All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptised by John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptised by John.
Luke 7:29-30 (NIV)
Read: Luke 7:18-30
Consider: Why did the Pharisees and the experts in the law reject Jesus’s message? We are told in the verse above from Luke 7 that they rejected God’s purpose for themselves (Jesus’ message) because they had not been baptised by John. Looking at John 3:3 we read:
He [John] went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
This means that although they ultimately rejected Jesus, the Pharisees’ rejection started much earlier when they rejected John’s baptism. We are told in Luke 3:3 that John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The religious elite of the day did not consider that they needed to repent and have their sins forgiven. They must have considered it an affront to them that both John and Jesus put them in the same classification as those in need of forgiveness. The Pharisees and experts in the law believed that their religious observance would be enough to ensure their acceptance by God. Jesus’ message was clearly that everyone, regardless of birth or upbringing, needed salvation. This offended the Pharisees, leading them to reject the offer of salvation and forgiveness. They also saw themselves as ‘good’, when they compared themselves to those they thought of as sinners. In their own eyes their ‘goodness’, measured by human standards, put them above other people. However, what they failed to see is that everyone falls short of God’s standard and all are in need of salvation. Salvation is not a question of goodness, but of God’s grace being extended to those who do not deserve it. It was the Pharisees’ self-righteousness that kept them from experiencing God’s purpose for them.
The question for us is do we see the same thing today? Are there those in society who might have the same blinkered view as the Pharisees, believing that religious observance or goodness favours them in God’s eyes? The answer must be yes. There are those who are willing to compare themselves favourably above others, perhaps by virtue of religious upbringing or knowledge of God. There are also many good people in society who utilise their time and resources to aid society. Society at large talks about going to heaven when you die, with most people hoping to be ‘good’ enough to be accepted by God. Others see heaven as somewhere that everyone goes at death, because they believe that God could not possibly reject them. Whether religious knowledge, apparent goodness, or an incorrect view of heaven, all these incorrect ideas can keep a person from accepting God’s offer of forgiveness.
Pray: Father, help us not to put our trust in ourselves, but purely in Christ. We acknowledge our need of forgiveness and salvation. May we be able to do good in society as an outworking of our faith, rather than doing good to try to earn your favour. We acknowledge that we cannot earn salvation, but accept it through your grace alone. Amen