Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
The hymn we just sang included the stanza: “The Law is good; but since the Fall/ Its holiness condemns us all; / It dooms us for our sin to die / And has no pow’r to justify.” This is how Matthias Loy, a Lutheran theologian raised not far from here in
So why does Loy say that the Law is good? Because of who gave it. You heard who spoke the Law on Sinai: “And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the
The Author’s nature is seen in the Law He writes. It demands perfection, for He is holy. It demands obedience, for He is the Sovereign Lord. It establishes terms for people, for He has created a new nation from
So the Law is good. But what does it do? Hear the demands and see how you react. Have no other gods. Do not misuse God’s name. Keep the Sabbath holy. Obey parents and others in authority. Harm no one. Keep all your thoughts pure. Take nothing from anyone without payment. Speak no ill of others. Be content with what you have and do not begrudge anyone their property. These commandments are all good. Certainly what they demand would be good and right and salutary. And yet, as these good commandments are heard, they point out where you have not met them. Every time a demand is made, you can know where you did not meet it. These divine statements lead you to say: “Do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”
But hearing Jesus’ words continues that reaction. Hear again what He said: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom.” The demand is unrelenting. It just keeps on coming! It requires what you cannot offer, what you cannot achieve.
“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom.” Jesus follows up that statement with one that is even sharper: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Who meets that sort of standard? Be perfect! And I suppose Jesus would say that any shock or unease at such a statement is a form of imperfection. Matthias Loy was right: “The Law of God is good and wise / And sets His will before our eyes, / Shows us the way of righteousness, / And dooms to death when we transgress.”
But what the Lord God demands and what Jesus declares is fulfilled. Remember what Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Remember Jesus’ criterion for entering the kingdom: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom.” These statements are barriers for you, but they are true descriptions of Him. He comes to meet all those demands that were given on Sinai, every iota, every dot. All is accomplished: not by you, but by the One who is righteous in every thought, word, and deed.
For what Jesus says about the Law and the Prophets is what He does. He does not abolish them, but fulfills them. Think back on the Commandments spoken from Sinai. Jesus takes that list and checks them all off: “I had no other God than My Father. I spoke His Name, so that you could call on Him. I rested on the Sabbath after I died for you. I was obedient to My Father’s will. I did no one any harm, but healed them instead. I had no desire for another, but was faithful to My Bride, the Church, even when she wasn’t. I gave everything, so that you could have it. I bore no false witness against you, calling out your sin where it was seen, but calling you righteous because of My work. I desired nothing but the best for you and did it.”
Jesus is the Fulfiller of the Law and the Prophets. What they prophesied, He accomplished. What they demanded, He did. What they instructed, He followed. But it wasn’t so that He could enter the kingdom. No, it was so you could enter the kingdom that your sinfulness kept you out of. Jesus said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” That is He did for your sake—loving you who were at enmity with God, praying for your gain. It is seen most in the crucifixion, where Jesus prays for those who nail Him to the crossbeam: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” So Jesus prays for you, because He is the Son of the Father who is in heaven.
Receiving Christ’s righteousness, you meet the criteria He sets. You are perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. You are great in the kingdom of heaven. But not because of what you have done. Far from it! But because you are given the righteousness that He has: what Jesus does is counted just as if you had done it yourself. The indictment against you is left, pinned on
So Matthias Loy is also right in his hymn, as you will sing to close tonight’s service: “The Gospel shows the Father’s grace, / Who sent His Son to save our race, / Proclaims how Jesus lived and died / That we might thus be justified.” The Law may condemn and doom, but the Gospel of Christ saves: “It brings the Savior’s righteousness / To robe our souls in royal dress; / From all our guilt it brings release / And gives the troubled conscience peace.” So it is for you.
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.