How Does Jesus Fulfill the Law and the Prophets?
Jesus does three things to complete what the Old Testament started
Jesus drew people to him. The words he spoke and the hope he communicated attracted them. Some people assumed he had come to replace the Old Testament Law and the work of the prophets, but revolution was not his calling.
Jesus didn’t come to do away with what the Old Testament taught. Instead his mission was to bring the Old Testament into fruition, according to God’s plan from the beginning.
Jesus made this clear. He said, “I have not come to abolish the Law and the prophets but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). How did Jesus do this?
Jesus Became 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, became the ultimate sacrifice for sin to end all sin sacrifices. In his once-and-for-all sacrifice, he died to make us right with God, to reconcile us into right relationship with the Almighty.
Jesus Turned Law into Love
Despite Jesus’s fresh way of looking at the understandings of his people, most of his followers still struggled to fully comprehend what he meant. They wrestled to reconcile his teachings with their traditions.
One such person asked Jesus to identify the greatest commandment in the Old Testament. Jesus’s answer was love. He said to “love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.” This stands as the greatest commandment, but then he added one more. He said 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 removed a set of impossible-to-please laws and replaced them with one principle: love.
Jesus Changed Our Perspectives
Jesus liked to review what the Hebrew Bible said, and then he would expand on it. He often made this transition by saying “but I tell you…” Then he would give his enlightened explanation about what God meant. We’ll do well to carefully study what Jesus said immediately after his words “but I tell you…” Look for more about this in the future post.Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament Law and the writings of the prophets. Click To Tweet
What’s important to understand when we consider that Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament law and the writings of the prophets is we must put the Old Testament in proper perspective. This doesn’t mean to ignore the Old Testament because Jesus fulfilled 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 pointed them to the coming Savior, Jesus.
As we read the Old Testament we see allusions to Jesus and the freedom that 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.
Yes, Jesus came to fulfill 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 upcoming book, Jesus’s Broken Church.]
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.