“Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:17-20, ASV)
This passage is part of a larger sermon known as the Sermon on the Mount, which Jesus delivered to His disciples and a large crowd. In these verses, Jesus is explaining His relationship to Biblical Law and the Prophets. Jesus starts by saying that He did not come to do away with the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them. This means that He came to bring the true meaning and purpose of the Law to completion. He emphasizes that not even the smallest detail of Jehovah’s Law, symbolized by the terms “jot” and “tittle” (referring to the smallest Hebrew letters and diacritical marks), will pass away until everything is accomplished. Mt Sinai pointed to the Cross, and the Cross points back to Mt Sinai.
Jesus gives us a stern warning against breaking even the least of the Commandments and teaching others to do the same. He says that those who do so will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, those who both follow the Commandments and teach others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus then makes it clear that the righteousness of His followers must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, who were considered experts in the Law. True righteousness involves more than just outward observance of God’s Law; it requires a genuine transformation of the heart and a deeper understanding of God’s intentions.
In essence, Jesus is affirming the enduring importance of the Law and the Prophets while also calling for a higher standard of righteousness that goes beyond mere external adherence to the Commandments. He came to fulfill the Law by revealing its true intent and bringing about a deeper understanding of God’s Kingdom.