“Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent.” -Mark 3:4 (NIV)
The Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus of disobeying the Laws of God. When Jesus saw a man with a shriveled hand in the synagogue, the Pharisees took notice of this as well. They thought that this was their chance to finally trap Him, for it was the Sabbath and to do any work on the Sabbath was a direct violation of the Law. But Jesus knew of the Pharisees intentions full well. Before He healed the man with the shriveled hand, He asked those present which was more important; a legalistic obedience to the Law, or the restorative work of God Himself. His audience’s silence spoke volumes. The people deliberately chose to cling onto their own misconstrued interpretation of the Law instead of accepting the true heart of the Law as Christ Himself revealed.
Legalism is a dangerous idol. Our worship of it, like any other idol, can hamper the redemptive work of Christ in our lives. Legalism is particularly destructive because not only does it cripple us, it turns our faith into something ineffectual and venomous. Instead of bringing the restoration and healing which only Christ can offer, our blind devotion to tradition and needless regulation only serves to turn us into insular and unnecessarily judgmental people. This in turn affects our witness for Him and those around us obtain a colored view of who Christ is and what it truly means to be His children. In Matthew 22:40, Jesus says that the entire Law and the sayings of the Prophets can be summed up in two simple commandments; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself”. When we accept Christ‘s redemptive sacrifice for us on the cross and allow Him to work in our hearts, He will fill us with His love. Only when we have His love overflowing from within us, will we be able to obey the Law in its truest sense and realize its purpose; to draw others to the holiness of God. Through Him we can partake of the wonderful hope of being free from sin and of being made pure through Christ’s restorative work.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.