“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Graduation ceremonies from high school or college are a way of declaring and celebrating that it is that institution’s determination that these individuals have completed all of the requirements essential for graduation. Matthew 5:17 comes from what is probably Jesus’ best known sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. In this message, Jesus makes an astonishing declaration: He proclaimed that He was the fulfillment of the Law of God. Jesus’ relationship to the Law was that of fulfillment. Where we lacked, He fulfilled—and this gives cause for eternal celebration.

Jesus’ use of “the Law or the Prophets” referred to two key sections of the Old Testament. During His ministry, Jesus was accused of preaching a new religion because His teaching often contradicted the common beliefs of His day. In this passage, Jesus debunked the myth that His teaching contradicted the Old Testament. His goals were to teach them the underlying principles behind God’s rules and to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah.

Knowing that Jesus has no desire to do away with the Law can make it hard to understand where grace fits in. Throughout church history, people have argued that if Jesus fulfilled the Law by keeping it perfectly and paying its penalty on our behalf, then the Law must be pointless for Christians. But Jesus was clear that He wasn’t removing the standard of morality God had set (v. 19). Instead, understanding that Jesus has fulfilled the law on our behalf, we walk in the freedom of obedience that grace affords.

• Place yourself in the crowd on the day of Jesus’ sermon. What did the phrase “the Law,” or even “the Law and the Prophets,” mean to them?

• How has Jesus Himself fulfilled the Law in your own life?

• Thank Jesus that He came and fulfilled all that was required of the Law. Thank Him for being your sacrifice. Ask Him to help you live abundantly in His grace, today and in the days ahead.