Religion is a perfect insulator against the Holy Spirit.
I’ve said this line more times than I can count. I don’t think it’s original to me, but I can’t remember where I heard it or read it. If you know, please drop me a line so I can credit the source.
Genuine faith moves in response to the Holy Spirit. Artificial religion actually insulates us from the Holy Spirit. Religion is an edifice keeping control, order, predictability, and the status quo protected.
Religion can actually blind us to what the Lord is doing. And we’re not the first to deal with this.
For the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at the healing of a man born blind when Jesus healed him using mud empowered by Him and the responses to it (John 9:1-12). Today, we start to see the response of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day in John 9:13-17
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”John 9:13-17
New International Version
The healing of this man who was born blind was so shocking and amazing the people didn’t know what to make of it. Their heads couldn’t wrap around the theological implications of God’s power flowing through Jesus. Remember, they didn’t think He was anything other than a nomadic carpenter from Nazareth.
Therefore, the people take the healed man to their religious leaders. The Pharisees are now involved. The idea was sound: as experts of the Law of God, they were expected to have an answer for them.
But there was also this wrinkle of the healing happening on the Sabbath. That’s significant because now the Pharisees’ own Sabbath Law was involved in the conversation.
The Pharisees hear the story from the man himself and now the arguing begins. Jesus divides. He creates lines in the sand that demand a “yes” or “no” decision.
But in the case of the Pharisees, they’re arguing over which part of the Law Jesus broke. Their assumption is that He is a disobedient person and they’re just trying to prove it. Some Pharisees claimed Jesus’ primary assault to the Law was working on the Sabbath (verse 16). Others, who already thought He was an unredeemed person, wondered how the power of God could be revealed in such a sinful person (verse 17).
They didn’t know the answer either! When they asked the man who used to be blind what he thought, his answer was shocking: Jesus is a prophet (verse 17).
Next week, we’ll get to the next part of the story, but for today consider the attitude of the religious leaders. In their disagreement, they did agree on one thing: Jesus was a sinner of some sort. As to the specificity of His sins, they were divided. Yet, they did “know” Jesus was a sinner.
Their prejudice against Jesus is glaringly obvious. They just knew Jesus was not of God so they could not get it into their heads that Jesus might actually possess the power of God. To the credit of some of these Pharisees, they did wonder how a sinner could do these things unless God was with him (verse 17).
It’s hard for those with something to protect to embrace a change that costs them. The Pharisees held on to their power by ensuring the people realized how sinful they are and how holy the Pharisees are. The very fact that the people brought this man (and his story!) to them is proof of their position in society. It also helps us understand their frustration with not having an answer. Jesus divided them.
Are we like the Pharisees? Are we quick to dismiss something because it doesn’t conform to our opinion on the limits of God’s ability? Can we miss the miraculous work of the Lord because He doesn’t do it through us and our structures?
When we feel that rising up in our hearts, let’s pause and consider if we’re acting like the Pharisees or if we’re willing to see the Lord doing something old in a new way.