“They were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
The scribes and Pharisees offered a religion that only added burdens instead of lifting them. For them, the common people were the object of disdain, not compassion; individuals to be exploited, not served. In that sense the scribes and Pharisees were true descendents of the false shepherds against whom the Lord railed centuries earlier through Ezekiel (34:2–4).
Many religious leaders today are still endeavoring to keep people out of the kingdom by distorting and contradicting God’s Word and perverting the way of salvation. By telling people they are already saved because “a good God would never condemn anyone to hell,” they lead people to be content with themselves and to see no need for repentance and salvation—thereby shutting tight the gracious door God has provided. Similarly, when people are told they can work their way into God’s favor by avoiding certain sins or by performing certain good deeds or participating in some prescribed ritual, they are likewise deceived and left in their lost condition.
How wonderfully refreshing it must have been to hear Jesus say, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30). What a contrast those words were from the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees.
You may not mean to do it, but does the gospel you present to others involve more requirements than Jesus Himself placed on it? Make sure the gospel you proclaim is all about lifting their burden of sin, not loading them with more than they’re carrying already.
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, www.moodypublishers.com.