Jesus, the Law, and the Temple

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Simplified

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Fulfilling the Law (577)

At the very beginning, Jesus presented the law given on Sinai in light of the New Covenant. Jesus said, "Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill" (Mt 5:17). Anyone who breaks the least law and teaches others "will be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:17-19).

Keeping the Law (578-580)

As Israel's Messiah, Jesus kept the law in its all-embracing detail, to "the least of these commandments" (Mt 5:17-19). The Jews admitted that they could not observe the Law and had an annual Day of Atonement.

The Pharisees had a zeal for the Law but unfortunately they lapsed into a hypocritical casuistry. Otherwise, they could have prepared for God's intervention in Jesus.

Only Jesus, the Divine Legislator, "born of a woman, born under the law," could perfectly fulfill this law (Gal 4:4). Jesus had the Law engraved on his heart. He took upon himself "the curse of the Law" so he could redeem men "from the transgressions under the first Covenant" (Gal 3:13).

Offending Some Teachers (581-582)

Jesus (seen by the people as a rabbi) offended the Jewish teachers because he refused to put his teachings alongside of theirs (as just another opinion). He spoke "as one who had authority and not as their scribes" (Mt 7:28-29). "You have heard it said.... But I say to you..." (Mt 5:33-34). He also rejected the Pharisees' human traditions which made "void the Word of God" (Mk 7:13).

Concerning dietary laws, Jesus brought out their real meaning, showing that only what comes from the heart can defile a man (Mk 7:18-21). The other teachers did not accept Jesus even though his preaching was accompanied by miracles. They especially rejected his teaching that someone could help his neighbor on the Sabbath.

Respect for the Temple (583-584)

Jesus showed the deepest respect for the Temple, going there every year of his hidden life (Lk 2:41). When twelve years old, Jesus remained in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father's business (2:46-49). In John's Gospel, he patterned his public ministry according to his pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

For Jesus the Temple was a house for prayer and he was angered when its outer court was used for commerce (Mt 21:18). After the Resurrection, the apostles continued to revere the Temple (Acts 2:46).

The Temple's Destruction (585-586)

Jesus predicted the Temple's destruction. Not one stone would remain "upon another" (Mt 24:1-2). This prophecy was distorted at his trial (Mk 14:57-58) and used as an insult on the cross (Mt 27:39-40).

Jesus willingly paid the Temple tax for himself and Peter. He identified himself with the Temple by claiming to be God's definitive dwelling-place among men. His death presaged the destruction of the Temple and began a new age when man "will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem" (Jn 4:21).

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