Sermon on the Mount: Fulfill the Law
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20 ESV)
Journal: The “Law or the Prophets” could also be viewed from our standpoint now as the “authority and principles of the Old Testament” to best capture the meaning for us. Many of us today think the Old Testament has no purpose, reason for study, or power in our lives. Jesus is setting the record straight in saying that it still means as much today as it did when it was written in its authority and principles. Jesus came to embody these things. He is the personification of the authority of the Old Testament laws, and he is the simplification of the still existent and eternal principles. The cultural rituals may have changed, but the concepts have not. Jesus is saying these things at the beginning of his ministry to show that his existence is to make the law complete, not to overthrow it. Jesus then warns us about relaxing these laws. The terms binding and loosing are also common terms used in this way. Binding something made it stiff, rigid, and strict. Loosing, likewise, did the opposite. It was typical of rabbis to bind and loose based on their own interpretation of the scripture. Jesus is saying those who loose the true laws of God will enter the Kingdom but will be the least amongst its members. Those who stick tight to the true law however, will be the greatest. Jesus is calling the people to stick with the true principles of God regardless of the changing seasons and cultures. It is almost an early warning against relativism, meaning truth is what we say it is. Jesus concludes in saying that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees to enter the Kingdom. At first glance, it appears Jesus is setting a behavioral bar to beat in order to go to Heaven, saying that we had to be “good enough”. At closer study however, we know Jesus is setting the bar instead on a condition of the heart. Those who kept God’s authority and true principles in their heart more than the hypocritical Pharisees would be the ones who entered the Kingdom. The law and Prophets exist so that man might come close to God and see Him revealed, thus Jesus is the embodiment of these.