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Matthew Chapter 7 verses 21-29, English Standard Version
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
“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.”
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.
Luke Chapter 6 verses 46-49
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
*The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders, the Rock and the Sand © Parva Press
May I invite you to look at the setting, the detail of the two houses and their builders and at why Jesus told this arresting story? We can then look at the challenges it presents, the possible storms and finally at the great significance of this parable.
The setting in which the parable was told
Although it is not actually labelled ‘a parable’ by either gospel writer, it clearly is one. It is found in the gospels of both Matthew and Luke. In Matthew it comes as the conclusion and final challenge of what is often called ‘The Sermon on the Mount’. Under the interpretation of the Scribes and Pharisees, God’s law had become a narrow, religious, ritual observance on the surface of life. Throughout the sermon, our Lord had been raising it, and showing it to be much deeper and higher; a total way of living before the Lord God.
In Luke’s gospel, the account of the Lord’s teaching is much briefer, however, the thrust is the same and the concluding parable of the two builders is very similar. The teaching seems to have been given on a quite separate occasion and is sometimes known as ‘The Sermon on the Plain’, as Luke records that it was given in a level place.
In these sermons, as Jesus interpreted the law of God as given to Moses, he showed it to be a matter of the heart. So, for example, disciples are not only to keep back from actual, physical murder, but to keep in check that more subtle tendency to ‘rubbish’ or undermine those we don’t like or don’t agree with. They are called, not just to refrain from adultery, but to keep lust in all its subtle forms under control before an all-seeing heavenly Father. True disciples are challenged to respond toward those who take advantage or persecute them, not with retaliation but with forgiveness, patience and godly love.
In Matthew’s account, Jesus draws a sharp distinction between those who want to use a ‘veneer of apparent godliness’ to further their own career or social standing and those who really mean business with the Lord God. And so, very unlike the practice of the scribes and Pharisees in those days, personal praying and fasting are to be seen as opportunities ‘to do serious business with our heavenly Father’ rather than as opportunities to put on some kind of display to impress those around us. Similarly, giving is to be done secretly before our Father in heaven. It is not to be used as the Pharisees used it, as a public opportunity to demonstrate their generosity, so that everyone could admire them. Again, Jesus taught a very different view of wealth and possessions; not to view them as ‘all mine, for my personal use’ but to see them as a trust from the Lord God to be used in ways that bring honour to his name.
He taught us to trust our heavenly Father for all that we need, and to be very unhasty in judging others. He warned that the entrance and the path to life, the Lord God’s best for us, is narrow, the way hard and sometimes lonely and that there are false folk about who would mislead us.
Norval Geldenhuys concludes his comment on the whole sermon by saying, ‘Never before or after Jesus did anyone lay down such high standards of how one should live in thought and action toward God and one’s fellow-men.’ Here is the pattern for God’s new creation; everything and everybody living in a right relationship with him and with one another.
So the priorities and lifestyle of all true members and citizens of the kingdom of heaven, God’s new creation in and through his Son, are spelled out and explained in both the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain . . . and then the challenge presented, ‘Why do you call me Lord, Lord and yet do not do the things that I say?’
The Lord God will not be mocked – he looks on our hearts and knows our secret thoughts and motives. Just before he gave the final challenge of the parable, the Lord Jesus made it plain to his hearers that he, who had just delivered these words, has been appointed the final judge. ‘On that day . . .’ – the day of God’s final judgement – he, as God’s anointed One, will discern and judge the hearts and real motives of those claiming to be his disciples and members of his kingdom.
In the light of these solemn words, Jesus told this brief parable to stir his hearers to actually live the godly way he had set out, rather than just be ‘moved by’, or ‘delighted with’, or ‘critically interested’ in his teaching. He makes it plain that putting his words into the action of everyday living is the way to ultimate safety, life and joy – but that hearing them without putting them into practice can lead only to one thing . . . utter disaster and total loss. Here is a serious call to repentance before God, a change of thinking and living, and to faith in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus.
We so easily delight to consider and discuss and give our opinion on the Sermon on the Mount and more widely on the words of Jesus. We like to reflect and assess and make our judgement on his words . . . keeping any personal challenge at a safe distance! But in this parable, as Joseph Parker points out, we have our Lord’s own view of his words. His words are not fine stones to decorate the externals of our lives but the great foundation stones on which it is essential that we each build. The Lord Jesus gives no promise that those who are his faithful and obedient disciples will escape the storms of life, but rather, that built on this foundation – and this foundation alone – their ‘house’ will stand steadfast through them.
The detail of the parable itself
Do note first, Luke’s record of the Lord Jesus’ introduction to the parable, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like . . .” This theme – of actually putting his teaching into practical everyday living; ‘doing what he says’ . . . or of failing to do so – is a constant theme of the Lord and, subsequently, of his apostles throughout the New Testament.
May I invite you, then, to look carefully at the parable, looking, first at the houses and how they were built, then at the men and their different approaches and finally at the storms they needed to build their houses to withstand.
First the houses . . . We can reasonably assume that the two men each wanted a house as soon as possible, that the houses they intended to live in were very much the same and that they were built in the same area and so subjected to the same violent storms.
While the sun shone, the houses, when they were completed, were much the same. The difference was hidden from view, indeed, buried. However, one man’s house was ‘a fool’s paradise,’ a disaster waiting to happen.
Bear in mind that there were no mechanical diggers to prepare the ground, no cement lorries bringing concrete to lay the foundations and no trucks with heavy lifting gear to deliver the material for the walls or to lift the roofing beams into place. It would all be done by hand and so, at every stage, there would be the temptation to make it less laborious, easier and simpler to build. The foolish man did make life simpler; he worked hard with the walls and roof but did not trouble too much with the hard work of the hidden part.
The foolish man could laugh at the wise man sweating away as he ‘dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock’, while his own house was finished and lived in. Not until the storm struck did the wise man have any clear advantage. Until then, the foolish man appeared to have all the wisdom, and the ultimately wise man appeared to be an utter fool, doing all that seemingly unnecessary work as he dug down to the rock.
Then the men . . . The man, who proved ultimately to be foolish, had some very common but characteristic failings. Martyn Lloyd Jones suggests that his first characteristic was haste. He wanted his house now. Maybe, so that it was built in time for him to enjoy the best of the summer weather. Wanting his house as soon as possible, he despised ‘delay’ and ‘time-wasting.’ He wanted his house with all the benefits – but at the minimal expense of time and effort. And so he chose to build one without the labour of digging deep.
His second characteristic was that he was ‘strong-headed,’ his own opinion was his guide and reigned supreme. He knew what he wanted and clearly had no eyes to see or ears to hear the wisdom of digging deeply and laying the foundation of his house on rock.
His third characteristic, as William Barclay points out, was that he was a man for the moment; a ‘now’ man. He did not look ahead or see his house building project from a long-term perspective. He saw it only from the perspective of the fair summer days, without looking ahead to its use and value during the testing times of the autumn and spring rains.
And he succeeded. He built his house and it looked at least as good as the wise man’s house when that was, eventually, completed – yet he had made a fundamental error; omitting something on which his house would ultimately depend, the one thing that really mattered.
The man who proved to be wise also had characteristics. He, too, had a clear idea of the kind of house he would like to live in. But he was determined to get it right. He was no fool and so, either by his own observation or from advice offered to him, he could see the wisdom of digging deep enough to lay his foundations on solid rock. In order to achieve this he was willing to spend time and a great deal of effort on his house-building project. He was not hasty, given to taking disastrous short-cuts, or short-sighted.
The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders, the Rock and the Sand © Parva Press . . . continued.
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Finally the storms . . . When their houses were built, each man looked set to ‘live happily ever after.’ They had each achieved their goal. However, ‘the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against’ each house and, during the storms, the flood torrent ‘broke against’ each house. Only then, was each house severely tested.
In a lowland situation, flood waters rise worryingly steadily – but in the hills the scene is very different. The rain pours down on the hills or mountains. In moments, any normally quiet and lovely hollow leading to the valley bottom becomes filled with a raging torrent as the storm water runs off the rocky hillsides. This is the kind of flood that would test any man’s house.
When the flood waters broke against the wise man’s house, it could not shake it, because it had been well built. It did not fall, ‘because it had been founded on the rock’. However, when it broke against the foolish man’s house, it fell immediately, ‘and the ruin of that house was great.’
William Hendriksen notes that every ambition we cherish, every thought we conceive, every word we speak and every deed we perform is, as it were, a building block. Gradually the structure of life rises . . .
Here, right on the surface of the parable, and before any other consideration, is a valuable lesson for the whole of life. It is one, I freely acknowledge, we so easily learn too late! In any endeavour from preparing for an examination, to getting married, to raising a family, to taking some great career decision, to building a house or following up some great possibility – stop and reflect. It may be a great idea but don’t be a fool, don’t just rush into it: Be wise. Be determined to get it right. Do your homework. Take advice. Look to the times ahead, and spare no appropriate effort or expense. Frustrating as it may seem, take your time so that you can get it right.
Now, if that is the case with each and every project that we set out to do, how much more with the whole aim, purpose and direction of our lives – and yet how easy it is to overlook this.
Why did Jesus tell this story? The parable’s application to Jesus’ original hearers and to ourselves in our day
It is clear that Jesus told it because many in the crowd listening to him were heading for disaster. He wanted to warn them with this simple, vivid picture of the two men and their two houses. The people in the crowds were all ‘followers of Jesus’. They flocked to him wherever he was. They marvelled to see his miracles and enjoyed hearing his every word. They were amazed by his teaching and by his authority. Just like the houses, at a glance, these people all looked the same, they were all ‘his followers’ but some were wise and some were foolish.
This telling parable would discern between the very different groups of people in the crowd listening to him.
Peter and John and his other true disciples would go on to live, demonstrate and teach this godly way of life; the New Testament is full of their writings and records of their deeds. But for so many of his wider ‘followers’ they loved his stories and teaching and were amazed by the God-given signs that he did. They could not get enough of them – and yet, so many of those listening to Jesus had no ears or heart to let his teaching touch and change the way in which they thought and lived. For them it was just ‘wonderful entertainment’ and ultimately it did them no good. They carried on heading towards disaster.
And ourselves . . . ? Beware for this is a disastrous habit to get into. We can so easily attend church or chapel; go to conventions, rallies, camps or Bible studies. We love to hear God’s word explained and expounded by fine preachers, great orators. However, we can so easily do so as a kind of ‘spiritual entertainment’ an uplifting experience and we feel ‘blessed’ to have been present, but ultimately it only leaves us hungry for the next opportunity to be so entertained, blessed and uplifted. We do not allow God, through his holy word to search and ‘examine us and see if there is any wicked or ungodly way in us’. We come to it without the appetite for the Word of God to ‘rebuke, reprove or correct’ our thinking or living. We fail to ask the Lord God to challenge, correct or stir us. With this mindset we may come away feeling ‘uplifted’, but we are left fundamentally unchanged, we go on building our lives according to our own wisdom, or the wisdom of the world around us, but failing to found it on the rock of the word of the Lord.
Beware, then, of listening to the words of the Lord, his apostles or his faithful ministers today as the Old testament people of God listened to Ezekiel, ‘You are to them like one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it.’
Something else to beware of . . . There were others in the crowd ‘following Jesus’ who were also heading for disaster. They had their own reasons to put aside the significance of what Jesus did and to refrain from doing as he taught. These were the privileged religious leaders of the day, in particular the scribes and Pharisees. They were not just ‘out for the day’, enjoying the Lord’s miracles and words. They were there to weigh those words, to test and discern whether he was the true Messiah of God as the people believed him to be. They had too much to lose by acknowledging him to be that, and their own good reasons for not doing what he taught. Among their fellow religious leaders, it would involve terrible loss of face to be seen as one of his true disciples or to acknowledge him as the promised, anointed son of David, the Christ of God. They also had their present, favoured status and position to consider, and following his teaching would directly challenge the lifestyle they enjoyed.
Maybe it is painful a question to ask, but would speaking up among your friends and acquaintances, stepping forward, being publicly known as a disciple of the Lord Jesus be too great a loss of face? Beware if that is you. Beware too, if you will not do as he says because it runs against your traditions, the way that you have always done things or thought about things. Or, perhaps, the words of Jesus challenge your present life-style. It did for the scribes and Pharisees and, ultimately, they were the foolish ones. They did not do as the Lord Jesus taught; they clung to their established ways – as, but for the grace of God, we will always tend to do.
To this mixed company of hearers the Lord Jesus delivered these gracious but terrifying warnings. Only those who actually did what he taught would be found in, the end, to be the true members of the kingdom of God. Those who, for one reason or another did not, were courting disaster.
Brief and familiar as it is, here is yet another stinging, perceptive and penetrating parable!
All the words of Jesus or just some?
‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.’ The Lord concluded both the Sermon on the Mount and that on the plain with this challenge. We can apply it narrowly just to the content of those sermons. However, as the Lord prepared to leave the disciples, after his resurrection, he gave them the Great Commission to, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you . . .’ So, surely, just as the parable of the two builders applies to the words of the two sermons, does it not also apply to the whole of his teaching; to observing all that he has commanded?
Among the great crowd of ‘followers of Jesus’ in our own day, it is very easy to be among those who actually only take hold of only about a third of our Lord’s words. We love and rejoice in his promises, but pass very lightly over his warnings and put gently to one side as ‘culturally limited’ his commandments. It is too easy to just heed the words of Jesus we like to hear and brush aside the ones we like less. And yet here we are plainly warned that the greatest error is to hear the words of Jesus and yet fail to do them.
Learn from the parable, for each time we encounter Scripture, read, preached, discussed or shared, we are given an opportunity to examine, extend, re-align and make stronger the foundation upon which we are building; to make our repentance deeper and our belief stronger; to more fully trust and obey and so be increasingly ready to face the great storms of life.
Through this brief parable Jesus makes it very plain that the only sure foundation for the true and wise disciple, now as then, is a vital submission to him. He is the one appointed to be the final judge ‘on that day’. He is the true disciple’s Lord – and so day by day he calls us to be one of those who, in his words, ‘Comes to me and hears my words and does them’. Do we have such a humble willingness to walk where he leads and put into practice what he taught and so shape our whole lives by his teaching?
Is that us? Is that what we long to do, week by week month by month? This is wisdom; this is the way of the wise man of the parable as he dug deep to lay the foundation of his house on rock.
And what are these storms?
While things were going well, the houses were much the same. Just as people in the crowd listening to Jesus were much the same. And just as people in our churches and chapels are much the same. And yet in each case there are, sadly, so few who really want to do business with the Lord while so many come to be with friends, to enjoy the experience, to lap-up the wonderful words. I well remember someone, who was not very interested in the content, simply saying of a preacher, ‘I could listen to him for hours.’ We may come because we enjoy the oratory, or because we enjoy the comfort and warmth of such a group of people, the beautiful music or the ambience of a place of worship. We appreciate all the lovely ‘side effects of Christianity’ but are not too bothered about the foundations. Like the foolish man, we delight in the proportion and style of the rooms in the house, the wonderful views from the windows and the amazing opportunity of building in such a delightful setting . . . but, as to the foundations upon which it is built – that is a technical detail, of no interest to us. In the sunshine we simply do not need to know. This is our opportunity to enjoy the house just as we see it.
Such thinking is fine while the sun shines, but proves very short sighted indeed when the storm breaks. Can you see from the parable, that if we, ‘good Christian people’, find ourselves just meeting to be uplifted by the singing, to meet with friendly folk and to enjoy social activities together, or to academically and critically discuss Jesus’ words, we are in great danger. We could be found to have walked the disastrous way of the foolish man when the terrible storms break against our lives.
When do you want to get indoors? Not while it is warm and sunny but when the wind howls and the rain lashes and the roads become rivers, then you need a shelter from the stormy blast. Then, and not until then, you need to know that the house is well built and a safe place to shelter.
Not a list, but a principle
‘And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house . . .’ Our Lord does not spell out the nature of the storms. We, like his original hearers, are left to figure that out for ourselves. It is sufficient that he has given us warning.
You may well be bright and strong, able and charming, dancing through a very full and active life. It seems that trial and temptation, difficulties and death come nowhere near you. Indeed, it looks as if they never could come near your door . . . and yet they will. Then, and only then, will the foundation upon which your life has been built be discovered, tested and laid bare. Will your house stand?
John Chrysostom (347-407) gives us the earliest known understanding of some of the storms we may face. Commenting on Matthew’s account of the parable, he speaks of floods, calamities and afflictions from men and devils. He points us to the example of Job, who the evil one tested so sorely, and, in the New Testament, to the example of the apostles, who stood firm despite the assaults of nations and princes, their own people and strangers, evil spirits and the devil.
In our own day, for what severe buffetings and storms should we be prepared? Although our Lord did not give his hearers a list, they would include:
Sudden and overwhelming temptation – like that which broke over Peter’s head on the eve of the crucifixion, when challenged three times to confess himself a disciple of Jesus. It could have cost him his life to do so – so he did not. But would we, in that kind of situation?
For our strengthening we have the psalmist’s pattern, ‘Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you?’ And John Calvin so helpfully reminds us that our own faith must not be thrown even when we see those we have held in high esteem fall or renounce the faith. We must not be shaken when apparently great ones, even pillars of the church, fall or fall away.
Terrible distress – like that described in the book of Job, as his wealth, family and health were all snatched away. It can be brought about in our day, for example, by financial ruin, marriage breakdown and the total tearing apart of a family, or the serious illness or death of dearly loved family member or friend, the failure of our health or just the isolation, daily grind and hardship of great age and infirmity. We love to picture gliding into the final harbour of heaven in the calm of sunset, but, as Charles Spurgeon points out, it is much more likely to be with timbers creaking and sails torn and every pump manned to keep the storm from sinking us. Even through such storms, the psalmist Asaph offers us a tonic to spur us on in Psalm 73. His great conclusion, ‘My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.’
It would include, as the apostle Paul knew only too well, – misrepresentations, slurs, false accusations, persecutions, beatings, imprisonments, stoning, even death itself. Yet, for the encouragement of his fellow believers, even from his final prison cell, he could write, ‘For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.’
It would include the wonderful and yet absolutely terrifying return of the King, the Lord Jesus, as Lord and Judge and the final judgement of God on ‘that day’ . . .
‘That day’; the final and greatest test of all
Do note well the warning that came just before Jesus told this parable, ‘On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not . . . ?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
We have been graciously given this terrifying warning. Matthew Henry notes that it is too easy to profess faith and enjoy the many privileges of found in the church and to gain a great reputation in it, to walk with great assurance, and yet at the end to be found to have built on the sand. It may not be recognised by us, or those around us, until trial and persecution, death and judgement knock at our door. Apparent faith is so hard to distinguish from real and obedient faith until, in this life, the great tests and temptations strike or until that day when we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, when the secrets of all hearts will be known. Note well, warns Matthew Henry, the foolish man’s house fell in the storm, when the builder had most need of it, and it fell when it was too late to build another.
Pray for those in our churches and chapels who have preached in his name and done so many wonderful things, and yet to whom the Lord may be forced to declare, ‘I know that you have done these things, and yet I also know that you actually only used me, my words and my church to build your own self-importance, gain social standing and public esteem, to further your own career and provide for a comfortable life-style and retirement . . . I never knew you; depart from me . . .’
What a terrifying prospect! Is it possible for me to be so busy ‘building my own empire’ or ‘playing my part in my own denomination’ that I fail to be used as a minor servant of my Lord as he builds his kingdom or ‘builds his church’?
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” As well as church leaders, our Lord’s warning can come uncomfortably close to us as ordinary modern Christians with our ‘comforting personal belief’ but so little to show for it in the way in which we live our lives. ‘Lord, Lord’ was said for emphasis. So, can you see that if, on ‘that day,’ we were to say, ‘Lord I have believed in you all these years, I really, really have’ . . . on the basis of this parable, he could reply, ‘Then why did you not do as I said . . .’?
In no way do I want to lessen the importance of belief. Our essential wellbeing depends on our surrendering to him as truly the Son of God and accepting, personally, what he came to do. He came to give his life a ransom in order that you and I might, personally, be made right with God, forgiven. But, clearly from this parable, we not only need to believe on him but also to submit to him and obey him; we need to do what he says.
He has called us to care about one another, to be very forgiving of one another and together be constantly watching, praying and about his business, ‘Blessed are those servants whom the lord finds so doing when he returns’
Here is the effort and the joy of digging deep and laying a foundation on rock. If we do so, rather than hearing these dreadful words, ‘I never knew you, depart from me . . . ’, we may hear these other, very different and very wonderful words of our Lord, ‘Well done good and faithful servant . . . enter into the joy of your lord.’
When prayed with humble sincerity, how wise and helpful is David’s prayer, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . and see if there be any ungodly or hurtful way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.’
The great significance of Jesus’ words and of this parable
‘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.’
Who then is it who has such authority? Kenneth Bailey notes, in this parable, a very significant echo of a parable and prophecy of Isaiah some 700 years earlier. It may seem obscure to us, but its significance would not have been lost on the scribes and Pharisees, experts in the law and the prophets. As they listened to Jesus, they would see, to their discomfort, all too plainly his claim to be the fulfilment of the promise of God uttered by Isaiah.
In the face of the terrifying, all-conquering Assyrian advance, Isaiah had prophesied that, although the people and their leaders had laid their hopes on human treaties with Egypt, they would prove valueless; ‘a refuge of lies,’ and, ‘a covenant with death’. Those who had put their trust in them would be – like the foolish man of the Lord’s parable – swept away just as storm waters overwhelm a feeble shelter; sweeping away both shelter and those in it.
However, in the same prophetic utterance, Isaiah also foresaw the day when the Lord God would lay in Zion, ‘a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation’ . . . Does the Lord’s parable of the two builders not lay before his hearers the veiled but stupendous claim that he, the Lord Jesus and his words are the fulfilment of that prophecy; the precious, God-laid cornerstone; the only sure foundation? That building life on the finest of human wisdom or any other scheme must end in disaster? In the Lord Jesus alone, and in obedience to his words, is found the only safe foundation.
This is no 21st century novel interpretation. The prophecy is quoted by the apostle Peter in his first letter and clearly applied to the Lord Jesus. Lines from the ancient hymn, translated from the Latin, with its wonderful melody, express it perfectly,
Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and corner-stone,
Chosen of the Lord and precious . . .
In association with Isaiah’s prophecy, the parable of the two builders declares who Jesus really is and why his words are absolutely foundational.
No wonder the people were amazed and astonished. Jesus’ words were not the theoretical and dispassionate lecture of the scholar but the commands, rules and warnings of the God-chosen King of kings before whose throne we must all ‘on that day’ bow the knee. To him, our only Saviour and Lord, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, has been committed all authority, all judgement.
The greatest wisdom is to submit to him, accept what he came to do, dig deep and lay well the foundation of joyful, willing obedience. The greatest error is to hear the words of the Lord Jesus Christ . . . but fail to do them.
Lord God, thank you for yet another uncomfortably telling parable from the lips of your Son, the Lord Jesus. By your Holy Spirit open our eyes to see who he truly is, and to ‘come to him, hear his words and do them.’
Questions for personal reflection or discussion
- How does the constant temptation to make life easier affect the way you go about things?
- How hasty and strong-headed do you find yourself to be?
- How easy is it for us to be like the wise man and take the long view of the decisions we make?
- ‘Every thought, every ambition.’ We are building, but is it according to Jesus’ words?
- Like so many in the crowd, how easy is it to be uplifted, but without God’s word touching the way we live?
- How comfortable is it when our Lord’s words challenge the way we have always thought and done things?
- How easy is it for us to love his promises but ‘pass over his warnings and tread very lightly round his commandments’? Do we ‘heed the words of Jesus we like to hear and brush aside the ones we like less’?
- What if we find ourselves just meeting ‘to be uplifted by the singing, to meet with friendly folk and to enjoy social activities together’ or ‘to academically and critically discuss Jesus’ words.’ Are we in great danger?
- When great times of temptation strike, is it helpful to recognise that we must not be shaken when apparently great ones, even pillars of the church, fall or fall away?
- Through the great distresses of life, is it true that it is much more likely that we will find ourselves, ‘with timbers creaking and sails torn and every pump manned to keep the storm from sinking us’?
- ‘Misrepresentations, slurs, false accusations, persecutions.’ On account of our believing and obeying, have any of these come near our door or the doors of those we know?
- ‘And yet I also know that you actually only used me, my words and my church to build your own self-importance, gain social standing and public esteem . . .’ What a terrifying possibility, how can we guard against it?
- Clearly from this parable, we not only need to believe on him but also to submit to him and obey him; we need to do what he says. Is this a word in season for comfortable, Western Christians?
- He has called us to care about one another, to be very forgiving of one another and together be constantly watching, praying and about his business. How are we doing as individuals and as a church?
- ‘Christ is made the sure foundation, Christ the head and corner-stone . . .’ The greatest wisdom is to submit to him, accept what he came to do, dig deep and lay well the foundation of joyful, willing obedience. The greatest error is to hear the words of the Lord Jesus Christ but fail to do them. Is this parable really such a comfortable, little childhood song?
Search and examine us and see if there is any wicked or ungodly way in us, Psalm 139:24
Rebuke, reprove or correct our thinking or living, 2 Timothy 3:16
Like one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice, Ezekiel 33:32
Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you . . . Matthew 28:20
Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you, Psalm 119:11
My heart and my flesh may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever, Psalm 73:26
For me to live is Christ, to die is gain, Philippians 1:21
Builds his kingdom or ‘builds his church,’ Matthew 16:18
Blessed are those servants whom the lord finds so doing when he returns, Luke 12:43
Well done good and faithful servant . . . enter into the joy of your lord, Matthew 25:21&23
Lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:24
A precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation, Isaiah 28:16 and 1 Peter 2:6