Religious Taskmasters & the Oppression They Bring

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically today’s passage is found in the first twenty-eight verses of the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament book. “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash. Not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:1-9).

 

            “And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whahtsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matthew 15:10-20).

 

            “Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Iisrael. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour” (Matthew 15:21-28).

 

            When you come to the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find another encounter between Jesus and the religious elite of that day. As you begin reading the opening verses of this chapter you will find the scribes and Pharisees came unto Jerusalem from Jerusalem—and not only coming unto Jesus but coming unto Him with a very specific purpose. Upon reading the words in the opening verses of this chapter you will find that the scribes and the Pharisees came unto Jesus from Jerusalem asking and inquiring of Him concerning His disciples. The question these religious leaders asked Jesus was a question—not regarding the Law of Moses but rather something entirely and all together different. The words we find in this passage of Scripture presents and brings us face to face with the religious leaders of that day coming to Jesus from Jerusalem concerning His disciples. These religious leaders would come unto Jesus from Jerusalem—perhaps journeying from Jerusalem unto Galilee—with the express purpose and intention of asking Jesus why His disciples violated and transgressed the tradition of the elders. In all reality there is something we must needs recognize concerning this passage of Scripture for it is quite unique and astonishing to consider how these religious leaders would journey from Jerusalem unto the place where Jesus was specifically to ask Him concerning His disciples. Not only would they ask Him a question concerning His disciples but their question would indeed be a veiled accusation and indictment toward and against them.

 

            If you take the time to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find it written concerning these scribes and religious leaders how they journeyed from Jerusalem unto Galilee with the express purpose and intention of calling into question the disciples of Jesus. Perhaps one of the thoughts I can’t help but think about when reading the words found in this passage is how these religious leaders had indeed come to learn and come to know Jesus’ disciples somehow transgressed and violated the tradition of the elders. How did these scribes and Pharisees learn and come to know Jesus’ disciples ate bread with unwashed hands? There is something incredibly unique and captivating about this passage of Scripture for what we find here is an incredibly powerful picture of religion coming unto Jesus seeking to indict and accuse His disciples. What’s more is that religion didn’t come to Jesus indicting and accusing the disciples of Jesus concerning the Law of Moses but rather concerning the traditions and elders of the people. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous and incredible truth surrounding the scribes and religious leaders of that day. You must needs remember the religious leaders of that day had already accused the disciples of Jesus to Him once already. In turning and directing your attention back a couple of chapters you will find the scribes and the Pharisees coming watching and observing Jesus’ disciples walking through the corn fields on the sabbath and on the sabbath day they both plucked ears of corn from the stalks and did eat.

 

            What you will find earlier on within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is actually quite unique and astonishing when you take the time to consider it for it presents us with an incredibly powerful picture of the disciples of Jesus being indicted and accused by the religious leaders of that day. It would have been one thing for religion and the religious leaders to target Jesus Himself, however, it would have been something entirely and altogether different for the religious leaders to target His disciples. There is something to be said about the religious leaders of that day who dared come unto Jesus seeking to indict and accuse His disciples because they observed behavior committed by them which somehow offended their sensibilities. We must concluded when reading the words which are found in this particular passage of Scripture that the scribes and the Pharisees were somehow offended with and by the disciples of Jesus and how their actions appeared to be a clear and present violation of the Law of Moses—and not only the Law of Moses but the Sabbath itself. Oh it is incredibly unique to think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the truth that the disciples were accused by religion first and foremost concerning the sabbath day and quite possibly that which was prescribed and commanded within the Law of Moses and secondly concerning the tradition of the elders.

 

            It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this New Testament gospel concerning Jesus and His disciples who passed through the field on the sabbath day. On this particular day the disciples of Jesus were hungry in their natural flesh and as a direct result of their hunger they would pluck ears of corn from the stalks and eat it. That which the scribes and the Pharisees took offense to on account of the disciples was their alleged violation and transgression of the sabbath day through plucking the ears of corn. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day actually perceived and believed within their hearts and minds His disciples were somehow guilty of violating the sabbath day through and by their plucking ears of corn from the stalk. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding religion and the religious leaders which were present during the days of Jesus. What we must needs realize and recognize is both religion and the religious leaders find fault and taking offense with the disciples of Jesus over something they perceived as a clear violation of the sabbath. What’s more is that if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning religion it’s that religion has always and will always seek to find fault with the true disciples of the Lord Jesus. During the days of Jesus religion and its leaders would find fault with the disciples of Jesus over an alleged violation of the sabbath day as they perceived the plucking ears of corn from the stalk as being a violation of the sabbath. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for this would not be the first time religion and the religious leaders would find fault with the disciples of Jesus and seek to accuse them.

 

            Having said this I now invite you to turn and direct your attention to the following words which are found in this New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew concerning Jesus and His disciples passing through a field on the sabbath day—and not only Jesus and His disciples passing through a field on the sabbath day but how the actions of the disciples of Jesus seemed to offend and upset the religious leaders of that day. Consider if you will the following words which the apostle Matthew presents within this gospel narrative concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus:

 

            “At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:1-8).

 

            There is something which we must needs recognize when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture—particularly and especially when you consider it in light of how the eleventh chapter of this gospel concludes. If you turn your attention to the final verses of the eleventh chapter of this gospel you will find one of the greatest invitations given by the Lord Jesus unto His disciples and followers. As you read the words which are present within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus calling and inviting a certain and specific group of people to come unto Him. Beginning with the twenty-eighth verse of the eleventh chapter you will find Jesus appealing to a very specific group of people which were present during those days. In the twenty-eighth verse of this chapter you will find Jesus appealing to those who labored and were heavy laden. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous significance and importance of those words and how they shine an incredible light on to that which we find in the twelfth and fifteenth chapters. In this particular verse we find Jesus calling and inviting those who labored and were heavy laden to come unto Him—an invitation we must not miss and lose sight of. We dare not and must not miss the incredible importance of this invitation for it calls and draws our attention to the incredibly awesome and powerful truth surrounding the Lord Jesus and how the Lord Jesus would appeal to those who labored and were heavy laden—those who labored and were weighed down by tremendous and incredible burdens.

 

            The more I read the words which are found in the final verses of the eleventh chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative the more I can’t help but be reminded of the words presented in the twenty-third chapter of this same gospel. The words we find in the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament gospel calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding the oppression of religion—and not only the oppression of religion but also the oppression of the religious leaders. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth for I am absolutely convinced that when Jesus gave the invitation to those who labored and were heavy laden He was speaking directly unto those who might very well have been crushed under the oppressive weight and burden of religion. It is in the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative we find and discover the scribes and the Pharisees and how they tied up heavy burdens which were grievous to be borne. Not only did they tie up grievous burdens which were heavy to bear but they also placed them upon the shoulders of men without any willingness to lift a finger to help. With this in mind I can’t help but be reminded of the taskmasters during the days of the Egyptians slavery, bondage and oppression. In the Old Testament book of Exodus you will not only find the children of Israel being forced into slavery in the land of Egypt but you will also find them being oppressed by those taskmasters whom Pharaoh had set up and appointed over them. It would be during those days when Pharaoh would appoint over the children of Israel taskmasters who would brutally rule over them and oppress them. Oh there is something we must needs recognize and understand concerning the days of the slavery, bondage and oppression of the children of Israel for it helps shine a tremendous amount of light on to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.

 

            I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and how the Lord Jesus would indeed indict the scribes and the Pharisees for their legalism, for their hypocrisy and for their cruel and oppressive behavior during those days. What’s more is that if we wish to understand the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day we must understand them as being religious taskmasters who would oppress all those who were present during those days. It is absolutely unmistakable when reading the words presented in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew that the religious leaders of that day were indeed cruel religious task masters who brutally oppressed men. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Jesus gave the invitation to those who labored and were heavy laden He was giving the invitation to those who felt crushed and overwhelmed by the tremendous burden and weight placed upon them by religion. I continue to believe that the Jews which were in Judaea, Galilee and even Jerusalem during the days of Jesus were oppressed on two different fronts. There is not a doubt in my mind when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture that those who were present during the days of Jesus were not only oppressed by the political superpower of the day which was Rome but they were also oppressed by the religious leaders of that day. I firmly believe that during those days the people who lived within the region of Galilee and Judaea were indeed oppressed both politically and religiously as well.

 

            If you want to truly understand the words which are found in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament gospel you must needs recognize that during those days the people were not only oppressed by politics and the political powers of that day but they were also oppressed by religion and the religious leaders of that day. There is not a doubt in my mind that when the Lord Jesus issued the invitation to come unto Him all who labored and were heavy laden He was giving this invitation to those who felt the tremendous weight, burden and pressure of both religion and politics during those days. Any study of those days can and will bring one face to face with the fact that Rome ruled the known world with an iron fist. What’s more is that not only did Rome rule with an iron fist but they also appointed tax collectors which were present among those in Judaea, Jerusalem and Galilee who would collect taxes from the people. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the tax collectors were crooked and corrupt individuals who cruelly oppressed the people during those days. Even the narrative of Zacchaeus calls and draws our attention to this reality for not only was he a chief tax collector but he was also one who would stand before Jesus and speak of any whom he defrauded out of their goods and wealth he would restore and return unto them four-fold. Zacchaeus’ own words suggested something incredibly unique and powerful about the tax collectors of those days and how they were such would cruelly and violently oppress those which were present at that time. What’s more is that we must needs understand that not only were those present during these days oppressed by the tax collectors who were appointed by Rome and Rome itself but they were also oppressed by religion and the religious leaders as well.

 

            It is with this in mind I would like to call and draw your attention to the incredibly strong and powerful picture of the taskmasters which Pharaoh set up in the land of Egypt over the children of Israel. It wasn’t enough for Pharaoh to simply enslave the children of Israel but he also felt the tremendous need to appoint over them taskmasters who would violently and cruelly oppress them. You cannot read the words found in the opening verses of the Old Testament book of Exodus without encountering and coming face to face with the tremendous oppression of the taskmasters whom Pharaoh appointed over the children of Israel. These taskmasters did more than simply oversee the work and labor of the children of Israel but they also violently and brutally beat them to ensure they carried out and completed their work. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous reality of the taskmasters whom Pharaoh appointed over the children of Israel to “keep them in line” and to ensure they carried out and completed their work. Having said this I now invite you to turn and direct your attention to the following words which are found in the Old Testament book of Exodus concerning the children of Israel and their slavery, bondage and oppression in the land of Egypt—and not only their slavery, bondage and oppression in the land of Egypt but also the oppression which was present in the land over them by the taskmasters. Consider now the following words which Moses wrote in the opening chapters of the Old Testament book of Exodus:

 

            “And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. Now there arose up a new king over Egypt which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: and all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour” (Exodus 1:7-14).

 

            “And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them” (Exodus 2:23-25).

 

            “Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters: for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you: and they shall say to me, What is his. Name, What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Exodus 3:1-15).

 

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words found here calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the cruel bondage and oppression the children of Israel experienced in the land of Egypt. The first, second and third chapters of this Old Testament book calls and draws our attention to just how troublesome those days were for the children of Israel as they not only had to contend with their slavery but they also had to deal with the cruel bondage and oppression. Pharaoh wasn’t content enough to simply enslave the children of Israel during those days for Pharaoh would also appoint taskmasters over them—those who would cruelly and violently rule over and oppress them. What’s more is that Scripture reveals unto us how the children of Israel groaned and cried under the tremendous weight, burden and pressure upon them by the taskmasters. During those days the children of Israel would groan under the tremendous weight and burden of the taskmasters for the taskmasters would themselves rule over the children of Israel with a heavy and iron fist. The taskmasters of the land of Egypt would indeed cruelly and violently oppress the children of Israel with great pressure, weight, sorrow and grief. The taskmasters which were appointed by Pharaoh and the Egyptians were such who would make the lives of the children of Israel so incredibly grievous and miserable for they were such who would rule and reign over them with a heavy hand of oppression. These taskmasters would indeed make the lives of the children of Israel miserable under the weight of their oppression, their force, their brutality and their violence. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the task masters of that day and how those task masters did in fact cruelly and violently oppress the children of Israel.

 

            With the knowledge we have concerning the taskmasters which were present during those days of the children of Israel in the land of Egypt I am absolutely convinced it is necessary for us to think about and consider the following words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is the words we find in this passage of Scripture that calls and draws our attention to the tremendous and incredible truth surrounding the scribes and the Pharisees and how the scribes and Pharisees were such who would rule and reign over the people with a heavy hand. The words which we find in this passage of Scripture calls and draws our attention to the absolutely tremendous and incredible truth surrounding religion and the religious leaders of that day and how the religious leaders were such who would violently oppress and rule over the people during those days. There is not a doubt in my mind the words which we find in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth regarding the tremendous weight, burden and pressure the people during the days of Jesus found themselves in because of the religious taskmasters who ruled over them. Oh it was true they were no longer in the land of Egypt and it was true it wasn’t Egyptian taskmasters who ruled over them, however, we must needs recognize that it was religious taskmasters who ruled and reigned over them with a heavy hand and an iron fist. There is something we must needs recognize and understand concerning this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous weight and pressure which was upon the people during the days of Jesus. Consider now if you will the following words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of this gospel beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:

 

            “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12).

 

            “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:12).

 

            “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13).

 

            “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation” (Matthew 23:14).

 

            “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15).

 

            “Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, It is nothing: but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon” (Matthew 23:16-22).

 

            “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:23-24).

 

            “Woe unto you scribes and hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matthew 23:25-26).

 

            “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto white sepulchures, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:27-28).

 

            “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell” (Matthew 23:29-33).

 

            “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these thing shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:34-36).

 

            “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-39).

 

            There is something we must needs recognize and understand about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words presented here call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the scribes and the Pharisees which were present during the days of Jesus. As you read the words found here in this passage of Scripture you will find the scribes and the Pharisees as being cruel and oppressive taskmasters who were present during those days—those who would cruelly oppress, mistreat and even abuse the people which were present among them. It is not by coincidence the Lord Jesus called and invited those who labored and were heavy laden and offered them rest for He was offering them more than simply rest. That which the Lord Jesus was offering those who were present during those days was not simply rest but rest from the religious leaders and taskmasters. Oh it was indeed true the religious leaders and the religious taskmasters would still be present in the midst of the land, however, it was also true that the scribes and the Pharisees could be completely and utterly powerless over the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus. This is what I so love about the words and language found in the twelfth and fifteenth chapters of this New Testament gospel. That which we find within these two chapters present us with the scribes and the Pharisees seeking to indict and accuse Jesus’ disciples—not only of violating the sabbath but also of violating the tradition of the elders. What we find on both occasions is Jesus delivering His disciples from the indictment and accusation of the scribes and the Pharisees who sought to condemn the innocent and the guilty. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of that which is found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding these religious taskmasters who would rule over and oppress the men and women of Jesus’ day.

 

            If there is one thing I absolutely love about the days of Jesus is how incredibly close they are and mirror the days of Moses. Upon a careful and closer look you will find the children of Israel were made to be slaves in the land of Egypt under the cruel and oppressive burden and weight of Pharaoh. There is absolutely no mistaking it that the children of Israel were made to be slaves and forced into slavery in the land of Egypt. What’s more is that not only did Pharaoh enslave the children of Israel during those days but Pharaoh also appointed taskmasters who would rule and reign over them with force and fear. These taskmasters would cruelly and violently oppress the children of Israel and would make their lives miserable and brutal with brock and morter. Oh there is something about the words found in the first three chapters of the Old Testament book of Exodus for they call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding those who would violently and cruelly oppress the children of Israel. It wasn’t enough for Pharaoh to enslave the children of Israel and subject them to bondage for he would also appoint specific individuals whom he knew would cruelly and violently oppress them. These taskmasters would place heavy burdens and workloads on the children of Israel—and not only would they place heavy burdens and workloads on the children of Israel but they would also rule over them with an iron fist and a heavy hand. The whip and the scourge were the taskmasters’ best friend as they would indeed use it to rule over the children of Israel with force and fear.

 

            What we find in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is an incredibly powerful picture of the scribes and Pharisees and how they were such who would rule over the people with force and with fear. The scribes and the Pharisees would set themselves up in Moses’ seat that they might execute and exercise judgment over them. You cannot read the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the scribes and the Pharisees and how they were such who would tie up heavy burdens which were grievous to be borne and would place them upon the shoulders of men. Not only would they place these burdens upon the shoulders of men but they would also do absolutely nothing to help them carry and shoulder the load. This is perhaps the single greatest reason why I believe the words which the Lord Jesus were so incredibly necessary in calling men and women who labored and were heavy laden to come unto Him. In calling these individuals who labored and were heavy laden unto Himself the Lord Jesus was offering them more than just rest—He was offering them the opportunity to deliver themselves out from under the cruel and oppressive weight of religion and the religious taskmasters. It was indeed true the children of Israel could not avoid or get past paying taxes for there are two things in life that are absolutely certain—death and taxes. The children of Israel could not be delivered from paying taxes and from the tax collectors who were present during those days, however, they would and could be delivered from the oppressive weight and burden of the religious leaders and taskmasters who were present during those days.

 

            I am absolutely and completely convinced there is a great need to recognize and understand the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. The words we find here call and draw our attention to the tremendous weight and burdens the religious taskmasters which were present during those days placed upon the shoulders of the people. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of that which is presented in the thirteenth chapter for it calls and draws our attention to that which would both oppress and weigh heavy upon the people during the days of Jesus. There is something truly unique and powerful about the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of this gospel for the words presented here bring us face to face with just how much the scribes and the Pharisees oppressed the children of Israel. That which the Lord Jesus offered His disciples and followers in the eleventh chapter must be carefully considered for He would call and invite all those who labored and were heavy laden and promised to give them rest. What’s more is the Lord Jesus also declared unto them that His yoke was easy and His burden was light and invited them to take His yoke upon them. Not only this but the Lord Jesus would also declare unto them that as a direct result of coming unto Him and taking His yoke upon themselves they would find rest for their souls—something I am absolutely convinced many during those days so desperately needed within themselves and their lives.

 

            I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and I am brought face to face with the tremendous oppression of the scribes and the religious leaders during the days of Jesus. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning this oppression it’s that they did in fact seek to indict and accuse the disciples. What’s more is that not only did they seek to indict the disciples on one occasion but on two different occasions. I find it absolutely incredible to think about and consider the language that is found in the twelfth chapter of this gospel narrative for it comes directly on the heels of the words and language that is found in the final verses of the eleventh chapter. There is something truly astonishing about the words which are found in the eleventh chapter for the invitation the Lord Jesus gave unto His disciples and followers was such that offered them deliverance from the burden, the weight, the pressure and the oppression placed upon them by the religious leaders of that day. Jesus knew and understood there were countless men and women who were weighed down and struggling under the weight and pressure of the relentless oppression of the religious leaders and system of that day. Jesus knew and understood there were countless men and women who were struggling with the unbearable weight and burden of the rules, the regulations, the traditions and even that which they taught concerning the Law of Moses and the sabbath. There is absolutely no denying or disputing the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we find the scribes and the Pharisees seeking to accuse and indict the disciples of Jesus on the basis of somehow violating the sabbath.

 

            The words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew are absolutely incredible when you take the time to think about them for they call and invite us to recognize the tremendous weight, burden and pressure the scribes and the Pharisees placed upon Jesus’ disciples. You cannot read the words which are found in this passage and not encounter the tremendous weight, pressure and burdens the scribes and the Pharisees placed upon the disciples of the Lord Jesus for they deliberately and intentionally sought to indict and accuse them of violating and transgressing the sabbath. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words found in this passage of Scripture for they call and invite us into the place where we recognize and understand just how oppressive the scribes, the Pharisees and religion itself truly was during the days of Jesus. It was indeed true that Jesus came to bring freedom and deliverance from sins, however, I would also strongly and emphatically declare that Jesus came to bring deliverance and freedom from religion and from the religious burdens and religious taskmasters which were present during those days. Even the Sermon on the Mount was the means to offer the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus to be delivered from religion and from the burden of a righteousness that is of the Law. You will recall how in this Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus emphatically declared unto His disciples and the multitudes gathered before Him that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and the Pharisees they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Through the Sermon on the Mount not only did Jesus offer the disciples the ability to be delivered from religion but also from the righteousness which comes from the law of Moses.

 

            I am sitting here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus and how Jesus not only offered them a righteousness that was independent of the Law of Moses but also the means to deliver themselves from the burden and oppression of religion. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it is for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous challenge we face—not only to be delivered from religion but also to be delivered from a righteousness that is found in the Law of Moses alone. There is something truly astonishing and powerful about the words found in the Sermon on the Mount for Jesus would emphatically declare unto His disciples and followers that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus would then proceed to describe this righteousness of the kingdom that brings his disciples and followers to the place where they obey the Law of Moses from the heart rather than merely an outward and external observance. The Sermon on the Mount is absolutely incredible when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the righteousness of the kingdom which is entirely and altogether independent from the law of Moses. In fact I would dare say this was something that greatly infuriated the scribes and the Pharisees for they understood how Jesus was offering His disciples and followers a righteousness that was apart from and outside the Law of Moses. The scribes and Pharisees could not handle this righteousness that apparently and allegedly seemed to be contrary to that which they taught and that which they themselves observed. The scribes and the Pharisees believed they could be righteous in the sight of the living God simply by an external and outward observance of the Law and yet the Lord Jesus declared that true obedience to the Law and to the living God Himself began with the heart.

 

            I cannot help but look upon the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and be brought face to face with the undeniable truth that the scribes and the Pharisees were bent and intent on finding fault and reason to accuse the disciples of Jesus. Scripture reveals how the scribes and the Pharisees journeyed from Jerusalem unto the place where Jesus was simply and solely that they might accuse and find fault with them. It is actually quite remarkable and astounding when you think about the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament gospel for it would be the second time the scribes and the Pharisees sought to accuse, indict and condemn the disciples of Jesus. They would first attempt to accuse and indict them on the basis of somehow violating the sabbath and now we find them deliberately and intentionally journeying from the city of Jerusalem to somehow indict, accuse and condemn them again. It’s actually quite unique to read the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative for within it we find the scribes and the Pharisees seeking to accuse and condemn the disciples of Jesus on the basis of somehow violating the tradition of the elders. This particular passage is incredibly unique when you take the time to consider it for while it was indeed true the scribes and the Pharisees sought to accuse the disciples of Jesus it was also true that Jesus delivered them from that accusation and condemnation.

 

            As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find that when Jesus heard the indictment and accusation of the scribes and Pharisees he would deliberately and intentionally ask them why they transgressed the commandment of God by their tradition. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible and tremendous the words found within this passage truly are for they call and bring us face to face with the undeniable truth surrounding the scribes and Pharisees—and not merely the scribes and Pharisees but religion and its leaders together. The scribes and Pharisees sought to accuse the disciples of Jesus for somehow violating the tradition of the elders and yet Jesus turned their accusation on its head by asking them why they transgressed the commandment of God by their tradition. Jesus would then speak unto the scribes and the Pharisees concerning what was written in the Law of Moses and how God commanded His people, saying, “Honour thy father and mother,” and “He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.” Jesus would then go on to declare unto the scribes and the Pharisees how they said “Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me: and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free.” This is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth surrounding the scribes and the Pharisees who not only violated and transgressed the commandment of God by their traditions but also taught and commanded as commandments the traditions of men.

 

            The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will be brought face to face with the truth surrounding the words of Jesus. Jesus not only declared unto the scribes and the Pharisees that they transgressed the commandments of God by their tradition but they also attempted to pass off as commandment the traditions of men. Jesus made it perfectly and plainly clear within this passage of Scripture that the scribes and the Pharisees taught as commandments of God the traditions of men. This was something that was indeed incredibly dangerous for it attempted to place their own traditions on the same level as the commandments of God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for by and through it we encounter the incredible truth surrounding Jesus indicting the scribes and the Pharisees. Essentially that which we find in this passage of Scripture is Jesus flipping the script on the scribes and Pharisees and indicting them of violating the commandments of the living God by the very traditions they held to. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding religion and how religion professes itself to be righteous and holy in the sight of the living God and yet how it is nothing more than legalism, hypocrisy and an outward appearance of righteousness and holiness while inwardly everything is dead, dried up and decayed. Please pay close attention to the words found in this passage of Scripture for not only did Jesus indict the scribes and the Pharisees for transgressing the commandment of God by their tradition and not only did Jesus indict them for teaching as commandment the tradition of men but He also described them as the very people the prophet Isaiah spoke of—those who drew near unto Him with their mouth and honored Him with their lips and yet their heart was far from Him. What’s more is that Jesus also likened the religious leaders of that day as those whom the prophet Isaiah spoke of as worshipping the LORD in vain while they taught for doctrines the commandments of men.

 

            As I bring this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand the words which are found in this passage for Jesus would go on to declare that it is not that which goes into the mouth which defiles the man but that which comes out of the mouth. The disciples of Jesus would come unto Jesus and not only declare unto Jesus how the scribes and the Pharisees were offended with and by the words which Jesus spoke but they also asked Him the meaning of the parable He spoke. Jesus would declare unto the disciples concerning the offense of the Pharisees that every plant which His heavenly Father had not planted would be rooted up. Jesus would then go on to declare unto them that they need leave the scribes and Pharisees alone for they be blind leaders of the blind—and if the blind lead the blind both would fall into the ditch. In response to the words which the apostle Peter spoke unto Jesus concerning the parable which was spoken Jesus would once more proclaim and profess how that which enters the mouth goes into the belly and is cast out into the draught. Moreover Jesus would go on to declare how those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart and it is that which defiles the man. In addition to this Jesus would go on to declare how out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness and blasphemies—these things which defile a man. We must needs recognize and understand this for Jesus would conclude this by declaring how eating with unwashed hands does not defile a man thus delivering the disciples from the rules, the traditions and the regulations religion would seek to impose upon them.

 

With all of this being said we must needs recognize that in addition to our righteousness needing to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees we must also recognize that the true litmus test of the condition of our heart is the words which proceed forth from out mouths. If you want to truly know the condition of your heart you need only listen to the words which proceed forth from your mouth. There is perhaps no truer and greater means and method of recognizing and understanding the condition of our heart than the words which proceed out of our mouth. This was something which Jesus would emphatically declare unto his disciples and followers earlier on when He taught them concerning the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and declared that we would be held accountable and judged for every idle word which proceeds forth from our mouths. Jesus would declare how out of the abundance of the heart the mouth s peaks and how a good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things while an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil things. This would immediately be followed by the Lord Jesus declaring how every idle word which a man shall speak they would give an account thereof in the day of judgment. Jesus would further declare how it would be by our words we would be justified and by our words we would be condemned. Oh we must needs recognize and understand this for if we truly wish to walk in a righteousness which is entirely different from the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees we must know and understand that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks which indicates that whatever proceeds forth from our mouths is a reflection of the heart. Oh that we would be men and women who recognize and understand that we must needs hear and listen to the words which proceed forth from our mouth for they reflect the condition and nature of our heart. If you don’t like the words which proceed forth out of your mouth then chances are you will not like the condition and nature of your heart and your heart needs to be changed. Oh that we would be men and women who would possess clean hands and a pure heart in the sight of the living God and would not be defiled by those things which proceed forth from out mouth and heart.

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