Jesus does three things to complete what the Old Testament started
Jesus draws people to him. The words he speaks and the hope he communicates attract them. Some people assume he had come to replace the Old Testament Law and the work of the prophets. Instead, Jesus fulfills it.
Jesus doesn’t come to do away with what the Old Testament teaches. Instead his mission is to bring the Old Testament into fruition, according to God’s plan from the beginning.
Jesus makes this clear. He says, “I have not come to abolish the Law and the prophets but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). How does Jesus do this?
Jesus Becomes the Ultimate Sacrifice
The Old Testament is packed with instructions for making sacrificial offerings, commands that showed the people’s relationship with God. These sacrifices had various meanings, but one key sacrifice occurred to redress sin.
An animal had to die because the people had sinned. Because the people continued to sin, animal sacrifices continued to be required. These sin sacrifices happened over and over, year after year, century after century.
Jesus, in his sacrificial death on the cross, becomes the ultimate sacrifice for sin to end all sin sacrifices. In his once-and-for-all sacrifice, he dies to make us right with God, to reconcile us into right relationship with the Almighty.
Jesus Turns Law into Love
Despite Jesus’s fresh way of looking at the understandings of his people, most of his followers struggle to fully comprehend what he means. They wrestle to reconcile his teachings with their traditions.
One such person asks Jesus to identify the greatest commandment in the Old Testament. Jesus’s answer is love. He says to “love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.”
This stands as the greatest commandment, but then he adds one more. He says to “love others as much as we love ourselves” (Matthew 22:36-40). These two simple principles summarize all the Old Testament Law and the writings of the prophets.
Jesus removes a set of impossible-to-please laws and replaces them with one principle: love.
Jesus Changes Our Perspectives
Jesus likes to review what the Hebrew Bible says, and then he expands on it. He often makes this transition by saying “but I tell you…” Then he gives his enlightened explanation about what God meant.
What’s important to understand when we consider that Jesus fulfills the Old Testament law and the writings of the prophets is that we must put the Old Testament in proper perspective.
This doesn’t mean to ignore the Old Testament because Jesus fulfills it, but it does mean we need to consider the Old Testament in the context to which it was given. In addition to teaching people how to live back then, the Law and the prophets also points them to the coming Savior, Jesus.
As we read the Old Testament we see allusions to Jesus and the freedom he represents. And if we read the Old Testament with care, we will also see that this future revelation about Jesus applies to all people, not just God’s chosen nation of Israel.
Jesus Fulfills the Old Testament Law and Prophets
Yes, Jesus fulfills the Old Testament Law and the writings of the prophets. And we are the benefactor of that.
Thank you Jesus.
Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.
Discover more about celebrating Jesus and his passion to save us in Peter’s new book, The Passion of Jesus. It is part of the Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.