We come today to the final part of the Sermon on the Plain. This is Jesus’ conclusion to his own sermon.
But before we jump into this, let’s step back for a minute and take a big picture look at how the sermon is put together. (Additional outline handout)
- As we saw last week, the second section on loving enemies corresponds to the third section on correcting others. They have a common theme – mercy, and a common structure, with v. 36 in the middle holding them together.
- Today I would highlight that the first section on blessings and woes corresponds to the fourth section, our focus. They have a similar structure and they share a common theme. Both are about a comparison between faithful and unfaithful disciples.
As you look at the way this sermon is put together, notice the X shape of it. This is a common way of thinking and writing in the ancient world. It’s called a chiastic literary structure. The name comes from the Greek letter Chi which is in the shape of an “x.”
Next, still in big picture mode, let’s look at a summary of the teaching of the sermon thus far:
- In the first section on blessings and woes we learned that we are to be faithful despite the consequences. Even if it makes us poor, hungry, sorrowful and causes us to be slandered.
- In the second section on enemies, we learned that we are to love our enemies and return good for evil.
- In the third section on correcting others, we learned that when we see sin in someone’s life, we are to act with mercy, not judgment or condemnation, so that we can help them get rid of their sin.
In his conclusion then, which is our focus, Jesus uses this teaching as a test – ‘How do you compare?’ ‘Are you faithful?’ I can look at my life and compare it to these three things and see, ‘Am I heading toward faithfulness or am I heading toward unfaithfulness as a disciple?’
So this last section is Jesus’ call to faithfulness for each one of us. In this he challenges us to test two things in our lives.
Test #1: Our words
Do our words line up with Jesus’ teaching here?
vs. 43-45 – “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Let me point out two things here.
1. The principle of the inner and the outer. This teaches us that what’s in your heart, the treasure, what’s stored up in it, the abundance – that’s what comes out. Jesus says, “Each tree is known by its own fruit” – v. 44.
So you can see what is in a person’s heart by how they act. (Now someone can put on a show for a while, but eventually the truth comes out.) There is an unbreakable connection between the inner life of a person and the outer life of a person. The inner is the source of the outer and the outer is a window into the otherwise hidden recesses of the inner.
- So you can’t say, ‘I am living a life of sin, but this doesn’t really reflect what’s in my heart. And God just cares about my heart. I like Jesus. I have faith so it’s OK.’
- Or to put it another way – you can’t say, ‘I’m a Christian in my heart of hearts. People just can’t see it. The outward stuff just isn’t that important.’
According to Jesus, a good tree produces good fruit.
2. The focus here in on our words. Jesus pulls vs. 43-45 together by saying “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” So in this case, it is our words that reveal what is in our heart.
Are we a good tree or a bad tree? The test is are our words in agreement with what Jesus has taught in this sermon. More specifically, do we affirm and teach that we are to:
- be faithful despite the consequences?
- love our enemies?
- give mercy to those who fail and sin?
If we do this shows that we are a good tree. We have stored up Jesus’ teaching in our hearts. And so we have a good treasure, which overflows in words that are shaped by Jesus’ teaching. In other words, we show that we are faithful disciples in this area.
Now this same test can be applied to others who come to us and teach. Do their words affirm and teach all that Jesus says in this sermon? When you hear someone preach or teach, or on the TV or the radio – test their words and see.
Test #2: Our actions
Do our actions line up with Jesus’ teaching here? Do we obey Jesus’ teaching?
Now, let me back up a minute. In each of the sections of the Sermon on the Plain so far there has been a word about how to enter the kingdom of God. Let’s look at this briefly:
- Section one: If we suffer for our faithfulness to Jesus we will be lifted up and blessed in the kingdom of God and not cursed.
- Section two: If we love our enemies we are “sons” and thus inheritors of the Father’s kingdom; not sinners who have no reward.
- Section three: If we give mercy to those who fail, we will receive mercy and not judgment or condemnation on the last day.
There is a focus on entering the future kingdom of God in each of these.
Well, in calling us to faithfulness at the end of his message, here in vs. 46-49, Jesus draws this all together and makes the point that our actions based on this sermon as a whole will determine our eternal fate.
We begin with –
v.46 – “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
Jesus’ question is rooted in a contradiction. To call Jesus ‘Lord’ means you are to submit and obey. As Jesus says in 6:40, disciples are supposed to learn from and obey their teachers. But some who call Jesus ‘Lord’ do not submit and obey. This was true in Jesus’ day and it remains true today.
And it just doesn’t make any sense! We say one thing and do another. We indicate that we will listen to Jesus and obey him, but we listen to and obey other voices – while we ignore Jesus.
In vs. 47-49 Jesus gives the parable of the two builders. This compares those who call Jesus Lord and obey him, and those who just call Jesus Lord and don’t obey him. It gives us a picture of the final judgment. And it’s a warning to us.
vs. 47-49 – “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.”
One house was well built. The builder worked hard and dug deep to lay his foundation on something solid. The second house was not well built. It had no foundation.
Then a storm comes with lots of rain and deep waters. Storms and floods often picture God’s judgment in Scripture (Psalm 18:11-14; Habakkuk 3:3-15; Zephaniah 1:15/ Genesis 6-9; Isaiah 28:2, 17; Ezekiel 13:10-16).
After the rivers were swollen with rain the flood “broke against” both houses.
- The first house survives the storm. Because it had been well built it “could not be shaken.” It was built on solid rock.
- The second house, however, immediately falls and “great was the ruin of that house.”
The point is that disciples who only call Jesus Lord, but do not obey him, will be washed away in the storm of the final judgment. This is the second house. Only disciples who act on Jesus’ words, who obey him, will survive the storm of the final day. This is the first house.
The test, then, is do we obey Jesus’ words? The phrase “my words” refers back to the sermon Jesus has just delivered. We obey his words by living out his teaching here. So –
- Are you faithful despite the consequences?
- Do you love your enemies?
- Do you give mercy to those who fail?
If we live out this teaching, then we show ourselves to be faithful disciples. Since we have dug deep and built on the foundation of Jesus’ teaching, we will not be shaken.
To sum it up, Jesus calls us to faithfulness in two ways. Do our words line up with his teaching here? And – Do our actions line up with his teaching here? We need to test ourselves in these ways so that we can grow more and more in our faithfulness to our Lord.