Summary: Are we being obedient to Jesus (building our house on the rock) or are we being disobedient (building on sand)? What does obedience mean? This is a challenge to be obedient.
Danger! Keep out. Beware of the dog! Don’t talk to strangers. Follow me. Make sure you’re home by midnight! Failure to comply will have consequences.
Jesus brings the Sermon on the Mount to an end with a warning. Jesus does not beat around the bush. He is not woolly. He does not waffle. He is not vague.
Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3) by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Blessed are the poor in spirit; in other words poverty of spirit, the understanding that we need God, the awareness that we are not the finished article, and a humble trust in God brings God’s blessing. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Good news indeed, especially if you already aware of your need for God: Blessed are the poor in spirit.
After delivering tough and challenging teaching Jesus ends his sermon with a warning. It’s almost as if he is saying, “You’ve listened to my teaching, but for some of you it’s going to be a case of ‘In one ear and out of the other’”. Jesus did not offer his teaching and offer his life and then say, “If you want to listen to me that’s great but if you don’t that’s OK.” No, Jesus issued a warning to those who heard his teaching, and that warning also applies to us when we hear his teaching.
Now you might be thinking, “Surely Jesus was all-loving, compassionate, kind and patient.” Yes, he was! It’s because of his love that Jesus warns us! When my child puts her hand towards a fire I shout a warning because I love her. Real love is honest, trustworthy and faithful. Real love seeks to protect the loved one from danger; and Jesus himself said that “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.” (CEV)
Jesus began by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. He finishes with a warning: “…everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (7:24); and he also said that “everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (7:26).
At this point I feel uncomfortable - because I know that this week I have done things and said things which go against the teaching of Jesus. I have thought things which go against the teaching of Jesus, and it wouldn’t surprise me if many of you are right now thinking the same thing. In fact if there is a perfect person present here this morning, a person who thinks they have achieved perfection of actions, thoughts and words this week, please do make your self known; and we’ll pray for you, as “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
So for me, it sometimes looks like I am building my life on sand because I am not putting the words of Jesus into practice; and it’s fair to say that the story Jesus told – the parable Jesus told – is primarily about obedience and disobedience. One man was obedient and the other was disobedient. Both men heard the words of Jesus and went out to build themselves a house. Both houses were new, probably clean and impressive, and they probably made use of the latest technology available. One man constructed his house on a foundation of rock (7:24) and when the mother of all storms came (7:25) his house stood firm. The other constructed his house on a foundation of sand (7:26) and when that mother of all storms came (7:27) his house fell with a great crash, like a house of cards, or dominoes toppling, or the end of a game of ‘Giant Jenga’!
I wonder what sort of house I am building. Am I building my life upon obedience to Jesus, or not?
When I ask a question like that there are two temptations which are worth considering very briefly:
1: One is the temptation to be quite proud and think to our selves, “Yes, I’m doing very well. I’m very good at obeying Jesus, and I’m very good at helping others to obey Jesus, and I’m very good at showing other people where they’re going wrong.” To such pride Jesus said during his sermon on the mount, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (7:5). Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (7:1). He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”