2020 has been a season of storms, and we’d like to know what to do; we’d all like to plant our feet on a firm foundation—a rock.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them,” says Jesus at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, “will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
Jesus didn’t say “a rock,” but “THE Rock.”
Perhaps he was referring to the “Foundation Stone” upon which, according to Orthodox Jews, God made Adam and all creation—the top of Mount Moriah, where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac, and Solomon built the temple; the Rock on which was placed the Ark and Throne of God, behind the veil in the Holy of Holies.
Perhaps he was referring to “the Rock” that Moses struck at Horeb, producing a river of living water—the Rock wherein he was hidden by God when the Glory passed; the Rock that Moses struck in anger, when God himself seemed so offended. According to St. Paul, Christ is “the rock that followed them” and He is “the foundation.”
God is “the Rock” and so is his Will and his Word: Jesus.
How do you build your house on Jesus? We assume that means upon his instructions—knowledge of the good (what Jesus wants) and knowledge of the evil (what Jesus doesn’t want). He said, “Everyone who does these words of mine will be like a wise man…”
But seriously, who does “these words” of His (the Sermon on the Mount): “Be reconciled with your brother, cut away the body part that leads you to sin (the heart!), be absolutely honest, entirely giving and fore-giving, love your enemies, be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect, and do it unselfconsciously, such that your right hand doesn’t know what your left hand is doing?” Who fulfills the law? Who is the Wise Man?
After expounding on the law, Jesus spoke of trees, or “tree,” and fruit.
He said “a healthy tree bears good fruit and cannot bear bad fruit. And a diseased tree bears bad fruit and cannot bear good fruit.” A tree has no choice in the matter.
Biblical freedom is not the ability to choose whatever you happen to want—In Scripture that’s not freedom but bondage… or insanity.
Biblical freedom is the ability to become what you are destined to be, or in fact, who it is that you truly are.
A seed is free, not when it’s kept “safe” in a jar.
A seed is free when it is allowed to become a tree, when it can die and rise and grow.
Jesus then talks of “the man” he does not know—the man that doesn’t exist, except that we imagine him to exist; he is the “me” that I think “I” create.
Perhaps Jesus now speaks of “the man” he does know—perhaps, he’d like him to grow, like a seed that’s been trapped in an earthen jar.
Jesus does not mention “the rock” again until Matthew chapter six, when at the gates of hell in Caesarea Philippi, he asks his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?”
After they recite various theories, he says, “But who do you say that I am?
Simon blurts out, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus responds, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you… And I tell you, you are Peter (petros); on this rock (petra) I will build my church.”
Jesus builds “the house,” and Jesus does “these words;” He is Wisdom.
What Jesus said to Peter is just like saying, “You are Rock, and on this Rock, I will build my church; you are Peter, and on this Peter, I will build my house.”
“This Peter,” says Jesus. Is there another Peter?
Matthew then records how Jesus told his disciples that he had to journey to Jerusalem, suffer, die, and be raised on the third day. At this revelation, Simon Peter takes Jesus aside and says, “This shall never happen to you, Lord.” Jesus then “turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan…’”
What’s the difference between, “this Peter,” the foundation upon which Jesus will build his house, and Peter, the “spawn of Satan” (see John 8:44) whom Jesus just rebuked? What’s the difference between the true Peter and the false Peter?
When the false Peter looked at the tree in the middle of his garden, I suspect that he saw “knowledge of good and evil,” principles and laws that he could take and use to build the church. He felt responsible. And yet he had just rendered himself unable to respond, for he had just crucified the Word of God in the garden of his heart. If we think we have to save Jesus, we cannot trust him for salvation.
The true Peter looked at the tree in the middle of his garden and saw “the Life.” He saw his friend Jesus, who would give himself to save Peter from his sins—the false Peter in which the true Peter was imprisoned. This Peter had learned to trust Jesus on the journey in the midst of storms. Storms wash away the sand and reveal the Rock.
Once drowning in the sea, Peter called to Jesus, “Save me!” And the Foundation Stone moved; it came and got Peter. And yet, a piece of it was already in Peter. It was the Faith, Hope, and Love that made Peter get out of the boat in the first place. That’s how it grows into a house… our house: the Temple of the Living God, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ, the Church.
I once battled for hours in the middle of the night, trying to cast a demon out of a friend; I used all the “knowledge” that I could think of, all that I had read in books and learned in seminary. At one point, my friend stopped breathing; she fell, lifeless on the floor. And then, unconsciously, like a child, from the depths of my being, as if from behind the curtain in the sanctuary of my soul, I muttered, “Help us, Jesus.” And he did. The gates of Hell did not prevail against us. And at that, I think he whispered into my soul, “On this Peter—not the other—on this Peter, we will build our house.”
If you asked Peter, “Who are you?” He would say, “Jesus says that I’m the Rock.”
And if you then asked him, “So who is Jesus?” He would say, “He is the Rock.”
And if you asked him, “Are you proud?” He’d look confused and say, “No—I am eternally grateful.”
I think Jesus would say, “Yes. That’s because now he knows, he is the fruit from the tree that is me. And he is my house, my kingdom, my home.”
“Like living stones, be yourselves built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4).