One jot or tittle. Just what, then, was Jesus saying to the disciples? Jesus was saying that if we so much as break one jot of the law, we are to be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. He not only fulfilled the jots and tittles, but He fulfilled all of the Law.
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18
For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot
or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19
Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and
teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but
whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom
of heaven. 20 For I
say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of
the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of
Matthew 5:17-20, NKJV
One jot or tittle. What is a jot, and what is a tittle? A jot is the name of the least letter of an alphabet or the smallest part of a piece of writing. A tittle is another word for a small stroke or point in writing. We are reminded by our teachers to dot our i's, but before the 18th century, our ancestors were told to tittle their i's.
Just what, then, was Jesus saying to the disciples? Jesus was saying that if we so much as break one jot of the law, we are to be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. He not only fulfilled the jots and tittles, but He fulfilled all of the Law. Should we not, then, pay close attention to God's Law and apply its principles to even the smallest details of our lives.
Notice, however, that Christ left a very important caution: Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. What did Jesus mean?
The scribes and Pharisees were proud of their strict adherence to the Law of God. As a matter of fact, they were so proud and so self-righteous that they never recognized their own personal need of a Savior. Consequently, they rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. They believed that they were so good at keeping God's Law that God the Father could not help but let them in the doors of heaven when they left this earth.
Can we keep God's Law perfectly--even every jot or tittle? No! Not one of us can determine to keep God's Law in our own power. We are such creatures of sin, that we are hopelessly lost before a holy and righteous God. That is what the scribes and Pharisees failed to realize. They were expecting a Messiah to come and set up His kingdom on earth, but they were not expecting, nor did they even want, a Savior. So, when the Messiah came, they missed Him!
How, then, do we apply these words from Matthew 5 to our lives today. There is no way that we can keep God's Law perfectly--especially every jot and tittle. What are we to do? Christ came to this earth for that very reason. He, being perfect Man and perfect God, was the only man who could actually keep God's Law perfectly--even every jot and every tittle. He, then, was the only "man" who had the ability to die for the sins of others. His life was never taken from Him; rather He gave His life so that He might save a people for Himself.
How, then, do we keep the Law? We keep the Law only by coming to Christ, repenting of our sins, and accepting His shed blood as the payment for our sins. Does that mean we will no longer sin? No! Our righteousness is in Christ and His shed blood; we will never reach a state of sinlessness on this side of heaven.
What an amazing God we serve. He could have left us in our sin, but instead He sent His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.) 2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV
Let us, then, go to Christ and plead for His grace and mercy on our behalf. Let us, by His grace then keep His Law--even to every jot or tittle--not by our own strength and power, but through Christ!