Sermon On The Mount Devotional Blog 13

Sermon On The Mount Devotional

Fulfilled and Completed

Read Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV)

“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.”

“You had me at ‘hello’” was her tearful response to his apology. Tom Cruise in the movie, Jerry McGuire, had entered the home of his former girlfriend. He had ruined their relationship by pulling away when things had gotten too serious. Upon having a change of heart, he came into her living room, surrounded by watching friends, to re-declare his love. There was another line in this movie that might be even more well known. “You complete me!” was something else that Cruise’s character declared, much to the delight of female watchers around the world. He was expressing that being in relationship with this young woman gave him a sense of completeness or wholeness or fulfillment, something that might resonate with all who are searching! This is wonderful in a relationship but perhaps a little confusing when Christ makes the statement, “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.” Now while I am not trying to compare the wonderful words of our Savior to a cheesy man-made movie, perhaps this can give us a little perspective on what Jesus meant when it came to the Law and God’s Word.

What does the world believe and teach about the Bible? I think that what is most prevalent, other than that it is man-made, might be that it is largely myth, especially the Old Testament. Many societies from the past have sought to answer the questions, “Why are we here?” and “Why is there something, rather than nothing?”.  Mankind is curious and wants answers to life’s most basic of questions, and so they look at the Bible as one more of man’s attempts at finding answers and meaning. In seeking these answers, man has crafted many attempts to explain everything. Many societies have a creation narrative or a flood narrative like in the Bible. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a story that contains a universal flood story. Mythology is often an attempt to answer life’s questions but comes up with man-made solutions wrapped in creative stories. We believe the Bible to be something different than the world’s attempts at finding answers on its own. The Bible is God’s authoritative, inspired answer to the problems of life and man’s search for fulfillment. It is God’s story of existence - why there is something rather than nothing, why we are all here.

What did Jesus teach about the Bible? Christ has a very high view of the Word of God. He believed it to be eternal and unchangeable, the supreme authority. Verse 18 shows that He believed it to be inspired in all of its parts. In Matthew 4 we see that He relied on it while being tempted in the wilderness: Christ went into the wilderness to be tempted as a man. Jesus didn’t defeat Satan with His divine power but as a man with the weapons available to a man – the Word of God. Satan sought to provoke Jesus to use His divine power to get around his temptations, but he was unsuccessful as Christ used the Word to fight these temptations.

So, we know that Christ had a very high view of God’s Word, and so what does it mean that Christ came to fulfill the law? When Christ makes this statement in vs. 17, He is responding to the abuses of the law by the Pharisees and their charges that Christ was working against God’s Law. When He was countering the Pharisees, He was not nullifying or annulling or overthrowing the Law, but He was drawing a distinction from what the Law actually said as opposed to what the Pharisees had taught. “You have heard it said (from the Pharisees), but I tell you” (Jesus is clarifying or recapturing the real meaning and intent of God) is a common refrain in the coming verses. “What He (Christ) criticizes is not the law itself but contemporary formulations of the law.” (Sermon on the Mount by Kent Hughes pg. 96) So, this was one way that Christ came to “fulfill” the law or the Word of God.

Another way that Christ fulfilled the Law and Prophets was by dying on the Cross and satisfying the demands of the Law from a Holy God for those who would believe on Him. In the Old Testament God’s people sacrificed animals to pay for their sins, blood shed on their behalf. These sacrifices where never able to pay for their sins and were meant to point them forward to the coming Messiah. Christ was the perfect, once for all sacrifice. His own blood was shed to cover our sins. Additionally, He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets in that He perfectly kept all of its commands. God’s demand was not just that our sins be forgiven, but also that we might live a perfect and holy life. Since we could not do that, Christ lived it for us instead.

Christ goes on to say in verse eighteen, “... until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Perhaps you have heard the expression “not a jot or a tittle”. This is the same language expressed in a different way. Jesus is saying that what has been written by men inspired of the Holy Spirit will all come to pass. None of it will remain unfulfilled, and Christ is the One who will fulfill or carry it out. The “yod” or jot is the smallest Hebrew letter and the “serif” or tittle (which looks like this: ‘) are the smallest of grammatical marks and words. Christ is saying that all of this, from the greatest to the least, will come to pass as the Lord has laid out. What a great comfort that we can have in the Word of God, both its promises and its history.

The Law according to the Pharisees contained 248 commandments and 365 prohibitions. The Pharisees sought to keep them all. Christ came and said that unless we surpass this we would never enter the Kingdom. What Christ was saying was that the Pharisees’ righteousness was merely external and what God demands is perfection - body, mind and soul, in thought, word and deed. “It [the Pharisees’ righteousness] focused on the ceremonial. Its man-made rules actually were unconscious attempts to reduce the demands of the Law and make it manageable. Those rules insulated them from the Law’s piercing heart demands.” (Hughes pg. 101) Christ was making a clear statement that salvation apart from grace was impossible.

This takes us right back to the Beatitudes 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This means “Blessed are those who are spiritually bankrupt, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who realize they cannot make it on their own, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

So, What Now?

How did Christ ultimately fulfill the Law? He did this by dying on the Cross and thereby satisfying forever the demands of the law against those who would believe in Him. And by living it all perfectly He kept the righteous demands of the law for those who could not keep it themselves.  Is this true of you? Have God’s righteous demands on your life been fulfilled by Jesus Christ in your place? If so, spend time today thanking the Lord for what He has done in your place!