MATTHEW 5:17b(part two)-18
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 5:17b (part two) “. . .I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
Jesus fulfilled not only the laws of the Old Testament, but also the predictions of its prophets, the men who bore witness to him. Early in His ministry, Jesus laid down a straightforward challenge for people to scrutinize Him in this matter.
One day in Nazareth, His hometown, He read publicly in the synagogue from the prophet Isaiah (61:1-2), “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” He then closed the scroll, returned it to the attendant, and while all eyes were fastened on Him, claimed, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears” (LK 4:21).
His own lifelong neighbors and friends were so enraged at what they deemed a blasphemous claim from their local carpenter that they took Him to the cliff on which their city was built and intended to cast Him down headfirst, “but he passing through the midst of them went his way” (LK 4:30). He was soon casting out demons which cried, “I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God” (LK 4:34), and a little further on, He cast out more demons, who screamed, “Thou art Christ the Son of God” (LK 4:41). Early on, Jesus was the focus of people’s rivetted attention. He wanted them to test His claim of fulfilling the Old Testament prophets.
The fulfillment in Jesus’ life of Old Testament predictions is one of the most remarkable and amazing studies that has ever occupied human mind and thought. As far as I know, nothing anywhere in the history of the world is comparable to it.
The thirty-nine Old Testament books were written in about a thousand-year span, from Moses to Malachi (1400-400 BC). Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the Old Testament prophets had already given mankind advance glimpses of the Messiah. God wanted the world to know when His Son had come, and to be able to recognize Him. Thus, centuries in advance, the Holy Spirit miraculously enabled the Old Testament writers to predict what the Messiah would be like.
Allow me to do a brief profile of the Messiah, using only predictions from the Old Testament. A Jew from the tribe of Judah and the family of David would be born of a virgin (IS 7:14; MT 1:23) in the small village of Bethlehem (MC 5:2; MT 2:1). As an adult, He would come riding, not on a military mount, but peacefully, on a donkey (ZC 9:9; MT 21:5). Betrayed by a friend (PS 41:9; JN 13:18) for thirty pieces of silver (ZC 11:12; MT 27:9), the blood money would be used to buy a potter’s field (ZC 11:13; MT 27:10). The Shepherd would be smitten and His sheep scattered (ZC 13:7; MT 26:31), He would be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows (IS 53:3a), wounded for our transgressions (IS 53:5). His hands and feet would be pierced (PS 22:16), but not one of His bones broken (PS 34:20; JN 19:36). They would gamble for His garments (PS 22:18; MT 27:35) as He died with transgressors (IS 53:12; MK 15:28). Buried in a rich man’s grave (IS 53:9; MT 27:57), His body would not be allowed to rot, to see corruption (PS 16:10; AC 2:31), but would instead be taken up to Heaven to be seated at the right hand of God (PS 110:1; AC 2:34). No wonder the resurrected Christ walked with two on the road to Emmaus, and “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (LK 24:27).
I offer a word to the skeptics among us, to those tempted to think this is impossible, that maybe early Christians twisted or tampered with Old Testament verses. God, knowing the intense attack which would come against His Word in this era, hid until this century the greatest archaeological treasure of all time. The Dead Sea Scrolls provide us Old Testament texts contemporary with Jesus. We now, more than ever before, can have confidence in the validity of these Old Testament predictions, for we have copies of them dating from the very time of Christ.
Matt. 5:18a “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass,. . .”
From our perspective, “heaven and earth” are the most stable of all created objects. Thus, Jesus used them to illustrate the permanence of the Old Testament. He later put His own words on equal footing with the Old Testament, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (MT 24:35). Jesus thus put His stamp of approval on all the Scriptures. The holy writings are secure. In fact, nothing in all the Universe is more durable. The cosmos shall crumble in upon itself and collapse into a heap of confusion before the Bible shall pass away.
Scripture will remain until everything it deals with has come to pass. Thus, the Bible will outlast the created order, for it speaks of that climactic, cataclysmic event, when “heaven and earth” shall pass away (2 P 3:10). Once history is finished, and every word penned in Scripture fulfilled, its Author shall be vindicated.
Matt. 5:18b “. . .one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all
”Jot” (yod) was the tenth and smallest letter (_) of the Hebrew alphabet. “Tittle” was a little stroke added to letters, as on the upper left of the letter lamech (_). Jesus was referring to the smallest letter itself and to the smallest stroke on the letters. We would say today, no dot of an i and no cross of a t shall ever pass away. Scripture is so sacred that not even the smallest particle of it will ever pass away. What is written by God, and bears His stamp, be it ever so little, shall be preserved.
Not even the least loss of authority shall ever come over Holy Writ, and let me emphasize that in our text, Jesus’ reference is to the Old Testament, the very portion of Scripture most often attacked in our culture. Whatever critics say, we believers are compelled to believe what Jesus believed about the Old Testament. He said it will outlast the Universe, and claimed, “Scripture cannot be broken” (JN 10:35). Jesus referred to the Old Testament some sixty-four times, always in a way which assumed its authority. He quoted every section of it, believing it all, not just parts of it. To Jesus the Old Testament was the Word of God, containing an authority which nothing else, save His own words, comes close to having.
The New Testament everywhere recognizes and teaches the divinity of the Old Testament. Neither testament can stand alone. Each draws from the other, and can be understood only in the light of the other. For instance, we cannot understand Leviticus without Hebrews, but neither can we understand Hebrews without Leviticus. The New Testament germinates in the Old, the Old sprouts in the New.
This reverence for the Old Testament is absolutely critical because the plunge into disbelief often begins with a rejection of the Old Testament, especially Genesis 1-11 in our culture. The latter is often debunked as myth or legend, and once this Pandora’s box of unbelief is cracked open, the plague spreads to our understanding of every part of Scripture. Eventually the whole is doubted.
Jesus’ assertion about Scripture is news almost too good to be true. We live in a world constantly changing, in a society where our feet always seem on shifting sand. We deem forces around us out of control, nothing is reliable and consistent. We yearn for permanence, stability, reliability. God meets this need in the Bible.