Wednesday of the Week of Lent I
Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger…But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:1-4, 8-10)
Additional Daily Bible Readings: Genesis 37:1–12; Psalm 48; Matthew 23:1–22
Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2CMv4Lp
I remember well my father saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” He would usually say that with a sly smile as he was going for a second piece of cake. Jesus is warning the crowds and his disciples to do the same, as he points to the fact that the scribes and Pharisees lord it over others, laying heavy burdens, ethical and religious, upon ordinary people, though they don’t keep them themselves. They were not practicing what they were preaching. Still, the religious leaders in Jesus’ time laid heavy burdens of guilt upon people who were struggling just to get through life. At the same time, the leaders loved to be called “rabbi,” “teacher,” “father,” as if everyone should look up to them for their piety and exemplary behavior. First, Jesus tells the people not to look to the arrogant, two-faced religious leaders. Second, Jesus says you have one Father who is in heaven and one master, who is the Christ. Third, Jesus says in verses 11-12, “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
The good news is that Jesus, the Christ, humbled himself, taking the form of a servant, taking our place on the cross to set us free from the heavy burdens and demands of the Law. Trying to save oneself by keeping the Law is crushing, leaving us so troubled by our inability to keep the Law that we are immobilized, stuck, unable to move forward or back. The death and resurrection of Jesus remove the heavy, crushing burden and free us for faith, for life, for love of God and neighbor! Because we cannot keep the Law and commandments of God perfectly, we cannot save ourselves. Thanks be to God that he sent his only begotten Son to be the Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sins of the world, that all people might be set free—to live, love and serve!
During Lent, as we have time to pray, ponder and meditate, let us keep our hearts and minds, not on the burden of the Law and our sins, but on the love, grace and mercy of God our Father and Jesus our Savior. Let us, then, be humble servants, helping to lift the burdens of those who are struggling, weighed down with the cares of the day.
Prayer: God our Father, we give you thanks and praise for the freedom we have, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.
Lenten Response: Think of one person you know who is carrying a burden in life, and decide how you can lighten their load—if only by an encouraging word or a simple phone call.
Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.