This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original videohere
17 Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets; I have not come to dissolve, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter or tittle shall pass away from the law, until all come to pass. 19 Whoever breaks one of these least of these commandments and teaches the people to do so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches it will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
If you look at Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount chapters 5-7 is the first of five discourses of Jesus in Matthew. This gospel can be divided into eleven parts. Chapters 1-4 have the introduction that the Messiah, i.e. the king of the Jews, is coming. This begins with Abraham in Matthew, through David, to Christ. In chapter 1 the birth, in chapter 2 the magicians come and want to know where the king of the Jews is. In chapter 4 he is grown and anointed with the holy spirit and begins to minister publicly after defeating and binding the devil in the desert.
Now he appears in the power of the Son of God, heals the sick, drives out evil spirits from people who are possessed. Matthew summarizes Jesus’ sermon with: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew summarizes five of Jesus’ sermons, which always end the same way: “When Jesus had finished this speech…” Matthew makes a comparison with this Jesus as Exodus.
Moses had said: “ The Lord your God will raise up a prophet like me from among your brothers. Hear him .” ( Deuteronomy 18:15 ) And now Jesus is coming as the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18 as Exodus and just as God gave five books through Moses, so God now has five sermons through Jesus given.
When Moses begins to teach the people, he goes up a mountain and receives the ten commandments from God on two tablets of stone and brings them to God’s people. So in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus goes up the mountain as the Messiah, as the king, without saying that he is the king.
In Luke 4:18 he quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 “ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me and sent me to preach the gospel to the poor, to preach liberty to the captives and to the blind that they may see, and to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 and to proclaim the year of favor of the Lord .”
He says: “These words are fulfilled! This is how the Sermon on the Mount begins: “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted .”
Without saying that he is the Messiah, he is implying that by beginning the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount is the governmental declaration of the Son of God who is about to save Israel, rule and rule the world.
That is why the Sermon on the Mount is so important. Chapters 5-7, they show us what’s coming.
Now in chapter 5, 17ff we have arrived at the third part of the Sermon on the Mount.
In the Beatitudes he says who the disciples are and who is changing the world. They are people who stand before God empty-handed and who can actually do nothing for God and have nothing to offer him. The good thing is: they know! They are people who are sinners, lost without God and Jesus Christ; but now the kingdom of God is theirs!
They are people who hunger and thirst for the righteousness they cannot obtain for themselves and which must be given to them by someone else. These are the blessed.
In the second part he says: You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world ( Matthew 5:13-14 ). These disciples of Jesus are the ones with whom Jesus turns on the light in this world and with whom he spices up the world. Otherwise it would be bland.
This brings us to our text, the third part of the Sermon on the Mount. Here he says:
“ You shall not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets; I have not come to dissolve, but to fulfill.”
If you look at the Sermon on the Mount, it starts here in the main part. He just said: “You are the salt of the earth. Now if the salt no longer salts, with what shall one salt?”
The Sermon on the Mount begins in the main part with the thought of salt and light.
The salt can become “dumb” (it no longer salts) and that’s how the Sermon on the Mount ends. It ends with people who are smart and people who are stupid:
“ Whoever hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock… whoever hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. “
If you call Christ “Lord, Lord” but don’t do what he says, then you’re building a house for a lot of money and ruining it because you’re saving on an important part: the foundation! You destroy your life with it. It collapses when the storms come, and they will come.
This now has a double introduction to the Sermon on the Mount after the Beatitudes. The disciples are hugely important.
Without the disciples, without you and me as people who are guided by Jesus Christ, every place in this world without light would be a place of darkness and darkness. Now when you have a few people who know and love Jesus, God has turned on the light in that area and you have food that doesn’t taste bland but has flavor.
This is how God loves the world, but it has something to do with it: the salt must not be “stupid”. You have to be a real Christian, you have to be really attached to Jesus !. You may be poor, be a beggar in spirit. You are allowed to be someone who hungers and thirsts for the righteousness that he cannot achieve himself, but you need Jesus.
The other things included in the introduction are the law and the prophets.
What is Jesus’ position on the law and the prophets?
Before he starts the four parables of doing the divine will, one of which I just mentioned with the building of the house, that one hears the word of Jesus and does it, there are three more before he explains who is real and who is not, then he says:
” Now whatever you want people to do to you , you also do to them! That is the law and the prophets.(Matthew 7:12)
That is, Jesus begins the greatest sermon any preacher has ever given by clearing up a misunderstanding. There are Christians who think that Jesus was against the law. no
You shall not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets; I have not come to dissolve, but to fulfill.
That’s the first thing he says and it’s important to know, and we realize there are consequences for ignoring it.
If you think about what is in these few verses that we have today as a sermon text, then you have two main ideas:
Jesus Christ fulfills and perfects the law and the prophets
In other words, law and prophets, that’s the Old Testament and Jesus is the fulfillment. He is the central personality of the new covenant. He brings and bestows death and resurrection through his life and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He who is the content of the new covenant is also the fulfillment of the old covenant.
Jesus Christ offers and enjoins God’s righteousness
Some people think he has fulfilled the old and now I’m happy and content and everything is fine and I don’t have to worry about God’s ethics. Now I can do whatever I want. But Jesus says: No. He offers the righteousness of God and he also commands it!
We now look at these two core ideas.
1. What does “law and prophets” mean here?
Law = Hebrew Torah, God’s teaching through Moses
Prophets, here Joshua through Malachi , the rest of the Old Testament
2. Inasmuch as the law contained types prophesied of the body of the coming Christ, Jesus fulfills and completes that portion of the law. (Romans 10:4)
Circumcision of the flesh – circumcision of the heart
Atonement through animal sacrifices – redemption through Christ’s cross
Passover + Pentecost = OT reason – Easter + Pentecost = NT reason
Laws of purity in the OT – purification of the heart in the NT
Temple = God’s house OT – Church = God’s house NT
1. The law
Greek Νόμος but in the background is the Hebrew: Torah. That doesn’t really mean law but doctrine. The Jews also call it that, they call what we call the Old Testament Tanakh : It has a tripartite division: law (doctrine), prophets and scriptures.
This is also evident in the New Testament. Jesus also knew this tripartite division, it appears in Luke 24.
In Jeremiah 31:31-40 God speaks of a new covenant (testament) with his people. This is a problematic text for Jews, because the content of the New Testament would presuppose it. But here the Messiah speaks, the founder of the new covenant and he does not set him against the old covenant, but he says that he has to fulfill it. The Torah of God is God’s teaching and if you only open the first book, for example, then you realize how fabulous it is.
Give me the first 11 chapters, if you say that what is written there is, then you are no longer a modern, secular person.
Even the first sentence: ” In the beginning God created heaven and earth ” ( Genesis 1:1 ) has an effect.
Consider what it means that God reveals to a prophet that our world has a beginning before which there was nothing but the Creator of the whole universe. How powerful that is. This is God’s teaching! God teaches here about heaven and earth, sun, moon and stars, about man, about the beasts, the birds of the sky, the fish of the sea and the beasts of the field. He teaches on marriage and family, ethics and governance. There is so much in it and that alone in the first 11 chapters, including the world of peoples, the origin of the languages. All of this is in the teaching that God gave through Moses to His chosen people Israel.
If we removed all influence of the Torah in Germany, then Germany would be a different country and the legislation would be different. Many are unaware of this, and much of what we take for granted would not exist that way.
What does it mean when Jesus says he came to fulfill the law?
Inasmuch as the law contained types prophesied of the body of the coming Messiah, Jesus fulfills and completes those portions of the law.
If you couldn’t see my hand, but only the shadow of it, you would still recognize that it’s a hand. This is the Torah. She is full of Christ. He is perceived in the shadows, so to speak, as well as different elements, his death, his sacrifice. Jesus assumes that here.
Now when someone comes and says, “The Messiah has come and the law is off the table, that’s different from what Jesus is saying here. He had to fulfill everything. For example the circumcision of the flesh in Genesis 17 . Only a man who is circumcised is a full man. The other is not perfect. Something is missing. The word “circumcised” has also been used to mean someone who is good at something.
When God called Moses, Moses said why he couldn’t, and God should look for someone else. One reason is that he is uncircumcised in speech. He’s not good at speaking.
So if a person is circumcised he is perfect, if uncircumcised he is false. In the Old Testament this was so serious that if a boy was not circumcised by the 8th day or later, he was to be cut off from his people.
You notice that at a point where God called Moses and he is on his way to rescue Israel from Egypt. But then God meets him on the way to kill him.
One wonders what is happening here? That doesn’t fit, what’s going on here? If Moses is to lead Israel out of Egypt, why does God want to kill him now? The problem was, he had two sons who were never circumcised. Zipporah , his wife noticed this and performed the circumcision quickly ( Exodus 4:25 ) and so God did not kill Moses.
The importance of circumcision was so great that a large part of the young church thought that the Gentiles needed to be circumcised ( Acts 15 ). But then God makes it clear that this is not necessary. Why? Because circumcision is a silhouette. We are uncircumcised, imperfect, so to speak, incapable, but circumcised in heart, born again, baptized with the Holy Spirit, sealed with the Holy Spirit, we are human beings who can enter the kingdom of heaven. This is now a silhouette and you can go through the other images like this, such as the animal sacrifices. We don’t do that anymore today. No Christian today sacrifices any animal in a religious context. Why not? That would mean that the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ is not enough. That would be heresy, a totally false doctrine.
We find that Jesus’ fulfillment of the law involved a change in the law, meaning that the practice of the law changed. We as Gentile Christians do not have to perform circumcision. The Jews have continued to keep this as part of their walk with God. We celebrate Passover and Pentecost, but think of Easter and Pentecost. The content is different. When Israel celebrates Passover, it thinks of deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
What we celebrate as Pentecost was the gift of the 10 commandments. So many things correspond in silhouette. So also the cleaning laws, what we are allowed to eat and what not. With this, for example, Jesus challenged the Pharisees. He said:
“ There is nothing that goes into man from without that can make him unclean; but what comes out of man is what defiles man. “( Mark 7:15-16 )
If one doesn’t wash his hands before eating, that doesn’t make him unclean, no, the problem is man’s heart, and that brings us back to the subject of circumcision of the heart.
When a man is transformed from the very core of his heart and the Spirit of God makes him one who loves God with all his heart, soul, and mind with all his might, he may as well eat a big, fat pork steak. It doesn’t make him unclean. That is Acts 10. And so God has shown in various places that, because Christ has fulfilled all purity, which was only meant to be shadowy, physical, we no longer need all that ( Hebrews 9 ). For us, these are outdated purity regulations.
We redeemed the heart. We become pure at heart. We are transformed. The temple of God is no longer of stone and does not stand in a particular place in this world for the new covenant people, but the new covenant people themselves are the temple of God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16 ).
Insofar as Christ has filled these images, we no longer need all this, on the contrary: if we were to do all this, we would be denying Christ, would have fallen from grace and Christ would not be of any use to us ( Galatians 5:2 ).
However, the principles of the law continue to apply. We need to be clean, we need the temple, we need the circumcision of the heart. Without the circumcision of the heart there is no paradise. No one goes to heaven without all of that.
The law showed us the shadows, and at that time you could only stick to the shadows because Christ had not yet died, but it still applies: There is no salvation without sacrifice!
We celebrate communion, yes we need it. Jesus says: this cup is the New Testament in my blood: shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. Without this blood there is no salvation.
We are part of one body and are therefore one church, one body of Christ. This corresponds exactly to the thought in the Old Testament that everyone in the temple at the table of the Lord is one community, one people. This is repeated here on another level for us.
Jesus fulfills the law and the prophets for us
2. Jesus offers and commands God’s righteousness.
1. Jesus offers God’s righteousness. (Matthew 26:28)
2. Insofar as the double commandment of love combines law and prophets (Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus Christ commands this righteousness to all people. (5:20)
Jesus Christ offers God’s righteousness. Justice is needed, and because that is so important, I read from the sacrament :
26 When they were eating, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you; 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Where otherwise the Passover lamb was eaten and the wine was drunk, Jesus inserts two parts here: the unleavened bread of the Passover celebration is his body, and he knows he will die, the wine is his blood. The disciples later understood that he meant it prophetically.
If Jesus offers that and I eat and drink that, then it becomes part of my life. Then the righteousness that was created through Jesus’ death on the cross has become my righteousness.
If you ask yourself: “Who is Jesus of Nazareth: He is the Messiah, He is the Son of God, He is the King. When I eat and drink it, figuratively speaking ( Galatians 3 ), when I put it on like a garment, what does God see when he sees me? He sees his son, he sees one who has never sinned in thought, in word, or in deed. He gives me a justice I could never get myself.
The sacrament is a glorious sacred ordinance that symbolically brings to us what you can never accomplish and that you now stand before God as a little king next to the great king.
He offers God’s righteousness, that’s why a Matthew ( chap. 9 ) can say to the one man, the paralytic, the paralyzed: be of good cheer my son, your sins are forgiven.
In doing so, he causes a scandal. All the important people, the scribes and Pharisees all thought: blasphemy! How can a person forgive sins? Nobody, no human being can forgive sins! Only God can do that. And then Jesus says, “Now which is easier, to say your sins are forgiven or to say get up, take your bed and go home?” Both are of course impossible for you and me, but for Jesus both are possible. And so he says to the paralyzed man: “But so that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins – he said to the paralyzed man: Get up, get up your bed and go home!” And the man who was paralyzed from birth gets up, takes his bed and goes!
It was a shock to the whole congregation and they praised and thanked God that God actually gave the people this authority. We still apply this today as a congregation in the name of Jesus. When a person believes in the name of Jesus and confesses their sins, we may speak to them in Jesus’ name: “Your sins are forgiven.”
Insofar as the double commandment of love combines law and prophets, he still commands this today.
In Matthew 22 Jesus is asked: what is the greatest commandment? And then he quotes: “Hear Israel, the Lord your God is one God and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” This is the first and most important commandment and the other is the same : “You shall love your next like yourself”. These are both commandments from the Torah and he says: like the door on its hinge, the whole law depends on these two commandments.
One can look at all the commandments: it is always about love for God and love for one’s neighbor and as far as the Torah teaches it has never been abolished. If someone had the idea of entering the kingdom of heaven without Jesus Christ, by fulfilling the law, the standard they would have to meet would be just this: Love for God and neighbor with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength! Whoever manages to do this, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, day and night in thought, word and deed, can go to paradise. I wish you the best of luck with this attempt!
However, we must not wipe it off the table and so Jesus continues to preach in this Sermon on the Mount. He goes through certain things, takes certain commandments and says: “You have heard what was said… but I tell you” The “but I tell you” then does not mean something completely different, but it means: I interpret it like this , that means.. according to what I tell you here as God’s authorized representative, this includes this and that. In these sections he never says: That’s off the table, but he affirms it every time and then also says: Whoever dissolves that is then small in heaven.
Christ warns us not to break or despise God’s commandments. (Matthew 5:17-20)
If I dissolve anything in the Scriptures, even though I know it’s valid and I don’t do it in my life and teach other people to do the same, then I’m very small in the kingdom of heaven. I’m still here, but I’ve been demoted. Some who were huge in this world, who were considered very great preachers, will be very small in the kingdom of heaven. Why? Because they treated parts of the Scriptures that way. We will be amazed what happens there. But if he does and teaches that, then he will be great even if he has seemingly failed in this world as a servant of God and has not brought much fruit. That is, Christ warns us to despise Scripture, and that’s the Old Testament he’s talking about, and you can add Matthew 24 to that: heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. There we have the whole Bible: The Old Testament, which speaks of him and the New Testament, which contains his words which were written down by him and the writings of the apostles which he taught and who brought it.
Let us take to heart that we love Scripture. The scribes and Pharisees spoken of here, he says of them: Their righteousness is not enough! A key point was hypocrisy. They have taught certain things but have not done them themselves. They have placed great burdens on people’s backs, but have not touched them with the smallest finger.
It’s different with Jesus. He teaches tough ethics: Matthew 5 at the end: Therefore you should be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. You can’t top that anymore. But so that we can do that, he dies for us on the cross, pours out the Holy Spirit, baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire and gives us his love that burns and glorifies him and gives us communion. Again and again when we’ve failed, we can come to Him and say, “Lord, I need you, I need your body, I need your blood, I need your forgiveness. I need your presence in my life. And Lord, I thank you for that and adore you.”