What does it mean that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets?

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.  But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Certainly, Jesus is referring to the Ten Commandments, and so much more that is contained in the law and prophets.  When He says that He comes to fulfill them, it seems He means a couple things.  First, the law and prophets find their perfection, their perfect expression in the person of Jesus.  Second, this law, this truth, in being fulfilled in Jesus is a powerful indication of the love this law expresses. 

So often in our world today, we view laws as “restrictions” upon our freedom.  What we are encouraged to discover (in the person of Jesus) is that God gave us the law and the prophets, He gave us their perfection in the person of Jesus, so that we could discover our true freedom!

Clearly people lack this understanding when they say things like: “The laws of the Church are outdated.”  “The Church needs to update its teaching to be more in line with the modern world.”  The words of Jesus in this passage (Matthew 5:17-19) seem to be a direct response to this way of thinking.  These laws of God, this person of Jesus, are not meant to pass away.  They are not meant to “change”.  God and Jesus, the Law and the Truth are eternal, and are meant for our conversion.  We are the ones who are meant to change if we are to meet the challenges of our modern world.

Surely, the work of conversion, the work of this Lenten season, is the work of God.  May we and all God’s people be more and more open to this Eternal Truth, Jesus Christ.  May we recognize that His Law will not pass away.  Jesus is the Gentle First Truth of God.  He is the Eternal Truth who is the answer to the needs of all people, all nations, all times.