“Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” You’ve probably heard that saying before. It stems from the idea that laws have a moral basis that are accepted by most people. For instance, the deliberate act of killing someone would be wrong in most any culture. The act of sticking a gun in someone’s face to take their possessions is obviously wrong. Claiming that you didn’t know that there was a law about such things would be laughable. On the other hand, our society had developed fine shades of what is legal and what isn’t. Sometimes, laws are written that make something illegal just because it makes something illegal. It’s hard to find the moral basis for that. For example, when we travel, we take one of the free plastic shopping bags and pack our medicines in that bag. It’s our habit. It’s a convenient way to keep those bottles together. One of the countries we went to had a complete ban on such bags and mere possession of one could lead to a huge fine. We were ignorant of the law. Fortunately, we didn’t have to test whether we would suffer under that law. For more on this subject, check out this article.
The Pharisees had worked hard throughout many years to try an understand God and His ways. They had taken the Biblical Law and squeezed out over 600 ways to follow it. They knew how to attack anyone who wasn’t following the Law the way they understood it and that was the cause of their conflicts with Jesus. Jesus recognized that God developed the Law to help people become their best, while the Pharisees saw it as restraining people in every way imaginable. In short, they thought God designed the law to prevent people from enjoying life and they were excited about enforcing that understanding. And healing on the Sabbath, especially by making mud was wrong. Jesus turned it into a lesson, noting that those who were blind would see, and those who could see would become blind. That evoked outrage from the Pharisees who claimed to be able to see clearly. “Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’” (John 9:41)
The Pharisees were so locked into their understanding of God, and of what the Messiah would look like, and how he would come that they had blinders on. They couldn’t see the truth because they thought they knew it, and weren’t open to any new ideas. Most people accepted what the Pharisees said because, after all, the Pharisees had a direct line to God; they were the religious elite who knew what was going on and they had to be listened to. Then, Jesus threw all of that into an uproar. He taught with authority, not like the scribes and the Pharisees. He showed that when it came to the law, God made the Sabbath for the good of man, not man to obey the Sabbath Law. He came healing people and feeding thousands and letting people know that God loved them. He forgave people their sins. He even gave the Pharisees a chance to wriggle out of their situation by allowing them to claim that they had been blind.
The beautiful lyrics from the song “Amazing Grace” show that John Newton understood this idea. “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.” It’s so easy to get those same Pharisaical blinders on in our understanding of God and think that we understand how God works. I hear the misunderstandings all the time. People think that they’re good enough to go to heaven. People look at others and think that because they’re good people, their hope of heaven is secured. The truth is that none of us are good enough to make it into heaven because of what we’ve done. The only hope is the same hope that Jesus offered the Pharisees, most of whom rejected it. That hope is a good relationship with God because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Are you blind, or do you see that, and will you do that?
O Lord, my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. Let me see and share Your grace.