Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Matthew 5:17 (NRSV)
When you reflect on the ministry of Jesus, it is understandable how some might have accused Jesus of coming to abolish the law. Consider the fourth commandment. In Exodus 20:8-11, we read, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.”
Later in the Gospel of Matthew (Ch. 12), we read that the Pharisees questioned Jesus regarding healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. Healing would have been regarded as work, but Jesus was not concerned about all of the interpretive laws that had been established to ensure against laboring on the Sabbath. Jesus was more concerned about the afflicted man and his welfare. In the Gospel of Mark (Ch. 2), Jesus also has an encounter with Pharisees, who have noted that Jesus’ disciples have been plucking heads of grain as they made their way through a field on the Sabbath. Harvesting grain would also have been regarded as labor. Jesus did not view the disciples eating grain they picked to satisfy their hunger as a violation of the Sabbath. Jesus was honoring the spirit of the law without abiding by all of the restrictions that had been imposed by the religious authorities to guard the Sabbath. Jesus was fulfilling the law!
In the Gospel of Luke (Ch. 4) when Jesus is at the synagogue in Nazareth, He reads from the scroll of Isaiah. Jesus reads: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (18-19) Later Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (21) Indeed Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets!
Almighty God, we thank you that Jesus did not abolish the law and the prophets. He fulfilled the law and the prophets! We know that you have given us roles in life and work to do. Help us to know what they are and give us the courage and strength to fulfill them. These things we humbly ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.