Summary: Sermon 1 of 7: Why did Jesus come?
“I Am Come To Fulfill…”
Woodlawn Baptist Church
June 19, 2005
Why did Jesus come to earth? For the next few weeks, I would like to examine seven passages of Scripture that will answer that question. In each passage, Jesus made a statement that clearly says, “I have come for this purpose.” Each is worded quite differently; each gives us a different angle from which to view His coming, but all point to that one glorious work Jesus performed in redemption. Read with me the words of Christ in Matthew 5:17-18.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
Our text is couched in the early part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, a sermon He most likely preached about a year into His earthly ministry. By now He has been baptized, has called His disciples, been to Galilee two or three times, and has performed many miracles. He has already driven the money changers out of the temple, has spoken with Nicodemus, the woman at the well in Samaria, and has been communicating with people throughout the land.
While there have been many positive results and responses to His ministry, by the time Jesus preaches this Sermon on the Mount He has already had several run-ins with the Pharisees, particularly over His observance of the Sabbaths. The Scriptures indicate that they argued over the Sabbath as many as four times before preaching this sermon, and He has had to defend the disciples for feasting instead of fasting like others were doing, and Jesus’ practice of beginning His teachings with “You have heard it said…but I say…” had a way of getting under the skin of these religious leaders.
Matthew 5:1 indicates that Jesus was preaching to a mixed crowd. The disciples were present, as were probably other of His followers by now. The multitudes could have meant believers, unbelievers, those who were genuinely searching for the truth, and of course those religious leaders of the day who were out to find fault with what Christ was doing and saying. Who was Jesus anyway? And what did He stand for? Why had He come?
The Pharisees and scribes thought Him to be a heretic who had no regard for the Law of Moses or the work of the prophets. Jesus was a law-breaker, a radical who didn’t care about rules and regulations. He had no formal synagogue training; no schooling that declared Him to be a Rabbi or teacher. He continually broke ranks with the Jewish leaders by healing on the Sabbath, by disrupting the temple and by teaching things that were contrary to what they themselves had been teaching the people. To the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus had come to destroy, or to overthrow their entire religious system.
On the other hand, in the crowd that day were many people who witnessed Jesus’ same actions, but came to entirely different conclusions. When they saw Him breaking rank with the Jewish leaders or debating the Pharisees, they saw someone who had come to liberate them from that same religious system. The Pharisees and scribes kept people bound with all their rules and traditions and the Law. Was Jesus going to release them from all of that? Was there some other purpose?
Regardless of the listener, as Jesus ascended the hill that day to preach this message, He knew that there were all sorts of misconceptions about who and what He was, and those misconceptions were centered around His relation to the Scriptures.
There are still many misconceptions today about Christ, about His relation to the Old Testament and about our own relation to the Old Testament Scriptures. On the one hand are the “spiritually elite.” These are those who pride themselves in their form of religion: in their law-keeping. You come to church four times a week, read your Bible every day, witness to someone every week, pray through the prayer list consistently, dress appropriately and wish that others would take their faith so seriously as you. The Old Testament provides a list of dos and don’ts for you to live by and you don’t understand why other Christians don’t live by them also.
There are others who have little or no regard for the Old Testament. After all, we live by the New Testament now, so we don’t even need the Old Testament. Many of your first Bibles didn’t even contain Old Testaments; you got a little red New Testament with some happy thoughts from the Psalms and Proverbs. Numbers and Haggai and Malachi? They don’t have anything to do with us today, so we dismiss them as unimportant. And all those laws? Jesus freed us from those, so now they are more like general guidelines, not the absolutes that so many religious fanatics make them out to be.