A Tale of Two Builders: Matthew 7:21-29

Focus Passage: Matthew 7:21-29 (GW)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who does what my Father in heaven wants. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we force out demons and do many miracles by the power and authority of your name?’ 23 Then I will tell them publicly, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you evil people.’

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears what I say and obeys it will be like a wise person who built a house on rock. 25 Rain poured, and floods came. Winds blew and beat against that house. But it did not collapse, because its foundation was on rock.

26 “Everyone who hears what I say but doesn’t obey it will be like a foolish person who built a house on sand. 27 Rain poured, and floods came. Winds blew and struck that house. It collapsed, and the result was a total disaster.”

28 When Jesus finished this speech, the crowds were amazed at his teachings. 29 Unlike their experts in Moses’ Teachings, he taught them with authority.

Read Matthew 7:21-29 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

At the close of Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”, He draws our attention to an illustration contrasting what people who obey His words are like when compared to those who ignores Jesus’ teaching. This illustration is most famous because it has been turned into a children’s song. However, while the song is fun to sing with kids, the illustration itself is very powerful.

Matthew’s version of Jesus’ illustration is more popular. He begins by quoting Jesus as saying, “Therefore, everyone who hears what I say and obeys it will be like a wise person who built a house on rock. Rain poured, and floods came. Winds blew and beat against that house. But it did not collapse, because its foundation was on rock.” (v. 24-25)

Jesus contrasts this wise builder with an example of a foolish one. He continues by saying, “Everyone who hears what I say but doesn’t obey it will be like a foolish person who built a house on sand. Rain poured, and floods came. Winds blew and struck that house. It collapsed, and the result was a total disaster.” (v. 26-27)

While it is easy for us to look at the illustration as a construction example, Jesus really is sharing it as a metaphor for laying the foundation of our lives: obedience to Jesus makes a strong foundation while ignoring Jesus makes a weak foundation.

In my mind’s eye, the builder who built the house on the rock built high above the waterline, perhaps near the edge of a cliff, where they would be plenty of protection from the waves. His house then overlooks the foolish builder who is building on a sandy beach.

But Luke also shares a version of this parable. He describes Jesus opening this parable with a question: “Why do you call me Lord but don’t do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)

This question frames everything that Jesus is about to share. Then He continues by painting us a picture in our minds of two builders: “I will show you what everyone who comes to me, hears what I say, and obeys it is like. He is like a person who dug down to bedrock to lay the foundation of his home. When a flood came, the floodwaters pushed against that house. But the house couldn’t be washed away because it had a good foundation. The person who hears what I say but doesn’t obey it is like someone who built a house on the ground without any foundation. The floodwaters pushed against it, and that house quickly collapsed and was destroyed.” (Luke 6:47-49)

In Luke’s version, we have two homes that might look identical to a casual observer, but the thought process when building each of them was completely opposite. The wise builder focused on making his home strong in the non-visible areas. The foolish builder only cared about the parts of the home that could be seen.

The big key Jesus wants us to take from this illustration is that obedience to His teaching will result in a life that has a solid foundation. By obeying Jesus, we might not avoid challenges, but we will be able to withstand anything that comes our way. When we build our lives on the truth Jesus shared, our lives will be able to survive whatever storms life sends our way.

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Quiet Time with God: Mark 1:29-39

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Continuing our journey through Mark’s gospel, as soon as Jesus left the synagogue where He cast out the demon, Mark describes how Jesus then heads home with of some of His disciples, and how Jesus again has the opportunity to help someone when arriving at this disciple’s home.

Let’s jump into the passage and discover what happened. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 1, and we will read from the New International Version. Starting in verse 29, Mark tells us that:

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

Let’s pause briefly here in our passage, because Simon’s mother-in-law’s response is one of the best responses we could have when Jesus comes into our life. When Jesus touches Simon’s mother-in-law, the fever leaves her and the first thing she does is serve Jesus. When Jesus touches our lives with some healing or some blessing, the best response we can have is serving Jesus. Like Simon’s mother-in-law, serving Jesus is the best way we can say thank you to Jesus.

However, it is also worth noting that Jesus did not heal Simon’s mother-in-law so that she would serve. In that home, there would already have been people capable of serving. Instead, Jesus helps because He can and because there is a need, and not because He wants people to serve Him. God wants to help us because that is who God is, not because God wants more servants. If God wanted servants, He could have created millions and billions of perfect servant robots who would have no freedom of choice. God gifted His creation with the gift of choice because love requires the freedom of choice for it to mean anything.

I believe Jesus also healed Simon’s mother-in-law to relieve a little piece of stress in that home. The Sabbath was given for rest, and when someone is sick, those around them helping them are not experiencing rest, and in the case of the person who is sick, while they are resting, the rest they are experiencing isn’t the same quality of rest as they would have if they were well. Jesus likely healed Simon’s mother-in-law to help everyone present enjoy that Sabbath afternoon more and to give glory to God for what He had blessed them with.

However, Mark then jumps to that evening. Continuing in verse 32, Mark tells us:

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

Pausing reading again, it appears as though Jesus is so busy helping people that He doesn’t get any chance to rest. However, while this was the case during some parts of His ministry, I believe Mark simply wants us to know Jesus’ actions and not Jesus’ rest.

Jesus didn’t spend hours healing one person, and helping Peter’s mother-in-law up out of bed wouldn’t have taken long. The time Jesus spent for each healing was likely measured in seconds rather than even minutes. After healing Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus would have been able to spend a whole afternoon resting and simply being with the first disciples and Simon and Andrew’s family.

Also, in this second section of our passage, Jesus silences the demons, not letting them speak, likely because of what we shared in our last episode. In our last episode, we concluded that it is not wise to listen to Satan, demons, or even temptation. While Satan is capable of telling the truth, there is always a deceitful motive behind it and a majority of truth with a little lie is like a cup of water with a drop of poison. It is much wiser to reject everything Satan says and take our cue from the Bible, rather than focusing on trying to sift truth out of error.

It’s also possible Satan would try to derail Jesus’ plan using the popular belief at the time that God’s Messiah would be a military leader and that He would need followers rallied around Him to overthrow the Romans. The more people hearing validation that Jesus was the Messiah could cause an uprising that would attract the Roman army and Jesus would be killed outside of God’s plan.

However, what comes next in the passage is powerful, because Mark gives us a clue into the habits of Jesus. While it would be very easy to skip over this to get to more exciting miracles and teaching, let’s instead focus the rest of our time together on this last portion of our passage. Picking back up in verse 35, Mark tells us that:

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

In this passage, we discover that early in the morning, before the sun had risen, Jesus woke up, and went out to a place by Himself to pray and spend time with God. While we have other places in the gospels that describe Jesus spending extended periods of time praying, I don’t believe this early morning prayer time was limited to this single event.

Instead, this event might get recognition because it was the first time Jesus did this while the disciples were with Him, and it was a time where these guys who had agreed to follow Jesus had lost Jesus. It is probable in my mind that after this point, Jesus’ habit of waking up early to pray wasn’t a surprise to the disciples, and perhaps even some of the disciples formed this habit as their time with Jesus lengthened.

I also wonder if Jesus snuck out of town early that morning because of what He tells the disciples in response to what the disciples tell Him. While the disciples tell Jesus that everyone in the town is looking for Him, Jesus emphasizes the need to go to other towns and villages and do the same thing.

In a subtle way, Jesus emphasizes in this event how He had come not just for one town or one small group of people, but to help many more people. Jesus likely wanted to also emphasize that God was willing to travel to where those who needed help were. While many people traveled to where Jesus was, Jesus also traveled to where people needed help. Jesus crossed the universe to come to earth and to redeem humanity, and He was willing to travel to where people needed help. Jesus came for more people than one town, one gender, or one race. Jesus came to help and bless humanity because God loves the human race!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life, and use Jesus’ example in this passage as a guide. While we might not have people flocking to our door and demanding our time to cast demons out of their lives or to heal them in miraculous ways, we can model our lives after Jesus by getting up early in the morning, going to a place where we can be alone, and spending time with God. Jesus modeled this for us and this is a foundational habit for a strong spiritual life with God.

Also, while growing and strengthening this habit, intentionally pray and study the Bible for yourself while you are alone with God. When reading the Bible in prayer while you are with God, He will send you His Spirit to teach you what He wants you to learn and know. While many Bibles have articles or snippets of text written by other authors within them, focus your time on God in the chapters and verses that make up the Bible. While Bibles with snippets are helpful, if you focus only on the snippets and extras, you can only grow as far as the author of that snippet has grown while God might want to teach you more. Focusing on the Bible opens the door for God to teach you about Himself and about what He wants you to discover in the pages of His Word.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or be distracted away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 3: While Jesus had every opportunity to let busyness crowd out important things in His life, Jesus was intentional about an action that we would be wise to replicate in our own lives. Discover what this habit was and another piece of Jesus’ mission in this podcast episode.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Being the Servant: Luke 14:7-24

Focus Passage: Luke 14:7-24 (GW)

 7 Then Jesus noticed how the guests always chose the places of honor. So he used this illustration when he spoke to them: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding, don’t take the place of honor. Maybe someone more important than you was invited. 9 Then your host would say to you, ‘Give this person your place.’ Embarrassed, you would have to take the place of least honor. 10 So when you’re invited, take the place of least honor. Then, when your host comes, he will tell you, ‘Friend, move to a more honorable place.’ Then all the other guests will see how you are honored. 11 Those who honor themselves will be humbled, but people who humble themselves will be honored.”

 12 Then he told the man who had invited him, “When you invite people for lunch or dinner, don’t invite only your friends, family, other relatives, or rich neighbors. Otherwise, they will return the favor. 13 Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the handicapped, the lame, and the blind. 14 Then you will be blessed because they don’t have any way to pay you back. You will be paid back when those who have God’s approval come back to life.”

 15 One of those eating with him heard this. So he said to Jesus, “The person who will be at the banquet in the kingdom of God is blessed.”

 16 Jesus said to him, “A man gave a large banquet and invited many people. 17 When it was time for the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who were invited, ‘Come! Everything is ready now.’

 18 “Everyone asked to be excused. The first said to him, ‘I bought a field, and I need to see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I bought five pairs of oxen, and I’m on my way to see how well they plow. Please excuse me.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I recently got married, and that’s why I can’t come.’

 21 “The servant went back to report this to his master. Then the master of the house became angry. He told his servant, ‘Run to every street and alley in the city! Bring back the poor, the handicapped, the blind, and the lame.’

 22 “The servant said, ‘Sir, what you’ve ordered has been done. But there is still room for more people.’

 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go to the roads and paths! Urge the people to come to my house. I want it to be full. 24 I can guarantee that none of those invited earlier will taste any food at my banquet.’ ”

Read Luke 14:7-24 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While reading through this passage, a number of things stood out to me. For this journal entry, we will focus on the role of the servant, and discuss who he might represent in this parable.

In my analysis, I can see three possible representatives for the role of the servant.

  1. The first possible representative for the servant’s role is Jesus. He spent a good portion of His ministry showing people what God is like, and inviting them to believe in Him. Jesus invited people to follow Him, and by following Jesus, we are accepting the invitation to the banquet.
  2. The second possible representative for the servant’s role is the Holy Spirit. Jesus is no longer on the earth, but He promised to send the Holy Spirit to as a Comforter and Guide. The Holy Spirit leads individuals into a growing relationship with God – which leads to accepting the invitation to the banquet.
  3. The third possible representative for the servant’s role is us (His followers / His Church). Who better to invite other people than people who are already invited? Jesus tells us that “the person who is greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11) By inviting others to know and experience a relationship with Jesus, we are able to step into the servant’s role and invite others to the banquet.

Some might think that we must now choose one of these possible representatives to fill this role, but I disagree. In my mind, and in my experience, all three are the servant.

First Jesus came and served us, modeling true servant behavior, and opening a way for us to be invited to the banquet. Now, both the Holy Spirit prompting on an individual’s heart, as well as the invitation from a friend can inspire someone to accept Jesus into their lives – which is another way of saying that they are accepting the invitation to the banquet. All three of these representatives play a key role in the inviting process.

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Irritated at Children: Matthew 21:12-17

Focus Passage: Matthew 21:12-17 (GW)

12 Jesus went into the temple courtyard and threw out everyone who was buying and selling there. He overturned the moneychangers’ tables and the chairs of those who sold pigeons. 13 He told them, “Scripture says, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you’re turning it into a gathering place for thieves!”

14 Blind and lame people came to him in the temple courtyard, and he healed them.

15 When the chief priests and the experts in Moses’ Teachings saw the amazing miracles he performed and the children shouting in the temple courtyard, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were irritated. 16 They said to him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

Jesus replied, “Yes, I do. Have you never read, ‘From the mouths of little children and infants, you have created praise’?”

17 He left them and went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.

Read Matthew 21:12-17 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

When reading about events in Jesus’ life on earth, occasionally I am surprised by some of the details that a gospel writer chose to include. It is this way with Matthew’s version of this event.

In our passage, Jesus has just chased all the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple, and He has sat down to heal, teach, and point people to God. But while He is teaching, the religious leaders show up. Matthew tells us what happened, “When the chief priests and the experts in Moses’ Teachings saw the amazing miracles he performed and the children shouting in the temple courtyard, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were irritated. They said to him, ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’” (v. 15-16)

In my mind’s eye, the leaders have approached on the sidelines and are watching what is going on. They see Jesus healing people and performing miracles, and they realize that they cannot challenge Jesus on this – especially because the crowd is benefiting from this. But they also notice the children giving praise to Jesus, and in their minds, this was clearly unacceptable. They know they cannot challenge Jesus’ actions, but they can challenge others who were present.

But Jesus has a response for even this challenge: “Have you never read, ‘From the mouths of little children and infants, you have created praise’?” The religious leaders did not like children being heard in church, but Jesus says God creates praise in their mouths.

This event brings out an interesting idea: The Pharisees and religious leaders focus on “cannot”, while Jesus focuses on “can”.

Focusing on what is not allowed and unacceptable is a defensive way of thinking. It leads to rules that protect people from breaking the rules, and it always is looking for why people cannot, or should not, do a certain thing.

But Jesus counters the religious leader’s position by focusing on helping people know what they could and should do. Instead of looking for reasons why something was unacceptable, He looked for reasons why an action was okay. Jesus answers the question, “How can we allow this?”

Jesus always appears to be one step ahead of the religious leaders – and that is because looking at the world from a “can” perspective places one on an offensive, forward thinking train of thought. The religious leaders, with their “cannot” perspective, were solidly seeing life as a defensive exercise, and instead of looking at possibilities, they were looking for reasons why things shouldn’t be done.

Jesus didn’t clear out the temple because money was unacceptable there. He cleared out the temple for a can – which was allowing people to more clearly see and worship God!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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