- relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity
“Jesus > religion.”“What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion.”“The Son of Man never supports self-righteousness, not now, not ever”“Religion is man searching for God. Christianity is God searching for man.”
- Yes I believe Jesus was religious! Jesus observed a religion! You will not find a word Jesus speaks leading to the conclusion religion is terrible thing. You will not find him saying religious behaviour is “of the devil”.
Jesus was a faithful, devoted, religiously observant Jew. Who attended Synagogue, Passover and all that jazz. He prayed, worshipped and served God devoutly.
Jesus believed in the God of the Jewish scriptures and religion and did his utmost to follow that God, within that system of belief.
We see this no more clearly than in the reality that Jesus felt his vocation as Messiah and Kingdom-of-God-bringer so deeply that he followed the way of bringing about its accomplishment onto a cross.
Need anymore be said than that? Jesus believed and knew the God of his religion so deeply that he followed to death! Religious devotion and faithfulness found its best (and most mind-boggling) expression in Jesus.
- Furthermore, Jesus in being the best expression of what it means to be religious, fundamentally redefines religious behaviour around himself.
To follow Israel’s God one must follow Jesus.
If you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father and if you obey Jesus you are obeying God.
Jesus is a new paradigm within religion itself. He is not a paradigm that destroys religion and religious behaviour as concepts or realities.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock… But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Matthew 7:24, 26
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:14-15
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:5In fact, Jesus gives us a meal (an immensely loaded, Jewish meal celebrated at Passover). You may have participated in it…?
The Lord’s Supper, Communion, Eucharist etc…
His blood poured and body given, a new covenant made… “Do this in remembrance of me” Luke 22:19Does it get anymore religious than that?
- In addition to the previous point, it should be said that, Jesus fundamentally reconstitutes all of Judaism’s ancient hopes and expectations around himself.
Jesus is not a completely new idea God has thought up that throws out the OT scriptures! Jesus is the very person who fulfils them! Jesus is the fulfilment of Israel’s religion as their Messiah, King, Saviour, Redeemer, Servant and so on!
In fact Jesus even has the audacity to take the most central feature of Israel’s religion – the Temple and in turn says that he himself is the new Temple (John 2:18-21). He is the place where heaven meets Earth and God himself resides.
Jesus himself says elsewhere,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” Matthew 5:17
The truth of this statement works itself out in a million and one different ways in the New Testament as its numerous contributors point to how Jesus is thought to have done this.
Jesus was what Judaism had been waiting for, he was instituted the final Passover and in doing so opened up a new world. Yet, it is absolutely correct that we say, Jesus in fulfilling this role, revealed in his very life that all religious expectations would involve a fundamental change in understanding who Israel’s God was and what the Messiah was doing and bringing.
All this reveals, not that Jesus was anti-religion but that Jesus is the container for religion and religious behaviour itself!
- One final point. When we wrongly understand the Bible as a compendium of facts, we can come away with the mistaken impression that all the Jews of Jesus’ day were religious hypocrites who, like the line “religion is man searching for God”, were trying to save themselves by (that awful phrase) “good works”.
This is categorically untrue. We create a picture in which everyone behaved in the very worst way religion could have you behave (hypocritical, self-righteous etc.). We then assume, because we understand some Pharisees may have acted like that, that that is what the Jewish religion was asking of people – that they engage in empty, religious behaviour so as to save themselves by impressing God (gaining, what we sometimes call, ‘Pharisee Points’).
To get pretty theological for just a second, Judaism was not a works based religion! None of these people were trying to save themselves, not at all. Judaism, arguably, fits the criteria of, what is called, Covenental Nomism (rolls off of the tongue doesn’t it?). Covenental Nomism basically puts forward that Jews because Jews knew God and where his chosen people (as He had saved them say Egypt and hopefully would again from exile), their religious observance of the Torah was not to impress God but to respond to His faithfulness to Israel (though out of this some funny ideas took shape).
As Judaism was not a works based religion and Jesus was not working in opposition to one, we should do away with that assumption religion = good works/trying to save yourself and Jesus = something else entirely.
Religion is not synonymous with works righteousness and I actually fail to see how “man searching for God” is a disgraceful “good works” act, in comparison to the apparently much more preferable “God searching for man” idea.
The activities of searching and seeking God are imperatives for participating in the Kingdom of God and faithful devotion (or religious behaviour) toward Jesus are actively demanded if anyone is to follow him in the adventure of building for the Kingdom of God and becoming more like Christ.