My Musings

Was Jesus Religious?

Was Jesus Religious?

Would you like to be spiritual without being religious? First, I commend your desire to be spiritual. Second, I commend you to Jesus as inspiration for not leaving the religious part behind. Here are seven points to ponder about Jesus:

  1. Jesus was raised by very religious parents who kept the Jewish laws and customs of their day. Mary followed the purification terms of her religion and the whole family showed up at the temple on time for Jesus’ presentation and circumcision (Luke 2:21-22).
  2. At age 12, Jesus was found in the temple with religious teachers, listening and asking questions. The reason he was in Jerusalem in the first place was to participate in the religious feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41-49).
  3. Jesus faithfully kept the religious holidays of his day and led others in keeping them. He also attended synagogue services regularly. It was his custom (Luke 4:16).
  4. Jesus was a respected Rabbi (John 3:2).
  5. Jesus was a man of much prayer. He often slipped away to the wilderness to pray (Luke 5:16) or did all-nighters on a mountain (Luke 6:12). He taught his disciples not just to pray but how to pray (Matthew 6:5-13 and Luke 18:1-14). Knowing Jesus’ prayer habits enabled his betrayer, Judas, to lead a Roman cohort right to him (John 18:2-3). In the garden where they found him, Jesus prayed so fervently that “his sweat became like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). And he was heard by his Father, we are told, “because of His piety.” (Hebrews 5:7).
  6. Jesus affirmed both micro and macro religion putting both in their proper perspective. He critiqued the Pharisees saying, “You have neglected the weightier matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23).
  7. Jesus came to set people free from slavery to sin, not from religion. But if someone’s religion helped to shackle them to sins of pride or pretense, Jesus knew better. He respected religion but disrespected religious hypocrisy (see Matthew 23).

So yes, Jesus was religious. However, some clarification is in order. Jesus’ religion was not defined by trivia. He respected rites, customs and traditions, but never at the expense of one’s love for God and neighbor. One of the bombers of the 2013 Boston marathon religiously refrained from smoking and drinking because Allah did not want such things. Yet he murdered innocents. He was like those religious leaders who refused to step foot into the Praetorium where Jesus would face Pilate, “so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” (John 18:28). Orchestrating the execution of an innocent man was fine, but not touching the house of a Gentile. Also, the chief priests refused to break a religious law by putting the pieces of silver Judas returned into the temple treasury, “since it is the price of blood.” (Matthew 27:5-6). God actually used their morally schizophrenic nonsense to accomplish His plan of salvation for sinners, but still, such twisted legalism gives real religion a bad name.

Cruel and hard-hearted religion made Jesus mad. One day in a synagogue on the Sabbath, some Pharisees were watching to see if He would heal a man with a withered hand. He asked, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4). It’s a hard question for legalists and they had no answer. In anger, Jesus healed the man. To this day, true religion does not obstruct kindness or make people refuse friendship with an unbeliever or disown a child when they are baptized. Jesus’ disciple Peter later encouraged Christian women married to an unbelieving man to be all the more devoted, pure and loving to him (1 Peter 3:1-7).

Jesus believed in and practiced the same religion as the Scribes and the Pharisees. It was their fakery, not their faith, that turned his spiritual stomach.


About the Author:

Joel graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A., completing two majors: Art and Religion. He went on to earn the Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

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