Jesus had a conflict with the religious establishment of his day. The Gospel of Mark highlights the differences right away. Notably, Jesus clashes with the religious establishment over the Sabbath.
The Pharisees, a respected group of religious leaders had helped to establish a set of rules regarding appropriate behavior on the Sabbath. They thought it would make it easier for people to have concrete guidelines that would keep them from inadvertently violating God's Law.
One Sabbath day (Mark 2:23) Jesus and his followers are walking through a field. They are hungry and grab some handfuls of grain to eat. The Pharisees are insulted by what they viewed as a blatant violation of God's command not to work on the Sabbath. The established rules stated that no work would be done on this day and picking grain was work.
Jesus said that God's Law was meant to help people, not hurt them. Picking some grain to eat was not work. The rules set up by the religious establishment made the Sabbath a burden and not the day of rest and refreshment that God intended. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
Later Jesus would enter a place of worship on the Sabbath and encounter a man with a crippled hand. If Jesus were to heal this man, he would be working on the Sabbath. Healing was in his job description, you see. Couldn't it wait until Monday? Jesus could have given him his card and had him call for an appointment.
Jesus, understanding the conflict of the moment, asked a question designed to bring clarity. He asked, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4)
When no one spoke, Jesus answered the question himself by healing the man.
There is still conflict today regarding Sabbath-keeping and other religious rules. We get conflicting answers when we ask the wrong questions. The religious establishment today often confuses cultural norms with spiritual principles. Good rules applied in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons leave people hurt and angry. It drives people away from the God who loves them so much.
I am not suggesting we should take a relaxed attitude toward sin. We are to call sinners to repentance and offer them grace. Jesus always acted out of grace while still respecting God's Law. His intervention stopped the stoning of an adulterous woman but he did not condone the sin. He told her to “sin no more.” (John 10)