Sitting here with the darkness of load-shedding surrounding me, I contemplate:
“Thank you Lord that you have not only promised you will be here to meet me – but that you were here first and have actually invited me to come and join you. Thank you Lord that your promise, “If you seek me you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart”, came true for me many years ago – You did not force me into a relationship, you wooed me like a lover. Then you lavished me with your grace – i.e. Yourself, whom John described as Grace upon Grace (John 1:14b) – you gave me Yourself. Like a huge light up in the heavens you lit up and changed my life – dispelling darkness and bringing light and hope into the darkest places. Yes, as I set out on the path to follow You I discovered what it meant to take up my cross – often experiencing rejection because of You but also because of just living in a fallen world. And so I meet with You this morning against the backdrop of load shedding and so much evil and negativity in a world trying to make it on its own, but secure in the knowledge that You make all things work together for the good of those who love You and are called by Your name – and the promise that nothing can separate me from your love!”
Back to Matthew ch 4, as Jesus moves to Galilee, He starts His public ministry. His main activity and purpose is revealed in 4:17. “He began to preach, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near'”. We are shown His authority as He calls men and they simply follow Him. As He preaches, He is also busy healing the sick and driving out demons. This activity has often been explained as a demonstration of His compassion. However there is more to it, with the theme “Who is this man?” in mind. His healings demonstrated His unique, supernatural power and they are also a sign of His purpose and power showing the first steps in His mission of reversing the curse, which underlies all sickness.
The “Sermon on the Mount”, in the next 3 chapters expands His message and reveals what it means to be part of the Kingdom He is calling the people to repent and join, as it were.
There is plenty of food in this section, but as this is not intended to be a detailed commentary, I will move to my reading of today: 5:17-20. Here again He is emphasizing the theme of “fulfilment”. We have seen this word used several times up to now eg 3:15, 4:14 and now in 5:17. Understand clearly, He is not setting aside the law but fulfilling it. What does that mean?
The purpose of the whole of the Old Testament (“law and the prophets”) is to prepare the world for the coming of God’s Messiah, which would be the tipping point of history. The sacrificial and ceremonial laws were giving understanding to Jesus’ mission. They were there to help us understand what His role would be in restoring our relationship with his Father. He fulfilled both the role of high priest as well as the sacrifice and we can only truly understand that in the light of the OT. However since He has come, He has opened the way through His death on the cross, so these are no longer relevant. The Sabbath pointed to the ultimate rest He is offering everyone whom He invites to come to Him (Matt 11:28). The weary and the burdened.
On the other hand He has given a deeper and wider understanding of the moral law. It was never intended to be just a minimal, legalistic obedience to the letter of the law, but that is what it became for most people and still is today for many. Instead we will see Him explaining in the next vv that the law can only be truly obeyed if the heart is changed – “repent“. Hence adultery does not happen when the physical act starts, it starts with the lustful thoughts, long before that. Ultimately the change of heart that’s necessary to truly live this life, is at the center of the work of regeneration when we receive the Holy Spirit. We see it beautifully summarized in Gal 5:14, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'” This is what was meant when the New Covenant was announced “I will write the law on their hearts”. Jer 1:33.
I hear the words gasped out but clearly heard on the cross, “It is finished!” ‘Tetelestai’ – it has been accomplished, He has completed His mission of fulfilling what the OT was looking forward to.
I am overcome with joy. This ‘One”, the most important figure in history, has actually desired a relationship and a quiet moment with me. I am totally humbled. It is not necessary to find a ‘humble and contrite spirit’ (Isaiah 66:2b), His presence and His love washes over me in waves of joy, that darkness, no matter how deep could ever hide. I am humbled and overawed.