Jesus - A Liberal Fundamental
In Jesus’ day there existed two religious camps that held sway over the people. These groups were both believers in the God of Israel, but they were extremely different. Jesus warned His disciples to beware of the leaven (teaching) of the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Matthew 16:6).
Who were they and what did they teach?
The Pharisees could be likened to today’s extreme fundamentalists. They knew the word thoroughly. In fact the Pharisees memorized all thirty-nine books of the Old Testament! They were sticklers for the correct interpretation of the word of God and sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is very important, yet they were missing one vital ingredient for serving it to the people. They lacked compassion and the love of God. They had a lot of head knowledge of God but no heart knowledge. They exuded an outward religiosity that was void of mercy; which is a consistent characteristic of a “religious spirit.”
The Sadducees were the opposite extreme. They were the liberals of their day. They were wealthy and more concerned about social status and the things of this life than what matters the most to God; therefore sin was not a concern in their worldly camp. This was the group that represented compromise and being right with God was not an issue. Their motto could easily have been “Have it Your Way” instead of “Have it His Way.” They were a social club concerned with outward appearances and like the Pharisees, lacked any real relationship with God.
Then along came Jesus. He was different. He had a relationship with the Father. He really knew Him, because the Spirit of the Living God was in Him (Romans 8:9) and Jesus lived His life on earth totally directed by the will of God. He possessed the perfect balance of God’s love and His judgment.
When the Pharisees brought to Him a woman who had been caught in adultery (John 8:3-11) and was, according to the strict letter of the law due to be put to death by stoning, Jesus ministered the law through the spirit of the grace He was bringing and illustrated the Gospel.
“Let those who have never sinned cast the first stone” (verse 7). He held up to us the mirror of the law of God and in its reflection we saw that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and that no one is righteous, no, not one! (Psalm 14:1).
The adulteresses’ accusers dropped their stones and drifted back into the shadows. And just when the liberal Sadducees were applauding the Pharisee’s retreat, they overheard the Merciful One say with a loving firmness to the trembling sinner, “Go and sin no more” (verse 11).
Jesus was saying “This great deliverance you have just received should cause you to want to change your life in gratitude for your salvation. That’s not an unreasonable request, now is it?”
When Jesus encountered a man who needed healing (John 5: 2-14) He blatantly ministered God’s love and healed him on the Sabbath, violating the Pharisee’s concept of the law as they watched in horror.
And when the Sadducees were smiling at the Pharisee’s discomfort, Jesus found the man He had healed in the temple and this one who had been restored to a place of worship was warned not to sin again “lest something worse happens to you” (verse 14). Jesus was lovingly conveying a Biblical principle that is not going to go away –
“God is not mocked; you will reap what you sow” (Galatians 6:7).
Jesus could sit with sinners and it appears that they were comfortable in His loving presence and did not feel condemned as He conversed with them about the Father God He knew so well. And when the self-righteous Pharisees looked on in shock and indignation at Jesus’ willingness to rub elbows with the ungodly, Jesus let these religious ones know that He viewed sin as an illness that needed to be cured (Matthew 9: 10-13) and He was not about to reject these ones who were willing to come and sit with Him at His table.
The Pharisees, who remained shrouded in their terminal disease of pride refused to come near Him, while the grinning Sadducees approached the table, then stopped abruptly when Jesus started using the “R” word. Repentance was something that had disappeared from their vocabulary and Jesus with His grace was bringing it back in full force, because love without correction is no love at all.
“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” – Matthew 9:13.
Unless you repent, you all shall likewise perish” – Luke 13:3.
Jesus was calling us all to be willing to let Him change us into the people God wants us to be and “turn us from our iniquities”– Acts 3:26.
The sinners remained at the table, listening to the Word as Jesus explained its meaning. He was bringing them the cure and the promise of a brand new beginning through faith in God through Him and the offering of His love.
Jesus fed them and they dined on His loving liberal, yet firm fundamental theology. Jesus is a Master Chef. He fed them a perfectly seasoned, well-balanced meal. He’s willing to share His recipe with all who are truly hungry. The food He offers is life-giving and delicious. There’s always room for one more at His table. Come and dine!
He sent His word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. – Psalm 107:20
But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. –Romans 5: 8, 9
For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved - John 3:17
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any one hears My voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. – Revelation 3:20
copyright 2009 by H.D. Shively
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