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Matthew 7 - IVP New Testament Commentaries

Obeying Jesus' Words

Another early Jewish teacher, while illustrating this point with many examples, went so far as to say that one who studies Torah and has good works "may be likened to" one who lays a foundation of stones and then of bricks, so that rising water or rain cannot overturn it. But one who studies Torah and has no good works is like one who builds with bricks on the bottom, so that even a small amount of water overturns it (ARN 24A).

But Jesus here refers to his own words the way other Jewish teachers referred to God's law (Jeremias 1972:194). The language at least implies that Jesus is God's prophetic spokesperson (Ezek 33:32-33) but is more authoritative than is typical even for prophets; in this context (Mt 7:21-23; see also 18:20), the claim is far more radical. One cannot be content with calling Jesus a great teacher, for he taught that he was more than a mere teacher; one must either accept all his teachings, including those that demand we submit to his lordship, or reject him altogether. Jesus is not one way among many; he is the standard of judgment.

The Hebrew Bible often employed the rock image for the security Israel had in God if they obeyed him (for example, Deut 32:4, 18, 31; Ps 18:2, 31, 46; 19:14), including in a time of flood and disaster (Is 28:14-19). The storm could represent any test, but surely represents especially the final test, the day of judgment (for example, Jeremias 1963:8-9; compare Mt 24:37-39). Jesus' clear assurance of deliverance in the final test contrasts with the fears of some of his contemporaries; many people had little certainty of the afterlife (see, for example, Plato Apol. 29AB, Phaedo 64A; Bonsirven 1964:167-68). Jesus spoke with unparalleled authority (Mt 7:28-29).

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