Truth always has its day, but woe to the one who strove to deceive. He is his own undoing.
18:17 In a a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.
If they weren’t sure that Jesus was proclaiming to be Messiah, the next passage cleared it up for them.
“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 tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20
The accusation of abolishment was something that rabbis did among each other. When one of them made a statement that went outside the bounds of what was considered lawful, the other rabbis would accuse him of abolishing the law. He was striking it down and setting up a new law. It was a very serious charge. Evidently, Jesus was being accused of abolishing the Law. When He said that He had come to fulfill them, He was talking about the sacrificial system. He was to become the Sacrificial Lamb. As John put it, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” John 1:29.
It’s interesting to think that Jesus was Jewish and kept all the Law. But, seeing that He wrote the Law and could have changed it if He wanted, He didn’t change it at all; He finished it by fulfilling the demands of the sacrifice. What were those demands? The deaths of all who have sinned. Jesus took the consequences of our sin upon Himself and killed them with His own death. Here’s what happened next:
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference [between Jew and Gentile; see verse 9], 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. Romans 3:21-25
Jesus offers grace to both Jew and Gentile alike. It was His plan all along as we read about last week in Deuteronomy 4:5-8. Both groups are equally lost and are both equally saved by God’s grace. Jesus also said that not one word, letter or even dot of an “i” would disappear until He had made it to the cross. Jesus was the Keeper of the Covenant.
When Jesus talked about a person who sets aside one of the least of the commands and teaches others to do the same, He was especially talking to the religious leaders. He was referring to their extra laws and the way their laws changed the complexion of the ones given by God to Moses. How do I know this? Because of His statement in verse 20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law…” They were in the habit of chaining the people with their manmade traditions. The one that Jesus had the most trouble with was the keeping of the Sabbath. The religious leaders had written so many rules about what a person could and couldn’t do that it became more about the rules than about acknowledging the LORD. Jesus deliberately healed on the Sabbath seven times: Three times in Mark (Mark 1:21-28, 1:29-31, 3:1-6), two times in Luke (Luke 13:10-17, 14:1-6), and two times according to John (see John 5:1-18, 9:1-14). I find it interesting that Matthew didn’t record any of these healings. Would it have offended his Jewish readers? It certainly did the religious leaders! It was their main reason for wanting to kill Him.
There’s a lesson here for us: If Jesus was not afraid of the religious leaders nor the Roman government because He had a mission to complete and He was counting on God to get Him to the cross, we can have that same assurance that when we are following God’s will for our lives (on a daily and even continuous basis) we need not fear anything or anyone. Our lives are in His hands and we will die when He is satisfied that our mission is complete. We are invincible until He says otherwise. Therefore, in both our lives and in our deaths may He be honored and glorified.
Abba, You have called us to Your mission and included us in that mission. May we be obedient servants and glory in our part of Your Story. Indeed, may our lives and our deaths bring much glory and honor to You, O Lord. Amen.