by Fr. Tommy Lane
There was an expectation in Judaism that when the Messiah would come things would happen. Some of these expectations are recorded in the Old Testament, especially by the prophets, but some are also recorded in extra-biblical Jewish writings. It was said that there would be a new gift of manna from heaven when the Messiah would come. In the Apocalypse of Baruch (29:8) we read, “the treasury of manna shall again descend from on high, and they will eat of it in those years.” Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish but in John 6:30 not long after the multiplication miracle the people asked Jesus for a sign that they might believe him. There was also an expectation that God would give a new law by means of the Messiah (Yalkut Shimeoni 2.296). This is precisely what we see Jesus doing in Matt 5 as he places emphasis on what is in our heart and not just externals. Jesus practices the new law in his healing miracles on the Sabbath, but so often the scribes and Pharisees grumbled about Jesus. They misunderstood Jesus. They were expecting the Messiah, and if they had been open they would have seen that Jesus fulfilled the expectations of Judaism, but they wanted their expectations fulfilled in their way, not God’s way, and so they missed the coming of the Messiah.
If the Jewish leaders had been open they would have seen, as we heard in the Gospel today (Matt 5:17-19), that Jesus did not come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill the law and prophets, to fulfill them by completing and perfecting them. Jesus came to raise the law and prophets to a new level. Jesus fulfilled the law by transforming it and elevating it. Elsewhere in the New Testament we see that new level that Jesus intended. Jesus said during the Last Supper in John, “I give you a new commandment: love one another…” (John 13:34) Jesus’ last words on the cross in John are, “It is fulfilled.” (John 19:30) These words tell us how Jesus raised the law and prophets to a new level; it was by his death on Calvary. Jesus’ death and resurrection showed an entirely new way of reading the Old Testament. Familiar texts had to be read in a completely new way because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ death and resurrection is now the lens through which to understand everything. Jesus fulfilled the law and prophets by completing and perfecting them in a way that challenged accepted thinking.
Jesus is also the fulfillment of our lives, the one who can raise our lives to a new level. Jesus is the one who can transform our lives by elevating them. Jesus is the one knocking on the door of our hearts this Lent. Two millennia ago people were waiting for the Messiah but most of them missed him because they wanted a Messiah of their own making. Jesus did not come to abolish the law and prophets but to fulfill them by completing and perfecting them, and if we are open Jesus comes to us this Lent to complete and perfect us.
© Fr. Tommy Lane 2014
More homilies for Wednesday Week 3 of Lent