April 5, 2016
17 “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.
Permit me to begin with a very imperfect and oversimplified analogy to get at what Jesus is teaching here.
Imagine that John Adams, the second President of the United States and one of the primary authors of its Constitution, somehow showed up on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. in 2016. And what if he asked for a rundown of how the Constitution had been interpreted over the history of the nation? Don’t you think he would be astonished at the insanity and sheer absurdity of some of the rulings and interpretations made by his successors through the years? He would likely be outraged at many points, scratching his head while comparing some of the court’s interpretations and rulings to the original founding document of the Constitution.
What if his purpose in coming were to restore the laws of the land to the original intent of the Constitution’s authors? He would likely begin by rescinding many of the laws and precedents that he considered were not in keeping with the intent of he and his colleagues who wrote the country’s founding governing document. In other words, it would look to the untrained eye as though he were destroying the laws of the land, but would he be destroying the constitution? Absolutely not. The reality? He would be working toward the fulfillment of the constitution. And you can be sure, it wouldn’t take long until many would be trying to kill him.
Now, in light of that analogy along the lines of the destruction and fulfillment of law, look ahead to Matthew 12 at this story.
9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus,they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Matthew 12:9-14.
To be sure, Jesus fulfilled the Law by his perfect obedience—all the way through his death and resurrection. At the same time, through his life, deeds, and teachings he fulfilled the law by restoring our understanding to the Founder’s intent. Hear John Wesley on this point.
Without question, his meaning in this place is (consistently with all that goes before and follows after), I am come to establish it in its fullness, in spite of all the glosses of men; I am come to place in a full and clear view whatsoever was dark or obscure therein; I am come to declare the true and full import of every part of it; to show the length and breadth, the entire extent of every commandment contained therein, and the height and depth, the inconceivable purity and spirituality of it in all its branches. (Thirteen Discourses on the Sermon on the Mount, p. 92)
From here he will take a deep dive into the depths of the law and reveal to us its brilliance for our lives. Ten commandments are about to become one Law. He’s about to unfold for us the incomparable vision of HOLY LOVE. Stay tuned.
1. Do you know the Ten Commandments? Could you recite them? If not, why not? Perhaps you have considered them unimportant to the followers of Jesus because he “fulfilled” the Law? Note: he did not destroy them. Challenge: Learn them by heart.
2. Jesus is about to reveal to us that Love is the fulfillment of the Law, but here’s the question. Given what Jesus is doing here, does Love have any real meaning apart from the Law? Wrestle with this.
3. Do you begin to see how legalistic interpretations of the Law hinder the Holy Love of God (see Sabbath healing above)? Do you also begin to see how liberal (for lack of a better term) interpretations of the Law also hinder the Holy Love of God? What’s the answer here? What’s the question?
*NOTE TO READERS: This last entry may have felt a bit like deja vu for some of you. Soon after beginning the Daily Text in 2014 I ran a series on the Sermon on the Mount. Back then, only my mom and a few others were reading along. As I came to the Sermon on the Mount in this journey through Matthew, I went back and read through those early writings. I have decided to bring them forward with some enhancements for everyone who has joined me since that series ran—which will be most of you. If it feels too repetitive for those of you who were with me way back then, once we finish chapter 7 (in a month or so) I will be back to brand new content.
J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.