Pondering the Passages: Matthew 7:24-29
This Weeks Passage and Memory Verse (in red): 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
Jesus was an amazing teacher. He had a way of teaching that made people want to listen. He was one of those preachers that people would walk away from still talking about what they heard instead of talking about what they wanted for lunch. He was one of those preachers who who could call you a fool – but do it in such a way that you applaud him rather than berate him. That’s kind of what happens here.
Jesus has just finished preaching the longest recorded sermon in the gospels. He has covered a wide variety of topics ranging from how to be happy, to divorce, adultery, finances, giving, worry, prayer, etc. Some pretty hot topics even back in those days. No doubt in a crowd the size he was preaching to there were people who were dealing with each of these and everything in between. And yet, our passage this week says that “the crowds were amazed at his teaching.” Not offended by what he said. Not bored. Not angry. But amazed. So what made Jesus an amazing teacher? What differentiated his teaching from that of the teachers of the law? Here are a few things I see:
He lived what he taught. In other words, he had credibility. There wasn’t anything that Jesus taught that he did not live out himself. People could hurl stones at him because they thought he was a heretic but they could never hurl stones at him because he was a hypocrite. He didn’t preach about adultery and then go hook up with one of the temple prostitutes. He didn’t tell people not to judge but then point fingers judgmentally. He practiced what he preached.
He had a connection with people. He was not an arms length kind of guy. He did not sit in his study and craft the perfect sermon only to emerge on Sunday to preach a few times and then disappear. He was with people everyday getting to know them, caring for their needs, listening to their problems, laughing at their jokes. He loved people. So when he preached, people listened because they knew that he cared for them.
He spoke in a way that made people want to listen. Jesus was an artist with his words. He painted pictures that people could see through his storytelling and then hammered home powerful truths that people could wrap their hearts around. He found ways to engage their emotions as well as their minds. People would be on the edge of their seat waiting for a punchline and then Jesus would look them in the eye and confront their sin. If Jesus was speaking at the synagogue there would be standing room only because people knew they would hear a word from God that would feed their souls and challenge their lives.
He connected theology to real life. He did not speak in platitudes and principles that had no connection to life. He always connected doctrine and theology with life and practice. People would walk away from his teaching not only knowing more about God but also knowing more about how to live in a way that would honor and please God. Nobody ever walked away from a sermon of his saying “So what?”
He challenged people to think and he inspired people to change. The best books that I have read and the best sermons I have heard do two things. They challenge my heart to change and they challenge my mind to think – or maybe to say it better … to re-think. That’s the way that Jesus preached. People could not help but to think about and talk about what he said. He was the topic of many a conversation around the dinner table as people would grapple with and try to wrap their minds around what he said. But when you look at the gospels you also see time after time where Jesus would pierce people’s hearts and they would be so convicted that they would radically change their whole lifestyle. And the change he affected in people did not wear off after a day or a week – it lasted a lifetime.
Hmm… so as I think about preaching in a few weeks (September 4) I’ve got a lot to think about. How can I be more like Jesus in my teaching and preaching? Those of you who read this now and then hear me then – perhaps you could give me a little feedback after I preach (even anonymously by commenting on this blog). I don’t want to take the task of preaching for granted and I don’t want to waste your time. The message is too important for that.
I’m just sayin’!
Next Weeks Passage: Hebrews 10:19-25
Next Week’s Memory Verse: Hebrews 10:24