Religious ossification is an ever-present challenge to those who follow God. I’ve seen it work this way: God moves in the life of a community, they see an awakening at an event or through a particular message or song. After that experience, the event or the song becomes sacred. When a new movement comes along, or a new message from God, they are no longer open to it because it doesn’t come in the previous form.
In some ways, the Pharisees—Jesus’ strongest opponents—were an example of this. They were born out of a movement trying to return to God. They were so concerned with obedience that they tried to prescribe correct behavior for every situation. But eventually the desire to obey God became a tradition of obeying the forms they had established.
Along comes John the Baptist, and he exposes the sin and disobedience in the culture of his day, including those in the religious traditions of the day. He called people back to purity, to repentance and obedience, to the Kingdom of God. But even in his day the ossification began to set in. As the Son of God appeared on the scene—the very Savior that John was preparing the people for—they began to question Him because He was different. How could His way be better than John’s? Wasn’t it bad that people were going to Him rather than coming to John for cleansing and preparation for the Messiah.
It sounds silly when you think of it that way. That is like not having time to run a marathon because it doesn’t fit into your preparations regiment.
But that is exactly what people of faith are constantly tempted to do. We start out seeking God, but become comfortable in the traditions and patterns that emerge in that search. So much so that we often miss God when He shows up.