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March 17

Matthew 23, 1-4

Something to read

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.'
New Revised Standard Version

Something to think about

There's a big contrast here between the teaching and practice of the scribes and the Pharisees and Jesus' own behaviour. Think of Jesus preaching in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4. 16-21). He too took a position of authority, as he first read from Scripture and then expounded it.

But, crucially, the Scripture Jesus reads he applies to himself: '[The Lord] has anointed me to bring good news to the poor', and that will be the focus of his ministry. Only then will his disciples be encouraged to do the same, following his example.

The Pharisees' teaching wasn't wrong but they weren't carrying it out themselves. That didn't stop them from making big demands of others. Again, contrast this with Jesus' teaching, and, indeed, his very nature: 'Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light' (Matthew 11.29, 30).

Something to do

Do you know someone who carries a heavy burden? Listen to what they have to tell you and offer to do something to help.

Something to pray

Use Colossians 1.11-12 as a prayer: 'May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God's glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.'

Today's contributor is the Rev Dr Paula Clifford, a former Head of Theology with Christian Aid, now Vicar of Minster Lovell (Oxon).


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