For this week’s English 2 assignment, I am to write on this topic: “According to Mark’s gospel, what was the main issue dividing Jesus from the leaders of Israel?”
Legalism was what caused the division between Jesus and the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes. It is the opposite of antinomianism, and it puts law above grace. In Jesus’ time the Pharisees where the legalists, and they thought they could earn their way to the kingdom of heaven. They believed that since they could trace their lineage back to Abraham, and since they were careful to obey the law, that they were children of God. But there is no way, in and of ourselves, for us to possibly keep God’s law perfectly since we got out of bed this morning! It was a denial of the gospel. Thus when Jesus came, they hated him so much for his preaching of the gospel that exposed their hypocricy. Nothing exposed their wrong more than the truth from Jesus the esence of truth, and they didn’t like it.
This point is made clear in the passage of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22), where the young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus said that he must keep the commandments, but the young ruler thought that he had kept all of them. But Jesus revealed him for what he truly was by testing him on the first commandment:
“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great posessions.Mark 10:21-22
He failed on the first test, and Jesus exposed who his real god was: money. The Pharisees thought just like that young man, but Jesus revealed their hypocricy too. He rebuked them for putting chains of their own making on other people, where God had left them free. They made stricter rules than God himself does. They also practiced another form of legalism, majoring on the minors. They would tithe, but omitted the weightier matters of mercy, justice, and faithfulness.
But we should not start pointing our fingers at the Pharisees, when we can just as easily do the same ourselves. The only way to avoid legalism or antinomianism is by the serious studying of God’s Word. Only then will we be properly instructed in what pleases and displeases God.