In the last post we covered Matthew chapter 5, verses 1-16, so we will pick up in this post with verse 17 and cover through verse 20. To recap part 1, we saw that Yeshua was bringing the attributes of the Kingdom of God, or rather, the attributes of the people of God that had already been portrayed throughout the Tenakh to the forefront of His listeners minds. He knew that they were already familiar with the scriptures to one degree or another, and they would easily equate the attributes that Yeshua covered (the poor in spirit, the meek, those that mourn, etc.) with the appropriate sections of scripture. It would also serve to set the standard for the rest of His teaching, as He would be countering the prevailing interpretations of His day with that of His own. He wanted the mind/heart attitudes of the people to be primed for His teaching by causing them to "zakar" ("remember" by way of bringing a known element to the forefront of the mind) those same attitudes/attributes from the scriptures.
So now, as Yeshua is about to go into His teaching, He sets a caveat right at the beginning: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets...." This particular statement (and really, verses 17-20) has seen much debate, and varied interpretations. Some have sought to demonstrate that Yeshua came to do the very thing that He just said He came NOT to do - to destroy the law (usually by saying that He "fulfilled" the law so that it no longer need be observed or obeyed,or that He replaced it with the "law of Christ"). They point out that Yeshua said that He came to "fulfill" the law, and so now that it has been fulfilled, it is no longer relevant to our lives. But Yeshua contrasted His purpose of "fulfilling" the law with what He did not come to do -destroy it! So, to fulfill it cannot mean to do anything that would diminish it, or remove it's validity in the lives of God's people. To "fulfill" means to accomplish, as well as, to interpret correctly. To "destroy" is to disfigure, mis-interpret, and mis-apply it. Satan's temptation of Yeshua in the wilderness was a good example of "destroying" the "law". He quoted from it (from Psalm 90), but he misapplied it in an attempt to get Yeshua to "test" God. Satan was far more subtle here with the Son of Man than he was with Eve when He outright denied the outcome of what God had said. Yeshua did not come to remove, diminish, or mi-interpret the Tenakh in any way.
When Yeshua said that He came to "fulfill" the law, He intended to "fill full" the law with it's intended sense, heart and meaning. Isaiah 42:21 says "The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness sake; He will magnify the law and make it honorable." This is exactly what Yeshua meant when He said that He came to "fulfill" the law. We see also that He did not intend to give us a "higher" law to the negation of the law of Moses because He said "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven." It is clear by verses 19-20 that Yeshua expected His followers to obey the law. The rest of His teaching is meant to show how to do it God's way. He was about to challenge the prevailing interpretations of His day, and hence, verses 17-20 are His declaration to the people that, rather than coming to destroy the law, He was about to bring it to it's fullest clarity.
So, Yeshua has now brought to the forefront of our minds the heart attitude that should be characteristic of God's people - the characteristics that had been given throughout the Tenakh, and now drawn out and presented to the people by Yeshua. He then reminded them that the people of God should be clearly visible to all by the attitude of their heart, demonstrated through their actions. He then prepared them to receive the pure teaching of the Torah (law), which had been bent out of shape, so-to-speak, by the prevailing interpretations of the teachers of Israel.
In the next post we will begin to get into the specific teachings and interpretations of the Torah by Yeshua. Until then, may the LORD bless and keep you.