Today we’re going to really dig into “the law” and what that meant to folks back in Jesus’ day. Matthew 5:17 – 19 says this:
“Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished! Therefore, whoever nullifies one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
I always had trouble understanding the law and how it fit into the New Testament teachings of Jesus. The below really helped me with a bit more understanding of it all. It’s a little long but definitely worth the read:
As He gained fame through healing miracles and compelling teaching, some of Jesus’ critics claimed He was teaching people to ignore the law of Moses (Matthew 12:2). Hostile religious leaders began to falsely say He was teaching a new or different law from what God gave to the nation of Israel (Matthew 12:2). Jesus was eventually accused by the Jewish religious leaders of blasphemy, primarily for His claim to be the Son of God (Matthew 26:63–65; John 8:58–59).
Jesus counters the lie that He is calling for the law of Moses to be “abolished.” He tells all those who are listening His intent is not to discard the law or the Prophets. The Jewish law of Moses consisted of the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch. “The Prophets” include most of the rest of what Christians now call the Old Testament, especially books by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets sent by God to deliver His messages to Israel.
The book of Hebrews explains how God always intended the old covenant to lead to a new covenant (Hebrews 8:6–8). That transition is not to eradicate what God has spoken, but to complete its intended purpose. As the Son of God, the God who gave the law to Moses and gave the prophecies to the prophets, Jesus would have no desire to wipe out those messages. Instead, Jesus declares that He has come “to fulfill” the law and the Prophets.
This is a key point of understanding Scripture: everything in the Jewish Scriptures—what we now call the Old Testament—has been “pointing forward” to the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah. The law described a life of perfect, sinless righteousness, which no Israelite had been able to fulfill until Jesus arrived. He was the first and last to accomplish this.
In addition, the sacrificial system given to Israel by God in the law required the killing of animals, blood sacrifices, to pay for human sin. They were effective only temporarily, and only until new sins were committed, then more blood had to be spilled (Hebrews 10:1–4). Jesus, though, as the perfect, sinless human sacrifice for sin fulfilled the need for that blood sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 10:11–14).
Matthew also demonstrates throughout his book how Jesus’ life fulfilled one prophecy about the Messiah after another. Jesus did not discard the words of these prophets; He fulfilled them with every word and action of His life.
Jesus didn’t discard the words of the prophets. He came to fulfill them.
Isn’t it amazing how this book is laid out. So incredibly intricate and yet so organized and beautiful.