A New Situation
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.
18For 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.
19Therefore 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.
20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
So far, the words that Jesus speaks to the disciples in this “Sermon on the Mount” have been somewhat surprising and challenging. As He defines the life of someone who would follow Him, we hear a new message of humility and service. But we also hear of impact and force. The Christian is to be the very essence of influence as they live as salt and light in the world. Now, Jesus takes on how the old will meet up with the new.
Jesus defines His ministry in reference to the Old Testament. At the time, the Pharisees had a choke hold on what it meant to be a believer. But their religion was constructed out of man-made rules that kept the people in bondage and placed the Pharisees on some kind of pedestal. Jesus now declares that He comes to set things right. Does that mean He wants to do away with the Laws of the Old Testament? Absolutely not. Instead He comes to fulfill the Law. He comes to live perfectly inside of the parameters that God set up in the days of Moses. At the same time, Jesus comes to fulfill all of the prophecies that were foretold about the Messiah and begin a whole new way of approaching God. Jesus comes to tear down the curtain that (literally – in the Temple) separated the people from God. The Old and New collide in the person of Jesus Christ and the situation is completely new.
So what are we to do with the Old Testament Law? Keep it! To keep the commandment now, on this side of Jesus’ resurrection means that we love God and want to live as He calls. It means that we recognize that great blessings lie inside of obedience to God. We do not keep the Law to earn salvation, for that is not possible for us. Instead, we keep the Law to show God and others how much we love Him and to reflect back to Him how much He loves us. Jesus also takes a moment to recognize that the Pharisees are not His disciples. The only righteousness that will grant entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven is faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. A belief in your ability to earn salvation will earn the exact opposite. So here we stand, with the Lord Jesus as our Master, holding onto the Word of God which will never fade away. He has protected it and will continue to do so forever. (Heaven will never pass away, so neither shall the Word of God.)