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Sunday in the Park

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D. A. Carson Sermon Library Conclusion: Two Ways (Matthew 7:13–28)

4. Two builders. Verses 24 and 27. Here this picture of the importance of foundations is made explicit. “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Picture these two houses, if you will, standing side by side. To an outsider it would be very difficult to tell the difference between them. They are both very well built. They’re both quite attractive and have new fresh coats of paint. Both have brand new aluminum siding on the weather side. They have lovely heavy teak wood shingles. Very expensive. Nothing but the best.

But on one of them the dirt has been scraped away down to the bedrock and there’s a solid foundation. The other one is just sitting there on a slab. It takes a very serious test to show that one of them is solid and the other is a mass of fabricated super fluid, just nothing, like a bit of marshmallow. It just goes away.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man.” These words of mine is emphatic in the original. The mine is emphatic. It denotes, again, Jesus’ authority, his repeated, “I say unto you.” But also, these words of mine has nuance in the original that insists the ethical teaching is not detached from the life of the one who gives this teaching and with whom it is congruous.

That is, these words of his, these teachings of Jesus are really also what Jesus is. Jesus is not standing before a crowd as I am standing before a crowd. I tell you what Jesus says, and his standard is impeccably high, but I stand with you as a fellow sinner, but when Jesus stands and says, “I say unto you,” and gives the very high standards of God’s purity, he stands with God, for he also is congruous with his own teaching.

The wise man not only hears these things but puts them into practice. He does them, and that is his foundation. The other man has no foundation to the structure he has built. He has built a structure, but there is no foundation. The tempest is often a symbol, especially in the Old Testament, but elsewhere also in Jewish writings, for God’s judgment and particularly God’s judgment at the end, God’s eschatological judgment, the final judgment.

You will find an example of that, for example, in Ezekiel 13. The reference is that here to the last judgment. Have you noticed how often in there have been these allusions to the last judgment? Four times in these verses. What shall we say then? Shall we say Jesus is trying to frighten people into the kingdom? Is that what we shall say?

The answer is yes. You see, there are many ways in which a person might be drawn to Jesus. “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” That person might be drawn just because the rest of Christ is so utterly attractive, but some people will only see the gravity of their sin when they see it is a broad road that leads to destruction, when they see at the other end of life is hell, that the whole house is going to crash and it’s fall will be great.

You don’t speak of, “Is Jesus trying to frighten people?” When you draw a simple analogy and picture a man rushing to his neighbor’s house which is burning down, and the man is sleeping inside, and the neighbor bangs on the door and says, “Wake up! Wake up! Your house is burning!” Is he trying to frighten him out of his house? Do you see the point? It’s true!

There is a hell to be shunned and a heaven to be gained. Therefore, if I stand here and utter platitudinous phrases in front of you and forget to declare that this hell is there and it’s waiting for all those who do not know Christ Jesus, I’m not only a liar, but I’m calling Jesus a liar. He himself speaks twice as often about hell in the pages of Scripture as he does heaven.

If the resources of language are exhausted in God’s book to describe the wonders and the glories and the freedom and the beauty and the holiness and the privilege of heaven, let me tell you frankly, the resources of languages are also exhausted in trying to describe the terror and horror of hell. It’s the place of utter darkness. It’s the place where the worm doesn’t die.

People speak of going to hell because their friends are there. There are no friends in hell. I’m not trying to put hell on a map or give you coordinates in space. All I know is just as I can’t describe heaven to you except using the metaphors of Scripture, so I can’t describe hell to you except by using the metaphors of Scripture. You find them again and again and again, not only in the teaching of Jesus but throughout the New Testament.

Listen to the way it ends up in the book of Revelation in chapter 6. “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’ ”

I dreamed that the great judgment morning

Had dawned, and the trumpet had blown;

I dreamed that the nations had gathered

To judgment before the white throne;

From the throne came a bright shining angel,

And he stood on the land and the sea,

And he swore with his hand raised to Heaven,

That time was no longer to be.

And O, what a weeping and wailing,

As the lost were told of their fate;

They cried for the rocks and the mountains,

They prayed, but their prayer was too late.

The moral man came to the judgment,

But self righteous rags would not do;

The men who had crucified Jesus

Had passed off as moral men, too;

The soul that had put off salvation,

“Not tonight; I’ll get saved by and by,

No time now to think of religion!”

At last they had found time to die.

The rich man was there, but his money

Had melted and vanished away;

A pauper he stood in the judgment,

His debts were too heavy to pay;

The great man was there, but his greatness,

When death came, was left far behind!

The angel that opened the records,

Not a trace of his greatness could find.

And O, what a weeping and wailing,

As the lost were told of their fate;

They cried for the rocks and the mountains,

They prayed, but their prayer was too late.

As I read these verses, I sense here [audio cuts off] no cheap malicious glee at the prospect. You find that in some Jewish literature of the period, a [audio cuts off] consigning everybody else to hell cheerfully. I sense none of that here. I sense, rather, a Master who later was to stand on the hill over Jerusalem and weep. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered you to myself as a hen gathers her chickens, but you wouldn’t.”

He displays the alternatives. There are two ways. There is this way and there is that way. That’s where that way goes. It is warning and entreating. But I will not end on that note because within the context of Matthew’s gospel it is not just that Jesus is then pushing people toward entering the narrow confines of the kingdom.

Matthew begins this gospel with this glorious statement in the first chapter. “Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” The last word is not this pressing toward this issue, the keeping up of conviction, but it is this: Jesus saves. There is this ultimate reality to be faced. There is the bar of God’s justice which does stand beyond you.

There are two ways there. There is this way, and there is that way. There is a broad way and a narrow way, but as sure as Jesus stands true, you will one day stand before the bar of God’s justice. Jesus has come to save his people from their sins. Which will be the way that you go to stand before the bar of his justice?

The sermon ends. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” The scribes, the teachers of the law, taught derivatively, repetitively. They taught the opinions and applications of the law passed by the rabbis through oral tradition. They regularly said, “Rabbi So-and-so said that Rabbi So-and-so said that Rabbi So-and so said that the passage means this.”

Jesus comes through, and he says, “You have heard that it was said.… But I say unto you …” and the crowds were amazed that he spoke to them. This amazement seems to be a combination of awed admiration, profound religious shock, and a deepening conviction. God help us as we contemplate the Sermon on the Mount, not only to be amazed at Jesus’ authority and to see before us the implacable demands of perfect purity but also that Jesus is the Savior who came to save his people from their sins and to join the crowds not only with amazement but to sing worshipfully, “May Jesus Christ be praised.”

D. A. Carson Sermon Library Conclusion: Two Ways (Matthew 7:13–28)

4. Two builders. Verses 24 and 27. Here this picture of the importance of foundations is made explicit. “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Picture these two houses, if you will, standing side by side. To an outsider it would be very difficult to tell the difference between them. They are both very well built. They’re both quite attractive and have new fresh coats of paint. Both have brand new aluminum siding on the weather side. They have lovely heavy teak wood shingles. Very expensive. Nothing but the best.

But on one of them the dirt has been scraped away down to the bedrock and there’s a solid foundation. The other one is just sitting there on a slab. It takes a very serious test to show that one of them is solid and the other is a mass of fabricated super fluid, just nothing, like a bit of marshmallow. It just goes away.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man.” These words of mine is emphatic in the original. The mine is emphatic. It denotes, again, Jesus’ authority, his repeated, “I say unto you.” But also, these words of mine has nuance in the original that insists the ethical teaching is not detached from the life of the one who gives this teaching and with whom it is congruous.

That is, these words of his, these teachings of Jesus are really also what Jesus is. Jesus is not standing before a crowd as I am standing before a crowd. I tell you what Jesus says, and his standard is impeccably high, but I stand with you as a fellow sinner, but when Jesus stands and says, “I say unto you,” and gives the very high standards of God’s purity, he stands with God, for he also is congruous with his own teaching.

The wise man not only hears these things but puts them into practice. He does them, and that is his foundation. The other man has no foundation to the structure he has built. He has built a structure, but there is no foundation. The tempest is often a symbol, especially in the Old Testament, but elsewhere also in Jewish writings, for God’s judgment and particularly God’s judgment at the end, God’s eschatological judgment, the final judgment.

You will find an example of that, for example, in Ezekiel 13. The reference is that here to the last judgment. Have you noticed how often in there have been these allusions to the last judgment? Four times in these verses. What shall we say then? Shall we say Jesus is trying to frighten people into the kingdom? Is that what we shall say?

The answer is yes. You see, there are many ways in which a person might be drawn to Jesus. “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” That person might be drawn just because the rest of Christ is so utterly attractive, but some people will only see the gravity of their sin when they see it is a broad road that leads to destruction, when they see at the other end of life is hell, that the whole house is going to crash and it’s fall will be great.

You don’t speak of, “Is Jesus trying to frighten people?” When you draw a simple analogy and picture a man rushing to his neighbor’s house which is burning down, and the man is sleeping inside, and the neighbor bangs on the door and says, “Wake up! Wake up! Your house is burning!” Is he trying to frighten him out of his house? Do you see the point? It’s true!

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