Luke’s gospel. sermon on the plain. last words
Jesus ends with a call to active obedience. The fruit of an obedient life will be the test of inner genuineness. Mere words are not enough, Jesus calls us to bear fruit.
v46 Why do you call me Lord Lord and do not do what I say?
At the heart of what it means to be a Christian is active obedience to Jesus Christ. Willing submission to his rule. Jesus is not just Saviour, He is Lord.
I wonder how we instinctively feel about that? because obedience and submission, even authority are dirty words in our culture.
[David Cameron’s dressing down this week by astudent. “I’m an English literature student. I know waffling when i see it’’ she said.]
The supreme values of our culture now are self-determination and personal freedom. Why would you ever do what somebody else says? No-one else has the right to tell you how to live your life. Why would you obey or willingly be mastered by someone else? You’re not a dog! At best it’s demeaning at worst it’s sinister!
And it’s particularly incongrous where Jesus’ words run directly counter to our culture’s preferences and therefore feel oppressive, outdated, inexplicable and impossible. For example when it comes to sex and money our culture says give your body away to maximise your pleasure but keep your money for yourself. Jesus says the polar opposite: be miserly with your body but be promiscuous with your money; Give your money to anyone. Give your body to no-one except your husband if you’re a woman; your wife if you’re a man.
Obedience to Jesus?
How are we to get our heads around this?
Jesus gives us a parable. A story about house building. Its there in vv46-49
Jesus knew all about building houses. He was a craftsman by trade and had practised as a carpenter. But even more so he’s a master story teller. Think about the story he tells..
Two men each decide to build a house. No doubt they intended to live in and enjoy them perhaps with their families [Brother and sister in Law - house from scratch - plans for the future]
Both these men were building something of long lasting significance. In a sense their money and sweat and effort is going into building their lives, their future.
Here’s the thing. We all build don’t we? We all dream and we work to realise that dream. Most of us are working very hard. Or we drop out, pursue pleasure. But whatever we do we’re all searching for something beyond ourselves to give us significance and satisfaction and security - it’s a human trait..
And so ..while we say ‘I am self determining, I’m free. I have no masters. I’m my own boss. I’m no-ones disciple.’ Actually all of us have some dream of the good life that masters us. We’re all building! We’re all disciples of ‘something’.
And so the choice is not obedience to Jesus -v- freedom
the choice is obedience to Jesus -v- obedience to something else
According to Jesus - there aren’t a million ways to live your life. The world is not your oyster! There are only 2 ways to live: obedience to Him or obedience to something or someone that is not him!
But let’s get back to the story. Two men each build a house. Maybe the houses they built differed little in appearance. At this stage no one looking on from outside in a purely superficial way, would have been able to tell then apart.
The second similarity between the two is that in both cases floods came - very topical - and torrents struck those houses. All of us, sooner or later, face inevitable pressures of life in this world. suffering, sickness, bereavement, disappointment and misunderstandings, trials and temptations doubts and attacks. Ultimately all of us will face death and God’s judgement. the image of ‘rain, floods, torrents is used in the OT book of Ezekiel to refer to God’s judgement but the language of judgement is not confined to the OT. Jesus speaks about us needing to be ready to meet our Maker!
The third similarity between these two builders is that they both had the opportunity to respond. Both ‘hear Jesus’ words’. Perhaps they are both church goers. But even the person who never steps foot in a church has the opportunity to respond. Romans 1v20 says that Jesus speaks through His Creation so people can’t say they never heard him. But just hearing him is not enough.
Although there are superficial similarities, the underlying differences are so great that in Matthew’s gospel Jesus descibes one of the builders as a wise man whereas the other is a foolish man. Literally an idiot. Why such strong language? The second underlying difference gives us the answer.
The difference is the foundations. The first man v48 ‘dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock’, whereas the other man v49 builds ‘on the ground without a foundation’ Presumably he’s in a hurry to get the house up [advert where the little girl is giving out homemade housewarming invitations for that evening to bewildered neighbours because the house hasn’t even been built yet and then cranes swing into action and throw the wooden walls together and the house is built!]
we want everything instantly dont we without too much thought and effort. we don’t want to have to dig painfully deep. But it’s utterly foolish to go through life without thinking about the foundational questions regarding the meaning of life. That’s why we’re running open to question Unless we answer the questions of why we are here and what the point of life is we will never know whether our plans are right or wrong, good or bad. How are your foundations?
The final underlying difference is that because of the foundations of their houses (which represent our lives) are so different, the results are equally different.
When the flood came, the torrent struck the house built on rock but could not shake it because it was well built. But the moment the torrent struck the house built on sand with no foundation it collapsed and its destruction was complete.
We are not free. We are not self determining. In the search for significance and satisfaction and security we give our time our energy our obedience to all kinds of masters. But when the storms of life come these masters desert us or they turn on us. they cannot carry us. there is no foundation.
I think of the young rugby player, Daniel James. He loved to play rugby. He’d represented England at junior level and a promising career lay ahead of him until.. a training ground accident left him paralysed from the neck down. After several of his own attempts his family took him to mainland Europe to be assisted in his suicide. ‘He wasn’t prepared to live a second class existence’ said his grieving parents. Daniel James had lived for rugby and died aged 23.
Most of us go on living through the storms of life. Often bravely. But we live a kind of half life where there can be hopelessness, anger and regret. We are shadows of ourselves.
Jesus says that he alone can carry us through the storms of life and even through the storm of God’s judgement because he faced that storm FOR US on the cross. He alone is the foundation.
As we end we ask..
What’s the key difference then between the one who builds on the rock and the one who builds on sand.
The key difference is that the first man, the wise man comes to jesus and hears his words and puts them into practice (v47). The foolish man, on the other hand, although he too hears Jesus’ words, he does not put them into practice.
Hearing must lead to action
Jesus is NOT saying here that we earn our salvation by our obedience to him. That would go against everything the Bible says. Salvation is a gift, earned for us by Jesus’ death and resurrection and received by faith, simple trust. But the evidence of our faith and the foundation of our lives is OBEDIENCE to Jesus, The Master who loves us.
Jesus has the right to expect our obedience because he owns us. He owns us three times over! by Creation and by Redemption and by the indwelling of his Spirit.
But Jesus is also worthy of our obedience because he has died for us. He loves us. He knows what’s best for us and he wants what’s best for us. Even when his words seem so counter to our culture’s values so as to be inexplicable. Even when it feels excuciating to obey Jesus - we should obey. We must obey..
In our self-determined, self-expressive culture,obedience sounds such a dirty word, so restricting. And so this crucial heartbeat of Christian discipleship grows weak and faint. We might call Jesus ‘Lord’ but we don’t listen to Him in such a way as to DO EXACTLY WHAT HE SAYS. We’ll listen to his advice sure but we may take it or leave it. We’re sorry for our sins, we want his forgiveness and peace. We embrace Jesus’ salvation, his love and his greatness. But we don’t bow at his feet as his willing servants and subjects.
Imagine if you were to invite me round to your house for a cuppa and you openeed the door and you said, “Ah come in Giles, stay out Fouhy!” Ludicrous. I can’t come in. I am both. You’d be rejecting me unless you welcome all of me. But this in effect is what we might be tempted to do with Jesus. ‘Come in Saviour, stay out Lord’ and Jesus says what’s it going to be? Will you have me or not? Unless you welcome all of me - Lord and Saviour - you’re rejecting me still.
Why do you say to me Lord Lord and do not do what I say?
We need the heart of our faith to beat stronger. For Jesus’ glory. For us to evidence authentic fruit. And for the sake of our lost and searching society.
In terms of the sermon on the plain this will be seen vv17-26 in our action for the poor and excluded and our rejection of wealth, comfort and prestige. It will be made evident vv27-36 in our love for our enemies, our perseverance with those who hate us; our giving to those who cannot pay us back. It will show itself v36-42 in our mercy, our refusal to be judgemental, our humble help.
The irony is that living in total obedience to Jesus is actually true freedom isn’t it? It is a life like his.