"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. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (verses 17-18)
On the first Resurrection Sunday, on a road north-west of Jerusalem, two men walked with a stranger. They told him of the recent events in the city, how Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had hoped would redeem Israel, had been sentenced to death and crucified, and how that very morning rumours had arisen that his tomb was empty, with angels announcing he was in fact alive. The two expressed amazement, yet overlaid with foggy confusion. How could all this be?
The stranger, of course, was Jesus himself, alive from the dead, making all things new. He rebuked the two for their slowness of heart to believe. Then Luke editorializes, saying: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Later that same evening, in the Upper Room with his gathered followers, Jesus said: “This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44).
Of course. All of it points to Jesus.
Which is exactly what Jesus himself is saying in these verses at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. He did not come to erase the Old Testament scriptures – rather, in his very Person and teaching and deeds, he fulfills all that was written there about him. Even the “least stroke of the pen” counts. It all finds its fulfillment in him.
Which means that he is the interpreter of Old Testament law and how it now applies. He taught about the things that make a person clean or unclean, as the Law itself also taught. But Jesus clarified that the core issue had to do with cleanness of the heart, and therefore strictures against certain foods were no longer binding (Mark 7:15, 18-19). Peter would later have this very thing affirmed by a vision from heaven (Acts 10) – in fact the application would extend to full acceptance of Gentiles, as well as Jews. Rather than being linked with kosher foods and physical circumcision, “clean” would now be defined by “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit … poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour”(Titus 3:5-6).
Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law. “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ”(Colossians 2:16-17).
At the same time, Jesus taught the absolute importance of the moral Law. We hear it immediately in the rest of Matthew 5. Far from abolishing the Law, Jesus intensifies its demands. While Pharisees and Teachers of the Law were content to focus on outward conformity, Jesus focuses deeply on matters of the heart, mind, and interior life. No wonder we need a Saviour! We can’t do it on our own. The Law, correctly understood, leads us to Jesus. It was always pointing in his direction. He is the fulfilment.
Which then reminds us how important the whole of Scripture is for all who seek to keep eyes on Jesus. We honour him by embracing both Old and New, both halves of God’s Word. All has been given for our instruction. Don’t miss “the smallest letter … the least stroke.”
Dear Lord Jesus, you are the fulfillment of Old Testament promises and purposes. What wonder – it all leads to you. Open my eyes to see more clearly. All to your honour and glory. Amen.
Pray: Ask the Lord to show you more of himself in the whole of Scripture. Re-affirm your commitment to reading and reflecting with eyes open to him. Be specific – how will you carry this out?