“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
Oh my God. Another one. So cool.
The thought came to mind of Jesus saying He came to fulfill the law. How many times have I heard that preached? And yet we gloss over it. We think Jesus meant He kept every law so we didn’t have to. We assume it means He lived perfectly as in keeping every law.
A quick search tells me there are at least 613 laws, or commandments, in the Torah. Did Jesus fulfill every one of them? We assume so when the preacher tells us so. That that is what is meant when we say Jesus lived perfectly.
But there are so-called positive commandments as well as negative commandments. Negative commandments are concerned with abstaining from something. While positive commandments are concerned with performing an act.
Deuteronomy talks all about stoning people for so-called “sexual sins”. And yet we gloss over that so quickly. Did Jesus stone people for sexual sin? Did He fulfill every jot and tittle of the law that way?
Remember the so-called “woman caught in adultery”? Did He stone her? Does that then mean that Jesus broke that law?
What about the so-called “woman at the well” who was married multiple times and living with someone who wasn’t her husband? Did Jesus stone her? Does that mean He broke that law? That He did not lead a “perfect” life?
I think that’s probably how the religious leaders thought. And maybe still think. Why they wanted to murder Jesus for claiming to be God. Because He wouldn’t destroy those they judged as more sinful than themselves. Taking the law into their own hands.
So was this Jesus you worship, was He a liar? Did He really not fulfill the whole law? I mean those were just two things in the law. What about the rest?
If you look at where Jesus’ statement about fulfilling the law is located in context, I wonder if it is yet another beautiful use of chiastic logic? And then that is the key to understanding what point He is making? I’ll try to explain.
The verses about fulfilling the law are located in the sermon on the mount – which starts with the beatitudes that basically talk about how blessed you are if you are really in a merciful mindset versus a punishment mindset.
Then Jesus seemingly switches gears and talks about how we are salt and light in the earth. For what? To go back to the law and show everyone how to keep it? Or are we to be salt and light in terms of showing people that it is possible and better to be merciful versus focused on punishment?
Then the centerpiece of the chiasm: Jesus says He came to fulfill the law. Every drop. And tells us to do so also. And says you will be least in the kingdom if you teach others to break the laws. Even the laws about stoning people?
I think the following verses answer that question. Jesus continues by explaining how how murder and adultery are more issues of the heart than issues of the hand.
And I don’t have time now to go through them all on by one, but Jesus continues by talking about going the second mile, beyond the bare minimum that we judge as fulfilling law. And doing good to people who hurt you – saying that is being perfect like God is perfect.
Continuing on by saying not to judge others – that that is the TRUE narrow way. I believe. Versus keeping every letter of the law – including stoning people.
And then saying we will know the true keepers of the law by their love, basically. I think that’s what He was getting at. Which makes sense then when He talks about telling the religious people, specifically the religious people, that He will tell them that He never knew them. They come appearing as pious perfectionists, but what is in their hearts? Do they desire what Jesus desires? Or are they hell-bent on destroying His little bumbling lambs for every misstep?
Jesus ended the sermon on the mount by descending down to us. The lepers. Rejected by the religious. He didn’t come down from the mountain and cast those people out. No, He proved His point by healing the leper. Going straight to the leper and healing him.
Then He went straight to another outsider – the real law enforcement officer – the centurion – one of the higher positions in Roman law enforcement. The Jews would have been so upset by Jesus praising this high-level Roman military law enforcement officer. They viewed guys like this as the enemy. How could Jesus say that man had more faith than anyone in Israel? Surely it didn’t have anything to do with keeping the letter of the Jewish laws!
And then the record continues with story after story of Jesus healing people. Over and over and over. I think that is the point.
Jesus fulfilled the SPIRIT of the true “law”. That’s how He lived perfectly. Which is also why we never will. Because for one, most of us were taught just as the religious leaders were taught. So our real education as adults most likely involves a great unraveling – unlearning most of what we were taught.
It’s okay. There is no condemnation.
I wish I had time for more now, but I need to move onto life and living. But what great news! We are Loved. All of us. There is no fear in Perfect Love. Rejoice.