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. Matthew 5:18, KJV
What meaneth the "jot and tittle" A more modern version - the NASB - translates it "the smallest letter or stroke". I mean, we're talking meticulous here. But was Jesus really pushing a technical approach to the things of God Oh, I have no qualms with the fact that he was holding these people to the...
unalterable ... word spoken through angels Hebrews 2:2
...after all, he WAS referring to the LAW.
To suggest that he was validating the 100% accuracy of the soon-to-be completed written revelation of God in order to establish it as the supreme authority in every aspect of life for those he came to set free only underscores a total disregard not only for what he actually said but also for the very freedom he came to bring. Do we not understand the CURSE of unalterable words inscribed in stone or written in ink Or are we really so unaware of the downside of such accuracy One only needs to consider the history of God's people.
The state of affairs in Israel had reached the pinnacle of a self-righteousness based upon a massive system of loopholes specifically designed to get around God's unalterable commands while creating the appearance of a Scriptural godliness. Sounds much the same as the Christian marketplace today, doesn't it If we were to take our religious-colored glasses off while reading this portion of Matthew's account we might realize that Jesus was nailing their collective religious butt to the wall.
Somehow though, we've been taught to completely overlook how all this plays into the why of what he said so that we often buy into the technical approaches of those who hold to the letter and yet disregard the life. I have no doubt that if I had been born in Jerusalem at that time and had been given half a chance I would have been standing right along side those Pharisees scoffing at everything Jesus said. How about you?
To get a fuller picture of the verse in question check out a bit more of the surrounding comments:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks 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 practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20
If you get nothing else out of this passage, don't miss the most obvious contrast: Jesus fulfilled what religious men broke! You see, the religious leaders constantly followed Jesus around examining everything he did or did not do for the express purpose of condemning him. The fact of the matter is that these religious men endorsed a system that abolished or nullified the very same law they accused Jesus of breaking (see Matthew 15:6). Not only that, they twisted what they broke in order to justify themselves so that they appeared as righteous in the eyes of man! In contrast, Jesus - the righteous one - came to justify the unrighteous. For HIS is the righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees!
Jesus did not comment on the jot and tittle to establish a precedent, but to expose a religious game!
You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Matthew 23:24
Do we not recognize that THEY, not Jesus, were the ones examining every minute legality - every jot and tittle - in order to get around their own commandment-breaking? But Jesus demanded that the law would NOT justify, but judge them to the same meticulous degree they attempted to get around it. How is it that so many have twisted Jesus' statement regarding the rigidity of the law in order to validate a scriptural legalism that strains at every little pen-stroke Have we not long-since discovered that such intense detail has brought nothing but sin and condemnation?
Yeah, but how does this fit with...
Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law ...?
You know, the last time I looked the heaven and earth were still standing, and even though many have predicted The End of the World it somehow seems to hang on. But what if we're overlooking the most obvious connection - that the law itself is inextricably linked together with the elemental world In other words, the law cannot be disentangled from the basic principles of a world that has an end ... meaning that which finds its life in the world, or the things of the world, cannot get around the fundamental operating principles of that world.
As to the passing of heaven and earth, why would we restrict its meaning according to an elemental viewpoint Do we really think GOD is bound by the logic of a world that exists only because He holds it together Listen, why would we suppose that the passing of the elemental world, as well as every jot and tittle, would be understood any differently than how we learned Christ ... or did we come to know God through all the wisdom of the world No, knowing God comes despite human knowledge - for it cannot touch Him.
Consider the scenario presented by Paul:
Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Romans 7:1-3
Under law, a man and a woman were joined until separated by death. If one partner died, the other was freed from that specific law. This is ELEMENTAL - and the flesh understands it - for some have even opted for murder to avoid adultery (No one ever said the logic of the flesh was particularly smart). So, according to the law, in order to LEGALLY marry another your spouse has to die first. But this is NOT how we were joined to Christ! Watch how Paul uses the elemental truth of the law as a NEGATIVE comparison to the miraculous life we have in Christ.
Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. Romans 7:4
No, He didn't kill your spouse - He killed YOU. In other words, YOU were removed from the jurisdiction of the elemental world ... and the principles by which it operates!! The heaven and earth, along with the jot and tittle of the law, have passed away because YOU have been taken out of IT, even though IT still stands. It has no power or control over YOU who have been made alive!! In Christ, everything has been accomplished, and this is the word of the cross.
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
You see, it makes no difference what the world around you demands, for it cannot know what the Spirit of God within you reveals. We have been removed from out of the world and yet we still reside here ... but as strangers and aliens!! Even our bodies are dead because of sin - as they are connected to the death of the earthly - but God's Spirit is life to those very members so that life oozes out of us despite the decay of dying bodies.
My friends, in Christ all has been fulfilled, the law has passed away even down to the jot and tittle!! We have been removed from the realm of nitpicking!! What is it that we are looking for as we studiously pore over the writings of the Bible: hints of sin, fear, guilt, shame, condemnation ... what Are we still looking for commands that can be broken Are we still trying to validate our worth by comparing ourselves to its standards. If so, we are only caught up with legal technicalities of an existence done away with! If we truly hear the living witness found in the pages of the Book we will hear testimony to the one and only reality, the one and only LIFE ... CHRIST.