What does it mean for anything to depend upon something else? Is it contingent upon a choice or outcome? Or is it a dependence that fully relies upon the other, so much so that independence is impossible.
One Word –
On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 22:40
Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 39, 40; Matthew 22; Mark 12
Big Idea –
Let’s take a moment to put what is happening within its larger context of the LORD’s appointed times – specifically Passover. Jesus has made what we refer to as His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Riding the colt into the city amid the shouts of “Hosanna!,” Jesus fulfills the shadow picture the Jews had rehearsed for centuries. As our High Priest, Jesus comes into Jerusalem to offer Himself as God’s Passover Lamb.
After the lamb was selected and brought into Jerusalem, it would be brought into the Temple for inspection by the religious leaders. This was to insure that the lamb was perfect without any spot or defect. Matthew 21:23 tells us that Jesus was in the Temple being challenged by the religious leaders and teaching the people in parables. Each time Jesus answered their questions the people marveled at His insight. Finally, they stopped asking Him anymore questions (Mat. 22:46). The inspection of God’s Passover Lamb had concluded; Jesus was perfect. In the end on the morning of the Passover, Pilot would speak the very same words spoken by the High Priest “I find no fault in Him”(Jn. 19:6 KJV).
Now, lets look at the inspection of Jesus regarding the Law. I particularly like how Matthew sets this up. Since the Sadducees were silenced and unable to find fault in Jesus’ response to their question, the Pharisees – experts in the Law – got together to ask Jesus the perfect question. Remember, their intention was for Jesus to show negligence in His words so they would have a reason to accuse Him. So one of them stood and asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law” (v.36)?
We are familiar with Jesus’ response. The greatest commandment is that we love the LORD our God completely, and the second is like it; we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus then says, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
What does it mean that all the Law and Prophets “depend” upon these two commandments? From the Greek kremannymi, often translated in modern English versions “depend,” is also translated as “based on.” The idea is that all the Law and Prophets are summed up in these two commandments. Thus we often think that if we love God and our neighbor that’s all we need to do because we have obeyed all God’s commandments.
I think there is a better way of understanding what Jesus is saying. Kremannymi literally means hang (as is the KJV translation). It is the same word used in Acts 5:30 describing how Jesus was killed by “hanging him on a tree.” When understood in this way, Jesus is telling us that everything in the Law and Prophets hang upon these two commandments.
This is a subtle but significant difference in how to understand what Jesus is saying. Rather than being a summation of the commandments fulfilling them all, they are the ‘poles’ upon which everything else written hangs. Without these two greatest commandments all the Law and Prophets fall to the ground broken and meaningless. Thus the these two commandments support or hold up the rest. Put simply, all the Law and the Prophets cannot stand independently because everything written has no meaning if it is separated from the two greatest commandments.
This helps me begin to make sense of commandments and things in the Old Testament that I though were meaningless or had no application for our lives today. All the Law and Prophets explain or show me how to obey the two greatest commandments. I have no way to knowing how to live a holy life (or God’s expectations of me) until I see that the purpose of what was written down in the Law and Prophets is to teach me how to love God and my neighbor.
Now don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m saying we need to obey the commandments to earn salvation. No, we are saved by grace through faith, it is God’s gift to us. But being saved and knowing God’s immeasurable love for me, I want to respond with loving obedience to Jesus who is my LORD and Savior.
Therefore, one of the simplest ways to begin to understand how everything hangs upon the two greatest commandments is by looking at the Ten Commandments. These are not just random religious and moral laws. Rather they hang or depend upon the greatest commandments teaching me how to love God and my neighbor. The first five commandments hang upon or explain the greatest commandment: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (v. 37). The last five commandments hang upon or explain the second: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v.39).
By the way, in Mark 12 a Pharisee or “scribe” replied to Jesus’ answer saying, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that He is one, and there is no other besides Him. And to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices“ (vv. 32-33). When Jesus saw that this one had answered wisely He said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (v. 34). Some believe this may have been the young Saul of Tarsus who was being trained as a Pharisee by Gamaliel.
I believe all scripture, including the Old Testament, is given to train or teach us how to live righteously through obedience to the greatest commandments. Therefore I want continually allow the Holy Spirit to teach me obedience in spirit and truth to everything that hangs upon those two simple but of utmost significance of commandments.
Yes to Yield –
LORD Jesus, forgive me for the ways in which I have disregarded Your Word by not understanding how the Holy Spirit wanted to use it to teach me how to live a holy and righteous life. I confess some things are still difficult for me to understand. But rather than try to figure everything out, empower me to live in obedience to those commandments I do understand. I want to fully express my love to You and my neighbor, so help me to properly hang Your word upon these greatest of commandments through obedience.
If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.