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Last week, here on _A Blessed Journey_, we learned how the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament or Mosaic Covenant as He claimed to have done throughout His ministry. As I shared with you in last week’s blog post, the answer is somewhat complex but not at all impossible to understand. As Christians, we are commanded to read the Old Testament and are allowed to benefit from it, but we do not look at the Hebrew Scriptures as final. We honor the Old Testament as the Word of God, just as Jesus does, but we read it ultimately through the _vision_ of Jesus and the Holy Spirit inspired authors of the New Testament books and epistles. We explored the historical context of this perspective and so this week, we will consider the literary context of Jesus as promise to fulfillment. _Literary context_ The literary context of this issue of promise to fulfillment is actually divided into two parts: the entire Gospel of Matthew and the smaller section called the Sermon on the Mount. The entire Gospel of Matthew is laid out in narrative or story form. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, various parts of the Gospel interact with others. No part of the Gospel is an arbitrary collection of sayings and events, but the authors inspired by the Holy Spirit designed them to deliberately flow together, with a plot as it were, from beginning to end. The Gospel story begins with the birth of Jesus Christ, continues with His three-year ministry on earth and ends climactically with His death and resurrection. Throughout His life, Jesus gradually and subtly revealed His priority and authority over the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament but He accomplished this without ever diluting or destroying them. Consequently, Matt 5:17-20, our target verses, must be read in this larger context because Jesus fulfills the Old Testament through this divine story and He is still fulfilling it today. As we all know, Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount to His disciples on a mountainside. He laid out the ethics and proper conduct for members of God’s kingdom by referring to the legalistic and oral traditions of the Old Testament such as when He said “_You disciples have heard from long ago…but I say to you.”_ This means that Jesus was reinterpreting the tradition of the elders or the Torah itself. This is how you and I as Christians today can read the Old Testament, through the vision of Jesus. Sticking with our target passage in Matt 5:17-20, we can see the contrast in Matt 5:21-48 when Jesus explains that He did not come to destroy the sacred Old Testament, but to fulfill it in a variety of ways. In essence, we must view Matt 5:17-20 in light of the entire Gospel of Matthew, in three stages: 1.  It should be recalled that near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 5:18 states that the Old Testament shall not pass away until heaven and earth do and until _“all things be accomplished.”_ At the end of the Sermon, Jesus shifts attention away from the oral traditions of the Old Testament towards His own words—but again, without destroying the validity of the Old Testament. His last words in the Sermon show the shift,_“Every one therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man who builds his house upon the rock and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and bear upon that house, and it felt not, for it was founded upon the rock. And every one that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand” _(Matt 7:24-26). Here, Jesus has revealed to His disciples and all who were present at the Sermon that He was beginning to take priority over all the words that had been uttered in sacred tradition and texts. 2.  Again, here at the beginning of His ministry, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that the Old Testament shall not pass away until heaven and earth do and until _“all things are accomplished.” _At the end of His ministry, He makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem where God has ordained that Jesus would die. He predicts the terrible events that will happen just before the Last Day (Matt 24:1-35). He emphasizes the certainty of His predictions with words that reflect those in Matt 5:18 and His words have a universal aspect that rises above the long discourse on the Last Days, “_Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away_”_ (_Matt 24:35). The difference between Matt 5:18 and Matt 24:35, while subtle, are extremely important. Matt 5:18 places time restrictions on the Old Testament. Its words shall not pass away until heaven and earth do and until _“all is accomplished”_ while Matt 24:35 says that Jesus’ words will _never_ pass away. This places no time restrictions on His words. His words subtly and quietly take authority over previous Old Testament sacred texts. 3.  The final stage of understanding the concept of promise to fulfillment as manifested by Jesus within the _literary_ context of the Sermon on the Mount actually is driven by two events that take place sometime after the Sermon—the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of these two unified events in terms of His fulfillment of the Old Testament. Through His death and resurrection, He is the One who ushers in this fulfillment. It  is my hope and prayer that by now, you understand and believe that after His death and resurrection, His mission is complete and final. He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth and before He ascends into Heaven, He instructs His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then He instructs His disciples which words to use to accomplish this: _“[Teach] them to observe all things whatsoever I command you and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”_ This revelation to the disciples regarding Jesus’ authority is now complete. Jesus commands His disciples to teach all nations His words first and foremost. He does NOT, however, destroy the Old Testament—far from it. His followers are encouraged and commanded to read it. But we all know and accept that Jesus’ words take priority in our lives as Christians. The disciples read the Old Testament through Christ’s words as well as the rest of the New Testament. Someone once said, “The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.” These three stages should not be misinterpreted. It is not as if Jesus grows in His authority. He always had it. Rather, He reveals his authority gradually. As He walked among us, that was His way. He never boasted to the world about His true nature as the Son of God and while He accepted the popular (but wholly inadequate) titles of Prophet, Teacher or Rabbi, but to His inner circle and even sometimes to those on the outside, He revealed His true status as the Son of God (Matt 16:15-20 and 26:63-64). Ultimately, these three stages describe a process in which Jesus is unfolding God’s plan of salvation to the world, and He does this gradually. But now, we must return to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, when He first discussed the Old Testament in terms that His disciples could understand. The Old Covenant is in full force during the Sermon on the Mount and He moves gradually to shift everyone’s attention to the New Covenant. More on this next week… Originally posted at: https://emaeus.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/promise-to- fulfillment-part-two/

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1 Sarah R = "Part I can be read here: https://www.deily.org/text/promise-to-fulfillment-part-iAlso Part III:https://www.deily.org/text/promise-to-fulfillment-part-iii"
2 Sarah R = "If Jesus were a mere man making these claims, He would have fulfilled a different type of Old Testament verses - those that warned of false prophets. However, since we believe Jesus' claims to be God, the author of the law and of life itself, and believe that Jesus is the "Word made flesh" (John 1), He had every right and authority to say what He said."
3 Sarah R = "I feel like God has a progressive revelation in my life as well. He shows me little by little the plans He has for me. I think sometimes that if He were to lay out a map showing me the entire course of my life and all the things that would happen I would be completely overwhelmed. God in His great mercy knows how much we can handle at one time."