When you are setting out on a great adventure, you want the guide who is helping you to choose all the gear, plan your route, and help you train to have hiked the same planned journey – not just watched a video about it on YouTube or Discovery Channel. All too often we have guides and teachers who are more concerned about their outward show and appearances than authentic practice.
The reading today begins the fifth and final section of teaching that you find in Matthew’s gospel. This section, which runs for the next three chapters, is full of woes and judgements and the last things. Which makes sense for it takes place during the final week in the life of Jesus, only days before he dies.
Jesus offers three criticisms: that the leaders and teachers say but do not do; second, that they burden others but do not act; and third, that they act for the wrong reasons – to make an impression. So, Jesus says what they teach is good – but they need to practice what they preach.
The warnings that Jesus makes in this chapter certainly apply to the leaders in the church – the Rabbis, Fathers and Teachers – but it also applies from top to bottom of all modern societies. No one is completely immune from the criticisms that Jesus levels here. All of us are social creatures who want to be known and liked and accepted by our peers.
When Jesus makes these criticisms, he wasn’t sitting on a great throne. He says these things when the cross that will kill him is already looming large. On the cross he will humble himself and be the servant to all, carrying the heaviest burden of all, so that his people would no longer have to be weighed down by all our garbage.
+ Jesus, help us to get over our little show and appearance. Help us to see that you call us to live an authentic life of service, and to follow you each day along the way of the cross. Amen.
Grace and peace.
** This month I am in Jerusalem as part of my sabbatical program. Please pray for me! **