17. Think not that I am come to abolish the
law, or the prophets: I am not come to abolish, but to fulfill. He was
about to introduce new laws, yet He did not want them to think that He was
opposed to God. Therefore He says, anticipating the suspicion that many would
have, "I have not come to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it.
" How did He fulfill it? First, He did everything which the prophets had
foretold concerning Him, which is why the evangelist often says, "So that
what was spoken by the prophet might be fulfilled." He also fulfilled
every commandment of the law. "For He did no sin, neither was any guile
found in His mouth." And He fulfilled and completed the law in yet another
way: whatever the law had sketched in outline, Christ fully painted in. The law
said, "Do not murder," but Christ said, "Neither be angry
without a cause." So too the painter does not destroy the sketch, but
rather completes it.
18. For amen, I say unto you. The
"amen" is an assurance, meaning, "Yes, truly I say unto
you." Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in
no wise pass from the law, till all be accomplished. He indicates here that
the world passes away and undergoes a change in form. He is saying, therefore,
that while the universe subsists, not the least letter of the law will pass
away. Some say that the "jot" [i.e. the Greek letter iota] and the
"tittle" [i.e. accent mark] signify the ten commandments of the law;
others say that they indicate the Cross, for the iota is the upright beam of
the Cross, and the accent, the transverse beam. Christ is saying, therefore,
that everything that was spoken concerning the Cross will be fulfilled.
19. Whosoever therefore shall disregard one of
these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in
the kingdom of heaven. The "least commandments" are those which
He Himself is about to give, not those of the law of Moses. He calls them
"least" out of humility, to instruct you, O reader, to have moderate
thoughts of yourself as you give your teachings. He who "shall be called
least in the kingdom of heaven" means he who will be last in the
resurrection and who will be cast into gehenna. For such a one shall not enter
the kingdom of heaven, far from it! By "kingdom" understand the
resurrection. But whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be
called great in the kingdom of heaven. First Christ says, "whosoever
shall do," and then, "and shall teach," for how can I guide
another along a road that I have not myself traveled? By the same token, if I
practice the commandments, but do not teach them, my reward is not so great.
There can even be condemnation, if I do not teach because of spite or sloth.
20. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness
shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no
case enter into the kingdom of heaven. "Righteousness" means all
the virtues, as in "Job was a righteous man, holy and blameless."
Tremble then, O man, when you have understood how much is required of us. Then
He teaches us how we can exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees,
and He enumerates the virtues.
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