INI + AMEN
EVERYTHING ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AND YOUR SALVATION HANGS ON JESUS ALONE. Sounds simple. Simple to say, but not so simple to believe. We don’t believe it. We make it not simple, we add other things. We add things about us, our doing, and Jesus—Jesus alone—takes a back seat.
We don’t believe it all hangs on Jesus. Jesus ends up being some sort of goal or a maybe copilot or a navigator or maybe just a passenger, with us being firmly in the driver’s seat. What if Jesus’ free salvation wasn’t mentioned at all? What if there was just a lot of talk about Jesus as an example? Or maybe what God wants for you to do? Or just talking about Christian morals and being a good person?
Does that sort of preaching and living hang on Jesus alone? It really doesn’t. In fact, Jesus and His salvation sort of gets in the way of talking about principles, actions, visions that we need to put into practice. That sort of thinking, prevalent among Christians, comes from the idea that we can and should move past all that Jesus dying for you stuff. After all, all that Jesus dying for you stuff is good for baby christians and children, but not for mature Christians. But Jesus says, “Unless you turn and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Everything about Jesus’ kingdom, that is, EVERYTHING ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AND YOUR SALVATION HANGS ON JESUS ALONE. That’s what Jesus is talking about here in Matthew 22. What Jesus says today takes place in Jerusalem early on during Holy Week, and what Jesus says, is as simple as it sounds. EVERYTHING ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AND YOUR SALVATION HANGS ON JESUS ALONE.
((I. All the Torah and also the Prophets hang on Jesus alone.))
When Jesus and the Lawyer say “Law” in our Gospel text, they mean “the Law of Moses,” the Torah, the first five books of the Bible that were written by Moses. “Law” here doesn’t mean “God’s Word of Law,” His rules and Commandments. This would be how we normally hear “Law,” when—well, if—we read our Bibles. But here in this conversation, Jesus and the Lawyer mean the Torah, the first five books—Genesis through Deuteronomy.
Now, when they say “Prophets,” they mean all the rest of the Old Testament, which the rabbis just considered to be God’s own commentary on the Books of Moses. So, when they’re talking about what’s in the Torah and the Prophets, Jesus and the lawyer are talking about what the Old Testament’s really all about.
Now, there are commandments—God’s Commandments!—in the Old Testament, and if you want to ask Jesus a rules sort of question, a question about God’s commandments, a question about God’s Word of Law, well, then Jesus—the God who gave those commandments—will answer that way. If you ask Jesus, “What must I do,” or “What’s the greatest commandment in the Torah,” He will answer, “You shall…”
But the Commandments and Rules and Statues and Rubrics are NOT the primary reason God the Holy Spirit inspired the authors to write what they wrote. That would make the Bible no different from any other religious book. It would then just be about what you’re supposed to be doing for your particular deity to make him happy so that he’ll by chance bless you, save you. That sort of Bible reading doesn’t hang on Jesus alone, it actually hangs on you.
But the Old Testament Scriptures, Genesis through Malachi, along with the New Testament Scriptures, Matthew through Revelation, all have the same goal. Both Testaments of Scripture, like a good two-part movie series, are really all about Jesus. And that’s why the Pharisees couldn’t answer Jesus’ question.
“David,” as a prophet, spoke “in the Spirit.” He was inspired by the Spirit to write and speak and sing about the Christ who is not just “His son, according to the flesh, but is God over all, blessed forever.” The Christ is David’s King, David’s Lord and God.
The Scriptures all hang on Him! They are all about Him—that’s the Gift of the Bible FOR YOU. In John 5 Jesus says that the Scriptures testify about Him. Without Jesus the Scriptures are empty and dead. They’re truly and rightly understood only when they witnesses of Jesus, and not of law, goals, principles that we must fulfill. But sadly, we’re often only concerned about the Scriptures: reading them, studying them, memorizing them, only when they talk about us. Often we think or at least love like, “If it’s not about me, what’s the point?”
((II. On the two-fold commandment hangs all that Torah and Prophets are about.))
This is why Jesus also tells us, literally, “On these two commandments hang all the Torah and the Prophets.” What does that mean? Does it mean the Scriptures depend on the two commandments, as if they Scriptures would be meaningless without them? But that would make the Bible no different from any other holy book.
But again that’s what we want. Well, we do and we don’t. If God tells us to do something, we don’t really want to do it. And so if God tells us to love our neighbor, we’ll only do that if there’s something in it for us. God doesn’t need your good works. Your neighbor does. But we’ll only love them if it gets us at least a thank you, and a thank you from God would be the best thank you of all! The Scriptures are for us (God’s Gift), but they’re aren’t about us. So also, our neighbor is there for us to love for their sake, and not for us to earn points with God or anyone else.
All the Scriptures hang on “love God,” “love your neighbor.” And what are the Scriptures about? They’re about Jesus. He hangs on those two commandments. For our lack of faith, for our lack of love, for our looking at other things for our benchmark of salvation. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” It all hangs on Him: your sins, my sins, our death, our hell. He bore it all in His own body on that accursed tree.
That’s what it means for Jesus to be King and Christ, by the way. “Jesus of Nazareth is the King of the Jews,” most King, most Christ, most Lord, most God when He’s dying and saving you. Jesus is David’s Lord. And Jesus’ enemies were put under His feet, as David in the Spirit said, when Jesus rose from the dead on the third day for our Justification, our forgiveness before God.
EVERYTHING ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AND YOUR SALVATION HANGS ON JESUS ALONE. It doesn’t hang on your works, it doesn’t hang on anything but Jesus alone. Jesus hanged on the cross for you. That is the content of your Christian Faith. Him alone saving you, you trusting in Him alone. That’s your salvation alone all because Jesus alone hung on that cross for you.
To bring our works into it is to fall from grace, to fall away from His favor. To love our neighbor solely because they need it and not because of reward from them or from God, now that’s a work that’s a fruit of faith.
The Bible’s FOR YOU. God’s Word as a gift to you, to tell you about Jesus and your need for Him. Genesis through Revelation, and every book, chapter, and verse in between, is all about Him FOR YOU. There you hear about Him hanging on His cross for you. There he paid for you not loving your neighbor as yourself, and He paid for your trying to bring works into the salvation equation.
But it all hangs on Jesus. EVERYTHING ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AND YOUR SALVATION HANGS ON JESUS ALONE. Without Him and His death and resurrection it’s all empty. Without Him Baptism doesn’t save, the Supper isn’t His body and blood, and the Bible’s just Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.
But Christ died and is risen FOR YOU. He’s baptized you into new life. At His Supper, David’s Lord “prepares a table before you”—the Supper of His body and blood—“in the presence of your enemies” of the works you peddle before God, your sin, your lifelessness, and even death itself.
It all hangs on Jesus—EVERYTHING ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AND YOUR SALVATION. So, if it all hangs on Him, then in Him and Him alone, no ifs, ands, or buts about it: you’re saved only by God’s favor through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, and that’s the truth of Scripture alone.
INI + AMEN.