As strange as it sounds, the Gospel of John annihilates religious legalism not by confronting it, but rather by ignoring it. It begins by stating, “In the beginning was the Word.”
Well, there goes the Genesis account as the beginning. Creationist beware. Then you got water turning into wine. Got to keep the party going. So belly up to the bar boys, the drinks are on Him.
It speaks of those born of the Spirit being like the wind not knowing where it is coming from, and not knowing where it is going. Those reborn are not subject to religious restraint. My oh my, this is starting to get a bit subversive and we have not even gotten out of chapter three. Sheesh. Then there is the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well who is convinced that there is a certain geographical location where one should practice divine worship, only to have Jesus shatter that in one fell swoop, “He who worships God does so in Spirit and Truth.” Kaboom! It ain’t a place, baby.
“I am the living Bread that came down from Heaven,” Christ says to the Jewish religious authorities. No time to debate. Onward. “I am the Good Shepherd,” the Master says. Mmm. Good, but not religious. Take a memo. Have you ever noticed that most religious people from most religions just dig the death penalty? To which Christ fires back, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” He does not even look up to engage those that are seeking to entrap him. Just lays it out cold. Slam poetry. Done. Beautiful.
Big Debate: Sadducees don’t believe in Resurrection. Pharisees do. Christ clears it up, “I am the Resurrection.” Where is He going with this one? There are many “I am’s” streaking through this gospel. A lot. And while we are at it, what is all this talk about love? It is everywhere. Religious legalists hate that one. “Love one another just as I have loved you.” “No greater love has one for another, than to lay down his life for his friend.” Friendship, love, and self-sacrifice served up from the jewels that drip from the Master’s lips. These jewels annihilate religious legalism just by ignoring it.
Grand finale. Pilate wants to know why this dreamy rabble-rouser claims to know “THE” truth. So he asks Him, “What is Truth?” But Jesus refuses to answer. Kaboom again! The silence that was heard around the world. Again, got no time to engage. So Pilate gave the kill-order and then went to lunch.
Newsflash: Back from the dead. Excuse me John, did you say back from the dead? Yep. In the Beginning begats in the Beginning. It all comes around, fully orbed. So here it is: The perfect geometric Euclidean circle, leaving religious legalism in a pile of ashes as Grace triumphs.
Most people in this world are religious, even if they are secular. It is an attitude. It is made up of walls and barriers. The construction of a self-righteous mask we all have. Screening John’s gospel leaves one the inspiration to just take a deep breathe and let it all go.
Why, because God really does love us, after all He proved it. So go ahead, give your heart to strangers, it’s OK. You and the world will change and be a better place right before your very eyes. Begin at the beginning. Lighten up. Emerge. Then get on your boots, there is work to be done.
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