When the religious mucky-mucks accused Jesus of breaking God’s laws, Jesus threw them a curve. He said,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (the Scriptures); I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
When you think of the word, fulfill, think about getting a drink at McDonald’s. You pay for the drink, but they hand you an empty cup. You have to go over to the machine and fill it up. You “full fill” it. But in another sense, it is not until you actually take a drink from the cup that you have completely fulfilled its purpose. When Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, He meant both of those senses of the word. He was going to fill the scriptures up with all they were intended to hold, and He was going to make those scriptures usable so we could really drink from them.
He filled the scriptures up in several different ways. For example, He fulfilled specific prophecies, such as the ones that told of His birth and His death. He brought the descriptions of the character of God to life – filled them up with the tangible example of His life – showing people what it looked like that God was loving and forgiving and that He was with us.
Some of the events in the history of Israel were arranged by God to foreshadow the work of the Messiah. For example, when Moses rescued the people from slavery in Egypt and led them to the Promised Land, those events foreshadowed the work of Jesus in rescuing people from slavery to sin and leading them to eternal life. Jesus filled those prophetic hints full. The sacrifices God commanded people to make, to temporarily atone for sin, were “fulfilled” by Jesus’ one time, complete sacrifice of atonement.
Other parts of the scriptures were commands. They told people about some of the ways we could live in harmony with His principles ( Do not steal, do not lie, etc.). Jesus took these incomplete sketches of righteousness and filled them full. His life was the perfect example of what it looks like to live in harmony with God.
But the scriptures as a whole were given by God for the purpose of connecting us to Him. If the purpose of a cup is not fulfilled until we drink, then the purpose of the Law and the Prophets is not fulfilled until we fully connect to God. Jesus fulfilled them by connecting us to God through faith in Him.
The religious authorities were threatened and angry that Jesus would imply that the Bible was more than a list of rules, that it was incomplete without Him. But you can decide who was right. How? By taking a drink!
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…”. (Isaiah 55:1a)
Jesus fulfilled that; He said,
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within Him.”. (John 7:37b-38)