The End of Jesus' Teachings
The tallest sandcastle ever built was almost 58 feet tall, and was made by a German engineering company this past June. It took a team of 12 sculptors and 8 technicians three and a half weeks working 8 hours a day to build it. Which means it’s probably the world’s most expensive sandcastle, too.
There are a bunch of sandcastle building competitions all over the world and people make some pretty impressive structures. All of these were constructed using simple hand tools, water and sand—nothing else allowed. When it’s over they just become sand again. The whole point is for the wind and waves to eventually take them back. Seems like this might be a good metaphor for something. As Jimi said, “and so castles made of sand, fall in the sea eventually.”
Text: Our text is Matthew 7:24-29: Jesus says this,
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on the rock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, then it’s fall will be great.”
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law. And when he had come down from the mountain, many crowds followed him.
This is the Word of the Lord—Thanks be to God.
Here we are, the grand finale of our series on the Sermon on the Mount—Matthew’s introduction to the teaching of Jesus. The foundational sermon that all His other teaching is built on. As I’ve said many times, it’s the gateway to understanding everything else about the Gospel.
Hear.Understand.Do. I have a step dad who likes to fix things, it’s one of the things Jesus and me have in common. Most people think of Joseph as a carpenter, a man who made his living working with wood, but the actual word for what he did is better translated as “builder.” He probably worked with wood too, but the homes in that area at that time were mostly made out of rock. It’s interesting to think about this in light of today’s text and Jesus being the Cornerstone that the builders rejected. They should have built on Jesus as the foundation but they rejected Him.
So, He wraps up this sermon by saying anyone who listens to His teaching and understands it, and actually does what He says—they’re like someone who builds their house on a solid foundation, instead of just building elaborate sandcastles on the beach.
We’re either going to build our life on the foundation of the teaching of Jesus, or it’s not going to hold up to the troubles of the world—the wind and rain will wash it all away.
We hear what Jesus has to say and we either believe it or reject it. You know how frustrating it is when you tell someone something and they ignore you? You tell them something really important and then later they’re like, “you never told me that.” That’s pretty much what I do for a living—I tell people things that they’re gonna pretend they didn’t hear. It’s a pretty good description of parent and teacher, too. Unfortunately, it’s also an accurate summary of the mission of the Messiah. “The stone that the builders rejected became the cornerstone.” “He came to His people but they didn’t receive Him.” The crowds were amazed at His teaching, but they mostly followed Him because of the healing miracles and the way He could pull fish and bread out of a basket—nothing up my sleeves! Don’t assume we would have paid closer attention to the teaching of Jesus if we heard the sermon on the mount in person—mostly because, unless you speak Aramaic, it would have sounded like gibberish.
So, first we have to hear what Jesus has to say but then we have to understand it. Pay attention, think about it, and let it do something to us. We’re either going to believe His words or reject them. If we believe them, they’re going to change us. They’re going to change everything. When we hear the teaching of Jesus, “Meh” is not an option. We’re either going to build our life on what He says, He’ll become our hope and salvation—or we’ll be like the mob: Walk away angry and confused trying to find a way to murder Him.
But we hear what Jesus has to say and understand on some level what He’s telling us to do—be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, love your neighbor as yourself. Worship God. Love people. Change the world by being an active disciple and follower of Jesus. We kinda understand all that stuff. Then we either respond to His teaching and do what He says or we continue building our lives on a foundation of sand.
We’re on shaky ground when we ignore what Jesus has told us.
Lunatic.Liar.Lord. The crowds were amazed that He spoke with such authority. It should never stop taking our breath away the way Jesus talks about Himself. As if He had the right to speak for God. As if He was God. Sometimes people try to say Jesus was a good teacher, a guy who said some great things, but that’s all. C.S. Lewis pointed out that Jesus was either a lunatic, a liar, or He was actually God in the flesh. He was either a complete fraud, crazy as the Mad Hatter, or He was right about everything He said. You have to make up your mind. It has to be one of the three. There’s no middle ground.
Jesus puts Himself between us and God the Father. He said there’s no way to the Father unless you go through Him. And according to Him, that’s either going to be a really good thing for us or a really bad thing for us—it’s either a promise or a threat. It’s a blessing or a curse depending on how we respond to what He said.
So, Christians are the ones who believe He was telling the truth. We believe He is the truth. We believe that we either confess Him as Lord and Savior—meaning we build our entire life on Him as the foundation—or we don’t believe and build on something else, deny Him as Lord—and then He denies us.
Sometimes people say, “I like Jesus just fine but I can’t stand His followers.” I get it. There have been times when I wanted to keep my distance from the goofballs and kooks in the church, too. An old preacher friend of mine used to say, “Anyone you let get between you and God is closer to God than you are by default.”
You look around the church and you’ll probably see some people you don’t like very much. It’s okay, this is your family, you going to tell me there aren’t people in your family that you’re not crazy about? The church is weird, but that’s okay too, so are you. In 1st Peter it says that Christians are “a peculiar people”—maybe some of us take that verse a little too literally. You don’t have to be THAT peculiar. You could maybe take it down a notch. Maybe not fly your freak flag quite so high.
Jesus had the same problem with His first disciples—look at some of the closest ones, there had to be some interesting conversations: You got a couple rough and tumble uneducated fishermen, hanging out with some well educated young rabbis in training. You got a Zealot, basically a Jewish terrorist opposing the Romans, hanging out with a tax collector, basically a Roman spy—that must have been something. Mary, the blessed mother of Jesus Christ is in the same small women’s group as Mary the formerly demon possessed prostitute. If you think our little church looks like the Isle of Misfit Toys, we ain’t got nothing on the original followers of Jesus. The church is a place for all people, from all walks of life, from every nation tribe and tongue. It’s a mess. But don’t let anyone get between you and Jesus—certainly not His other followers. I like what Dr Kenneth Kolby says about the local church, “Don’t ever leave, make them throw you out.” He also said that he thinks of the church as if she’s his crazy mother. She’s crazy but you love her and honor her anyway because she gave birth to you.
We’re on shaky ground when we start thinking we’re better than the people God has put us with. We’re missing the point if we go looking for a church full of people just like us. Don’t let people get between you and God. Unless it’s Jesus.
Jesus Stands Between us and God Because Jesus says He’s the only one who gets to stand between us and God—for better or for worse. We accept Him or we reject Him. If we accept Him then it’s a really good thing that He stands between us and God—as our Savior, our Redeemer, we stand there with His righteousness and one day we’ll get to see God in all His glory without being burned up. But if we reject Jesus, then we reject His promise of life and forgiveness—He stands there as Judge, as the narrow gate. No one goes to the Father unless they go through Jesus.
So it comes down to who we believe Jesus is: Is He a lunatic, a liar, or is He truly Lord and God? Is Jesus’ teaching all a bunch of nothing, or is everyone hopelessly lost outside the revelation that Jesus brought to the world. Can’t be both.
We’re on shaky ground when we reject Jesus—and if we think this church thing is below us. If we reject His church, we’re rejecting Him too. We’re on really shaky ground when we reject Jesus.
But that’s not most of us, we haven't completely rejected Him. I mean, we’re in church. We call ourselves Christian. We’ve attempted to build our lives on the sure foundation of His Word and promises. We’ve heard the teaching of Jesus, we understand some of it, and we even try to do it—well, we try sometimes.
Minimally Functional Foundations A lot of houses in the Houston area are built on a slab foundation. But the builders try to get away with spending as little money as possible, so most of them don’t have enough concrete and steel rebar. They’re "Minimally Functional" and a majority of homes in Houston are going to have foundation problems and experience major damage and costly repairs at some point. The builders, trying to save a few hundred dollars in materials, will end up costing the homeowner thousands of dollars down the line. Which is probably a pretty good picture of what we do as followers of Jesus in how we listen to Him and make His teaching the foundation of our life. If we take a closer look at how we’re actually doing with everything Jesus has taught us, we find cracks in the tile, places where the sheet-rock is coming apart, and the bricks in our facade are starting to come undone. We find sin in our life.
All this evidence on how we’ve built various parts of our life on a shaky foundation. We start following Jesus but we realize that we haven't done it perfectly. So what do we do? We go back to the beginning. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. You can’t save yourself, you can’t fix yourself, you don’t bring anything to this deal. Don’t try to fill the cracks with silly putty. Repent. Confess your sins. Confess your doubts. Turn away from unbelief and start believing in Jesus and trusting Him. In every area of your life.
Christ, the sure Foundation Jesus showed us exactly what that looks like. On the cross, when He gave His life for you, and rose for you, so you could have hope and peace and joy—so you could have a solid foundation that will stand no matter what life throws at you. Don’t trust in the minimally functional slab foundation of your ability to do what Jesus says, or your minimally functional personal ability to muster up faith, we don’t have faith in faith—trust in the sure foundation of what Jesus has done for you. If you build your life on His promises, and the kingdom of heaven is yours, you will see God, you will inherit the earth and you will be shown mercy over and over and over again.
You’re on shaky ground unless you trust in the promises of Jesus.
There are certain big American ideas that get in the way of us hearing what Jesus is really talking about. Like, we hear Him talking about the two builders, one builds his house on the sand and the other builds his house on the rock—and it kinda reminds us of another story about some builders. Where one built his house out of straw and another out of sticks but the smart one made his out of brick.
See, Jesus wants us to understand that we should trust in Him rather than ourselves—but we learn from "The Three Little Pigs" that it’s hard work and dedication, that’s what pay off. And there’s nothing wrong with hard work and dedication and being smart but if those are the things we put our ultimate trust in, then we’re the little piggies that are gonna get eaten by the big bad wolf.
There are so many foundations we try to build our life on instead of the Teaching of Jesus. Certainly hard work. We try to better ourselves through education and trust our own thinking, our intellect, our opinions. But these things are castles made of sand. We put money in the bank and buy insurance and make plans so we can have financial security. Castles of sand. We workout and put product in our hair, lotions on our skin, obsess over beauty, and fitness, and fashion. Just castles made of sand. We put our trust in the ever shifting, shaky foundation of government and political illusions of security. Sand. Instead of making the words of Jesus the foundation of our hopes and dreams and peace, we look to people—do they like me? Do they respect me? Does my husband or wife or girlfriend or boyfriend, do they complete me? Or children or grandchildren. None of these are bad things, they’re all great blessings. Nobody makes idols out of bad things. It’s great to have all these great things, but they make terrible gods.
If these are the things we put our trust in, then we’re just piling up sand on the beach. These things make terrible foundations for our life and our faith and our hope—unless we make sure to build all these things on the sure foundation of Christ the Solid Rock, it’s all just an elaborate sandcastle—the wind and rain are gonna wash it all away and we’re gonna fall hard.
So Jesus finished His first big public sermon and He stood up and walked down the mountain—and it ends by saying, “and many in the crowd followed Him.”
I pray that we hear His words today and understand them. Then I pray that we walk out of here today and actually do the things He told us to do. Change the world by being salt and light. Making His words the foundation for everything we understand about this world, everything we aspire to—the way we treat each other, the way we pattern our lives.
The disciple named Peter, one of the uneducated fishermen—he was so completely changed by following Jesus that when he sat down to write about what it means to be the church, the people of God, he completely abandoned the “fishers of men” analogies and worldview and started talking like a builder. Listen to this from 1 Peter 2:4-6 “You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.
And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say,
“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem,
chosen for great honor,
and anyone who trusts in him
will never be disgraced.”
I pray that we would be the living stones God has called us to be, firmly standing on Christ, the solid Rock, our sure foundation. May we respond to the teaching of Jesus with a heart felt “AMEN.” Not A-meh. When it comes to Jesus, “Meh” is not an option.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever...