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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