In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Fourteen times Matthew will speak of Scripture being fulfilled by Jesus. Fulfillment is much more than the raw idea that the Scripture predicted something, and Jesus came and did what was predicted (although it most assuredly includes that). We’re much closer to the concept of fulfillment if we think of Jesus being like the hub of a bicycle wheel. All of the spokes (predictions) point toward Him. But there’s more to it than that. The spokes are attached to the rim (the overall narrative). Because of the hub anchoring the spokes, the rim is able to maintain its circularity and bicycle (the Scripture) is able to move forward. Jesus brings the story of Scripture together in much the same way.
He also fulfills Scripture by expounding upon it. Still in Matthew 5, we hear the phrase, “You have heard that is was said . . .” over and over (v. 21, 27, 31, 33. 38, 43). With these words, Jesus is alluding to the teaching of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. He goes on to contrast that with, “But I tell you . . . “—which has to do with His exposition of the Torah that is faithful to God’s purposes and intent. Whether He is teaching by contrast, in parables (chapter 13) or through apocalyptic speech (24), He is expounding on the true meaning of Torah.
Jesus also fulfills Scripture by modeling it. When John tells Jesus he needs to be baptized by Him rather than Jesus being baptized by him, Christ says, “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (3:15). While it’s true that Jesus has nothing to repent of or sins to be forgiven of (Mark 1:4), in the spirit of Torah mercy He has come to identify with those who do. And God is “well pleased” with His actions (Matthew 3:17). In the wilderness, He refuses to turn the stones into bread because “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (4:4). His obedience is ultimately expressed in going to the cross where He fulfills His Father’s will (26:39, 42).
Matthew would have us to see Jesus as the embodiment of Scripture—though not in the way that Homer, Shakespeare, or Victor Hugo are of great literature. The Scripture is more than great literature—it is a revelation from God and a revelation of God. It reveals not only what God’s will is for us but His very nature. Taken this way, Jesus is the embodiment of Scripture in that He is the ultimate prophet and teacher who makes known His Father’s will (see John 12:48-50 and Hebrews 1:1-2). He is the embodiment of Scripture because He reveals God completely and ultimately (John 14:9; Hebrews 1:3).
In Jesus we have a clear word from God and about God!