sacrifice on the cross will bring you home to be with him. In Christ, we have already crossed from death to life.
How are you living out of this new life in Christ? Be like the man Jesus healed. Let Jesus be the judge of your life and nobody else. Ignore the legalists and the joy-killers. There's only one person's opinion of you that matters, and that's the opinion of Jesus Christ. And he has already healed you. So go, and tell others about Jesus, the life-giver. The joy is ours to share.