Luke 15:4-5, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” (NKJV) Shoulders is the Greek word ὤμους (ōmous) and it only appears two times in the entire Bible, both times it is used by Jesus as He preaches. It occurs here as Jesus finds the lost sheep and carries the lost sheep on His shoulders back to the wilderness compared to John the Baptist’s wilderness from the wilderness compared to the dangerous wilderness Jesus fasted in for forty days and nights. This dangerous wilderness can also be compared to the atmosphere those labeled as sinners at the time of Jesus had to endure because of the self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.
The only other time this Greek word for shoulders, ὤμους (ōmous) appears in the Bible is Matthew 23, commonly known as Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees. Matthew 23:1-2, Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.” (NKJV) This is where Jesus turned His back on those scribes and Pharisees who would not listen to Him. Those who were His adversaries, Jesus quit talking to, leaving them to their own self-righteousness, thus allowing their hearts to further harden. Jesus began addressing the multitudes and His disciples only, bringing to a close His public speaking, where He would soon be addressing His disciples only because Jesus determined a great majority of the Pharisean scribes misunderstood scripture and were incapable of interpreting it correctly.
The scribes and the Pharisees sitting in Moses’ seat is quite literal and can be compared to a college professor sitting at a desk lecturing but not to a judge sitting on the bench in court. These doctors would stand up when they read the law of the prophets but would sit down when they preached out of them, a custom Jesus observed in Luke 4:16. Jesus was not preaching about the Sanhedrin who handed out sentences, but He was preaching about those who explained the Law, basically preachers. Whoever sat in the seat of Moses had authority to teach the Law, just as Moses taught by giving the Law, so the scribes and Pharisees taught by explaining the Mosaic Law.
Paul was a teacher of Mosaic Law before he became a Christian, as evidenced in Acts 22, “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now. And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said: ”I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.
“Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’ And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.
“Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’ “Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’ So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ “ (NKJV)
A good early example of the scribes and Pharisees is Nehemiah 8:1-8, Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God.
Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. (NKJV)
Jesus continued speaking to the multitudes and to His disciples, Matthew 23:3, “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.” (NKJV) This basically meant practice what you preach and learn the Scriptures from those who teach the Scriptures but there is no need to observe man made customs as part of salvation. Jesus never accused the scribes of corrupting Scripture, only adding man made customs and making them part of scripture. Those who listen must be able to tell the difference between the preaching and the religious practice, which can show pride through various works of the flesh. Some of these people said what they knew was the way to live, but their words were not the intentions of their heart, as evidenced by how some of them did not practice what they preached, nor did many of them help anyone who was having problems, while some only judged those having problems.
The teachers of the Law were also called doctors, and, even today, a doctor’s main function is to prescribe medicine. Some people take their doctor’s word for it and consume whatever medicine their doctor gives them, while others weigh the costs and the side effects before consuming the medicine. These doctors where hung up on the minute details, yet they failed on some of the most important parts, as the apostle Paul wrote about in Romains 2:17-24, Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written. (NKJV)
Jesus continued in Matthew 23:4, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (NKJV) Here, the word shoulders is used in stark contrast to how the same word is used in Luke 15:5, where Jesus puts a found lost sheep on His shoulders and carries the sheep back to safety, while many Pharisees, those who were prescribed with the burden of leading sheep to pasture where the sheep could graze on the Word of God, laid man made customs as a heavy yoke upon those sheep who could so easily become lost in a hostile wilderness such as was prescribed as medicine by the doctors of that day.
As Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (NKJV) Forcing people to adhere to the most strict minute details of religious law is called a yoke. Jesus would never have told anyone to not obey the Old Covenant because He came to fulfill every part of that Law. Here, what is meant is no one is perfect and every person alive messes up all the time, every single day we fail at something before we succeed at that something. Jesus is not proud in His heart where He would condemn a person who is repentant and generally trying to keep straight the way of the LORD in that person’s life.
The Pharisees not lifting a finger to help is them condemning and punishing those they viewed as sinners with more than they could bear, causing many people to give up hope on themselves because they thought the world they knew had given up hope on them. Instead of trying to make the world they knew a better place, these Pharisees made the world they knew more difficult a place to live in for those who messed up or made a mistake and got caught.