“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!”
Note: any Bible reference containing only a chapter number and verse number is understood to be in the Gospel of Matthew.
To do or not to do; that is the question
The movie series Star Wars tells the story of an epic battle between good and evil set in a galaxy far, far away. The young hero, Luke Skywalker, gets instruction in the Force from the wise old Jedi Master named Yoda.
Yoda proposes a difficult training exercise using the Force, which Luke says he will try. To this Yoda sharply replies, “Try? No! Do or do not; there is no try!”
Those who hear Jesus’ words have the same choice. Do or do not; which will it be?
We already know that Jesus is talking to the disciples, and a crowd of listeners has also gathered to hear him (7:28). When verse 24 starts off with the word “everyone,” it sounds as if Jesus is speaking to the whole group, but in fact the grammar of the verse makes it clear that he is speaking to each person as an individual. So, the parable Jesus tells will draw a line between those who respond and those who do not. And that line will also divide some insiders from other insiders!
It would be better to translate the opening phrase as, “Each one of you who hears these words of mine . . . .” (my translation of 7:24a). Jesus is presenting a choice to each individual who hears him, and no one else can make it for you! Further, Jesus is not directing attention to the words of the Law but to his own words as the authoritative interpretation of the Law.
Matthew 7:24 is a simple sentence with verbs that are in the present tense. The present tenses are used here “to make a statement of a general, timeless fact.” The one who “hears these words of mine and does them” is the one who is figuratively “like a wise man who built his house on a rock” (7:24).
Of course, on a sunny, pleasant day it does not matter where you built your house. But Jesus says a storm came and pounded the house with rain, swollen rivers and strong winds (7:25). The rock foundation prevented disaster for the house and its sheltered builder.
In speaking of that all-critical foundation, Jesus uses a verbal form that is rare enough to require a deliberate decision on the part of the speaker. Concerning the house, Jesus says, “it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock” (7:25b). The words in italics reflect the choice Jesus made to show that the survival of the house depended upon action completed in the past before the storm arose. What action is meant? Jesus refers to the doing of his words after first hearing them!
Unfortunately for the foolish man, the storm will also strike the house built on sand. The NET Bible aptly catches the catastrophic nature of that moment by saying it was utterly destroyed (7:27).
Craig Blomberg resolves the meaning of the storm when he says, “So too Judgment Day will come like a flood to disclose which spiritual structures will endure.” But the issue has already been decided by action or the lack of it long before that stormy day comes.
Faith only begins with knowledge!
The faithful actions of a disciple begin with knowing Jesus’ words, but they end only when those words are put into action. Those who meditate on his words are not the ones Jesus honors; thoughtful doers of his words are the ones who will prosper in the storms of God’s judgment. In just moments after the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will start walking. Who is going with him?
In this active life of doing what Jesus has said, take heart in these words: “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.” (2 Pet. 1:3, NLT).
Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.
 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995) 523.
 Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992) 134.