Not long ago I heard a theologian suggest that Jesus didn’t know He was divine until the Resurrection. He dismissed the many, many Gospel passages that suggest otherwise, saying they were all concocted by believers after the fact. In other words, he thought the New Testament writers were all liars. Of course, I don’t agree.
I thought of him when reading today’s Gospel passage in which Jesus claimed boldly that He had “come not to abolish the Law…but to fulfill” it. This declaration would have shocked any Jew who heard it; for only God Himself can fulfill the Law. Jesus would be seen as a fool, or as a deranged, self-serving false prophet, or as the incarnate Son of God.
For us, of course, they’re the words of someone who knows exactly what he’s about. They’re the words of one who knows he is Jesus of Nazareth, from the household of Mary and Joseph; but they’re also the words of one who’s fully aware of his true Person, who has the extraordinary understanding of himself as Son of God.
When he says, “I have come”, he’s not talking about his recent journey from Galilee to Judea. No, His is the coming of the Divine Word, a unique, metaphysical, historical descent from the Father. He is both the Source of the Law and its fulfillment, the Alpha and the Omega.
His coming, then, is absolute. His teaching is absolute. He stands in our midst simply and humbly, but wielding the power of God. And his Word flows out of him and imposes itself on us just as the rising sun sheds its light and warmth on the earth. Only the source of the Law could preach the Sermon on the Mount, offer the beatitudes, bring to full fruition every tiny seed of the Law, show us the true spirit of the Law, the truth hidden in the letter. The Truth remains hidden until he comes: “I have come…to fulfill it.” It’s only through Jesus’ coming that the Law can reach its full perfection.
He also tells us that nothing in the Law shall perish, not a jot or tittle, not a comma or serif, for God is the author of the Law. Christ’s presence doesn’t abolish the Law, for Christ, as early Christians believed, is the Law. Christ and Law are Lord and Word. Before his coming in the flesh he communicated only indirectly, through messengers; now he communicates in person. When Jesus appears in the world and communicates face to face, He embraces the Law; He tells us and shows us what it truly is, bringing it to fulfillment in His very person.
This is why we revere and continue to read the Law and the Prophets. This is why the Church Fathers taught that the entire Old Testament points to Jesus, its fulfillment. And recall how Jesus, Himself, changed the hearts of His two disciples on the road to Emmaus by opening the Scriptures to them, taking them through Moses and all the Prophets interpreting his Word.
Jesus is the author of both the cosmos and the Law. The cosmos is his artistic revelation, through order and beauty, but the Law is his personal revelation, his face-to-face revelation in words. Without the Law, without Jesus Christ, we wouldn’t understand the cosmos. We wouldn’t understand anything.