Summary: The Pharisees did not experience life change because they had a different belief. Don't replace the relationship with a religion. Don't make the outward more important than the inward.
RECAP – John 20:24-28. We saw last week how Thomas finally saw Jesus alive and uttered the most profound statement of faith – “My Lord and My God!”
(1) LET GO of our Agenda – don’t cling on to the demands we set.
(2) CHOOSE to have faith - faith is a choice we make; it is not a feeling.
(3) SEE Jesus as He truly is – study the Word and overcome fear, pride and doubt.
Thousands heard Jesus and saw him in real life. We know that because at least more than 5000 were fed on one occasion.
• Thousands may be there but few followed. Among the followers, few believed.
• Life change is possible but not all will experience it. Not because Jesus is powerless to affect a change, but the people were not prepared to believe Him.
Among them were the Pharisees. We want to take a look at them today, and understand what prevented them from trusting Jesus.
• Despite the fact that they were learned people, steep in the knowledge of the OT Scriptures.
• Most of them knew it by heart, but they failed to recognise their Messiah.
Why? I think the simple reason will be - they did not see the light. They were blinded to the truth. By what?
• What obstructed their view? Their own set of belief. Or to be more precise, their own interpretation of the truth – the Scriptures.
• The Pharisees knows that the OT Scriptures as the inspired Word of God and it points to Christ, their Messiah. But when the Messiah stood and spoke before them, they were unable to recognise Him.
The Pharisees had gotten a different picture of the Messiah and a different understanding of what salvation means.
• They did not experience a life change because LIFE CHANGE can only take place when you recognise Jesus as He truly is – the Son of God who takes away the sin of the world.
• Any other understanding apart from this will make it a RELIGION – just a set of rules and rituals for behaviour. Rules will not change you.
I want to share with you TWO major flaws in their understanding. No life change has taken place for them because…
THEY REPLACED THE RELATIONSHIP WITH A RELIGION
They have a RELIGION no doubt, but no RELATIONSHIP with Jesus and with God.
• The Pharisees were aiming at another target. Instead of following Jesus, they were following rules and rituals, and putting their faith in them to be righteous.
• Are we aiming at the wrong target?
Matt Emmons was world champion shooter in the early 2000s. He won a few world championships in shooting. In the 2004 Olympics, something odd happened.
He was competing in the 50m 3-position rifle event. For the last round, he didn’t even need a bull’s-eye to win. His final shot merely needed to be on target. Normally, the shot he made would have received a score of 8.1, more than enough for a gold medal.
But in what was described as “an extremely rare mistake in elite competition,” Emmons fired at the wrong target. He was on target, but the wrong target. Standing in lane two, he fired at the target in lane three.
It was a good short, but his score for that shot: 0. Instead of a gold medal, Emmons ended up in 8th place.
Do we know what we should be going after? Many are falling into this same trap today. They are hitting the wrong target.
• Christianity is seen as some kind of moralistic creed, a set of religious rules and rituals to follow, a list of do’s and don’ts.
• I’ve had people telling me they do not want to be Christians because they cannot come to church, or they are illiterate and will not be able to read the Bible. They see these as being Christian.
• I heard this, a granny telling her grandson: “Are you sure you want to be baptised? How much can you afford to give each month?” She sees the monthly giving of the tithe as membership fee the church collects. Someone even tells me we charge 10% of the salary as a fee is too high.
• I met one person who is baptised four times, in four different churches. She probably wanted to be a member of each so that she can join their programs.
It is sad to see the RELATIONSHIP with Jesus degenerating into a RELIGION.
• All these rules and rituals mean nothing to God. Religion cannot change you. It can only make life burdensome and dry. It makes us look religious.