Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.John 7:19-24
Having taught with compassion and wisdom, Jesus now moves into a challenging conversation with the common folk of Israel. He no doubt shocks them with the statements of no one keeping the law and yet they seek to kill Him. What Jesus is doing is challenging them, and us, to see that God never intended the law to be used as a tool of justification. The Scribes and Pharisees had taught and convinced the people that they (the Pharisees) held the keys to heaven and that the people must keep the law according to their interpretation of it. Jesus challenges this way of thinking with one little but very clear argument.
The miracle that Jesus did at the Pool of Bethesda is the miracle in question. Jesus had healed the man on the Sabbath Day so He had been accused of violating the law by doing work on the Sabbath. That is why the leaders sought to kill Him. Jesus shows that this line of reasoning is ridiculous because His accusers didn’t keep the law either.
The law states that all Jewish males are to be circumcised on their eighth day of life. The law also states that there is no work to be done on the Sabbath. So what happens when a boy turns eight days old on the Sabbath? If they circumcise the child, then they violate the Sabbath. If they do not do the circumcision, then they violate that law. This shows that it is impossible to keep both laws. Therefore, it is clear that the law was never intended to be used to justify people to heaven.
Jesus is not telling us to ignore the law. He is teaching us that God is Holy and we need something more than our obedience to approach unto that holy of a God. We know that the blood of Jesus Christ is what is counted for the eternal justification of all the saints of God (Romans 5:9). That is a work of God and God alone. However, our understanding of that justification is based upon our obedience unto the Father.
If we believed that we had to follow every aspect of the law in order to go to heaven, then Jesus has just told us we are all lost! But we know that is not what He is saying.
Let’s not forget what Jesus has just taught. The true doctrine of salvation and justification comes from God the Father. The way that we know this is because it gives glory to God and not to men (verse 17). If we achieve heaven based on our works, or will, then we deserve the credit, not God. But Jesus says those that follow the Father understand this in the minds and in their hearts.
And God’s will is to love. It is not God’s will that we do good things in order to be seen as righteous or to try to justify ourselves by our works. We are to do good things because we love God by loving others. We are to do these things out of a thankful heart.
The bottom line is that the people thought justification was only about being seen righteous. This is what they had been taught. By the Pharisees’ definition, no one can be justified as seen in this simple case. Jesus says, “look at the bigger picture!” Jesus did an act of love to help someone. How can this be wrong?
The true standard of justification is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We must rely totally on His grace and favor for our eternal justification. When we walk by faith, we are acting in love toward others without a concern for our justification. The result, however, is that we end up with the experience of justification in our hearts because we have acted just like Jesus and performed the will of the Father.