- Sheldon Clowdus
These are Jesus' words to the Pharisees, who were the leading religious leaders in His day. These guys knew the scriptures backwards and forwards. Most of their children knew the scriptures better than we know them today as adults. And yet, Jesus tells them they have missed the point entirely because the point of the scriptures is to point people to Christ. Instead, the Pharisees had a created a culture of rule keeping around the laws of the scriptures and made keeping those rules the measure of righteousness. They then made themselves judges over people and condemned those who did not and could not keep the rules as well as they could.
Now, take a look at the Bible belt here in the south. We have created a set of rules that we hold people to and condemn them if they don't toe the line. Don't drink, don't have sex before marriage, don't use bad language, don't smoke, don't miss church, etc. There is nothing wrong with abstaining from these things (and we are commanded to abstain from some of them), but we have far too often made them the roots of righteousness instead of the fruit and have judged those who fail in these things.
Here is what Jesus said to the Pharisees about this:
Because they have missed Jesus in the scriptures all their religious posturing and insistence on rule following has laid heavy burdens on people. Jesus said he came to give them rest, not add weight to their load (Matthew 11:28-30). The Pharisees have actually shut the kingdom of heaven in the face's of members of God's own chosen nation.
Do we think Jesus would say anything different to us today? He has called us out to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) and we have, in our own ways, laid heavy burdens on people. We have fallen into the trap of the Pharisees. We teach the bible, expect people to be obedient to the bible, and often times judge them when they fail. But we have failed to show them that the bible points to Jesus, that the commands are impossible to obey apart from Him, and that their righteousness will never be found outside the cross.
Read your bible, learn your bible, love your bible. But never, ever forget that your bible is meant to lead you to Jesus and a more intimate knowledge of Him. Without Christ, religion is nothing but heavy burdens tied to your back and a closed door to heaven.