Old Testament Fulfillment
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” -Matt 5:17
In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus claims to be the central focus of all the OT scriptures. DA Carson in his book ‘Jesus’ Sermon On the Mount’ says, “Jesus came not to abolish the Old Testament but to fulfill it – fulfill in the sense that he himself was the object toward which it pointed.” Jesus is declaring Himself to be the promised saviour, promised king, promised prophet, promised sacrifice, and the list could go on and on. Simply put, Jesus isn’t only claiming to fulfill the moral law of God, but rather every last stroke of the pen under divine inspiration is fulfilled in Himself.
“except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” -Matt 5:20
Jesus’ sermon is often misunderstood. Many imagine Jesus to be instructing us on how to become more righteous. That kind of misunderstanding may be common, but it completely misses Jesus’ point in Matthew 5:17-20. In this text we see Jesus using the outward religious morality of the most pious Jews to illustrate there can be no real righteousness through the works of the law. As Jesus speaks about the impossibility of us having real righteousness through moral obedience, He stands as the truly righteous one (Matt 5:10-11). How is it possible that all men are unrighteous but Jesus is truly righteous? He is not like anyone else, because He is divine.
“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” – Matt 5:28
Jesus gives six glaring examples (Matt 5:20-48) of our inability to possess a real righteousness through moral obedience. Jesus keeps saying, You have heard _______ but I say _______ . Who does Jesus think He is? Jesus is clearly claiming authority. Jesus sees Himself as God. The Old Testament prophets would not have begun their authoritative teachings like Jesus. Those OT prophets would have said something like, “Thus saith the LORD” to establish the authority of their words. The Jewish scribes of Jesus’ day would also not have claimed their own authority when they taught. Jewish scribes would have appealed to the authority of the Old Testament as the basis and ground of their teaching. This is a major difference in the way that Jesus taught. Jesus isn’t appealing to another authority, because He is the authority (Matt 5:17-19).
“not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.” -Matt 6:5
While Jesus speaks of prayer in Matthew 6, Jesus recognizes and condemns the false motives of the religious leaders who are driven to pray for the admiration of other people. Jesus declares that those hypocrites, motivated by their pride, are not rewarded by God. On what basis does Jesus claim this? Consider how Jesus states his case. He does not say, “if those who pray standing in public places like the synagogue and the street corners are not focused upon being rewarded by God, then they are hypocrites.” He simply states they are hypocrites because they do not pray to be seen by God but because they pray to be seen by their peers. How does Jesus know they do in fact have false motives? Because He is the divine reader of hearts (Matt 7:21-23).