Before we explain its real meaning it should be made clear why the scriptural interpretations by ecclesiastical (professional) teachers are not to be trusted.
It is a very practical matter. When a person receives payment or a salary in exchange for translating scripture or giving lectures, the incentives will relate to the payment. Therefore, a person cannot be serving God while providing a service in exchange for money. Jesus himself clarified why this is so:
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matt. 6:24)Because "Money" represents materialism and the expectation of reward in return for service. service in return for money runs contrary to the service of God. This is because serving the Supreme Being is a spiritual activity. It is to be an activity based upon caring for the Supreme Being and wanting to please the Supreme Being. Service with an expectation of another return is not a spiritual activity. Service with an expectation of return is tainted, and thus spoiled.
For this reason, teaching efforts driven by personal financial award, gaining followers, and/or the political positioning of ones institution is not accepted by the Supreme Being as service. And being appointed or elected by such an institution also cannot be accepted.
This does not mean that a bonafide teacher cannot accept donations given voluntarily. It also does not mean that an institution set up to pass on God's teachings cannot charge fees for a service (such as audio tapes or books) to pay the inherent costs for those materials.
Once profitable payment or a salary is accepted in exchange for the service of teaching, that teaching is spoiled. The exchange of money for service has replaced the potential for loving service to the Supreme Being.
A person who passes on the teachings of God and His representatives is providing a service to the Supreme Being. That service must be guarded and protected. It is like protecting a garden from animals that will come in to eat the plants, or weeds that will overwhelm the plants.
The misinterpretation of Jesus' statement above (Matt. 26:56) results from early sectarian teachers who were financially and politically rewarded by the early church institutions such as the Roman Catholic church. Their sometimes (and sometimes not) subtle intentions to position their respective organization as the only true religion was motivated by gaining followers, which was connected to the institution's leaders' quest for power and authority. The Roman government made it obvious they sought to conquer other religious institutions with their new catholic institution.
Ongoing efforts by bishops and popes over the centuries to gain followers were often more subtle - but some efforts used force: Many people were persecuted or burnt to the stake simply because they refused to join this institution.
Does this represent God's outreach to us? Certainly not. The Supreme Being could force any and all of us to worship Him if He wanted to. But He doesn't, because He wants our love, and love requires the freedom to love or not.
In seeking control and domination through gaining (and sometimes forcing) followers, they have misconstrued Jesus' statement as if the writings of the prophets were all specifically predicting Jesus' arrival and messiah-ship.
This is a mis-characterization of not only Jesus' statement, but of the teachings of esteemed servants of God such as Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, Job and others.
The fact is, the prophets' teachings and writings were all focused upon loving, pleasing and serving the Supreme Being. Just consider the major teachings of the prophets:
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:5)The teachings of the prophets were thus consistent: We should come to love God, walk with God, be attentive to God, revere Him, think of Him, serve Him, and live our lives for Him. These are the teachings of the prophets. These are writings of the prophets that Jesus refers to.
"And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to revere the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut. 10:12)
"Love the LORD your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always." (Deut. 11:1)
"So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today - to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut. 11:13)
"If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow - to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to hold fast to Him" (Deut. 11:22)
"You must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deut. 13:3)
"The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live." (Deut. 30:6)
"For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess." (Deut. 30:16)
"And that you may love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the LORD is your life" (Deut 30:20)
"But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul." (Joshua 22:5)
"So be very careful to love the LORD your God." (Joshua 23:11)
"O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven or on earth - you who keep your covenant of love with Your servants who continue wholeheartedly in Your way." (2 Chron 6:14)
"O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and obey His commands (Neh 1:5)
"But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever." (Psalm 52:8)
"O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with all who love Him and obey His commands" (Daniel 9:4)
"But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always." (Hsa 12:6)
"Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love" (Joseph 2:13)
(With respect to the phrase, "fear the Lord" used in much of the Old Testament - the word "fear" is translated from the Hebrew word יָרֵא (yare'), means "to cause astonishment and awe, be held in awe" and "to revere.")
So what is Jesus saying in this verse about the prophets then?
Jesus is speaking to the fact that his life and teachings all fulfill these very same messages taught by the prophets. The word "fulfill" is being translated from the Greek πληρόω (plēroō), which means, according to the lexicon, 'to carry through to the end, to accomplish, carry out,' 'to carry into effect, bring to realisation, realise' and 'of matters of duty: to perform, execute'.
In other words, Jesus acted on the teachings of the prophets. His life accomplished those teachings. His life manifested those teachings. His life carried out those teachings.
And most specifically, Jesus' allowing himself to be arrested, tortured and executed specifically fulfills (accomplishes, manifests, carries out) those teachings. Why?
We must remember why the chief priests of the Jewish institution arrested Jesus. Because they were intimidated by Jesus' teachings. His teachings threatened their positions of ecclesiastical (professional) authority.
And it was on those very teachings that Jesus took a stand, because He loved God. He walked with God. He served God. His service was teaching on behalf of God. And they arrested him for this service to God - his teachings.
And what were Jesus' teachings? The very same teachings that Abraham, Moses, David and all of the other bonafide ancient teachers ("prophets") taught:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)