53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: What's Missing in False Religion Part 1 and Part 2
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: Jesus and Religion
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: The Great Gospel
Burdening people with burdens too large for them to bear. That is legalism. And that had been going on for generations. They made rules about the rules, completely made up stuff to make themselves look spiritual. They added legalism onto legalism, it was ridiculous. They admit that their ancestors killed the prophets, but if they only acknowledged that sin with their fancy tombs and not their hearts, then history would just continue to repeat itself - and, indeed, it did.
I like Matt Chandler's comments on this....
Do you remember that picture of Jesus that we grew up with where He’s a white guy and He’s got product in His hair? He’s the most effeminate looking dude you’ve ever seen in your life. He’s like wearing a white bathrobe and His hands are folded. This is not that Jesus. And one of the things that has happened because of this push and pull in culture is that Jesus has been relegated to the role of “Love Fairy,” this effeminate male that runs around sprinkling love on everyone. But here’s the thing about genuine love. Genuine love has a ferocity to it. Genuine love engages in places where it hurts. So yes, love wins, but it’s holy, ferocious, truth-filled love. The lawyer should have just kept his mouth shut. I would have just sat against the wall and said, “I’ve been telling ‘em. I don’t know why they won’t listen.” But instead he just threw it out there. So look at Jesus. Let’s watch this “I love everybody” effeminate Jesus.
“And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”” So here’s the job of a lawyer. The lawyer is to take the sacred text and teach it to God’s people in such a way that they are lead to and walk with God. And what He just accused them of doing is taking the light yoke of God and increasing it to where it’s so burdensome and impossible that it will crush men and putting that on them. When Jesus says, “My burden is easy; My yoke is light,” yoke is what a rabbi would call his teachings. It’s not a reference to farming. He’s saying, “My teachings are light. They’re simple.” He said, “Woe to you lawyers. You’ve made this thing unbelievably complex. Woe to you lawyers. You put impossible rules on My people.”
That's got to be one of the worst things you could saw to a teacher or preacher, is it not? Your religious preaching is actually keeping people out of heaven. The way you teach the law is keeping people from seeing the truth. You're getting in the way of people finding God.
But that's what religion does. It makes up rules as a way to fix our relationship with God. But we can't fix it. We can't! Only Jesus can. It's not "I need to be good so Jesus will love me". It's "I'm bad, and Jesus loves me anyway. Out of love and gratitude to Him, I want to be more like Him, with His strength not mine."
Legalism completely gets in the way of that. It's blocks the truth.
But some, as we saw yesterday, can be reached. So we never stop trying.
Paul is a great example!
Driscoll lays it out....
He says in Philippians 3, “I’m a Hebrew. I was born from the tribe of Benjamin. I got a pure bloodline. I studied under Gamaliel, one of the leading rabbis. I was at the top of my class. I know Hebrew and memorize books of the Bible. I’m so devoted religiously and zealously to my idol of religion and my performance, my works, my righteousness, my goodness, that I also murdered a deacon named Stephen, who loved Jesus.”
And then Saul, later his name is changed to Paul, he met Jesus. And here’s what he says in Philippians 3:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,” or dung, “in order that I may gain Christ.” Paul says, “My whole life, all my works, all my religion, all the rule keeping, rule making, rule enforcing, rule interpreting, once I met Jesus, I realized this: It’s just a steaming pile.” That’s literally what the Greek says....
So what do you do? Where do you get righteousness? It’s Jesus. This is why Jesus so passionately opposes religion. It’s Jesus or religion. That’s all it is. And religion says, “We must work! Something must be done!” And here’s the truth. You and I, everyone who will ever be saved, is saved by works, the works of Jesus. Not our works, his works. Not what we do, what he does. Not the life we live, the life he lives. Religion is right, somebody needs to do something! Religious people come and say, “Here’s the list, do it!” Jesus comes in from the cross says, “It is finished.” All the work’s done.
Jesus takes our sin, dies on the cross in our place, for our sins, as our substitute, rises from death, conquering Satan, sin, and death, really, truly redeeming us from religion, and he gives us his righteousness. We’re perfect in Christ. We’re forgiven in Christ. We’re redeemed in Christ. We’re justified in Christ. We’re adopted in Christ. It’s all of Jesus’ work, none of our own. We call this grace. It’s a gift. You receive it.
And some of you say, “What, you don’t care about holiness? You don’t care about discipline?” Sure we do! We want to be holy, not so that God will love us, but because in Christ he does. Not so that God would accept us, but because in Christ he does. Not to earn God’s merit, favor, love, approval, and blessing, but because in Christ he’s already given us all things. So we want to be holy, not so that God will be pleased with us, but because God is pleased with us in Christ, and if Jesus loves us, we love him, he puts the Holy Spirit in us, he gives a new heart, new desires, new nature. Now we want to obey him. Not out of fear, out of joy. Not so that God will embrace us, but because we already feel his affection. The motivation is completely different than religion. And the result is joy.
This is a bitter judgment by Jesus. And He tells them that their generation would pay the price for the accumulated slaughter of all the martyrs from Abel to Zechariah (the first and last OT martyrs) because despite studying the prophets for years, they had ignored their message, and built their own system of morality and legalism.
It seems harsh to make an accumulative judgment on one generation - but it happened in the flood of Noah's day, and it will happen again in the Tribulation.
MacArthur:He's saying that here. This is the end, you're it. The patience of God is over. You will be the generation on whom the judgment falls. You are engaged in the very same sins as your fathers and you've had the long opportunity to get it right and to obey. You are engaged against the very God you purport to love and worship and you're plotting to kill Him as He stands right here in you presence. God's accumulated vengeance, Gods accumulated judgment falls when God determines it's going to fall. You have the Old Testament, you've had John the Baptist, you've had Me, you've had the Twelve, you've had the seventy. This is it.
And they experienced that judgment in 70AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by Rome under the leadership of Titus Vespasian.
So, yes, this is judgment. But it is also, as MacArthur coins it, a merciful exposure. It's the only way to awaken them to the reality of their spiritual condition so that they can turn to the truth in repentance. But, according to the end of our passage, they didn't turn to the truth. Instead, they determined to plot against Him.
But Jesus never writes them off. So we must not either. We must continue to hold up the light of truth in the hope that they will see.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 12:1-12