Having spoken to the people about what it means to be blessed of God, and having exhorted them to live lives that demonstrate His presence, Jesus now turns to the subject of the Scriptures.
The Jews knew that any student of God must go to the Word of God to better know Him, but what Jesus had been saying to this point did not seem to entirely line up with what they had been taught by Israel’s teachers, who had daily access to the Word. Blessing as they had been taught was associated with wealth and prosperity and the wonder and beauty of the temple, but Jesus had taught them that to be blessed is to be poor in spirit, to mourn and to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessing was what you received when you were persecuted for living as God wanted you to live. That was totally counter-cultural to their thinking and virtually everything they had learned.
Perhaps there were many listening to the beatitudes wondering if Jesus was veering away from the Tenach (the holy Scriptures). But now He says, “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.” Jesus’ original audience understood that when someone referred to the Law and the Prophets they were referencing all three parts of the Tenach – the Law (the Torah), the Writings (the Ketuvim) and the prophets (the Neviim). Taken together, these books form what Christians call the Old Testament. Jesus is saying that He did not come to replace the Scripture with His own Words, but rather to fulfill the Scripture as it was already known in its entirety.
That is a powerful endorsement of the Old Testament as sacred (something He is about to address in much greater detail), and a powerful statement of His own purpose as being in complete alignment with the Old Testament. Jesus is saying that He has a high view of Scripture. That view aligned with what the Jews were taught, and something the Samaritans could not refute (even though they only recognized the first five books of Moses). Yet the things that Jesus taught surely seemed mind-blowing to the crowd gathered before Him. They had never looked at the Scripture that way before. It was all quite striking.
Even more striking was His latter statement about fulfilling Scripture. It is obviously a prophesy, and a confoundedly blatant one at that. Jesus is saying that He and all He would do sums up everything the prophets wrote in years past! He is saying that His future life and actions would literally fulfill ancient prophesy. To His audience at the time it was an exceedingly boastful comment. But to us on this side of the cross it has profound implications. For we are called to be like Jesus.
It should be obvious to all that what eternal God said long ago is just as valid today as it was in days long past. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He exists outside of time, so all He says is true throughout time. We who identify ourselves by the Name of God surely know these things. But do we? Does every decision we take reflect our faith in what God has said? Even more importantly, does the way we live life demonstrate our faith in Scripture? Are we seeking to ‘live out’ the Word of God the way Jesus purposed to live it out?
These are critical questions for us, just as they were for His audience that day. Jesus is exhorting His listeners to take God’s Word to heart, not simply learn about it and claim its promises. After all – to live out the Scripture is experience the truth of the beatitudes He already explained. To know the blessing of God is seek to live out His character even if that brings persecution and hardship in the moment. It is also to make God and His ways known, so that He might make His Name great. Such is the way of blessing. And if Jesus came to do just that – live out the Scripture – we who call ourselves by His Name must do so as well.
Let all Christians, but especially Christian preachers and teachers […] first study the Scriptures for themselves, then live the Scriptures for themselves, and [only] then teach the Scriptures to others.William Jones
How does what you are planning on doing today reflect the truth of God’s Word and the reality of His Kingdom?