Matthew 23:1-12 NRSVue
1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’s seat; 3therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it, but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4They 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. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others, for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues 7and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have people call them rabbi. 8But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters. 9And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father, the one in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
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Some thoughts on this scripture
What is my religion to me? Wings to lift me or a weight to drag me down? A matter of love or of law? Jesus offers rest and relief to those who labour and are burdened. Can I recognize myself in the Pharisee - the Pharisee in me?
Jesus' disciples are not to make a big display of religion nor are they to seek honourable titles like 'father' and 'teacher' and 'rabbi'. Our teacher is God, and the true disciples learns only from God. We find very often in Jesus a dismissal of ostentatious religion. He calls on his followers to be humble. Our church is to be a humble church, as we are to be in our dealings with each other. For this we need prayer which inserts us daily into the mystery of being loved and called by God in Jesus Christ.
An adult is often told to ‘chill out' by a younger person. We can easily think of people who are puffed up with their own praise and a sort of pomposity about themselves. We don't like that in others; it may be a bit in each of us. To realise that we are totally dependent on God for life and love is a humbling realisation. Prayer at its best keeps us humble, chilled out with the warmth of God's love!
Jesus cautions the disciples against an easy rejection of the Pharisees; you are not to reject them outright but are to be discerning and wise. I ask God to help me to resist any fundamentalist rejection of others and to help me to appreciate good wherever I find it.
There may seem to be a contradiction between obedience and independence. I pray that I may have the humility to imitate, to receive instruction and to follow even as I accept the dignity that God gives me by speaking in love directly to my heart.