Matthew 7:15-23, 12:33-37, 23:1-39
We Are going to look at this scripture exegetically and not just topically and see what kind of disciple Jesus does not want us to be.
1. (v. 1-4) They lay oppressive burdens on others.
“The true target of the whole discourse is the crowds and disciples who need to break free from Pharisaic legalism.” (France)
“Perhaps a year earlier Jesus had begun to denounce the Pharisees (Matthew 15:7). Subsequently he warned his disciples of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:5-12). Now his warning and denunciations are public.” (Carson)
According to William Barclay, the Talmud (The Talmud is a central text of Rabbinic Judaism.) describes seven different types of Pharisees; six of the seven are bad.
– The Shoulder Pharisee, who wore all his good deeds and righteousness on his shoulder for everyone to see.
– The Wait-a-Little Pharisee, who always intended to do good deeds, but could always find a reason for doing them later, not now.
– The Bruised or Bleeding Pharisee, who was so holy that he would turn his head away from any woman seen in public – and was therefore constantly bumping into things and tripping, thus injuring himself.
– The Hump-Backed Pharisee, who was so humble that he walked bent over and barely lifting his feet – so everyone could see just how humble he was.
– The Always-Counting Pharisee, who was always counting up his good deeds and believed that he put God in debt to him for all the good he had done.
– The Fearful Pharisee, who did good because he was terrified that God would strike him with judgment if he did not.
– The God-Fearing Pharisee, who really loved God and did good deeds to please the God he loved.
Whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do: Jesus said that respect was due to the scribes and the Pharisees; not because of their conduct, but because they sit in Moses’ seat. They should be respected because they hold an office of authority, ordained by God.
“Let not the law of God lose its authority with you because of these wicked men.” (Poole)
Moses’ seat: “Synagogues had a stone seat at the front where the authoritative teacher [sat].” (Carson) “The Jews spoke of the teacher’s seat as we speak of a professor’s chair.” (Bruce)
They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders: The scribes and Pharisees were bad examples because they expected more of others than they did of themselves. They set heavy burdens on others, yet they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
Heavy burdens: The burden of the religious leaders contrasts sharply to Jesus’ burden. His burden is light, and His yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30). These religious leaders were burden bringers; Jesus was a burden taker.
The first accusation against these religious leaders could apply to many religious leaders today. Many teach as if the essence of Christianity were a set of burdensome rules to follow.
The early church rejected this legalism when it insisted that obedience to the Mosaic Law is not a foundation for the Christian life. Peter told the legalists in Acts 15:10: “Why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?