“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rains fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock." (Matthew 7:24-25, NRSV)
A pandemic disrupted churches across the hemisphere in 2020 and things will never be the same. As we arise from the soot and ashes of the worst public health crisis in a century, it’s tempting to rebuild life on the same materials from the past.
However, the storms of life do not call us to return to flimsy foundations and recycled walls, but to something deeper, stronger for the new house of life. Disasters nudge us to question our values as leaders as an opportunity to see everything through new lenses. Matthew insisted we pay close attention to the geography and theology of Jesus in the text above.
Jesus finished up his greatest sermon at this point. His popularity had reached rock star status. He had taught thousands of people great insights into God’s Kingdom. The people seemed to be hanging on his every word. He spoke with such confidence and clarity that Matthew stated, “Jesus taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29).
Jesus was on a roll. He ended his amazing sermon with something out of Home and Garden Television. We need a brief explanation of why Jesus “went building contractor” on us. He chose, by design, to build on word pictures everyone listening to him would have understood. Jesus began using familiar first-century cultural images to build his case as the new Rock of Ages.
Jesus chose geography and topology as his whiteboard in grounding his biblical theology. Matthew described Palestinian storms as three powerful movements. First, the rains came down with sheer force. There’s very little grass and mud to soak up the rain. Sudden downpours easily move almost everything including homes. Nothing was exempt in its path.
Second, the floods always came up. Floods in the Middle East can rise quickly. People could drown in seconds without much warning. Experienced people knew what to do during flash floods. No one ever built their houses without knowing this important fact.
Third, the winds blew and beat on the house. Winds in Middle Eastern valleys can have the same force as hurricanes. If houses are not built below the crumbling sand and topsoil, sudden wind gusts, along with heavy rain, can wipe out poorly built homes in a matter of minutes. Once the clay underneath the home was loosed and peeled away, the first stone popped away and the rest of the house rushed down the valley.
According to Jesus, poorly built lives are easily rushed away by the powerful movements of life’s storms. People’s lives were not dug deep enough to withstand the sudden floods of clever words, tantalizing philosophies, juicy gossip, and plain old life lived in a fallen world. Jesus insisted that his hearers go one step further: take in his words as rock-solid gospel in a world filled with lies, misinformation, and chatter.
As leaders, it’s really tempting to listen to anything that helps build a life that can stand the challenges of life. During disasters, discipleship isn’t our first choice, but the last thing we seek. The results are broken lives, bruised spirits, and weary souls. The Savior is interested in our discipleship, period. How do we follow after we need to start over again?
Jesus’ words and ways are the only means that can dig below the surfaces of frightened people and set their very lives on the sure foundation of grace in the risen Lord. When our hearts are anchored again in the message of Jesus, we are reminded of Jesus’ promise to make something out of them. Jesus is the house that has been founded as the precious cornerstone that cannot be moved by the rains of life, the floods of pain, and the winds of change.
Lead us to the rock that is higher than us.