Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:17-20, Psalm 40:6-8, Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:8, Matthew 11:28-30, John 14:23-26
When I was sixteen, I was not the sixteen of the movies. I expected that I would go to lots of parties and laugh with lots of boys. Instead, I did Bible quizzing. Do you know what this is? It’s amazing and intense. You basically memorize a book of the Bible and then meet up with other church kids and answer questions. There were even special seats that could sense when you stood up, since we were so quick to answer and the human eye could never have accurately detected who was the first up to “Complete the following verse: ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish…’”
In a flash I was up, “ThelawortheProphetsIhavenotcometoabolishthembuttofulfillthem!!!”
The year I quizzed, we memorized the book of Matthew. I was “Captain Bible Quizzing Nerd Pants.” I wish I had the motivation to memorize Scripture with the tenacity I did when I was sixteen. Back then I threw all my teenage energy into bookish and nerdy pursuits.
This is why the book of Matthew rings with the fervor of sixteen-year-old adrenaline for me. The whole book seemed SO IMPORTANT back then. This passage reminds me that the whole of Scripture is important: not just the parts we obsessed over as teenagers, not just the parts we like, and not just the racy bits in Song of Solomon.
Christ fulfills the whole of Scripture.
Some Jews, weary under the weight of the law, might have wished that Christ would totally abolish it. They, like me, might have wished they could just be free of the law to live as they liked. But the law of the Old Testament provides boundaries and a structure upon which to hang the grace Christ offers in the New Testament.
Imagine a playground high on a mountain. Now, try to stay calm, watching the kids climbing and swinging from up above. I know I would keep all my babies as close as possible, not letting them run because of my fear they would fall. Now imagine this mountain playground is surrounded by a sturdy fence. Suddenly there is freedom to play! The boundary gives freedom.
This is what Christ is saying: the law is excellent, and He fulfills it. If the law is a glass of water, Christ doesn’t pour it out, He fills it up for us. He doesn’t make the law void; He stamps it paid in full!
On the other hand, the Jews believed that anything belonging to God should be preserved—even the least of the commandments, which incidentally, they reckoned was found in Deuteronomy 22:6-7: If you find a bird’s nest, you can take the baby birds, but leave the mother bird (my paraphrase). These jots and tittles—they were the bread and butter of the Pharisees, the Super Law Followers.
But Christ does something truly amazing. He calls us to repent of both our sins AND our righteousness. Our “goodness” is not good enough, our righteousness is not righteous enough. Only Christ’s redemption is enough. The Pharisees obeyed the outside of the law, but we are called to obey the inside of the law, the truth, heart, and substance behind it. So go ahead and pay your tithe, but give God your heart.
It’s only when we realize that even our righteousness isn’t enough, that we can repent and trust ourselves to the righteousness of Christ.