[Jesus said,] â€œDon’t suppose that I came to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them, but to give them their full meaning. Heaven and earth may disappear. But I promise you that not even a period or comma will ever disappear from the Law. Everything written in it must happen. If you reject even the least important command in the Law and teach others to do the same, you will be the least important person in the kingdom of heaven. But if you obey and teach others its commands, you will have an important place in the kingdom. You must obey God’s commands better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law obey them. If you don’t, I promise you that you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.â€Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Matthew 5:17-20 (CEV)
When reading a passage of Scripture, I have learned that it is important to first read it in the context of the time it was written. For that, a Bible dictionary, Bible encyclopedia, and concordance are helpful to give me the history and mores of the people. And, if you are blessed like me, you have someone who has spent their life studying Hebrew, Greek, and the ancient Near East and they are glad to share!
The second step in my study is to consider other passages of Scripture that may help me to understand the idea, or spirit, of what Jesus is trying to teach. What is the principle Jesus is teaching that transcends all time? I look at this Scripture about Godâ€™s Law and ask the Holy Spirit to teach me.
The Pharisees and Scribes were educated in the Law. That is, they were taught by other Pharisees and Scribes their interpretation of the Law. In another passage, Jesus says this,
He said, “Yes, and I can be even more explicit. You’re hopeless, you religion scholars! You load people down with rules and regulations, nearly breaking their backs, but never lift even a finger to help.â€Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Luke 11:46 (The Message)
Jesus is telling the people on that hillside and me that I need to obey Godâ€™s Law better than the so-called experts. I need to obey, not to glorify myself or condemn someone else, but because I love Him. Jesus came to earth as the perfect atonement for my sins and the perfect example of how to live my life. He tells me it isnâ€™t about keeping the rules and regulations set down by the church leadership for their own gain, it is about helping people to grow in their relationship with God. Godâ€™s love and blessings are for all His children. No one child is loved more than another. God loves. Period. It is growing in a relationship with God that means more than rivers of oils or herds of sacrificed rams (Micah 6:6-8). The Pharisees and Scribes just didnâ€™t â€œget itâ€.
Jesus expands in the verses to come as He takes some of the Laws and tells us about â€œtheir full meaningâ€. Jesus said that He came so we would have a â€œfull lifeâ€ (John 10:10). We grow into this God-desired full life as we learn the full meaning of God and His Laws.