Did you know that the oldest civilization in Europe was in Crete? My son
and I learnt about the Minoan civilization when we went on a guided tour
to the ruins of the Palace of Knossos whilst on holiday on Crete. Knossos
is about 3,500 years old and now in ruins. It is the place where the mythical
creature, the Minotaur (half human, half bull) was supposed to have lived.
We were impressed that in such pre-historic times there is evidence from
the structure of the ruins that the Minoans, who built it, designed it
to withstand earthquakes. They used large stone blocks for the walls,
but also built in wooden beams across and upright actually in the walls.
The wood was able to absorb some of the shock of quakes. In Europe’s
earliest known civilization they built wisely.
a Strong Foundation
Jesus' teaching were collected together by Matthew to form what we know
as the Sermon on the Mount (found in chapters 5-7). Jesus concludes his
teaching with the well-known parable that some of us may have learn in
Sunday school. Those that heard Jesus deliver the Sermon on the Mount
were amazed at its relevance. In fact, the crowd's response to this style
of teaching was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were
astonished for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the
The scribes quoted others to establish the authority of their teaching,
but Jesus was His own authority.3 He taught with such force and clarity
that it was obvious to all that he was the source of the truth He taught.
Among the many things that Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount is
the need to build our faith on a sound foundation. He offers us a simple
yet powerful illustration of two home builders to drive home His point.
We sometimes overlook the verses which come immediately before the parable
we like so much. But we do well to look again. Jesus criticises those
who act in very religious ways but who never really knew Jesus, despite
using his name. In fact his words to them are very harsh. “Away
with you, you evildoers!”
But Jesus knew what he was doing. The people Jesus is rejecting are only
interested in “religious activity”. When you look at the rest
of the Sermon on the Mount you realise that there is not really very much
about what most people would recognise as “religion” at all.
It is about how we should live with each other in the presence of God.
The trouble with trying to be religious is that we end up not knowing
God for ourselves.
rely on yourself alone
These days there is a great deal of self-help literature around. I’m
sure some of it is very helpful. Much of it is aimed at helping the reader
discover what strengths they have in themselves and to draw on those.
That is fine. But we must also realise that to rely on ourselves for ultimate
salvation is foolish. Paul says, in his letter to the Romans, that in
the end we need to rely on Jesus. Left to ourselves, we never quite manage
to choose obedience even when we think we have. We always manage to fasten
on something irrelevant and make it the heart of our religion. Instead,
Jesus’ parable about the two house-builders reminds us to rely on
these foundations? Jesus says that they are his words, and not just hearing
the words, but acting on them. Which words are they? I’m sure we’re
meant to take it to mean the words of teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
It would be good to read Matthew 5-7 on your own and reflect on how you
can put it into practice. Some may try to interpret what Jesus meant by
the storms that beat against those houses. That may be pushing the parable
too far – it only really has one point. The point is that when a
house is built on firm foundations it stays standing where a house built
on sand may look attractive but it will not last long.
The parable makes a simple point: base your hope and faith on Jesus and
expect it to lead you to live your whole life in a different way. Live
out what you learn from Christ!
© Rev Paul Smith