Is Your Burden Great?

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Reading the Word

Matthew 23:1–12 (ESV)

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being 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 call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus warned his disciples about the scribes and Pharisees. These teachers of the law were known for putting great burdens on people. They taught rules and regulations that were difficult for the people to live under. However, these teachers often did not practice their own teachings. What they required of others, they did not require of themselves. The Pharisees were known for their extra rules and regulations that “put a fence around the Law.” They desired so much to protect the Law that they came up with extra regulations of their own to make sure people did not break the Mosaic Law.

In contrast to the Pharisees’ burdensome teaching, Jesus said:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, ESV)

The legalism of the Pharisees was a weight no one could bear, not even the Pharisees. It only discouraged and condemned those who tried. Jesus did not come to add to our burden by adding to the Law. He came to fulfill the Law for us and give us life through his name. In Christ, we are free from the Law and can serve our Lord from a motivation of love, thanksgiving, and praise. Praise Christ for the rest we find in him!

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Love for God and Others

1 John 48 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 22:34–40 (ESV)

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Parallel Text: Mark 12:28-34

Understanding and Applying the Word

The religious leaders continued to approach Jesus to “test” him. Their desire was to trap him in some way so they could accuse him of wrongdoing or draw attention away from him. In order to do this, a lawyer who was a Pharisee went to Jesus to ask him a question. A lawyer was one who was considered an expert in the Old Testament law. The lawyer asked Jesus, “[Which] is the great commandment in the Law?”

Jesus continued to show his great wisdom and ability to deal with the religious leaders’ attacks when he answered the lawyer’s question. Jesus told him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…[and] You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These two statements were not new. Jesus quoted directly from the Law as found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. The lawyer would have been very familiar with Jesus’ references. The entire Law is summarized by these two statements.

Our love for God and our love for others are intricately related to one another. 1 John tells us that we cannot claim to love the Lord and hate our brother since God is love (cf. 1 John 4:8). This is why Jesus put these two seemingly separate commands together when asked about the greatest commandment. They cannot be separated.

When we evaluate our relationship with God we must also consider how well we love other people. If we love the Lord, we will love others. If our love for the Lord is growing, our love for others should be growing as well. Do you love God? Do you love your neighbors?

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Love Is the Law

Love God, Love Others

Reading the Word

Luke 13:10–17 (ESV)

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The religious leaders had so perverted the law of God that they used it even to undermine acts of kindness, love, and mercy on the Sabbath. Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy by pointing out that they all untied their oxen or donkeys on the Sabbath to lead them to water. How much more appropriate to show compassion to a human being?

When our rules prevent us from showing love and compassion to others or become an excuse for us to avoid others, there is something wrong with our rules. God’s law was given to foster love for the Lord and for others, not prevent it. This is why Paul states in Romans 13:8 that “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Over and over again, Christ showed love and compassion to sinners and we are called to do the same.

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Praise the Lord for His Word

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Reading the Word

Psalm 147:12–20 (ESV)

12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and rules to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.
Praise the LORD!

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday we looked at the first half of this psalm. Today, we look at the second half. The theme of the psalm continues to be why God is worthy of our praise. However, in today’s verses the reasons are different. The Lord is worthy of praise because he protects his people, he provides for his people, and he gives his law to his people.

The first two reasons seem simple enough, but why should we offer praise for the law? Does not the law limit us and rob us of joy? That is certainly the way some look at it. However, that is not how we should think of God’s law. It does not limit our joy, but tells us how to find true joy. It does not take away from our lives, but tells us how to live life to the full. Our Creator has given us his word and it tells us how we should live to both glorify him and find the greatest fulfillment in our lives. Let us praise him for his wonderful gift!

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The Wonderful Word of God

Bible Law

Reading the Word

Psalm 119:1–8 (ESV)

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. 5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! 6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. 8 I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!

Understanding and Applying the Word

Psalm 119 is the longest of the psalms, stretching 176 verses. The psalm is organized as an acrostic based on the Hebrew alphabet with the first eight lines beginning with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph), the second eight lines with the second letter (beth), and so on. The focus of the entire psalm is on the goodness of God’s instruction (i.e. God’s law). Every line of the psalm uses the word “law” or a synonym for it to express the greatness of God’s word to mankind.

How wonderful is the word of God! It brings goodness and life to those who study it and obey it. Yet, for many of us, we neglect it and choose to live life our own way. This is only to our detriment as it is the Lord who created us and knows what is best for us. The good and loving God who sent his Son into the world to save us from our sin has also given us his word to guide our lives. How could we neglect the words of one who has shown us such great affection? Let us turn to his word again and again as we seek to understand this world and how to live in it.

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