John 7:19-24 MKJV Did not Moses give you the Law? And yet not one of you keeps the Law! Why do you seek to kill Me? (20) The crowd answered and said, You have a demon! Who seeks to kill you? (21) Jesus answered and said to them, I have done one work, and you all marvel. (22) Because of this Moses gave you circumcision (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers,) and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath day. (23) If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath day so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry at Me because I have made a man entirely sound on the Sabbath day? (24) Do not judge according to sight, but judge righteous judgment.
The Jews were proud of receiving the Law, and doubly proud of their mark of circumcision on the eighth day. In these verses Jesus plays one off the other to help deepen the Jews understanding of their faith.
Circumcision came from the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and was incorporated into the Law of Moses as a sign of the covenant. It was supposed to be performed on the eighth day – and the Jews observed this strictly – even if the eighth day fell on a Sabbath. So the Sabbath prohibition against work did not apply in the case of circumcision. Jesus makes the point that if a ceremonial requirement such as circumcision over-rode the Sabbath, then surely making someone “entirely sound” (KJV: “every whit whole”) did also.
In Mark Jesus makes clear that God is not demanding as much as He is blessing, God is more interested in making us whole - than in having us fulfill a set of formal legalisms.
Mark 2:27-28 And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: (28) so that the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.
And in Matthew there is a wonderful section on the true meaning of the Sabbath:
Matthew 12:1-14 MKJV At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath day. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck the heads of grain and to eat. (2) But when the Pharisees saw, they said to Him, Behold, your disciples do that which it is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day. (3) But He said to them, Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him, (4) how he entered into the house of God and ate the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? (5) Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless? (6) But I say to you that One greater than the temple is in this place. (7) But if you had known what this is, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice," you would not have condemned those who are not guilty. (8) For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath. (9) And when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. (10) And behold, a man having a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbaths? This so that they might accuse Him. (11) And He said to them, What man among you will be, who will have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbaths, will he not lay hold on it and lift it out? (12) How much better is a man then than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days. (13) Then He said to the man, Stretch out your hand. And he stretched it out, and it was restored whole like the other. (14) Then the Pharisees went out and held council against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
This attitude to the Sabbath debunks the whole religious establishment by making it the servant and not the master. Instead of controlling people and condemning minor infractions of Sabbath observance the Pharisees were to be healing them and having mercy on them. If the Sabbath was made for man, then because it is the first of all “religious institutions” (being instituted at Creation), and has priority, then all subsequent religion must serve the needs of the wholeness and healing of humanity – and not humanity serve the needs of religion!
To put it another way: Church programs are first meant to help make Christians whole - and Christians are not there as mere labor for church programs! Church is for Christians, not Christians for church!
No wonder they wanted to kill Jesus! (In John 7:25 we find that His “paranoia” in v. 19,20 is justified!) He was turning religion upside down and ending its ability to hold people captive to rules and regulations. He was taking away the social power of the religious establishment by breaking their rules – but in a way that was obviously good and right. He was showing up their laws as the silly power plays they really were!
Righteous judgment is when we see things as God sees them – with mercy, compassion, and with a love that which is true and the good. Righteous judgment may contradict social norms and religious rules based in the power of vested interests. The keeping of slaves was one such issue.
The Good Samaritan showed righteous judgment by acting in compassion even though he risked defiling himself by touching a corpse (if the man left for dead had passed away). Righteous judgment breaks human conventions in order to do good to others. This is not the same as moral relativism (which breaks God’s laws in order to pander to liberal human conventions).
Righteous judgment humanizes the faith and makes it a meek and gentle servant of the saints. The overbearing requirements of legalistic religion are not what God made religion for at all. Religion is meant to harmonize with all Creation and bless it and to allow it to be fruitful and to multiply. Church is therefore there for healing, wholeness and the growth of the saints (see Ephesians 3& 4)
Our church is there to grow us - and we are not there merely to grow the church as a human institution.