One of the meanings of ‘religion’ is, ‘a particular system of faith and worship.’ Religion is a man-made construct, to attempt to explain God and have a relationship with Him.’ ’Religiose’ is defined as being ‘excessively religious.’
When Jesus began His ministry in Judea, the temple in Jerusalem was a place of worship for Jehovah God, the God of the Old Testament Bible. The New Testament had yet to be written. (Still the same God.)
The religious focus in that temple was centered around the behaviors that one would live by, to satisfy God. These were primarily found in the Torah, i.e. the first five books of the Bible, which were written by a Holy Spirit-inspired Moses, referred to as the Mosaic Law.
Those doing the teaching of the Law were called Pharisees, widely believed to be the first ‘rabbis,’ or at least their forerunners. The problem, in Jesus’ time, was that many of the Pharisees added their own personal ‘interpretations’ to the Laws. Put bluntly, they twisted the scriptures to suit their own purposes, and became fervent taskmasters over their laity – punishing them if they did not live up to them. The Pharisees became religiose.
This did not set well with Jesus, because what they did ran against God’s word with regards to keeping His word pure:
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, not take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God…” Dt. 4:2 NKJV
The first time Jesus voiced His displeasure with the Pharisees was when He was dining with His latest convert, the apostle Matthew. He did so by speaking a parable to Pharisees that were present (they’d been following Him around, worrying that their control over the people was being usurped by Jesus’ teachings and miracles):
“No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old one is good.’ “ Lk. 5:36 – 39. ESV
Jesus was describing a process that was well known and understood by the people living at that time – saying that using a new piece of cloth to patch an older one will tear away from the old if it has not been previously ‘preshrunk’ with a combination of pressure, heat and moisture. He’s trying to get the Pharisees to see that the old forms of Judaism could not contain the New Covenant message He was bringing, because His message was not a patch for the old one.
Similarly, Jesus spoke of the fact that new fermenting wine must be put into new goatskins, because the outgassing of fermentation would cause the old skins to swell to the bursting point. It is metaphorical reference to the fact that the Pharisees can’t mix His message with theirs and that they are not spiritually able to receive His.
Finally, the last sentence in the parable alludes to the Pharisees’ stubborn preference for their old ways, which will ultimately deny them the kingdom.
Jesus has another confrontation with the Pharisees in the temple – they, being angry with Him for previously healing a cripple at the pool called Bethesda. He responds by pointing out their scriptural ignorance regarding the coming of the Messiah:
“…the very works that I do – bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me…You have neither heard His voice at any time, or seen His form. But you do not have His world abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” Jn. 5:36 – 40. NKJV
Even though Jesus is chiding them for their disbelief, you can see that He is offering them eternal life at the same time. They refused…
Jesus took issue with the Pharisees again, during His Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For I truly say to you until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Mt. 5:17, 18. ESV
Jesus is refuting the Pharisees’ claim that He was trying to invalidate the Mosaic Law. Christ was sent from God to open the eyes of the ‘spiritually blind,’ in order to give them the full understanding of all Scriptures so they could walk their best with His Father.
He blasts the Pharisees again:
“Therefore whoever relaxes on of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 5:19, 20. ESV
He is telling the crowd listening to His sermon that the Pharisees have so distorted the laws of God that if they follow them, it will jeopardize their chance for salvation. Furthermore, He offers an example of a law that the Pharisees had twisted:
“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Mt. 5:43 NKJV
The first part of that sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor is a quote from Moses (Lv. 19:18). The ‘hate your enemy’ part was added by the Pharisees, and thus, not scriptural.
Jesus continued to have run-ins with the Pharisees throughout His ministry. He finally reveals their evil nature:
“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.’ “ Mk. 7:6, 7. NKJV
“You leave the commandment of God and hold to the traditions of men. You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of of God in order to establish your tradition!” Mk. 7:8, 9. ESV
Ouch! That must of stung. Jesus is alluding to the worthlessness of their traditions – those ascribed by them to have the same authority as the Mosaic Law, even though the Pharisees made them up.
Jesus gathers a crowd around Him to crystalize the nature of the Pharisees and their meaningless rituals:
“…there is nothing outside a man [such as food] which by going into him can defile him [morally or spiritually]; but the things which come out of [the heart] of man are what defile and dishonor him.” Mk. 7:15 AMP
Later, Jesus tells them of their ultimate fate for their hardened hearts and their fake religiosity:
“You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” Jn. 8:19 NKJV
“I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot go”…”You are from beneath; I am from above, You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die for your sins.” Jn. 8:21, 23, 24. NKJV
There are still religiose people today – pharisaical, re-writing scripture, judging portions to of it be false, seeking approval and status for their piety and denying the Christ-road to salvation. As you can see, without repentance, things will not go well for them.
That’s why it is so important to bring the message of salvation to as many as we can. What they do with it is up to them…
If we stick to God’s word and live by it, our salvation is assured.
Goodnight and God bless.