The Sermon on the Plain: Dig Deep


photo by Rasbak (click for source)

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say? I’ll show what it’s like when someone comes to me, hears my words, and puts them into practice. It’s like a person building a house by digging deep and laying the foundation on bedrock. When the flood came, the rising water smashed against that house, but the water couldn’t shake the house because it was well built. But those who don’t put into practice what they hear are like a person who built a house without a foundation. The floodwater smashed against it and it collapsed instantly. It was completely destroyed. (Luke 6:46-49)

We come to the end of the Sermon on the Plain today. It is very similar to the way Matthew ends the Sermon on the Mount.

  • Jesus begins with a provocative question: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say?” I used to hear this question as accusatory or plaintive, but I think it’s neither. It’s simply a question meant to cause us to reflect. A leader you don’t obey is no leader at all
  • In other words, in the world of human behavior, in the world of religion and what we today call “Christianity,” the idea of Jesus is more compelling than Jesus’s actual teaching
  • Luke has been letting us overhear Jesus’s words to his disciples, so we need to understand these words are addressed to us as well. 
  • This is a point which heavily influences my own theology: Jesus’s teaching saves
  • Theology about Jesus is called Christology. One of the key questions in Christology is, “How does Jesus save us?” The answer that is dominant in evangelical Christianity, and has been most powerful in the last few centuries, has been that Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross is how Jesus saves us. But in the last few decades, there has been a renewed focus on how Jesus’s incarnation and liberating ministry saves us. This area of theology is called Atonement Theory.  
  • I think we need a renewed focus on how Jesus’s teaching saves. This is why I cling to this passage: It’s like a person building a house by digging deep and laying the foundation on bedrock. 
  • Luke’s version of this saying has an important difference from Matthew’s, who just says “build on rock.” Luke’s Jesus says, “Dig deep and build on rock.” Dig deep. These teachings are not surface-level education that you know with your head. This has to be deep in your inner self, as we saw yesterday (see v. 45). 
  • The verb Jesus uses points to the fact that a “flood” is not simply rising water—the Greek word is more like “smash” or “burst out.” I imagine Hurricane Katrina. It was a natural disaster that exposed the deep class and racial inequality in our country. It showed that our nation’s rhetoric about equality and being a land of opportunity is a sham. It exposed a house with no foundation. 
  • If we would truly be followers of Jesus, we have to excavate: dig down deep in ourselves individually and as a society. Jesus’s teaching on the transforming power of love is not just “be polite to people.” It is about self-knowledge and God-knowledge, and that you cannot know one without the other.

Teacher, be my Lord. Lord, be my Teacher. Teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

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