“On Your Mark”
The Religious Mafia (Chapter 7 Verses 1-23)
The religious Mafia from Jerusalem descend with their strict outward observances and rules (vv1-4). They built an impregnable wall of protection around the law, which they used to manipulate other people. In their scheme of things the law was not God’s tutor to send us to Christ (Galatians 3.24). It was something for them to guard, and use for their own ends. They were utterly self-righteous (Matthew 5.20; Luke 18.9). Their mission is to spy upon, discredit and find legal reasons for getting rid of Jesus. That sure is some religious business is it not? And sure enough they have caught Jesus’ disciples breaking their traditions (v4). Of course what Jesus’ disciples do, even with his silent consent, is as good as done by him. To say they were over the top would express it mildly. But it is only too easy for Christians to become like this too. There are great dangers. We have disciplines, traditions which are good and helpful, which we implement in our homes, our own personal lives, but we must not bind others with them. And of course to add to Scripture, is always a very serious matter (Revelation 22.18- 19).
They disregard the disciples (v5), and are sure Jesus can give no good reason for this flagrant disregard of their rules. The quotation from Isaiah (Isaiah 29.13), is used to confirm Jesus accusation of hypocrisy. And of course the more their hypocrisy came in contact with Jesus the more clearly it was seen for what it was, sheer hypocrisy. That is what made them so angry. The two things which mark their hypocritical cult are, firstly, the respect they pay to God is merely lip service, a load of talk without any heart reality. Secondly, teaching what they pretend to be of God, but in reality are only man-made rules (v7). The two are hand-maids, because departure from God necessitates the departure from his word also. There is not an ounce of sincerity in these men. The only way you can follow the dictates of men is by letting go of God’s word (v8). This shattering truth cannot be answered by them. God’s word is the only rule for us as Christians, interpreted and applied by the Holy Spirit (1John 2.27; 2.24) and lived out joyfully in his energy, with hearts inflamed with love for Jesus. And given to all, that people might know, love, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ (John 20.31). And not men, whosoever they be.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)