The Foundation

This coming Sunday is the 8th Sunday in Lectionary Cycle C. Again we are considering the “Sermon on the Plains” from the Gospel of Luke. In yesterday’s post we noted that the consistency of heart and action, when pointed to Jesus, will bear the fruit of the Kingdom. As John Nolan remarked:  “Whether one likes it or not, what one produces is finally a product of what one is.”

46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them.48 That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built.49 But the one who listens and does not act is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.” 

Green (280) pointedly asks: “If one assumes an essential consistency between the constitution of a plant and the nature of its yield, and if one allows the metaphorical application of that insight into the sphere of human affairs, then Jesus’ question has achieved its forceful aim: How is it that humans can be so inconsistent when it comes to their dispositions vis-à-vis the ways of God? In this instance, ‘Lord’ is a term of great respect; those who use it would thus be designating Jesus as their patron, the one to whom they owe allegiance. How can they speak of allegiance and not grant it?”

Beyond the question of consistency between heart and action, there is the deeper question of Lordship, commitment, and fidelity. In other words, if you call Jesus “Lord” – on what basis, what measure do you do so? The answer has already been given: be transformed and engage in the loving of enemies, the doing of good, and lending without expectation of return—that is, in practices determined by the gracious character of God (vv. 27–38).

But then who has called Jesus ‘Lord’ at this point? Not the Pharisees and scribes. In fact, only Peter and the leper (5:8,12), but then neither would seem to be the focus of Jesus comment. It would seem that Jesus is looking ahead to the road these listeners may (or may not) walk. In a way it parallels Jesus’ “warning” to the people of Nazareth in the synagogue. There folks were eager to have done for them what was done in Capernaum, but only the ones who were transformed such that they love, do good, and give will be such recipients. Jesus words certainly seem to fulfill his role as the one who would bring division within Israel (3:17; 2:34).

The account of the two builders (cf. Mt 7:24-27). Luke’s version of this parable differs from Matthew’s in several respects: (1) Luke does not contrast the two builders as wise and foolish. (2) In Luke, the good builder builds on a foundation (something that was unusual in Palestine), while in Matthew the good builder builds on the rock. (3) In Luke, the house is assailed by a flooding river (singular), while in Matthew the threat is rain, floods (plural), and winds.

Assailed by a flooded river, the one, well built, stands strong, while the other suffers great ruin. The image has its parallel in v.35, where those whose practices reflect the values of the inbreaking age of salvation are promised a great reward. Such doing, rooted in Jesus’ message, manifests the true nature of a person in a way that is relevant in the final judgment. Hearing without doing has its ‘rewards” also.

Culpepper (153) writes, “Another of the dangers to discipleship is that of living our lives without a firm foundation. The parable of the two builders vividly draws the contrast between doers of the Word and those who are hearers only. Jesus’ teaching was different from that of the scribes and Pharisees because he did not appeal to the authority of his teachers, nor did he dispute fine points in the interpretation of the Law. Instead, he told vivid stories drawn from ordinary life. Everyone had seen houses under construction, and they had also seen houses destroyed by storms. Luke makes the point graphically. The wise builder ‘dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock’ (6:48). Dig deep and lay the foundation of your life on the Word of God. Keep digging until you get in touch with the revelation of God in the person of Jesus, and then build your life upon that Rock.

Culpepper, R. Alan. “The Gospel of Luke.” New Interpreter’s Bible. Ed. Leander E. Keck. Vol. 9. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004. 149-153

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997. Print. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (276-281)

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