I taught Sociology at Nashville State Community College for a total of 14 years. For the most part, I enjoyed every moment of it. Some of my students still contact me from time to time and keep in touch. Nashville State is a hidden jewel in the city. I don’t think most people know the quality of education they provide or the quality of students that attend. One thing very few people know is how diverse the school is and how large the international students body is. In one of my classes, I had 32 students representing 13 different countries. Their diverse backgrounds made for interesting conversations and debates.
But not all students were studious and motivated. I had those few students who slept through class, turned in work late (if at all) and missed classes regularly. I never understood that type of student. No one is made to go to college. All college students are adults and can choose to attend or not to attend. There are no truancy officers to make sure students show up. When I had these students I always wondered, and occasionally asked, “Why are you here? Why are you wasting my time and wasting your time and money (or your parents money or your scholarship money)?” The typical response was a shrug of the shoulders and a mumbled, “I don’t know.” But, to be completely honest, there was a time during my own college education where I was that disconcerted student.
Once, during my second year of Greek, no student, including myself, completed our homework for the day. Our teacher, Dr. Robert Picirilli, one of the top Greek scholars in the world, was furious. In righteous anger, he slammed his book closed and asked, “Why are you taking this class if you are not going to do what I ask? I don’t need this class. I already know Greek. I’m here for you and you are wasting my time.” I never missed another homework assignment…in that class.
I think Jesus felt the frustration of a college professor. He had students (called disciples) who were committed, motivated, and engaged. But He also had those who slept through class, didn’t seem interested, and didn’t do what He asked. Yet those students (disciples) still claimed to be committed to Jesus and His teachings.
And so Jesus asked them (and us), “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
A very simple question, rich with implications!
A very simple question that deserves to be answered!
A very simple question that can be very difficult to answer!
The Sermon on the Plain
Jesus’ question comes at the end of His teaching known as the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49). This sermon was directed primarily at “a large crowd of his disciples” (v. 17) but there were also “a great number of people from all over” (v. 17) who heard His words. The main topic of this sermon was how life should be lived (and will be lived) in the kingdom of God. The main subject in all of Jesus’ teaching and healings and miracles was the kingdom of God. With Jesus came God’s kingdom. Through the incarnation of Jesus, God broke into our reality, changing everything. While God’s kingdom will be perfected when Jesus returns, His kingdom starts the moment you place your faith in Him. Thus, the kingdom of God is a present reality as well as a future hope.
After asking the question, Jesus says, “I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete” (Luke 6:47-49).
It’s like Jesus was saying to a bunch of college students who did not do their homework, “Why are you following Me if you are not going to do what I ask? I don’t need this class. I already know all this. I’m here for you. What I have for you will give you a solid life that can withstand storms. If you are not going to do what I say, you are wasting My time, and when the storms of life hit, you will not survive.”
Answering the Question
In his book, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement (2011, pages 93-94), commenting on today’s text, Michael Card writes the following:
“Let’s work our way backward through this last passage. The final image has to do with the building of a house. One man digs a deep footing for the foundation so his house will survive the storm. He just happens to be the one who has listened to Jesus’ words and responded to them. In one sense, at least, Jesus is telling us how to build our house in his kingdom. The other man, who though he may have heard did not act on Jesus’ words, ends up foolishly building a house right on the ground which, of course, is destroyed by the flood. What then are the words of Jesus that become the blueprints for our kingdom house? Let’s start back at verse 37.
“Do not judge and your house will not be destroyed when the judgment turns on you. Do not condemn so that the final storm of condemnation will not sweep your house away. Forgive and the waves will be forgiving. Give and you will receive back a good measure, shaken together and poured into your lap. You cannot possibly measure and saw and hammer your house when there is a log in your eye. So does it make sense to be distracted by the sawdust in your brother’s or sister’s eye? Before you can get on with your work—much less help your brother or sister with his or her speck—take the log out of your own eye.
“You have a storeroom. It’s called your heart. If your heart is good, only good things will come out of the storeroom. If it is evil, then all you’ll have stored up is evil. Out of the overflow of the storeroom of your heart your mouth speaks.”
Using Michael Card’s cue, let’s answer Jesus’ question by taking one last look at the Sermon on the Plain in its entirety. But first, let’s look again at the illustration of building a house:
Remember, Jesus is speaking primarily to those who claim to be His disciples (see Luke 6:20). Thus, the illustration compares those who claim to be Jesus’ disciples and do what He says with those who claim to be Jesus’ disciples but do not do what He says. The issue, then, is authenticity verses hypocrisy. The issue is not faith, but obedience. The issue is living as a disciple of Jesus compared to giving lip service as a disciple of Jesus.
A person who follows Jesus and does what Jesus says is like a man who builds a house on a solid, deep foundation. When the storms come and the floodwaters rise, his house will stand. A person who only gives lip service to Jesus is like a man who builds his house on the shallow ground, without a solid foundation. When the storms come and the floodwaters rise, his house will collapse.
The “house” is a person’s life. A strong, stable life, one that can withstand the storms and floods of life, has a deep foundation in following Jesus, doing what He says. A wobbly, unstable life, claims to follow Jesus, but has no depth to it. When the storms and floods of life come, a wobbly life will fall apart.
Notice Jesus doesn’t say “if” a storm (or a flood) comes, but “when” a storm (or flood) comes. Storms are going to happen in life. Life is going to have ups and downs, waves and torrents, calm waters and rocky seas. The question is not, are you going to experience storms and floods in your life? The question is how are you going to withstand the storms and floods and torrents of life? Jesus says your only hope of standing strong during life’s storms is by following Him and applying His teachings to your life. The more you do that, the deeper you go, the taller and stronger you will stand.
Jesus doesn’t understand why anyone would call Him, “Lord, Lord,” and not do what He says (Luke 6:46). It makes no sense to give Jesus lip service but not give Him life service. Protection through the storms of life (not protection from the storms of life) only comes by complete, authentic, faith in Jesus Christ.
How does authentic obedience to Jesus protect you through life’s storms? First, it protects you by giving you a foundation so you can stand strong. As you live life you will go through torrents of physical needs. You will go through floods where there is more month than money. But to the authentic follower of Jesus, Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). As you live life, there will be times when the flood of hunger seems to drown you. But Jesus says, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied” (Luke 6:21). At times, the waves of life will seem like a tsunami, overwhelming and consuming you with sorrow; and people you thought were your friends will turn on you. But you can stand strong. You don’t have to drown. Your foundation is secure because you know Jesus has promised, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6:21-23). A person who not only follows Jesus but also obeys Him has a solid foundation that will protect him or her from destruction when the storms of life come like a flood.
Second, authentic obedience to Jesus protects you through life’s storms by giving you a roof over your head, keeping the outside elements from harming you. The greatest dangers we face in life come from and through other people. Life would be great if it weren’t for other people. All of us, simply by living our lives, are going to have relationship problems. People are going to talk behind our backs. We are going to talk behind other people’s backs. We are going to get in arguments. Friendships are going to be damaged. Families are going to be dysfunctional. Enemies will be out to get us and cause us harm. It’s called being human. It’s called living in a fallen world. It’s called being a sinner, surrounded by other sinners. These things can either break you or build you. They will either make your stronger or tear you apart. Jesus says the way to stay protected and not be harmed by the elements of our relationships is to “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Living by the Golden Rule is the secret for living a peaceful life! The Golden Rule means you, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one check, turn to him the other also…Give to everyone who asks you” (Luke 6:27-30).
The Golden Rule is simply another way of Jesus saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40). How much better would your life, and your relationships with others, be if you loved God with everything you are? How much better would your life be if you walked away from an argument? How much better would your life be if you kept your mouth shut? How much better would your life be if you treated people with respect and love? An authentic follower of Jesus will practice these things, and in so doing, will build a house on a strong foundation that will survive the worst storms that come his or her way.
Third, if you call Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” and mean it, you are protected through life’s storms because you have a bed where you can rest in peace. If living by the Golden Rule protects us from the elements of broken relationships, living by the Silver Rule, helps us to sleep at night with a clear conscience. What is the Silver Rule? “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Extending mercy to others enables us to move forward and not get stuck in the past. Extending mercy to others means we do not judge them. Instead we give them generous forgiveness. When a person is bitter he or she loses sleep over things they cannot control. Then they wake up in a bad mood and become even bitterer which causes them to lose even more sleep. How much better would it be to show mercy and forgive those who have wronged you? Let the past go. Forgive the other person, and then get a good night’s sleep. An authentic follower of Jesus extends mercy. As a result, he or she has a strong house, with a warm bed, where he or she can rest and sleep peacefully at night.
It is important to point out that Jesus asked this question right after He spoke about judging your own heart, taking the plank out of your own eye, and looking at the fruit in your own life (Luke 6:39-45). Jesus’ question is a personal question for personal reflection. Jesus’ question is a question only you can answer.
Today, right now, Jesus is asking you, “Why do you claim to follow me and give me double honor (‘Lord, Lord’, v. 45) and yet do not do what I say?” In essence, Jesus is saying:
“You are either in or you are out.”
“You are either with Me or against Me.”
“You are either one of My disciples or you are not.”
“It’s time to quit playing games.”
“It’s time to fish or cut bait.”
Remember, Jesus preached this sermon after spending all night in prayer (Luke 6:12). I get the feeling, near the end of this sermon, He is getting tired; tired physically, spiritually, and emotionally. He doesn’t have time for half-hearted commitment. He doesn’t have time for followers who are not going to do what He says.
Are you giving lip service that Jesus is Lord, or are you living out your commitment to Him by living life as a citizen of God’s Kingdom?
Only you can answer that question.
Remember, it’s not a question of faith. It is a question of obedience.
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete” (Luke 6:46-49).