Matthew 5:17-20 Devotional Commentary

Fulfilled and satisfied: Devotional Commentary for September 27-October 3

Matthew 5:17–20 (God's Word Translation)

This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.

And Jesus continued:
5:17-18
17“Don’t ever think that I came to set aside Moses’ Teachings or the Prophets. I didn’t come to set them aside but to make them come true.
18I can guarantee this truth: Until the earth and the heavens disappear, neither a period nor a comma will disappear from Moses’ Teachings before everything has come true.

So far, Jesus had been speaking to the crowd about the nature and character of those who believe in Him. He described the fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit in God's children and the distinguishing characteristics of the people of God. Now, His focus shifts to explaining the Mission and Purpose of His own presence on earth, as a Man.

Jesus knew that the crowd that gathered to listen to Him could easily confuse His teachings with the familiar Judaic beliefs and traditions taught by the priests, the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the rabbinical sages. So He made it clear that He is not a rogue preacher with some radical message contradicting God's truth declared to them through Moses and the Prophets. While Jesus' actual teachings are indeed unlike the interpretations of the Law by the Rabbis, Jesus assured His listeners that He came to reveal the Truth in Himself. He came to fulfill the Law both by His Righteous Life and by His teachings.

It was important that the people not only understood what Jesus was teaching them, but also that they recognized Him as the One by Whom the Law and the Prophets are fulfilled. Jesus, by His very nature, fulfilled not only the stringent requirements of the physical aspects of the Law, but also the humanly impossible moral and spiritual precepts. Simply put, it was absolutely necessary for the people to know Jesus not only as Teacher, but also more significantly as the Messiah. He came to complete the Law and uphold its precepts—the Scriptures in their entirety even to the smallest detail. He did not set the Law and the Prophets aside.

And Jesus continued:
5:19-20
19So whoever sets aside any command that seems unimportant and teaches others to do the same will be unimportant in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches what the commands say will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus told His audience that the Word of God is not subject to the corrupt judgement of human considerations. The Word of God is absolute Truth. If anyone seeks to diminish the significance of God's Word, such a one would be unworthy in the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, if anyone submits oneself to the Word of God in obedience, then that person would certainly be the greatest in heaven.

Nevertheless, the truth is, no human being has ever been able to meet these stringent criteria. The standards established by God’s Righteousness are impossible for human beings to attain. Moses warned the people of his day, disobedience to the Law is consequential.

On the contrary, the Scribes and the Pharisees believed that they had achieved righteousness through strict adherence to the letter of the Law. They actually worshiped the Law itself instead of the Lawgiver. In their self-righteous opinion, everyone else was a miserable failure. Everyone else was doomed, they believed. But Jesus made it clear that neither self-righteousness nor adherence to rituals would secure the way to heaven. Jesus our Redeemer fulfilled the Law and the Prophets in our place with His Life, Sacrifice, and Resurrection. He did not come to set the Law and the Prophets aside as accused by His detractors.

Notes/Applications

In this particular passage, Jesus shifts the focus of His teaching to one of selfrevelation. He introduces Himself in the context of the Purpose and Mission for which He was sent to earth by His Father. Jesus identifies His divine distinction which sets Him apart. He also refutes every denial and falsehood spoken against Him. He openly declares that He came to satisfy the Law with His Righteousness and fulfill all prophecies about the Messiah.

Christ Jesus the Son of the living God was the only One who met the criteria of God’s inerrant and immutable Word. He stood before the people and boldly professed that He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Here, the emphasis is that Jesus not only did everything required by the Law, but that He Himself is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, having come as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. No other person on this planet could rightfully make such a claim. We are all born sinners. The words of Isaiah remind us that we have all become unclean, and that all our righteous acts are like permanently stained filthy rags, and that we shrivel like leaves, and are carried away as if by the wind.

It should be obvious then. If the Law condemns us due to transgression and yet Grace draws us back to our Redeemer, then Jesus Himself is the only Way being the only One Who is able to satisfy the Laws of the Holy, Righteous God, on our behalf. Therefore, Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life by Whom anyone can hope to find salvation. So, fulfilling the Law and the Prophets, Jesus actually took away our indebtedness to the Law and, in His Grace, clothed us with His Righteousness and became our salvation. He gave us a better standing than the condescending Pharisees before God our Father. Thanks to Jesus, our penalty is paid in full, the Law is completely satisfied, and we, the debtors, are set free!

Here at Practical Christianity Foundation we believe that God has mercifully extended His Grace toward us and has given us His living and Holy Word to guide us in our journey in this world. We count it privilege to come alongside you and minister to you through prayer and the sharing of God's living and holy Word. Please contact us if you have any questions concerning your faith and journey as a Christian.

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