Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:1-4)
The nation of Israel was much changed from the royal days of David and Solomon when Jesus began His ministry. For nearly six hundred years, the people of God had been subjected to the rule of the Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks and in the days of Jesus, the Roman Empire. The organizational structure of the Jewish community had created sects called the Pharisees, Sadducee’s, Nazarene’s and the Herodians. Worship was found in synagogues following the Babylonian exile. Many of the conflicts Jesus had with His detractors were from His own people and especially the scribes and Pharisees. As a ruling class among the Jews, the Pharisees wielded the greatest influence. Driven by envy and arrogance, the Pharisees sought to trap Jesus in His teaching and constantly harassed Him wherever He went. Near the end of His life, the Lord put forth a clear statement on the nature of the Pharisees as much a warning to the disciples as it was to let the Jewish elite know He clearly saw the corruption of their hearts. The scribes and Pharisees acted as if they spoke for Moses when they declared the law to the people. A scribe was a man who studied, examined and interpreted the Law of Moses. Originally this was the work of the priests but in time became a profession on its own creating a class of scholars that would studiously examine and declare the legal renderings of the Law. They would have a great deal of influence over the people. The sect of the Pharisees closely aligned themselves with the scribes as those who explained the law to the people devoting themselves diligently to the law. Jesus would have none of this. It was hypocrisy for the leaders to interpret the law to their own advantage binding heavy burdens on the people yet not finding a reason to impose the law upon themselves.
Jesus astonished the people when He challenged the authority of the scribes and Pharisees. He admonished the multitudes to follow the Law of Moses but to reject the examples of the religious leaders as they failed to follow the law in their own life. It was easy for the scribes and Pharisees to demand the people be holy and not bind those same burdens of their lives because they were the teachers of the law. Keeping the law was needful for the people but they had to be aware the Jewish leaders were accountable to keep the law also. Hypocrisy is when a man tells another to be holy and does not follow the same path of holiness. They make the pretense of being students of the law but fail to see the application in their lives as necessary. Jesus tells the multitudes to do what the law says but do not follow the example of the scribes and Pharisees. Sadly, the religious leaders made the law difficult on the people by the manner of binding the laws that would make it hard for the common man to be justified yet finding no need to obey the same law.
Salvation is offered to all men because all men are in need of salvation. God makes no distinction between men. Whether rich or poor, young and old, free or slave, and male and female, Jesus died for all men for the same reason and the same purpose. The law applies to the scribe and Pharisee as much as it does to the common Jew who might be a carpenter, fishermen or tax collector. When Jesus built His church He invited all men to come to the judgment seat of the Father to receive His grace without distinction of color, gender, nationality or social status. When a man teaches another to obey the word of God, that same man must obey the word of God. Hypocrisy is found in the hearts of those who demand others live a stricter life of law-keeping than themselves. Modern-day mega preachers find themselves preaching one thing and living another. It is easy for a person to judge another because of their station of life and condemn them for the unfortunate circumstances they are in yet having no compassion to save their souls and help. Jesus condemns hypocrisy. No one has a greater need or lesser need for salvation. All men are created in the image of God and all men fall short of the glory of God and all men must obey the will of the Father. The man who is a devoted scholar of the Bible is just as much in need of forgiveness as the prostitute, drug user, murderer and reprobate of the world. Jesus brought a message of salvation for every soul without distinction or separation. For God so loved the world and He did not leave anyone out. You and I both are in need of Christ.