It is significant that Jesus ended the Sermon on the Mount with the parable
of the Wise and Foolish Builders. Throughout the long day Jesus had been
preaching to the vast multitude. They listened to him with amazement and
awe. But Jesus warned them that that was not enough. It is never enough
simply to listen to the words of Jesus, even though we may listen with
reverent approval. If His words are to have any genuine effect in our lives
we must not only hear them but also act upon them. We must incorporate them
in the events of our day-to-day living.
To drive the point home Jesus told the compelling story of two builders who each built a home. Standing inside these homes, going from room to room, there was little to no difference between. Even from the outside one might say they were virtually indistinguishable from one another. But, said Jesus, the foundations, one built upon the rock and the other upon sand. When Jesus spoke about houses and foundations he knew what he was talking about. He was a stonemason by trade and his family was most likely in the construction business.
The people there, listening to Jesus' teaching, understood well the significance of building upon rock verses sand. But very few people in ancient Palestine wanted to live in the rocks. It meant grading the side of a slope and hauling up materials. Living in the hills made for more difficult travel. Water had to be toted and winter winds were colder. Most people followed the path of least resistance and built along the riverbeds. The scenery more pleasant, the water more conveniently located, and the house was sheltered from the cold winds of winter. And though flooding was a danger, most of the year the streams trickled pleasantly down the hillsides into the river nearby.
But on rare occasions, perhaps only once a generation, the 100-year flood would come. There would be a combination of an unusually heavy snow, a quick spring thaw, a torrential downpour. The result was a vicious flashflood which swept away everything in its path. Entire hamlets washed away. House after house gone and great would be the fall.
That's the image drawn here in Matthew 7. It comes from the life of these people gathered around Jesus on that day he delivered this sermon. Jesus was not simply telling here what I call a preacher story. A preacher story is an illustration that may very well fit the point that is being made, but one that doesn't sound very believable. On the contrary, Jesus was talking about a situation that was very real in the life of the people.
What are some points that we may conclude from this story?
1. First, it suggest that we are all involved in building, and that the house that we build bears our own distinctive mark.
2. Secondly, everyone must occupy the house they build.
3. Third, the real test in life comes when the storms are upon us.
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