15 March • Wednesday of the Third Week in Lent
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.
18. 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. 19 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.
Why did Jesus come? The Gospels record Jesus' own reasons. According to Mark, "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for 'many' " (Mk 10:45). Luke explains Jesus' response to Zaccheus: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Lk 19:10). John describes the good Shepherd's purpose for His flock: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10). Jesus' service, sacrifice and salvation through His cross and resurrection bring abundant life. Such abundance includes right relationships, with God and also with others.
Matthew, in today's passage, gives Jesus' explanation as rooted in Scripture: "Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Mt 5:17). In the context of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus came "proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom" (4:23). He came to establish Kingdom authority, and accomplish Kingdom righteousness. His beatitudes describe the character of Kingdom citizens who hunger and thirst for this righteousness, to the extent of being persecuted for it (5:3-12).
Jesus taught His disciples to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Mt 6:33). While we seek the peace and welfare of our country, we must always seek first God's kingdom and righteousness. The righteous Kingdom is central not only to Matthew, but also to all Scripture, which is God's inspired Word, His revealed will and purpose. At His baptism, Jesus told John the Baptist, "It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (Mt 3:15). After His resurrection, Jesus explained to His disciples that "everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (Lk 24:44).
The apostle Paul marvelled that through Messiah Jesus' perfect obedience to God's Law, and His sacrificial death on the cross, He can impart "the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness", and victory to those who receive Him (Rom 5:6-19). "The Messiah, you see, is the goal of the law, so that covenant membership may be available for all who believe" (Rom 10:4, translated by Tom Wright, The New Testament for Everyone, SPCK, 2011).
This righteousness comes not through human observance of the Law but through acts of Divine providence and deliverance. "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom 8:3-4).
The Lord Jesus summed up the requirements of the Law and the Prophets in what has been called 'the golden rule': "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Mt 7:12). To Him the greatest commandments in the Torah were: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and "Love your neighbour as yourself". He added: "On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets" (Mt 22:36-40).
He gave His disciples "a new commandment": "love one another just as I have loved you" (Jn 13:34-35). He also asked the Father to send them the Spirit of truth— another Helper, just like Him—to indwell them and guide them into all the truth (Jn 14:15-17 and 16:13-15).
We can obey God's commands only through denying self, taking up our cross daily, and following Jesus (Lk 9:23; compare Gal 2:20). This is only possible by submitting to the control of His Spirit, and thus bearing His ninefold fruit (Gal 5:13-25). May God graciously guide us in this lifelong journey of spiritual transformation and humble service, for the common good and His greater glory.
Thank You, dear Lord Jesus, that You perfectly fulfilled God's plan and promises, and have given us Your Spirit of life and righteousness so that we may become more like You. Help us each day to walk in love and light, for Your Name's sake. Amen.
Reflect on Romans 12:1-13. As you have received God's grace and gifts, ask Him to enable you to share His blessings with someone or some Christian ministry today.
Dr Ernest Chew
Advisory Elder, Bethesda (Frankel Estate) Church
Vice-President, The Bible Society of Singapore