"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell and 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. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house and it fell and great was the fall of it."
Jesus is bringing this famous sermon to a conclusion and it ends on a warning. Mr. J.C. Ryle calls it a heart piercing application. He also would say this is one of the most vivid and powerful illustrations used by Jesus. Some refer to it as a parable. There is an argument for that. Generally a parable has one main lesson to teach and drive home, so this could very well b e a parable. We don’t always associate it in that way but a number of the commentators believe that this is very well a parable.
It is very simple. Two house builders. If anyone knew about house building it was Jesus. He was a carpenter for 15-20 years, living in Nazareth before He became an itinerant preacher. He worked with his hands, he engaged in physical labor. Here you have two houses and now they stand finished. They seem similar enough, stable enough, and from the outside if you looked at them from a curb perspective they would have almost looked identical. But there is a great difference here and that has to do with foundation. One is built upon the sand, the other is built upon rock. One is built upon the most solid foundation and the other is built upon the weakest, or the poorest of foundations, sand. Both homes go through a severe weather test. Jesus speaks of a combination of rain, a river and wind. It could be something like a hurricane or tornado like storm. Only one house is left standing, the other house suffers a great fall, complete ruin.
What is the point of the parable? A quote from J.C. Ryle hits the nail on the head, “The great lesson here is the difference between two classes of religious hearers.” He uses the word Christian in a more general sense. “The difference between two classes of religious hearers. The first man hears and what does he do? He practices what he hears. He is not content to simply hear, he wants to live out what he has heard. He is exhorted to repent, he repents. He exhorted to believe, he believes. He is exhorted to live a holy life, he lives a holy life.” J.C. Ryle says, “He actually repents, he actually believes, he actually ceases to do what is evil and clings to what is good. He is a doer, not just a hearer.”
What is the significance of the storm? Some think this is a picture of judgment day. That is a possible interpretation, but I really think it has application to the here and now and J.C. Ryle argues that as well. The storm represents the trials of life. He says, “In times of trial the wise man’s religion or house does not fail him. The floods of sickness, sorrow, poverty, disappointment, bereavement beat him in vain.” They come against him, the wind, the storm the rain, but it doesn’t cause him to fail, his faith remains strong.
J. C. Ryle again, “True religion can stand trial if it is true religion.” Trials are great revealers. It really tells about the foundation we are building upon. Look at the other guy, the foolish man. He hears, even takes copious notes, and might have looked very attentive when he was listening to the preacher. He might have looked like the best of hearers. But when the trials come, when the flood waters rise, his house built upon sand is like the house of cards. It crashes, it implodes. Jesus addresses what you could call the greatest, or the most dangerous dichotomy in religion. What is it? Hearing but not doing; listening but not doing. That is the greatest dichotomy. There could be a huge dysfunctional gap, you could call it that, between what we know in our heads and what we heard in our ears and what we put into practice in our lives. Dr. Paul Tripp tells of an incident where he was counseling a man, “One of the most theological men I have ever known, there was no theological hallway that he could not travel down. He was confident, ready for any debate, but here’s the problem, a dichotomy between what he knew so well and the way he lived. His marriage was crumbling, none of his children respected him in his home. He was a master of theology, he had an airtight Christology, but in his home he did not love, he did not serve well or forgive well.
Here is the question we might ask ourselves after we hear a sermon, what kind of a person am I going to be? A wise man or a fool? We don’t want to be what you could call evangelical hypocrites. We need to pray Brethren that we do more than hearing that we put into practice what we heard.
Jesus makes the same point in the parable of the sower. Four different representative hearers. Remember who they are? The rocky ground, the thorny ground, the hard soil. Three negatives and only one positive and that is the one that is what he hears. He bears fruit. It is very important that we not only hear the Word of God, but we put it into practice.