May 29, 2005

Matthew 7:21-29

 21 Not everyone who says to me: Lord! Lord! will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my heavenly Father. 22 Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not speak in your name? Did we not cast out devils and perform many miracles in your name?” 23 Then I will tell them openly: I have never known you; away from me, you evil people!

24 “So, then, anyone who hears these words of mine and acts accordingly is like a wise man, who built his house on rock. 25 The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house, but it did not collapse because it was built on rock. 26 But anyone who hears these words of mine and does not act accordingly, is like a fool who built his house on sand. 27 The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible fall that was!”

 28 When Jesus had finished this discourse, the crowds were struck by the way he taught, 29 because he taught with authority unlike their teachers of the Law.

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Notes from [The Community Christian Bible 

 21. Many will say to me on that day. Matthew probably quotes this sentence pointing out to the charismatic prophets who disturb his communities by not obeying precepts that are addressed to everyone.

Whether we teach or work miracles, these abilities and ministries given us for the good of the community do not assure us that we are in the grace of God. True faith works through love (Gal 5:6) and moves us to fulfill all the Law: James 2:8.

Anyone who hears these words of mine (v. 24). Jesus means those who listen to his words and are converted: they believe themselves already saved. If they do not use their initial enthusiasm to build their lives on solid foundations, such as scriptural meditation, generosity, resistance to evil inclinations, sharing in the Christian community – then everything will tumble down later.

• 28. With this paragraph Matthew closes the first Discourse wherein he gathers words of Jesus that might serve as a “call to all people of good will.” A new Discourse will begin in chapter 10.

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Comments by Wesley 

1. If we began this reading at verse 15, we would have heard about false or teflon prophets -- excellent communicators who can wiggle out of any difficulty about their vision. Then we might better catch the important distinction between talking a good game and actually living it out. Deception of another or of one's self is worthy of a millstone. It is this hypocrisy that gets a good deal of Jesus' ire. Again, it is important to come to an understanding of a desire larger than our own. We can repeat all the accepted doctrine of the day and miss the boat. We can even do all the good we can and yet misstep. There is something more mysterious here than intention and completion. How can there be more than saying and doing the right things? This is a Christian koan.

2. It may be helpful to look at the relationship between the false prophet's claim that they did deeds of power and Jesus being recognized as teaching with authority. In a sense the false prophet's power rests upon prevailing forcefully (think of simony) and Jesus' power influences a of choosing better (building on our better past, opting for a better present, calling forth a better future).

This is a difficult piece. Those who use the language of holiness and commit intentional, not random, acts of kindness are still labeled as evil. In like manner, the last rascals will come roaring into heaven before the first of the saints are able to crawl in. This is not a place where we can stand with any comfort. Perhaps it is enough to pause for a moment to wonder that any can be saved and then proceed to encourage one another.

3. If this passage were written in Proverbial form we would be hearing about Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly instead of the wise or foolish man. Again the proof is in the pudding. On what are you staking your investment of time, energy, and resources?

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