Tag Archives: Fulfillment

Fulfilled: Easter Sunday

Read Isaiah 53:7-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.” (Daniel‬ ‭7:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

 Easter Sunday. He is risen! In Isaiah 53:7-12, the prophet talks about God’s suffering servant. He mentions that the holy sufferer will see what was accomplished as a result of his suffering and be satisified. The sufferer will know that the suffering had not been in vain; rather, he sees that his suffering has brought redemption to many. Many, as a result of him bearing the sins of the world, will find salvation.

Isaiah continued on to proclaim, “I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels” (vs. 12). Thus, the suffering servant suffered death but was honored like a victorious soldier. Isaiah, when writing this, may have seen himself as the suffering servant. He may have seen Israel as a whole as the suffering servant, and that Israel was bearing witness of their faith in God to a hostile world.

The neat thing about prophecy is that that, regardless of the original context, a prophecy comes from God and the visions revealed in them prove themselves true in ways we could have never expected. Even if Isaiah had Israel in mind as the suffering servant, the way this prophecy got fulfilled in Jesus Christ is beyond human comprehension. It is the power of God on full display for all the world! Surely, Jesus came from Israel and through Jesus (the righteous suffering servant), many found redemption from their sins. How awesome is our God!

Daniel also prophesied about the Son of Man, and the glorious victory he would have over the sinful world. In verse 17, he enters onto the scene in glory, in the very presence of the living God. Furthermore, in verse 26, Daniel wrote, “Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will last forever, and all rulers will serve and obey him” (Daniel‬ ‭7:27‬ ‭NLT‬‬). In other words, the Son of Man (aka Jesus Christ) has established God’s Kingdom on earth and that all the kindoms of the earth will be given over to God’s people who serve and obey the soveriegn God.

Daniel’s verse is often seen as a prophecy for the future, for the second coming of Christ. While the future has yet to be revealed, it certainly makes sense being that the world has yet to be fully delivered from sin and evil. It is easy to understand that this prophecy could still have more unveiling to do; however, prophecy is the gift that keeps on giving and, while more may be fulfilled in this prophecy, it is also true that it has already seen fulfillment in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Let me explain. Forty days after resurrecting and showing himself to countless people, Jesus ascends (coming on the clouds) into heaven and is “led into [the] presence “of the “Ancient One”. What happened from there? Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, which outpoured onto the disciples, filling them with God’s Spirit and power. From the day of Pentecost and onward, the disciples healed the sick, took care of the poor, visited the imprisoned, raised the dead to life and preached the Good News of Jesus Christ to all of the known world. Within 400 short years, this little sect of Judaism overtook the Roman Empire, the very empire that executed Jesus and his followers. Holy wow!!! Think about that. The impossible was made possible as a result of Jesus’ resurrection! Praise God!

Certainly, the resurrection was not the end of the story, but the beginning of it. Christians, being human beings, have fallen short and have sometimes put the institution of Christianity above Christ; however, Christ is still unfolding the salvation, redemption and sancitification of this world. What’s more, we are a part of that unfolding! We are a part of the story. We are the ones who, if we are faithful, will do even greater things than that of the disciples if we would only open our hearts to the possibility and to the call. With that said, happy Easter! He is risen! Now, rise up and preach the good news of Jesus Christ to all the world!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

He is risen and you can rise with him!

PRAYER

Lord, you have redeemed me and I choose to live the RESURRECTED LIFE in you! Amen.

The Sermon, part 5: Higher Standard

Read Matthew 5:20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For Christ is the [purpose] of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4 NRSV)

Jesus had just told his disciples that he did not come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets; rather, Jesus had come to be the fulfillment of them. As was mentioned in the previous devotion, this does not mean that Jesus fulfillls the law by any sort of legalistic way. His teachings neither summarize the Law, nor do they offer a “new interpretation” of the it. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets because they point directly to him, the Messiah, and his coming to usher in God’s reign.

Jesus then takes that one step forward, just in case anyone may have thought that the Torah and the Prophets were now “history”. Such a willy-nilly approach to understanding Christ’s prophetic fulfillment of Scripture is even more unacceptable than that of the hypocrisy of some of the Pharisees. “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

An important historical side note needs to be entered here. It can be said with much certainty that there were Pharisees in Jesus’ day; however, they were not as prominent of a group as they were in the time that Matthew was writing his Gospel. It is quite probable that Jesus did face opposition from some Pharisees as he traveled town to town with his message of God’s Kingdom come; yet, there can be no doubt that Matthew’s community was the one truly facing opposition from the Pharisees.

The reason for noting this is because in Jesus’ day, the group that was really in power were the Sadducees who controlled and presided over the Temple. They were the ones that made up the majority of the Sanhedrin, at least at the time of Jesus, which was the ruling religious body of Judea. What’s more, the Sadducees and the Pharisees were opponents of each other. This can be seen in Paul’s craftily pitting the Pharisees against the Sadducees in Acts 23:6-8.

In Matthew’s day, however, the Temple was long destroyed and the Sadducees were not more. It was the Pharisees, at that point in history, who were working to redefine what it meant to be Jewish without a Temple to make sacrifices for the atonement of sins. Their answer was strict observance of the Law, with the understanding that if you strictly observe Torah, that equals an atoning sacrifice greater than the slaughter of animals. Matthew’s community, on the other hand, believed Jesus to be the answer to the question of how to be Jewish apart from the Temple. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection not only provided atonement for the believer, they were the ultimate fulfillment of God’s Law and the Prophets.

I note this because it is important that we don’t become false judges of the Pharisees as a group. I would imagine that most Pharisees were earnest, faithful people who were living out their call to follow God in the way that they understood that. Jesus’ teachings, while certainly calling out the hypocrisy of some of the religious leaders of his day, were pointed straight at the disciples. It was imperative to Jesus that his disciples realize that in order to be of the Kingdom of God, they have to exceed the “righteousness” being taught by the Pharisees. In other words, God has a higher standard.

As we will see in the next several devotions, Jesus lays out what he believes to be the true standard of God in the Law and the Prophets. In the meantime, let us reflect on the following warning that Jesus gives his disciples. What does it mean for us to exceed the Law and the Prophets?  What does it mean for us to live our lives in the same manner that Christ lived his, as a fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets? If Christ is within us, then that fulfillment should be evident. Let us reflect on these questions as we await what Christ has to teach us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” – Billy Graham

PRAYER
Lord, teach me your way that I may, through you, represent your coming Kingdom. Amen.

The Sermon, part 4: Law or Prophets

Read Matthew 5:17-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“‘But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,’ says the LORD. ‘I will put My instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.’” (Jeremiah 31:33 NLT)

p1010002_edited-1Jesus prefaces his sermon with today’s passage and, in fact, the whole of Jesus’ message regarding the Law in the Sermon on the Mount is book-ended between Matthew 5:17 and 7:12. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” This text has often been glossed over, underwritten, and overstated by various different people trying to make sense about what Jesus is actually teaching.

It is important to note that Matthew’s Jesus sets up his teachings on the law with this statement. Historically speaking, Matthew’s community was following a much adjusted version of Judaism that, to many traditional Jews, didn’t seem a whole lot like Judaism. Even within the church, there was a major disagreement on what it meant to be a follower of Jesus, who was historically a Jewish rabbi. Can anyone follow Jesus and do they have to submit to and follow the Jewish law if they truly want to be one of Jesus’ followers?

Matthew’s community had to defend itself from claims that they were abandoning the ways and laws of Judaism. What’s more, Matthew and his community were mostly Greek-speaking diaspora Jewish Christians who lived in Syria, possibly in and around Antioch. With that historical context in mind, it makes perfect sense that Matthew includes Jesus beginning his Sermon in this Way. Jesus was Jewish and Jesus did not come to abolish or ignore the Law, the Torah, of God as given to Moses.

Yet, as mentioned above, this is only a preface to Jesus’ teaching on the law. Jesus neither denies or delegitimizes the Law, nor does he affirm the status quo. Instead, as we’ll see in upcoming devotions, Jesus shows that he is the fulfillment of the Law. He is not a fullfillment in the sense that Jesus did everything required by the Law without breaking it. It is quite clear in Matthew and the other Gospels that Jesus did break the Law (at least as it was understood by religious leaders his time period).
Jesus does not fulfill the Law in the sense that he provides a new interpretation of it, nor are his teachings a mere summary of the Laws in the Torah. Before I get into how Jesus claims he is the fulfillment of the Law, it is also important to note that Jesus says he not only fulfills the Laws but the prophets. Why the prophets? Because Jesus views both the Torah and the prophets (Joshua-2 Kings and Isaiah-Malachi) as being wholly prophetic and pointing to the end-time fulfillment of God’s reigning Kingdom.

In other words, the Torah (Law) and the prophets point to the coming of the Messiah who was to usher in the Kingdom of God. Jesus, in essence, prefaces his teachings on the Law with this claim: “I have come as a fulfillment of the eschatological promise found in the Law and the Prophets.” Another way that this could be expressed is, “The Law and the Prophets point to me!” Jesus’ use of the phrase, “I have come” (vs. 17) presumes that Jesus had come from and was sent by God.

Then, Matthew’s Jesus follows this up with a word to those Greek/Gentile Christians in his community who believed the Law was irrelevant and were lending credence to the argument of the Matthean community’s opponents that Christians disregarded the Torah. Jesus makes it clear, every commandment remains important. Witht that said, Matthew does not exclude those who hold this view from the Kingdom of Heaven; rather, they are “the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

While it is important to get the context behind these teachings, it is also equally important not to miss the overall point Jesus is making to all of his disciples, as well as to his opponents. God’s Law and the prophets both point to Jesus, the Christ, as. God’s eschatological (end-times) promise. Dismissing the Law, as well as upholding it as the end unto itself entirely misses the point. Both polar viewpoints are incorrect because they both completely ignore and pass by the very person the Law points to, namely Jesus Christ. To dismiss the Law as useless, is to do dismiss Jesus Christ. To render the Law to some sort of legalistic measure, is to render the fulfillment of that law as impossible. Today’s challenge is to let go of our biases and humble ourselves to place of student at the feet of the One who is God’s Law fulfilled.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“It is not wisdom but Authority that make a law.” – Thomas Hobbes

PRAYER
Lord, humble me that I may learn all that it is you have to teach me. Amen.