The Scripture for today is Matthew 23:1-12 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father,and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law tied up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves were not willing to lift a finger to move them. That reminds me of working out in my backyard yesterday. It was warm and sunny, a perfect day to put in a new landscaping bed. We purchased nine fresh bags of hardwood mulch for our new plantings. To be honest, I had forgotten just how heavy a wet bag of mulch is. Wanting to share the workload with my husband, I decided I would lug at least 4 of the bags to our backyard. As I hoisted each bag to rest across my shoulder, I couldn’t help but grunt with exertion. My steps slowed and my shoulder felt as if a heavy weight was pressing me into the earth. Each bag felt heavier than the last and it was a great big relief to toss each one down onto the ground near our work site. As I read about the burdens the religious leaders placed upon the people, I thought of how heavy their loads must have been – not physically heavy, but spiritually, mentally and financially heavy. How terrible to live in a culture where you are constantly reminded that you are never holy enough, never educated enough, never devout enough, never sacrifice enough, etc. My four bags of mulch seemed oddly light as I thought of the burden the people bore from their religious leaders. I also thought about living today – our culture places heavy burdens upon us. We can never measure up to the standards of beauty, wealth and success portrayed by the media. Sadly, even our churches and religious leaders can be impacted by the standards of this world.
Let’s contrast the Pharisees and teachers of the law with Jesus. In Matthew 11:28-30 – Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus invites us to lay our burdens down – to be freed of the weight of meaningless religious rituals, free of wallowing in feelings of unworthiness, free of the fear of eternal damnation, free of not measuring up to our society’s standards of beauty, wealth and success. Truly FREE – free to enjoy the peace and assurance that comes from a life spent with Christ. A life spent with a Savior who leads me, walks with me, carries me when needed and never burdens me with more than I can bear.
Lord Jesus, thank you for your daily presence. Thank you for providing rest and peace, not heavy burdens. I love you, Lord Jesus. Amen.