Scripture: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27 ESV
Observation: This passage ends our reading of the Sermon on the Mountain and mirrors the ending of Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:47-49), implying that it was a regular teaching of Christ. In context to the previous passage that emphasizes “saying” and “doing” (click here to read yesterday’s Daily Focus), in the above verses, Jesus delineates between “hearing” and “doing.” Jesus’ half-brother, James (who no doubt listened to many of Christ’s sermons), picks up on this theme in his letter to the Hebrew church (James 1:22-25; 2:14-20). Here, though, Jesus employs a poignant illustration that draws on the forces of nature familiar to his audience: the seasonal dynamic of torrential rains that transform dry wadis into raging rivers that sweep away all objects in their paths.
Of note, “wise/wisdom” is a recurring theme in Matthew (see 10:16; 24:25; 25:2, 4, 8-9), while it is absent from Mark’s Gospel and only appears twice in Luke’s. Our tax collector, however, locks in on this crucial point of Jesus’ itinerate messages. And the illustration of rising water on a sure foundation would have been familiar to a versed Israelite. A similar phrase appears in the Qumran literature (1QH 6.26; 7.8–9) and an early second-century Tannaitic expression: “A man of good deeds who has studied much Torah, to what may he be likened? To someone who first lays stones and then bricks. Even when much water rises and lies against them, it does not dislodge them” (The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, p.326). Nonetheless, Jesus, who fulfilled the law, applies this saying specifically to his teachings rather than the Torah.
Takeaway: Matthew concludes this first of his five formulaic conclusions, which partition his Gospel account, with the notation: “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (vv28-29). Indeed, Jesus’ teachings are astonishing and possess all authority! So why would we want to lean on any other facsimile (religion or philosophy) to guide and strengthen us through life? Of course, as Jesus clearly states, intellectual assent alone is not enough, for we need to listen at a level of understanding that results in action: putting into practice what we know to be the truth.
Easier said than done? Yep. But thankfully, our Father knows that the flesh is weak, which is why he sent his Son, our Rock, to change our hearts from stone to flesh (Ezekiel 36:22-28) and the Holy Spirit to transform our minds to understand and follow his good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:2). So what’s our part? Like David, we need to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). We must take the time to read, reflect, memorize, and apply Scripture, particularly Christ’s words, to all aspects of our lives. No appetizers or à la carte entrées but Christ’s feast of truth, love, and grace that inspires and encourages us to live radically as subjects of his kingdom who suffer for the honor of his name and make sacrifices for the benefit of others in anticipation of our eternal glory with him. And on our Rock, we steady our feet on his Gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:14-15) and weather the storm surges.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, our Rock. Would you please help us to lean on his sure Gospel foundation of truth, love, and grace by obeying his commands with the aid of your Holy Spirit so that we might persevere trials, glorify his and your names, and grow your kingdom? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling