21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” 28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
A few thoughts for meditation:
In this final section on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus finished with powerful warnings about the nature of his divine authority. Jesus was not just some religious teacher like many others. Notice, Jesus claimed to be the divine judge at the end of time, “I will say… depart from me…” He was God in the flesh and claimed divine titles and power for himself. If you ignore Jesus, you are not just ignoring some good advice, you are ignoring the mercy of God’s appointed King and Savior, who told you exactly how to repent of your sins and find mercy at the end. The Judge himself has come down to point out the way of salvation. Wouldn’t it be foolish to ignore him?
The first warning Jesus gave here was to those who claimed to be true believers but in fact were not. They did not know Jesus even though they knew a lot about him. This is an ominous warning indeed. These are people who performed miracles like prophecy, casting out demons, and other “mighty works”. Jesus never denied their claims about these acts. But they still did not “know” him. They said, “Lord, Lord,” but still did not truly know Jesus. Judas Iscariot was a prime example of this. He preached and performed miracles along with the other 12 disciples, and walked with Jesus for 3 years, but Jesus called him “the son of destruction”. It’s possible for God to work through the labors of unbelievers. Jesus pointed out the mark of their failure; they did not do “the will of his Father” and were “workers of lawlessness.” In other words, they did not obey the Lord. They performed public works before the crowds in Christ’s name, but in their ordinary lives, they did not have a relationship of trust and obedience to the Lord. This is a theme we see often in the Sermon on the Mount; outward obedience but inward “secret” hypocrisy and unbelief. They thought they were doing ok because the crowd around them provided some affirmation. But they did not truly know and follow Jesus from the heart when no one else was watching. And notice, Jesus did not say “I knew you before you fell away.” No, he said “I NEVER knew you.” This is a good point for reflection. What is the substance of your faith? Are you just going through the motions, even good motions, without any vital relationship to Christ? Are you putting on a good public show, but ignoring God behind closed doors? Is your religion done only to please others, or do you truly seek to know and follow the Lord through the hard and narrow gate?
Jesus finished the sermon with another note of judgment. Those who build upon his Word are like those who build a house upon a foundation of rock. While those who ignore him are building on sand. Notice again, there is a period of time before judgment comes, just like the previous verses. It takes time to see the end of the wide or narrow road, or to see the fruit of false teachers, or to see the true nature of prominent leaders in the church, so it takes time to recognize whether or not your house will stand when the waves of judgment come crashing through. Before that time of testing, both houses may look impressive from the outside. So, how do we know whether or not we are building on the right foundation? Jesus told us, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them…” That is the objective criteria through which you measure and build your life. Do you listen to Jesus? Do you stand in awe of him and his teaching, like the people did here? Do you obey his teaching because that is how we were designed to live as people made in his image? Do you relate to God from the heart on the basis of grace, looking to him as your merciful and generous Father, not as a debtor who owes you for your good works? Is your devotion to God consistent, both in secret and in public? Will you forgive others the way God forgave your sins? Do you look to Jesus as your Savior and King, and live for his kingdom first? Is that the ultimate desire you build your life upon, even when no one else will? Is Christ the one treasure of your heart? If so, then you are building on the rock, and you have every assurance that you know Jesus and he knows you, and the waves of judgment will not harm you but leave you standing firm in eternal glory with him in the end.