Jesus took many opportunities to set them straight and time and time again. He was constantly trying to show them that to truly know the Father they should take their eyes off the law and put them on himself. The law was given as a guardian until Jesus came, but when the Father came many legalists chose the guardian over their own father!
Over and over, the religious people missed the point of the law, and still today they are doing the same. They continue to focus on whitewashing their tombs, on cleaning the outside of their cups and dishes, on preaching laws that keep people far from God trembling in fear and shame, on following rules and regulations instead of receiving and sharing God's love and mercy provided in the finished work of Jesus. They puff themselves up with a false sense of spirituality because they think it pious to choose the bad news over the good news, and they are deeply suspicious and condemning toward anyone who lives in the joyful simplicity of faith in God's good heart of love to his children.
"And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"— so that they might accuse him. He said to them, "Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Matthew 12:10-12
"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
"Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.' You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. Matthew 23:13-36
Legalism has never produced anything good. It can only produce death, hypocrisy, and self-deceived fools. Believe me, I know what it's like to be a legalist, I remember it well! If you believe that the law is a means to produce any good thing in you, you are setting yourself up for woe. You will not and cannot please God through obeying the law and he is never impressed by your attention to details and technicalities. He is looking for one thing: FAITH.
In the New Covenant, faith IS obedience!
"Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20-30-31
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." Romans 1:15-17
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin." Romans 4:5-8
"This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us." 1 John 3:19-24
I will say it again! Faith is obedience! When we believe in Jesus our belief is credited as righteousness, we are pleasing God so much, he is so happy with us! When we believe in Jesus, our sins are no longer counted against us! When we believe in Jesus, we are born again by the Spirit so that the life we live in the flesh is by faith in the Son of God, not by adherence to the law.
Oh yes, I know it's not clear enough yet so I will say it, you won't find faith is impotent like the old husband law. The law of Christ, the law of liberty, the law of faith, the law of the Spirit of life!!--yes, it will produce many good things in our lives in God's good time. In fact, it the only way anything we do will not be burned up in the fire as hay and stubble. Only faith can produce anything that lasts.
Now you can safely and confidently take your eyes off yourself and your performance, go ahead. Now you can let go of your striving and enter his rest. Now to him you can give all the glory forever! We are yours Jesus!
"Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen." Romans 16:25-27