A few years ago I was hiking along a trail near a cove in Southwest Australia. 3 of my 4 children were with me. We had the opportunity to jump the trail and head out to a spectacular sight on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. We spent a few moments there and I decided to find our way back to their mom and baby brother.
Instead of doing the smart thing and going back the way we came, I saw a faint trail going back inland. The kids and I followed this "trail" for a while as the bush became thicker and thicker around us. After we had to duck a log in order to stay on that trail, I realised that we were lost. I didn't want to frighten the kids so I tried acting like I knew where I was and we would be back on the main trail soon. But, after a time, the older two children knew what I knew. We were lost.
Thankfully, we finally found our way back to the main trail after hearing some voices nearby. We were able to follow the voices of the ones who were on the main trail so we could find the main trail.
That reminded me how easy it is to become lost.
There were a number of citizens of God's nation who were trying to determine whether Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus, knowing the hearts of men, made his reasoned appeal to the people, "Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own."
The Father and The Son are one. Jesus never, ever contradicts his Father in Heaven. The Father sent His Son so that we may follow Him as He shows us the way to the Father. A way, clearly, that we can not find on our own.
But, there are some who are not sure. Worse, there are some that are so convinced that he is not the Messiah, they want to kill him. Why is this? According to Jesus, they do not do the will of God. Jesus skillfully warns them that they do not know God, so they will not know him. Their priorities are not God's priorities.
Jesus points out their hypocracy. They are angry at Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. After all, God told them to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy (or cleanly seperate). Jesus, speaking the Word of His Father, points out they do things on the Sabbath all the time. They circumcise children whose eighth day falls on the Sabbath. They do this clearly because they deem the precise keeping of circumcision as more important than the keeping of a day.
Healing someone, loving people is always the priority of our Father in Heaven. If someone needs help, the will of our Father is to help them. We see a need. We meet a need. This is the will of our Father in Heaven. The religious leaders of Jesus' day had placed holy days ahead of loving God and loving people. They had become lost. They had left the true trail and could not find their way back even though that way back was living among them. The reason they did not recognise this is because they did not think they were lost. They thought they were on the trail. But, if they had honestly examined the hardness of their hearts toward their neighbours who desperately needed help, they might have realised their plight and repented.
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.
But I thought Jesus told us not to judge? He did. But in that context, he was warning us not to try to decide who was and was not worthy of the grace of God. But, in that same sermon, he taught about distinguishing between true and false prophets and teachers.
Yes, there is good teaching and bad teaching. There is a true Word of God and teaching that God never said. Not all teaching is good. Not all teaching is profitable or useful. Jesus never, ever told his followers to turn off their brains. Quite the opposite, he wants us to turn on our hearts by aligning our hearts with His heart.
Jesus' words, no doubt, turned many of the crowd's recollection to when Samuel went to find a successor to King Saul at the home of Jesse. The prophet Samuel thought for certain that God had chosen the tall, strong and handsome as King. But the Lord tells Samuel,
for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
We must learn to see as our Father in heaven sees. We must learn to see with our Father's heart. And our Father's heart is His Son Jesus' heart. By His grace, by the gift of His Word, the gift of His Son, the gift of His Spirit, we are able to choose to do the will of God. When we do the will of God, we are able to see Him more clearly. We are able to see where He is going, so that we are able to tell what is the true trail and what trail is false.