Matthew 7;13-29 “Hearers and Doers”
I want to start our discussion of Matthew 7 with the beginning of Matthew 8: “When Jesus had come down off the mountain, etc. . . “ From this we see that our scripture for today is actually the wrap-up or end of the Sermon on the Mount. These are Jesus’ final thoughts out to the crowd that had gathered and had heard everything that he had preached up until that point. These are his parting words.
In his words is an expectation. Jesus seems to be expecting that His words will make a difference in the lives of those who gathered there to hear him preach. He says this clearly by intoning that as the people go back down off the mountain, that they are expected now to take to the narrow path. This is ironic in a way because of all the people who are up there on that mountain with Jesus; it is hard to imagine that they could make a “narrow path” anywhere. There are just too many of them!
The narrow path through the narrow gate is of course another metaphor. Jesus is not expecting that we only ever drive the old narrow cane roads wherever we go! The way to the Kingdom of God is not well worn. The gate is really hard to get through. And, as the case might be, we tend to always be getting wider ourselves. Right? It is not that the gate to heaven is getting narrower; we are getting wider! More and more of this world is sticking to us and soon we might not be able to get through at all. We have to shed all of our worldly stuffs to get through that gate.
In verse 15, Jesus says that we must beware of “false prophets.” They will come to us in sheep’s clothing but are indeed ravenous wolves. Last month in Munich, there was a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the G20 nations. At that meeting the Russian Foreign Minister, a man by the name of Lavrov, commented in regards to all the supposed “Fake News” that was being shared in the media about the meeting, that he was hoping for a “Post Fake” era for the world.
Some have noted that today we live in a “Post Truth” world. We are no longer in the phase of relative truths even anymore. The Oxford dictionary accepted the new term “post-truth” into its dictionary last year. This has prompted many to wonder what it means for our society to live in a “Post Truth” era.
Now, when the foreign minister of Russia, which has been known for false propaganda more than any other country, would engender a “Post Fake” world that is coming, I have to realize that what he is saying is also not true. And, then my head spins. Here is a false prophet asking for false truths to be accepted as “Post Fake.” Note that “post fake” still does not mean that it “TRUE.” Help me, Jesus!
False prophets were everywhere in the days of Jesus’ ministry. The Bible fortunately does not waste space in its text to talk about all of the false prophets in Jesus time; however, the apostles happen to run into one not long after the Resurrection. WE can read about him in Acts 13:6 and on: “. . . .they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, by the name of Bar-Jesus. . . . .Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit looked intently at him and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?’” Then the magician who had even had the gall to take Jesus’ name for himself, was made blind by the Spirit.
Jesus had fortunately warned his disciples about all the people spreading falsehoods all the time. That warning still stands for us today. And, likewise it is very important for us in this “Post Truth” era to hold even firmer grasp of the notion that Jesus himself is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.” If we want to live in solid unshakeable truth, not just some “Post Fake” nonsense, then we turn to Jesus. He is the Truth of the world.
The next idea that Jesus puts forth as he wraps up his Sermon on the Mount is that we should be known by the fruit that we bear in this world. Is that not an amazing idea? Two weeks ago in the Garden Island newspaper there was a letter to “Dear Abby” (who by the way is now a lady by the name of Jean Phillips) that describes simply that one way to measure success is how your kids describe you. Dear Abby shared a poem by Martin Buxbaum that goes like this: “You can use any measure when you’re speaking of success. You can measure it in a fancy home, expensive car or dress. But the measure of your real success is the one you cannot spend. It’s the way your kids describe you when they are talking to a friend.”
Jesus jumps from that right into a discussion of self-deception—that we should not deceive ourselves. Maybe we are not as good and pious as we would hope to be! We need people to show us this, because we honestly are not able to see it for ourselves.
I love the fact that my kids are so good at telling me what is wrong with me! My daughters will be the first ones to tell me that my hair is getting too shaggy and that I should go for a haircut. They will also be the first ones to notice that I DID get my haircut. They will tell me “Looks good, Papa.”
It is that kind of a relationship we need with Jesus. We should be able to hear Jesus tells us what we need to do to get straight in our lives. And, we need to hear Jesus affirming what it is that we are doing here and now. Otherwise we will go off thinking that we are doing right by God, but missing the mark completely.
Verse 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 deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. . . .’”
You see, it is all about “KNOWING” Jesus. It is not about the things we do or do not do. It is about knowing Jesus. All things can be forgiven, accept not knowing Jesus from whom the forgiveness flows down. Even on the cross, Jesus was able to forgive the bandits that were crucified on either side of him.
Luke 23:42, “Then the [criminal] said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you today that you will be with me in Paradise.’” That criminal dying on the Cross with Jesus is really the only person we know for sure has made it to heaven! Funny, no?
Do not deceive yourselves; only through knowing Jesus will you make it through the narrow gate! Only in his recognizing you, will that door to eternal life be opened. You cannot open that door yourself. Even if you invoke the name of Jesus, that narrow gate is not going to open unless Jesus knows that it is you on the other side.
The last part of the scripture talks then about hearing and doing. Did you hear? I am not even asking if you “did” yet. I am asking if you heard. Do you hear the words of Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount?
We are Salt and light. We have go and be that which people need to live and to show God’s glory.
We must not sin with the sin of adultery, divorce, swearing false oaths. WE must not retaliate for wrongdoing. We must even love our enemies. We must give alms in all humility and set aside our pride in all things. We must pray constantly just as Jesus taught us to pray. We must forgive others again and again so that we can be forgiven of our own faults.
We must serve the one true master, Jesus Christ. We should not worry about the things of the world for God in heaven will provide for us. We must remove the log from our own eyes and then try to carefully remove the splinter from the other’s eye. We must never profane what is holy. We must always be searching for and asking good things of our Father in Heaven. We must always do to others as we would have them do unto us.
We can hear these words over and over again. The real issue that Jesus is raising at the end of His sermon is as to whether we will take these words to heart and actually live them. You see, this is the greatest altar call of all. This is the greatest test of our faith. Have our lives really been changed? Then, why aren’t we living differently today?
It all starts with the question, however, of if we are really hearing. One of the things that I have learned from being in the choir is that I have to hear—and not just sing. I have to hear the music from the piano. I have to hear the other voices around me. I have to hear whether my voice is too loud, too soft, or off pitch. Singing must start with hearing. That same idea must apply with how we will live our lives. We must begin by hearing the word of God—truly hearing it!
Two months ago we had a visitor come one Sunday from the mainland. Her name was Ruth. That evening we had a Bible study at the parsonage. She showed up for it. That was really surprising. We have never had a one-time visitor show up for evening Bible Study. She came because she said she heard the word of God to come. She heard, she did.
When she came, she had in her hand a DVD about the “Jim Elliot Story.” It was a half-hour cartoon version of a man named Jim Elliot who risked his life to bring the gospel to a barbarous tribe of natives in Ecuador. He did die. He was taken down by a spear through his chest. Yet, he opened the door for the Aucas people there. Eventually, they did accept Jesus, and their lives were changed forever and ever.
I want you to consider today that we are that barbarous tribe that need to hear the word of God so that our very lives will change. We have to hear it first. I tell you that there are so many in our world today that have never really heard. Because of that they can never do. . . .
Let us be hearers and doers of God’s word. Amen.