Matthew 5: 17-20.
For every institution or organization to effectively grow, they must have existing guidelines and regulations properly guiding them. The guidelines may be burdensome but always necessary for their growth and development.
God’s commandments are very necessary for the good of man and his salvation. The only way to live here and after is simply in obedience to God. In the same way, the only way to create chaos, division and consequently damnation is to disobey God’s injunction.
In today’s gospel of Matthew 5: 17-20, Jesus tells His disciples that He has come not to abolish the law but to fulfil them. And until heaven and earth disappear, not even one dot, or little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is fulfilled. Let us gradually take a little exegesis to understand this.
I have come not to abolish but to Fulfill.
In today’s gospel of Matthew 5: 17-20, Jesus tells his listeners ” do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfil them.
To fully understand this, we have to take into details two important references. One is to find the meaning of “fulfil” and abolish.
Second, is that we have to go back to the readings of the same chapter 5 before the verses of today. And also read after the verses of today to digest the meaning properly.
(ii) “Abolish” in Greek is kataluo or katalusai meaning “destroy” or “ demolish. That means removing it totally.
Then, “To fulfil” which in Greek is plerosai, means to fill up, to complete or accomplish, realize perfectly, to carry through to the end etc.
This means that Jesus has not come to destroy the law but to accomplish its meaning. Hence every law has a message it portrays.
The emphasis is that the law and prophets which are to properly lead people to God find their perfect fulfilment and completeness only in Jesus and through Jesus.
Therefore, It is no longer how much we keep to the letters of the law but how much we live in Christ.
This indicates that the Old Testament and everything in it bear witness to Jesus. Everything stated, promised, and predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures must come to pass or be accomplished through Christ.
Before the Gospel of Matthew 5: 17-20
Before Jesus talks about fulfilling the law, He preaches a sermon on the Mount, blessing the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, peacemakers, pure in heart and those who are undergoing persecutions.
Here, Jesus fully outlines what God needs from us. Therefore, it is not merely keeping the law but living like Jesus.
It is living in love, mercy, purity, peace, poverty of the spirit and faith even during persecutions.
After the Gospel of Matthew 5: 17-20.
After today’s gospel, Jesus goes for more interpretation of the gospel.
Therefore, after today’s gospel of Matthew 5: 17-20, He gradually explains bit by bit His statements through His teaching on murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, eye for an eye, and love for enemies which were a little bit different from what was written in the Old Testament.
The implication is that some religious leaders and Pharisees now think that Jesus is teaching something different from the law (Matthew 12:2).
So, what Jesus is saying is that He is not discarding the law as they think. His coming is to fulfil them through His actions and words.
Therefore, what this means is that everything in the Old Testament points towards Jesus and comes to fulfilment through Him.
The Heart of the Law.
What Jesus is telling His disciples today is that being a true disciple is not merely keeping the letters of the law but living like Jesus Christ.
It is following the spirit of the law which is bounded in love.
And to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… and your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). This is the heart of the law.
When we read through the readings as Jesus continues to explain we will fully understand this.
(ii) Therefore, We have to live not with blind adherence to the letters of the law, living like the Pharisees who only keep the law but their heart is very far from God.
We live not necessarily in following what is written in the law only. We have to live in Christ with faith and love for each other.
Hence the love of God will inspire the way we live with each other. We live and do everything then, because of the love we have for God, which will still manifest in everything that we do.
(iv) Imagine a country with stories of rape, wickedness, kidnappings, hatred division, bribery, killings etc and one with peace, love, the thirst to help each other whether there is gain or not etc. The latter will be like heaven on earth than the former.
A family that stays in peace, love and obedience to God will experience divine tranquillity. Such a family will consequently encounter progress than one characterized by wickedness and evil.
Jesus says that whoever practices and teaches others to do the commandments will be great in the kingdom of heaven.
The commandments are for our good. The best way to live is to live how God wants. Hence, the only way to do this is to live in Christ. When we live like Jesus, we will still keep the commandments, live in love, peace, purity and deep hunger for God. This is what God wants and not merely following the letters of the law.
Example of following the letters of the law is when you do not miss Sunday mass, fasting, etc but yet our hearts are filled with envy, hatred and wickedness.
It is also when you make sure you are the first to be in the church, you speak in tongues, but yet finds it hard to stay in peace with people.
Therefore, Our lives should reflect that of Jesus Christ and not merely keeping the letters of the law.
May God help us dearest live the way He wants. May He continue to protect you from danger Amen