The new and remarkable teaching and authority of Jesus of Nazareth alarmed many who did not understand that he, in fact, did not come to abolish either the Law or the Prophets. Rather, he came to actually fulfill them. Jesus declared that until heaven and earth pass away, not even an iota, not even a dot, would pass from the Law until everything written in it was fully accomplished. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, the Messiah and Ruler promised to come and make an end of sin and death. He comes not to annul the promise but rather to fulfill it.
The religious leaders in Jesus’s time were, by and large, very detailed in their adherence to the Law. They built entire traditions of interpretation as a fence around the law to prevent any command from being broken. So, when Jesus says that our righteousness must exceed theirs, his audience would have been shocked. However, he speaks not of punctilious obedience to the Law, but the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Christ.
Father, we confess that our righteousness, even at its height, falls short; we place our faith completely in Christ and his righteousness alone.
“The prescriptions of the Mosaic covenant for ritual cleansing were a sign of the need for purification in a more profound and complete sense. Jesus’ teaching raises a question about where such cleansing might be found. The immediate context provides no answer, though his teaching about the significance of his death ultimately offers a solution to this problem.”
~ David G. Peterson, Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992. p. 114.
Let God Arise! Seasonal Focus
Jesus Fulfills the Law, Matthew 5.13-20
Peterson, Engaging with God