Jesus' ministry was different. The growing reputation concerning him—the healing, the call to repentance, the preaching "with authority,” and the announcing of God's Kingdom—were strange and new and exciting to many people. But what of the old ways? What about the traditions, so familiar and comforting? If too much change occurs too quickly, who will be left to remember the ancient ways and carry forth our legacy? Change is hard...but Jesus' ministry was very different.
Matthew reminds his readers that Jesus did not come to abolish the old ways—the Law and the Prophets—but to fulfill them. God's people had in fact "settled" for much less than what God had in mind for them. Their leaders had cherry-picked the laws of God, excusing their own infractions while demanding utter and unbending adherence from others. They had reduced the meaning of "righteousness" from a living relationship with God to a functionary checking-off of semi-religious boxes. Now Jesus had appeared, announcing that God's people need not keep the law, but rather to be kept by it through God's love. In this way, God's righteousness will be truly fulfilled.