The Pharisees were the most learned segment of the Jewish culture in Jesus’ day. They knew the Scriptures forward and backward; they knew the law, knew the prophesies and were living in anticipation of the coming of Messiah. And yet, when He arrived they missed Him. Why? The practice of their religion had knocked them out of phase.

They knew the ache we all feel as humans; the understanding that our best efforts will not alleviate the ache of living as fallen people in a fallen world. And yet, like many of us, they tried harder. They added to and further defined the rules to the point they became absurd and impossible to follow, turning what was meant to provide freedom into a yoke of slavery and a source of shame.

While it’s easy to shake our heads at the thought, a more appropriate response would be to bow and ask Jesus to reveal to us where this religious spirit might have crept in to our own heart.

The shift can be so subtle. I’ve experienced this in my own life. I believe it starts with good intentions. However, if our hearts and minds are not kept guarded with the peace of Christ (re: Philippians chapter four) and our motives are not continually checked by the Truth of Scripture, the focus of the relationship we once enjoyed can shift just enough that we begin serving a religion crafted in Jesus’ name, but created to fit into a box of our own design serving our conveniences, stroking our own ego, and accommodating our agenda, all the while being lulled to sleep by a false god we can understand and control. 

This changes our hearts; we feel the need to defend our position and silence those whom we perceive to threaten it, instead of seeking to show them love and value as fellow image bearers. There is a saying, “Where our focus goes our energy flows.” The focus of the Pharisees was knocked out of phase and as a result they not only missed the Messiah, but facilitated His execution.

Some important questions that will help keep the practice of our faith in phase are these; Are we following Jesus or a religion crafted in His name? Are we serving Jesus or a religion designed to serve us? Are we sharing our faith or defending our religion?

The Pharisees missed Jesus because He didn’t fit in the box of their expectations. The older I get the more I am learning that we need to worry less about how Jesus fits into our agenda and more about how we fit into His. Which is the difference between an out of phase religion and an in phase relationship.

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