I heard a story once about what I might call “The Worst Sermon Ever Told”. Abraham Lincoln went to a church one time where the preacher went on for a while with fancy language and flowery illustrations. After it was over he was asked what he thought of it. He said, “That was the worst sermon I ever heard….it did not call me to action.” As we know from history he indeed went and did action motivated by his Christian faith. Ipso facto that solid words lend to solid actions for short term and long term.
A psychoanalyst named Erick Erickson laid out in his theory that there are several conflicts in a person through life depending on the stage they are in. The last one for someone’s life according to his theory is integrity versus despair. One way I could sum up the “integrity” is this: on ones deathbed they feel that their values and choices were generally not in contradiction from one another. If not they feel “dis-integrated” with an overwhelming sense that they are out of do-overs.
As Jesus comes to a close on the Sermon on The Mount, the words that had been shared were highlighted with the fine point of application with the understanding that all have values and actions. Looking from the outside I would say that is a morally neutral and universal statement about anyone with a formed conscience. What Jesus does here is contrast the foundation and results between one who builds on the values of true wisdom and those who do not. Then what is implied on some subtle wording is that one can be tied to a continued living authority on what right values are for real life.
“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. 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. 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. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law (Matthew 7:24-29).
Jesus in all His teachings is not some used car salesman trying to speak in a material realm for getting rich quick or any other empty pursuit. Jesus wants to build each individual into a saint who lives a holy life despite the fact that there are hardships to live through. With hardships being a morally neutral but universal certainty Jesus talks about rain coming, streams rising, winds blowing and a house falling. With Jesus meaning soul preservation in place of house maintenance the application is on where someone has their hope and how they live it out. The foundations of a persons life will be things like prayer, favor of people, sexuality, forgiveness, discerning good spiritual leaders and many other things that Jesus addresses on the mountainside. If you hear the words of Jesus and put the words into practice then your values will be both correct, internalized, lived out and preserve the integrity as described above. If one hears those words, chalks them up to a cafeteria run through on truth at best and walks away then despair is bound to come. And not just at the deathbed but with any storms of life does the “wind” hit and so goes the crash.
But as much as Jesus wants to build the individual listening on the mountainside, He wants to break ground for a long standing assembly. Hearing Jesus teach, sitting down, reflects a crowd hearing a rabbi. “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them” (Matthew 5:1-2). But by referring to Himself a moment ago as Lord on Judgment Day, the kingship of Jesus is implied. The crowd sits down to hear just another rabbi and get surprised by the manner that the teaching comes out.
Jesus indeed challenged them to action with kingly overtones. Jesus speaks of wisdom and building a house. God built what was understood at the time as the divine house with the temple on a rock. Jesus had the goal to build His Church.
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law—- But this day Jesus was just breaking ground for three prisms of truth that would be in that Church: Tradition, Magisterium and Scripture. Jesus was speaking with the authority not of the scribes. This was obvious because Jesus spoke with a different method and emphasis. Repeatedly Jesus says, “You have heard this but I say to you….”. Jesus was the beginning of a new tradition that Christians of today can see now as Sacred Tradition. The authority of Jesus can be inferred to be delegated by God the Father as seen from Strong’s Concordance.
1849 eksousía (from 1537 /ek, “out from,” which intensifies 1510 /eimí, “to be, being as a right or privilege”) – authority, conferred power; delegated empowerment (“authorization”), operating in a designated jurisdiction.
In the NT, 1849 /eksousía (“delegated power”) refers to the authority God gives to His saints – authorizing them to act to the extent they are guided by faith (His revealed word).
So Sacred Tradition needs The Magisterium. This would be a governing teaching authority on faith and morals. This was a an integral part of salvation history since Moses. “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice” (Matthew 23:2-3).
Jesus left room in the gospels to be ones “personal Lord and Savior”. This is a beautiful aspect of conversion. But instead of being left to be a disciple of Jesus according to ones personal interpretation Jesus has a display for the crowd and us if one looks to the verses preceding the words of the Sermon On The Mount.
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them” (Matthew 5:1-2). Yes Jesus is very personal but the delegated authority goes on to His disciples of the apostolic context. Jesus does not present to us a Gospel of Nice but a Gospel of the The Kingdom. My hope and prayer for myself and the reader is that the follow through of Jesus words will help us all to hold together in the form of His making and even thrive.
“But we ought to give thanks to God for you always, brothers loved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in truth. To this end he has [also] called you through our gospel to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.” (2 Thesolonians 2:13-15).