How are you feeling today? Looking for something? Feel like there’s something missing in your life? One of Augustine’s most famous quotes is from the first book of his Confessions. There he wrote: “You move us to delight in praising you; for you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Most all of us have the nagging reality that something is missing in our lives without God. Many try to fill that void with drugs, pornography, sex, sports, school, or anything else that can keep our attention for a few moments.
If we read the Old Testament, we will find that something is missing there as well. From Genesis 3:15, readers expect someone to come on the scene and make everything better by fulfilling God’s promises as God’s liberating King. The Old Testament ends without an ending. Everything is left open. Where is the redeemer? When is God going to fulfill his promises and make everything right? From the close of the Old Testament mysteries, we move to the Gospel of Matthew which emphasized fulfillment.
Matthew focused on the concept of fulfillment to demonstrate the fulness of life which God offers to his people in Christ. The Greek word translated fulfill (πληρόω), is defined as “to make full” (BDAG). Jesus completed the hopes from God’s promises in the Old Testament and completed the schedule” for God’s eternal plan (Mk. 1:15). Jesus gives our life fulfillment. In order to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan and of our lives, Matthew emphasized that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Old Testament. This fulfillment of the Old Testament expectations by Jesus is possible because Jesus has the “gravity” to pull people, time, geography, and Scripture to himself.
INTRODUCTION TO MATTHEW’S GOSPEL
Matthew, or Levi, was one of the 12 apostles. Jesus called Matthew from his work as a tax collector (Matt. 9:9-13). This was a bold move for Jesus and a gracious act toward Matthew.
Matthew, in the mid 50’s, wrote his Gospel to almost replicate the form of the five books of Moses and the five books of the Psalms. The Gospel is arranged around five major discourses or “books of Jesus.” “In these discourses, Matthew portrays Jesus as the new Moses who gives a new law (5-7), the messianic shepherd who gathers and commissions the Jewish remnant—the twelve apostles (10), and as the rabbinic teacher of parables of the kingdom (13, 18) and of end-time events climaxing in his return (chaps. 24-25).” We can also see three major sections in Matthew built around the phrase “from then on Jesus began to” (4:17; 16:21). These statements divide the Gospel into an introduction (1:1-4:16), body (4:17-16:20), and conclusion 16:21-28:20).
FULFILLMENT OF OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES
Matthew has fifteen specific instances of fulfillment in Jesus’ life. These “fulfillment passages” are recorded so that we know Jesus is the completion of the Old Testament and the fulfillment we are looking for in life. Matthew cites the Old Testament more than 50 times with over 200 other allusions to the Old Testament to connect Jesus to the Old Testament and to show that Jesus is the continuation of the Old Testament narrative.
Jesus fulfilled the promise of the virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14. Isaiah gave this prophecy to a wicked king who was afraid of what would happen during a time of war when the nation was surrounded by the greatest world powers of his day. God gave the prophecy so that the people would know God would continue to provide for them. The ultimate proof of this continued providence was the virgin birth of Jesus.
Jesus birth in Bethlehem was prophesied in Micah 5:2. Matthew confirms how Mary and Joseph were providentially brought to Bethlehem so that Jesus birthplace would fulfill that prophecy (Matt. 2:3). Jesus fled to Egypt, just as Israel had done, to escape danger. This was typologically prophesied in Hosea 11:1 and fulfilled in Matthew 2:14-15.
Jesus ministry of healing was prophesied in Isaiah 53:4 and fulfilled in passages like Matthew 8:16-17. His use of parables was prophesied in Isaiah 6:9-10 and fulfilled in Matthew 13:13-14. Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem on a donkey (Matt. 21:4-7) was prophesied in Isa. 62:11 and Zech. 9:9.
FULFILLMENT OF MOSAIC LAW
The Old Testament laid out burdens which no one had kept and no one was able to keep. Since no one had kept the Law perfectly, everyone was under the penalty of death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). Jesus’ perfect life fulfilled the requirements of the Old Testament Law and ushered in the New Covenant age.
Jesus taught that he came to fulfill the Old Testament in Matthew 5:17-20. It is important to note two important movements in the passage. First, Jesus did not come to “abolish” or destroy the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17). That was not Jesus’ purpose at all. The Law was from God and was good. Jesus came not to abolish the Old Testament Law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). Just as we can meet the demands of a course and pass on to another more advanced course, Jesus has completed the Old Testament Law for us so that we can pass on to the New Testament.
Since Jesus has fulfilled the Old Testament Law, he is able to usher in his own law which we describe as the New Testament. Jesus often alluded to distinctions between his teaching and what was demanded in the Law of Moses (Matt. 5:21-28, 33). Dietary regulations were set aside (Matt. 15:17-18; cf. Mk. 7:18-20). The regulations for divorce were clarified (Matt. 5:19-20).
JESUS IS PICTURED AS THE FULFILLMENT OF OLD TESTAMENT FIGURES
Jesus is the new and better Moses figure. There are several allusions to this typological relationship in the infancy narratives (Matt. 1:18-2:21). Pharaoh tried to kill all the boys because they were too numerous and he feared their power and Herod tried to kill all the Jewish boys because he feared the power of the one born King of the Jews. Jesus fled to Egypt just as Moses had fled to Egypt. Moses went up on the Mountain to receive the Law just as Jesus went up on the mountain to deliver the Law. At the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-9), Jesus’ face glowed like Moses had glowed when he came down from the mountain. Jesus reminded his disciples of all that he had taught in Matthew 28:19-20 just as Moses had reminded his disciples of all he had taught in Deuteronomy.
Jesus was pictured as the better David. The genealogy records that Jesus is the Son of David (Matt. 1). He was described as “born king of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2) and the one who would “shepherd my people Israel” (Matt. 2:5-6). He is described as the “son of David” (Matt. 9:27-31; 20:29-34).
Jesus was pictured as the personification of Israel. He recapitulated or redid major events of Israel’s history in his own life. This recapitulation is necessary for understanding the words of Hosea 11:1, “out of Egypt I have called my Son” as a prophecy. Jesus went into the desert for 40 days just as the Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years. He was baptized in the Jordan just like Israel passed through the Jordan.
What is filling your life?
How can we help other see the fulfillment we have in Christ?