Matthew wrote the Sermon on the Mount to teach what it means to be a disciple of Christ. In the final three pictures that Jesus gave, He showed the difference between those who are truly members of His Kingdom and those who are not. True believers will choose the narrow gate instead of the wide gate of this world. They will not be false prophets, but will bear good fruit. In His last image, Jesus explained that many will hear the Word of God and agree, but not everyone will actually obey it. Here is what He said:
“‘Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.’”
In this little story the rock is Jesus’ teaching. It is the Word of God. It is the Sermon on the Mount!
It is one thing to see the goodness of God’s ways and talk about them. What is much more difficult is to put them into practice. To destroy our own pride so we can speak with humility and mercy to another person is painful. To deny ourselves pleasure for the sake of purity can be extremely uncomfortable. But those momentary little decisions of the heart are the moments when we choose Jesus over ourselves. And with each obedience, we allow the foundation of Christ grow stronger and firmer under our feet. It is like we are laying down solid, unshakeable foundation. As difficult times come, that foundation will keep us strong so that we are not destroyed by hardship.
Not everyone who hears God’s Word will build their house on the rock of Christ. This is how Jesus described them:
“‘But 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. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’”
Jesus gravely warns that listening to His Words and even approving of them is not enough. Imagine a man who is building his house for his family. He goes to the store and sees large, flat rocks that are supposed to be used to make the foundation of the house. The other builders tell him, “These rocks may be expensive, but they are worth it. Your house will be secure and strong, and your walls will not shake.” The man picks up a few of the rocks, looks them over, and talks about how great they are. But he decides not to buy them. They are too much to bother with. It would take a lot of work to lug them over to his land and there are a lot of other things he can do with that money.
The man goes back to his land and builds up some walls on the sand. He throws a roof on top and moves his family in. All the while, he is talking about how great those rocks are. He may even give people the idea that he used rocks when he built the house. He might even help other people build their homes on rock. But when the hard rains come, it will be clear to everyone. When the house collapses, the whole neighborhood will see that the rocks aren’t there.
It is very easy to hear the bright, holy ideas of God and to agree with them. Who will openly say that humility is a bad? Few people will declare that mercy is a bad idea. People all over the world revere the great peacemakers of history. But actually paying the price, to actually take on those qualities in our own lives, is a very different thing. It is much easier to enjoy the pleasure of winning an argument, to feed on our pride and lust, or to huddle in our comforts. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus issued an epic challenge to His disciples. Would they look deeply at His high and holy ways and start laying a new kind of foundation for their own lives? Would they act in a manner worthy of citizens of God’s Kingdom?