17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,[a] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks[b] one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
17 Do not think that I have come to overturn or do away with the law or the words of our prophets. To the contrary: I have not come to overturn them but to fulfill them.18 This, beloved, is the truth: until heaven and earth disappear, not one letter, not one pen stroke, will disappear from the sacred law—for everything, everything in the sacred law will be fulfilled and accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks even the smallest, most obscure commandment—not to mention teaches others to do the same—will be called small and obscure in the kingdom of heaven. Those who practice the law and teach others how to live the law will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you this: you will not enter the kingdom of heaven unless your righteousness goes deeper than the Pharisees’, even more righteous than the most learned learner of the law.
If you study the history and culture of the Holy Land, you will discover that the manger of Jesus may have been built out of wooden beams or it may have been carved out of stone from the wall of a small cave. While we typically think of the scene as being similar to our favorite coffee table nativity set, it was probably much more rustic and primitive.
Whenever I think about the birth place of Jesus being made out of stone, I can’t resist connecting the stone manger with the tablets of stone that Moses brought down from the mountain. Those stone tablets contained the original Ten Commandments and the first major definitive and detailed instructions from God. The people not only wanted to follow the Commandments in detail, they were to be followed in GREAT detail with new understandings of the law being added all the time. Ultimately there were 613 individual laws that must be followed meticulously.
In this passage we find a key teaching about righteousness or holiness of heart, mind and action. Jesus did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. In fact, the child born in the stone manger was the bodily representation of all that had gone before him. In the heart of an infant was the breath of the prophets and the fulfillment of the law. He became the New Covenant answer that the prophet Jeremiah identified in chapter 31 (31:31-34).
In this child, the ancient and historic law became the Word became flesh (John 1:14) as it was written not in stone but on the heart of humanity. The Advent of Jesus – The arrival of Christ – The coming of the Messiah made it so.
What is written on your heart as we approach the celebration of Christmas?