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Firm Foundations Matthew 7:21-29

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.

Building 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 scribes.

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.

The Foundations
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.

Don’t 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 firm foundations.

What are 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!

Copyright © Rev Paul Smith




Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ's sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.