Just after his baptism, Jesus gets tempted by the devil in fundamental ways. First the devil tempts him to pursue happiness as the meaning of life (Luke 4:1-4). Then the devil tells him life’s meaning lies in becoming the most powerful and glorious person in the world (vs. 5-8).
Finally, the devil quotes Scripture to prove to Jesus that he’d fix everything if he’d just start a new religion (vs. 9-13). To be clear, religion is the understanding that we can set ourselves right with God and then become so good that God owes us. But Jesus refuses to think that he is holier than others and therefore deserving of special treatment. He refuses to act as if God owes him anything.
Jesus did not come to establish a new religion but to free us from all religions. We cannot set ourselves right with God. Only God can do that for us. We cannot claim greater holiness than others. Whatever holiness we have is ours as a pure gift from God. Jesus troubled the Pharisees so much because they were quite religious while Jesus refused to be.
During his life, Jesus never makes it from the margin to the center of any religious establishment. When Jesus, during his public ministry, returns to his hometown synagogue and preaches, even his old neighbors get so angry with him that they want to toss him off a cliff (Luke 4:30). He then hangs around with irreligious and apparently immoral people. He touches lepers and other unclean people and by doing so makes himself an outcast.
The religious authorities condemn him as evil for breaking their official moral code by healing people on the Sabbath. They regard him as arrogant and stubborn because he forgives people their sins. He brazenly enters the mega-church of his day and scatters the money being sucked into it. He scolds leading theologians, pastors, and elders for their hypocrisy. He consistently irritates anyone with a vested interest in religion.
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