Untitled Sermon (2)
Making Wise Choices
The Narrow Gate and Road (7:13–14)
Jesus in this paragraph implicitly recognizes the difficulty of putting into practice his teachings, likening it to a narrow gate and a constricted road, with few who manage to find it. As this paragraph is the first of a number to challenge the disciples to put Jesus’ teaching into practice, the analogy is that putting Jesus’ teaching into practice is actually done by few people and is difficult.
7:13 Jesus commands his disciples to enter the narrow gate and explains that the opposite of the narrow gate is the broad gate, leading to a wide and crowded road characterized by destruction. The example of the broad gate and wide road serves to show the disciples the consequences of not entering through the narrow gate.
7:14 Jesus now explains the road that corresponds to the narrow gate he commanded his disciples to enter through in the previous verse. The narrow gate leads to a constricted road that is sparsely used. But unlike the broad road characterized by destruction, this road leads to life.
Recognizing False Prophets (7:15–20)
The bulk of this paragraph focuses on the analogy of a tree and its fruit and is reminiscent of John the Baptizer’s preaching in 3:8–10. The teaching on fruit here applies to false prophets. The context of this warning informs the proper understanding of “prophets.” This is the second closing paragraph that challenges the disciples to put Jesus’ teaching into practice. In the sermon, Jesus has taught “the Law and the Prophets” and how to fulfill them. The false prophets here, then, are those who oppose Jesus’ teachings. This is contrast to the idea of “false prophets” found elsewhere in the Scriptures (Deut 18:22; Mic 3:5–8).
7:15 Jesus commands the disciples to beware of false prophets, as they will appear innocent like sheep but actually seek to devour like wolves. The “false prophets” here are not oracular prophets speaking falsely (Deut 18:22; Mic 3:5–8), but those who oppose Jesus’ teachings and who will dissuade disciples from putting Jesus’ teachings into practice.
7:16 The analogy of sheep and wolves now changes to fruit and trees. Good fruit is not found among thistles and thorns, but comes from good trees. Jesus counsels his disciples to observe a person’s actions to understand their character and beliefs.
7:17–18 Jesus presses the point made above: the quality of a fruit corresponds to the quality of the tree it comes from. This reads somewhat like proverbial wisdom, common in Jewish teaching. As a proverb, it is generally true but can contain exceptions. In general, good trees produce good fruit, bad trees produce bad fruit.
7:19 The analogy of fruit and tree echoes the preaching of John the Baptizer (3:8–10), particularly in this verse. John’s warning of eschatological judgment is repeated here by Jesus, warning that trees that do not produce good fruit will be thrown into the fire. This type of eschatological judgment will receive extended treatment in Jesus’ final section of teaching (25:31–46).
7:20 The final verse of the paragraph emphasizes one final time what logically follows from the paragraph: these false prophets (7:15) can be recognized by their fruits.
False Followers (7:21–23)
Jesus moves from talking specifically about false prophets and their fruit to talking about all people. This paragraph is closely tied to the end of the previous paragraph, as eschatological judgment was mentioned in the burning of bad trees. In this paragraph, the imagined dialogue and judgment is also eschatological. In this eschatological judgment scenario, Jesus is the judge (so also 25:11–12, 31–46), and his decision rests on the fruit that characterizes people’s lives.
7:21 Jesus here is called “Lord” for the first time, though he received the title implicitly in the quotation from Isaiah in 3:3. Given the emphasis on acts of righteousness throughout the sermon, it is no surprise that Jesus now explicitly states that only those who do the will of God will enter into the kingdom. The simple act of calling Jesus Lord and the correct intellectual assent to who Jesus is are inadequate.
7:22 The phrase “on that day” is a common expression for the eschatological day of judgment (Isa 2:11, 17; Zech 14:4–21; Rev 20:11–15) and shows that this passage is closely tied the previous one (7:15–20) with its eschatological focus. The scenario on the judgment day is of people who call Jesus “Lord,” appealing to their works of prophecy, exorcism, and miracles “in your name.”
7:23 Given the appeal made by the ones in the previous verse, Jesus’ response to the imagined plea is shocking. Despite the actions done in his name, Jesus claims that he never knew them. The characterization of these people in Jesus’ final words is telling: they are ones who practice lawlessness. The tense of the word “practice” is present, which in this context likely indicates customary or habitual practice. While these people could point to certain deeds, in the end it was their habitual practice of lawlessness that defined them as a bad tree.
The Two Builders (7:24–27)
The final paragraph of the Sermon on the Mount continues the challenge to put the teachings of Jesus from the sermon into practice. Jesus has emphasized the practice of his teachings in these last four paragraphs, and here he compares those who both hear and practice his teachings to a house built on a rock, and those who hear but do not practice his teachings are like a house built on sand.
7:24 Jesus compares the hearing and practice of his teachings to a wise man who built his house on a rock.
7:25 The analogy introduced in the previous verse continues here. In the scenario of a house built on a rock, flooding and strong winds have no effect on the house because of its solid foundation. The foundation thus stands for putting into practice Jesus’ teachings.
7:26 Jesus now introduces a second man, who builds his house on sand. This man is the same as the wise builder (7:24) in that he has heard Jesus’ teaching, but he has not put it into practice.
7:27 In the same scenario faced by the wise builder in 7:25, the flooding and strong winds result in the collapse of the foolish builder’s house. The final clause here states that the collapse of the house on the sand “was great.” This likely implies the total destruction of the home and serves to emphasize the seriousness of the consequences associated with not putting Jesus’ teaching into practice. While subtle, this is likely a reference once again to the eschatological judgment emphasized in the previous two passages (7:14–20 and 7:21–23).
Response to the Sermon (7:28–29)
This sentence closes part 1 of the Gospel division as well as indicates the initial response to the sermon. The evangelist will use transitional formulas (“when Jesus completed …”), which close the five major discourses and mark a temporal transition to the next big main division of the book. Upon completion, the crowds are amazed because he taught like one with authority, unlike their scribes. The crowds are present immediately prior to the sermon, receiving Jesus’ ministry of preaching and healing.
The Choices That Bring Cheer
I. THE DECISION THAT IS NEEDED.
II. "Enter ye in at the straight gate ..." (v. 13a).
III. THE DANGER THAT IS NEGLECTED.
IV. "... for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat" (v. 13b-e).
V. THE DIFFICULTY THAT IS NAMED.
VI. "Because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life ..." (v. 14a-c).
VII. THE DISCOVERY THAT IS NUMBERED.
VIII. "... and few there be that find it" (v. 14d).
Matthew 7:15-23 - Genuine Gladness
I. THE TEACHING THAT IS KNOWN BY ITS FALSITY.
II. "Beware of false prophets ..." (v. 15a).
A. Their Disguised Appearance.
B. "... which come to you in sheep's clothing ..." (v. 15b).
C. Their Destructive Ability.
D. "... but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (v. 15c).
III. THE TREE THAT IS KNOWN BY IT FRUIT.
IV. "Ye shall know them by their fruits ..." (v. 16a).
A. The Comparison That Will Convince.
B. "... Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (v. 16b-c).
C. The Capability That Will Confirm.
D. "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit" (vv. 17-18).
E. The Condemnation That Will Come.
F. "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit in hewn down, and cast into the fire" (v. 19).
V. THE TALK THAT IS KNOWN BY ITS FAILURE.
VI. "Not every one that sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (v. 21).
A. The Word That Were Devoted.
B. "... Lord, Lord ..." (vv. 21 b-c, 22b-c).
C. The Witness That Was Delivered.
D. "... have we not prophesied in thy name? ..." (v. 22d).
E. The Wickedness That Was Denied.
F. "... and in thy name cast out devils? ..." (v. 22e).
G. The Works That Were Done.
H. "... and in thy name done many wonderful works? (v. 22f).
VII. THE TRUST THAT IS KNOWN BY ITS FAMILIARITY.
VIII. "... I never knew you ..." (v. 23b).
A. The Reality That Will Be Heard.
B. "And then will I profess unto them ..." (v. 23a).
C. The Recognition That Will Be Hidden.
D. "... I never knew you ..." (v. 23b).
E. The Remorse That Will Be Had.
F. "... depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (v. 23c-d).
Matthew 7:24-29 - Listening Ears and a Lasting Estate
I. THE WISDOM IN THEIR OBEDIENCE.
II. "Therefore whosoever heareth these saying of mine, and doeth them, I will liken unto a wise man ..." (v. 24a-c).
A. The Safe Way To Build.
B. "... which built his house upon a rock" (v. 24d).
C. The Stormy Weather To Blow.
D. "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house ..." (v. 25a-d).
E. The Surviving Work To Behold.
F. "... and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock" (v. 25e-f).
III. THE WASTE IN THEIR OFFENSE.
IV. "And every one that heareth these sayings of mind, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand" (v. 26).
A. A Foolish Decision.
B. "... heareth ... and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man" (v. 26a, b-c).
C. A Flooding Descent.
D. "And the rain descended, and the floods came ..." (v. 27a-b).
E. A Fierce Description.
F. "... and the winds blew, and beat upon that house ..." (v. 27c-d).
G. A Fatal Disaster.
H. "... and it fell: and great was the fall of it" (v. 27e-f).
V. THE WONDER IN THEIR OBSERVANCE.
VI. "And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished ..." (v. 28a-c).
A. His Difference In Communication.
B. "...astonished at his doctrine" (v. 28c).
C. His Difference In Comparison.
D. "For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (v. 29).