March 13, 2012: The Twentieth Day of Lent

March 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” ~ Matthew 5.18 ~

Christ continues to speak to his audience about his relationship with the Law. We saw yesterday that Christ did not see himself as doing away with the Law, but fulfilling. The way that Christ fulfills the Law emphasizes the importance of proper relationship between God and Creation.

However, Christ also speaks about how the Law will remain until all things are “accomplished.” Clearly, the Law holds a significant place in what Jesus will do. But what does Christ mean by “accomplished?” The Greek word here (genetai, from ginomai) has to do with entering a particular kind of existence or achieving a specific state of being. It may be helpful here to look and see how different translations render this statement:

  • Common English Bible: “I say to you very seriously that as long as heaven and earth exist, neither the smallest letter nor even the smallest stroke of a pen will be erased from the Law until everything there becomes a reality.
  • The Message: “Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures— either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.”
  • New American Standard Version: “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
  • New Living Translation: “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.
  • Today’s New International Version: “Truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Of these translations, the freer renderings of the Common English Bible and the New Living Translation shed the most light on how we should read this verse. Christ recognizes that the Law is not perfect – it does not, can not, bring about all that it intends. However, the Law will stay until it does reach its fulfillment – that which it was set in place to do. Christ claims in the previous verse to be the fulfillment, the one who brings about the reality that the Law was supposed to bring. If the purpose of the Law is nothing more than rote rule-keeping, then it will never be fulfilled. However, the Law was given to keep God and Creation in proper relationship with one another. Christ says in this verse, “I have come to finish what the Law started: to bring a new reality in which people and God live properly with one another.”

Christ desires to write his Law of the Kingdom upon our hearts. This is not a nullification of the Hebrew Law; rather, this is what the Hebrew Law always intended should happen.

Lord Christ, as I continue to seek your face, please continue to write your law upon my heart. Teach me to live in your Kingdom as you desire me to live. Amen. 

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