On a Sabbath Jesus entered into a synagogue and taught. And, behold, there was a man there who had his right hand withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him, whether on the Sabbaths He would heal him. And they questioned Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbaths,” that they might find an accusation against Him. But He Himself, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “What man among you who has one sheep which falls into a ditch on the Sabbath, would not lay hold on it and lift it? He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Rise up and stand here.” And rising, he stood. Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you about something. How much better, therefore, is a man than a sheep? Is it lawful on the Sabbaths to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to kill?” But they were silent. “So it is lawful on the Sabbaths to do good.” And looking around on them all with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their heart, He then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other. But they were filled with anger. And the Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians, and spoke with one another against Him, about what they might do to Jesus, how they might destroy Him. (From Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11)
This is one of the most
heartbreaking accounts I've come across in scripture. The Pharisees
hearts are so hard that they are more dedicated to the law than they are
to loving others. Their heart conditions become obvious when they go on
to plot to kill Jesus. They care more about their self-righteousness,
praise from men, & the written law than they do about God and others. It
is no wonder that Jesus was so harsh with them. Jesus Himself was angry
and grieved because of their hardness of heart.
Scripture makes it clear that love summarizes the law. Legalism then is
when law exists without love. Jesus asked if it was lawful
to do good or heal on the Sabbath. In the Pharisees minds not working on the
Sabbath trumped love & compassion. The law was more important than
love to them which is absurd in God's eyes as the law was all about
love. They viewed the law as arbitrary at best and a vehicle for their
own self-righteousness at worst.