“These Words of Mine” (Concluding Mt. 7.24-27)

13 Mar


Photo by clairetrafton on Morgue File.

This will be the third and final installment dealing with the Parable of the Two Builders. Here again is the parable, as Jesus told it:

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. (Mt. 7.24-27)

We have seen in the first and second installments dealing with this parable that Jesus uses the motif of building a house. Both men in the parable do the same thing. Both men seem capable and skilled at the craft. Both complete their task, (again, unlike the tower builder), and both have houses that will be tested by a storm.

The key contrast is the foundation on which they chose to build their respective houses. The first man chose wisely and built his house on rock, a bedrock foundation. The second man was foolish and chose to build his house on sand. Again, this is an absurd choice. No one would think of doing such a thing. Anyone with any familiarity with construction would know that sand is an unsuitable foundation.

Of course, this is the whole point. The absurdity of the choice, the lunacy of the decision is the key point of the parable. Jesus often exaggerated the detail to drive home the point of his teaching. This way of teaching is known as hyperbole. The thing about hyperbole, and really any figure of speech, is that it must be recognized for what it is; else, the meaning and interpretation of the pericope will be badly misconstrued and the application will be lost on the hearer.

In fact, Jesus has already used a good bit of hyperbole in the context of this parable: the Sermon on the Mount. He has taught that if a person’s eye causes them to sin, then it should be plucked out. If a person’s hand causes them to sin, it should be cut off. Sadly, while there have been a few in history who have taken Jesus’ words here literally . . . they are not meant to be understood literally! They are hyperbole!

The hyperbole brings home the point in a forceful and image-laden rich way. Anyone who hears, or reads, Jesus saying you must pluck out your eye should have quite a vivid mental image of that! The detail is exaggerated to accentuate the point. The point being: be careful what you do with your eyes!

The hyperbole in this parable of building a house on sand brings home the point: be careful what you build your life upon−because it matters!

Yet, Jesus is saying more in this parable than all of this. This is not just a simple morality story of being a wise and thoughtful builder. Jesus is saying far more.

Notice the referent of the whole parable. That is, notice what determines the wisdom of the first builder and the folly of the second. Again, it is not in their expertise, both men seem to have that. It is not in whether they complete the task or not, again both men do this. Rather, it is the foundation they choose.

But, what is the moral? What correlates to the foundation in the parable in real life? Jesus gives that to us in the first part of verses 24 and 26. The referent is: these words of mine. That is to say, the one who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man; but, the one who hears these words of mine but does not do them is like the foolish man.

Jesus is saying that the whole determination hinges upon what we do with his words (i.e. teachings and commands). Of course, in the current context this would be the Sermon on the Mount (SOTM). As we now have the complete New Testament (NT) corpus, it would be all of his teachings recording in the Gospel accounts.

Why is this significant?

We must see what Jesus is claiming here. He does not say, Whoever hears the words and law of Moses and does them will be like . . . . No, it is his words that make the difference. What Jesus says here is very similar (if not exact) to what YHWH claims of his words and commands in the Torah.

Consider what YHWH says through his servant Moses in the following passage:And if you faithfully obey the voice of YHWH your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, YHWH your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of YHWH your God. Blessed shall you be . . . Blessed shall you be . . . Blessed shall be . . . . But if you will not obey the voice of YHWH your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be . . . Cursed shall you be . . . Cursed shall be . . . . (Dt. 28.1-2, 3, 4; 15, 16, 17).

One could also read Dt. 30.15-20 and see the same idea, along with countless other pericopes.

What is the point? The point is noticing the similarity between what Jesus said and what YHWH said in the OT. That is, they say the same thing! Jesus then claims the authority . . . the privileges, prerogatives and rights of God himself! How could he do such a thing?

He could do such a thing because he was, in point of fact, God in flesh! While Jesus does not explicitly declare I am God do what I say! He implicitly says just that!

It is the teachings and commands of Christ, and what we do with them, which will determine whether we stand or fall in the day of judgment. When we stand before God, will we stand clothed in the imputed righteousness of Christ, redeemed and accepted? Or, will we stand before him in our rebelliousness and sin, still fallen in our nature? In short, will we be like the first house and stand in the day of the storm of God’s judgment? Or, will we fall in that day beneath our own shoddy foundation of sin and wretchedness?

Thus, you see, Jesus makes all the difference.

So then, this parable of Jesus is not some relativistic moralizing soapbox of be good and say your prayers and remember to cross your t’s and dot your i’s and mind your p’s and q’s and everything will be okay . . . No! Jesus is saying that everything hinges on what we do with him and his message (i.e. the gospel)!

He cannot be ignored. He must be confessed or rejected. He must be accepted or denied. He must be Lord or nothing in our lives.

So the question then is, what will you do with Jesus?

Or, put another way: what is the foundation of your life?

Interesting Interrogatives and Livable Life-Lessons:

  1. While the structure matters, the foundation is crucial.
  2. Jesus clearly claimed divinity.
  3. Our justification before God will be determined by what we have done with his Son.
  4. Judgment will come to one and all (Hb. 9.27), but whether one stands or falls will be determined by their relationship to the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ.
  5. Jesus changed everything. He cannot be treated as only a good, moral teacher. As C.S. Lewis famously stated, he did not leave us that option! Either Jesus really is who he claimed to be−the incarnate Son of God; and thus he is Lord and King. Or, he is a fraud. But there is no middle, neutral ground. What say you?

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